Everyone Was Totally Persuaded By Our Awesome Pro-Biotechnology Column

If by totally persuaded we mean pointing out all the corporate stoogery, overfaith in science, ludicrousness & lies

 Monsanto’s playbook

Thank you for running your delightful parody pretending to oppose the proposed Humboldt County GMO ban. You even put Rollin Richmond’s name on it, he the consummate free-enterprise bureaucrat who probably hasn’t seen the inside of a lab since 1957. As soon as I saw his name I knew you couldn’t be serious.

Really, Kevin, what gifted writing, one of your best. Even the bulk of the thing — absurdly long, gratingly ponderous, ludicrously constructed, and gratuitously condescending throughout — brilliantly served your parody. The best part? Almost no facts! A 3,000-word screed that said virtually nothing: straight out of the Monsanto playbook. Wonderful.

The non-sequitur comparisons with same-sex marriage and climate change; the purported “naturalism” of “polio and smallpox”; the small-minded playground arguments focusing on past problems with “natural” foods; the whining that Monsanto isn’t “even the biggest biotech company”; the lie that Monsanto does not intentionally destroy small farmers; the comparison with a fictional story about a chemical that freezes the ocean:

Ha ha ha! You’re killing me here. Great stuff, Kevin, great stuff.

I loved lines like, “Less charged language would be a good first step in crafting a rational GMO policy,” juxtaposed with highly charged (if not fallacious) language such as, “The arbitrary inconsistency of the anti-biotech side is matched by its reliance on easily identifiable local [sic] fallacies.” Classic!

Thank you for this wonderful tract in support of the GMO ban. It was one of your most hilarious pieces ever.

Greg King

Corporate compromise

I’m surprised to read this compromised article. Corporate policy psychological-pollen-drift is now an editorial reality. Couldn’t find any specific crediting for Mr. Richmond’s input here, either. Murky.

I tried unsuccessfully to post the above statement in the article’s comment section, but was unable to navigate through the sign-in process; the password-entering bit stopped me.

Rik Rieder

Note: Rollin Richmond contributed the section of the piece advocating Golden Rice.
Anyone having trouble commenting on the Union’s website might try updating their Disqus password. If that doesn’t work, write or call us at the paper. – Ed.


Science compromised

While many GMO opponents harbor factual errors, proponents of GMOs consistently make errors of omission (in addition to their own factual errors) by framing the argument as to whether GMOs are safe for consumption. While I’m not confident that they are, it isn’t necessarily my main argument against GMOs.

One of the strongest arguments against GMOs was given only a cursory mention in the end of a sentence as a “fictional claim” in your opinion piece: the increased use of pesticides/herbicides. That is always glossed over by proponents of GMOs (or falsely claimed, as in your opinion piece, to be used less with GMOs – a lie). The fact is a large percentage of GMO crops sold on the market are Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready crops. These crops are MADE to have more herbicides sprayed on them and to be resistant to large doses of the toxic chemical.

The industry publications I’ve seen boast that their crops can handle higher concentration and more frequent doses of herbicides and pesticides. I personally don’t want to have extra toxic chemicals on my veggies, thank you. And we really don’t need to be spraying more of that stuff in the air and on the soil. Shouldn’t we be trying to dump less toxic chemicals on our planet?

Another omission is the argument of sustainability. These corporations are pushing, with governmental collusion, their seeds on farmers and not offering alternatives. Having such a limited genetic pool opens us up to crop failures caused by climate change or a new or adapted pest. And these crops can’t be contained to the fields in which they are planted, disrupting the genetic diversity contained in adjoining farms.

An argument that I find laughable is that we have been altering plants since the beginning of agriculture. Well, yes, of course we have! But your equivalence argument is a fallacy. You have to admit that inserting genes from organisms from a different Kingdom is magnitudes different than cross-pollinating plants! A fly breeding with a tomato really is unnatural. When arguing about what is “natural” and what is not, I have to think that you can recognize that cross-pollinating two closely related plant species is much more “natural” than inserting some animal gene into a plant. So your argument about “naturalism” seems to fall short.

So Americans have been eating GMOs for the last 20 years. I guess it’s obvious that people aren’t dropping dead from eating these things. But, on the other hand, has the overall health of Americans improved or declined in the last 20 years? While the decline is probably due to various influences and may not be entirely or directly attributable to GMOs, I’m not so sure that GMOs, or the farming practices they foment, can be ruled out as a factor.

I’m a science guy, but I realize that science, like governments, can be bought by corporate interests. And the more money to be made, the more likely corporations are to throw money at the researchers to sway the science to optimize public opinion (or form their own sham organizations to disseminate propaganda).

Corporations aren’t in it for the pure, unadulterated science; they’re in it for the money. Unfortunately, these days, so are most educational and research institutions who are more than willing to compromise their science for funding.

Rick Siegfried

Value of intuition

Thank you for putting together your GMOpinion. I’m sure you have generated lots of responses.

I have two concerns about genetically engineered crops which were not addressed in your piece.

First: my respect for what we do not know. I think you may agree with me that we do not yet, and may never, have a full understanding of all the parts, interactions, and qualities that occur in the foods we eat. Thus, there is a strong attraction to and trust in whole foods.

Many of us want to keep whole foods as the major part of our diet. Corollary to this humility about what we know is my appreciation for ancient awareness of how substances in our environment can nurture us. Numerous connections between people and plants had to develop not just from scientific testing, but from keen perception and discernment (and strong intuition?).

Relying on trial and error would have never led folks to ingest, for examples, acorns, or tapioca, or some of those foul medicinal herbs. Thus I cannot discount that some knowledge has come to people via what I only know to call “intuition.”

Second: my concern that GMO crops will unavoidably lead to increased use of pesticides. This has been true to date and is predicted by the key role that already-developed pesticide products play in the motivation to develop pesticide-resistant strains.

To have farmers dependent upon both the pesticide and the pesticide-resistant strain is a clear road to profits for the corporations that operate the labs.

We already suffer from decades of pesticide use. Parkinson’s and other afflictions are one result. The evolution of pesticide-resistant pests is another. This effect upon our land, air, and water is my gravest concern about GMOs.

I look forward to reading more from you about these issues. Whether or not you choose to refute the points I have tried to explain, I sincerely hope you can show the way to curtailing use of pesticides.

Chip Sharpe

Ethical issues

A huge point missing from the latest online and print GMO discussions is that hybridization used to be carried out at Universities and other publicly funded government labs.

The “fruits” of their labor, the seeds and stock, was owned by the public and freely available to all farmers to grow and propagate as they saw fit.

Now, much new varietal development is funded through private corporations, with unlikely combinations of genes meant to be superheros of the agricultural world.

Seeds for purchase, are often sterile and must be purchased every year from a private company. Even if the seed is fertile, it can’t be saved from year to year as that is equivalent to stealing, and those farmer “thieves” are often prosecuted.

I’m against GMO seed that has herbicide resistant genes, leading to heavier use of herbicides, and ultimately herbicide resistance and even more use of herbicides with far-reaching ecological side effects.

But I have an even larger ethical issue with private corporations owning food or water.

The legal issues that have arisen from this evolution in our genetic food development and cross -contamination of GMO crops with non-GMO crops affects commercial, small scale, and subsistence farmers in every corner of the Earth. It is one good reason why I am not supportive of GMO crops, as they currently, legally exist.

Jennifer Wheeler

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  1. Chad White said:

    Anti GMOers; What about Mutation Breeding? Your anti gmo and you don’t know about Mutation Breeding??! Stop it please, this superstition is causing real harm. Won’t you try just a little bit harder, could’nt you try just a little bit more; to stop pretending to know things you don’t know?
    That mutation breeding method is less safe then biotechnology, and widespread! Look it up. Thousands of crop varieties produced with radiation and/or chemicals making unknown genetic changes. This method can be grown and certified organic, and is. The National Academy of Sciences warned that this breeding method is the most likely to produce unintended outcomes. And that it was stupid to regulate biotechnology and not Mutation Breeding. There are no studies for safety, no regulations, and no labels. And no one has fretted about other crops being contaminated. Are we guinea pigs and stooges for Big Organic? Can Big Organic….. or the CoOp… tell us which organic veggies on the shelf were ever a result of radiation/chemical mutagenisis? How do we know which foods they are and if they are safe? What cross contamination could have happened in the last 80 years with radiation bred crops and others? GMO foods have been studied more than any food ever has ever. The anti gmo campaigners are a bunch of good folks under the spell of hypocrits that have a knack for deluding people with fear and lies.

    Most of the world’s wheat, rice and barley are descendants of mutant varieties. Mutagenesis is used to give fruits and vegetables a new color and to make grains shorter and easier to harvest. In the U.S., mutagenesis was used to develop Star Ruby grapefruit and varieties of lettuce, beans, oats, rice and wheat. These are grown and labeled
    certified organic, but they are not labeled ‘bred using radiation’, nor is it mentioned “not tested for safety”.

  2. Chad White said:

    ”One of the strongest arguments against GMOs was given only a cursory mention in the end of a sentence as a “fictional claim” in your opinion piece: the increased use of pesticides/herbicides.”

    What about Bt crops? What about nitrogen efficient crops? What about nutritionally enhanced crops? These don’t require additional pesticides of any kind when compared to non-biotech crops. If a person was truly interested in determining how novel traits affect
    herbicide use, that person would consider all types of herbicide resistance, instead of singling out just the ones created with a certain method. What about non-biotech herbicide tolerant crops? Breeding for herbicide tolerance doens’t require biotechnology at all .

    ”I’m against GMO seed that has herbicide resistant genes, leading to heavier use of herbicides, and ultimately herbicide resistance and even more use of herbicides with far-reaching ecological side effects.”

    The answer to what effect herbicide tolerant crops has had on herbicide use depends on what question you ask. If you ask how many pounds of active ingredient of herbicide is used with and without these crops, you’ll end up
    with a little bit more pounds used with these crops. However, pounds is a terrible measure for this! Glyphosate is far less toxic than many other herbicides. So even if pounds goes up a little, as long as you are moving towards glyphosate and away from other herbicides, you’ll get a net environmental benefit. Charles Benbrook, agricultural economist and “Chief Scientist” of the Organic Center produced the study being referred to when people bring up increased pesticide use. Dr. Benbrook fails, for the most part, to distinguish between different biotech traits, fails to distinguish between different pesticides, and fails to consider non-biotech traits that could increase pesticide use.

    All GMOs are not created equal. The two biotech traits
    currently on the market are herbicide tolerance and insect resistance (Bt). These traits are obviously very different, but most of the Benbrook report just lumps them together as “GE crops”, even though the report clearly states multiple times that Bt crops have reduced insecticide use.

    The million dollar question is: does the use of glyphosate replace the use of other herbicides? And even more importantly, what is the relative toxic impact of the other herbicides used? The answers to these questions tell us that GMO Round up Ready crops decreases the overall toxic impact.