Watch the Cato GMO Forum

Earlier this month, Jon Entine, Kevin Folta, and I traveled to Washington D.C. to talk about genetically engineered crops at the Cato Institute, in a forum titled, Biotechnology: Feeding the World, or a Brave New World of Agriculture? The forum, as many of you know, was intended to be a debate between those in favor of using the technology, and those who were against it, but at the last minute the anti-GMO debaters pulled out. So instead, I was invited to join Jon and Kevin to round out the numbers and talk about genetically engineered plants that many of you may not have heard about yet.

Jon, Kevin and I got together the night before the forum to go over our presentations and main points, and Anastasia met up with us as well. It is nice to sit down and have dinner with people who you’ve known for years and talked about these issues extensively, and talk about where we want this discussion to go. I think there was a little contest to see who had the zaniest activist artwork to put in their presentations. And a little note – we didn’t know what the moderator was going to say or talk about, so keep that in mind when you watch the forum. Without any further ado, here it is!

I had a great time being part of this, and I hope that the three of us inspired a few people to learn more about this topic. What did you think? Feel free to comment below and ask questions. I know several people want to see some of our presentation slides, and we’re thinking about ways we can extend this presentation like that. Kevin and I also plotted and planned ways that we could include anti-biotech activists in planning and executing research into GMOs that we would publish together. This was tried in one form already, but we came up with some more ideas that we’ll develop and present down the road.

Night before CATO Forum

Karl, Jon (with Frank), Kevin, and Anastasia the evening before the Forum in Washington, D.C.

Finally, Frank N. Foode™ posted his photo album from the trip, check that out too!

Karl earned his Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics at UW-Madison, with a minor in Life Science Communication. His dissertation was on both the genetics of sweet corn and plant genetics outreach. He currently works as a public research geneticist in Madison, WI. His favorite produce might just be squash.


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91 comments to Watch the Cato GMO Forum

  • Brett Jacobs

    Very skewed here. Now the facts, Bodnar backed out & all else followed. Just for one.
    This will not work. If they are not labeled tracking cannot find any health related problems. Big disappointment from Pro GMO Scientists/Activists.

  • Brett Jacobs

    Even so, after she couldn’t attend all others backed out, you misrepresented this basic fact. This site is an pro GMO ACTIVIST site, some here, are even at this point attacking other scientists who disagree with you. Almost as biased as MAAM.

    • Thanks for expressing your opinion, but the reasons stated by the anti-GMO debaters for pulling out do not agree with your assessment. As for this site’s perspective, it is delineated in the About pages. Also, anyone may contribute to the blog.
      You seem to take disagreement as a bad thing. We strive for civil discussion, which doesn’t seem to be the reason why you are here.

  • Brett Jacobs

    No I am not being uncivil, just severely disagreeing with such a bias presentation. Don’t worry I won’t be returning. I avoid extremes on both ends of the spectrum. You people here are the ones that attack & distort facts. Jeez, Take care Karl

  • I am not a scientist, so I don’t really even feel I should post here. But let me say Biofortified is such a breath of fresh air! The opposition to GM produce is so fierce, yet not based on scientific facts. I guess Monsanto isn’t helping things either by being so heavy handed. I know they should be compensated for their research, but I think they need a public relations department. I believe GM has the potential to do a lot of good for humankind if people would just not get so hysterical about it. I think a fundamental misunderstanding here in Japan is that they think manipulating genes is somehow related to nuclear energy processes. I have several times had to tell Japanese that there is absolutely no relationship between the two. Keep up the good work.

  • Brian

    Greetings.
    As so interestingly described in ‘ Where Our Food Comes From: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov’s Quest to End Famine’ by Gary Paul Nabhan (2008)and many other published and unpublished examples, traditional agricultural diversity, as well as wild crop relatives are very valuable to crop/plant breeding and enhancing our agriculture. It is my understanding that GMO crops carry the engineered trait as “dominant”, not “recessive”. This is why cross-pollination between crop varieties (GMO tomato X heirloom tomato; etc.), or between crops and their agricultural relatives (cultivated grape X wild grape) may lead to genomic loss within unique traditional and wild plant species. I would like to see the “dominant GMO trait and cross-pollination” issue addressed here. Ensuring these varieties/species are not lost to genetic contamination; and allowing the continuance of the farms/ecosystems that maintain/produce them; should be a common goal, regardless of one’s perspective on GMO crops. Thank you for reading – I would appreciate responses.

    • Ewan R

      Presence of a dominant trait wouldn’t lead to “genomic loss” (which is a phrase that probably needs better defining…) – even when it is an allelic form present in both parents (Inserted genes will not have a corresponding allele in the non-GM parent – so there is nothing to be dominant over (not, indeed, that dominance leads to genomic loss – you may not see a phenotype in one generation, but where one has dominance and recessivity (to make up the terminology utterly) there is no genomic loss anyway, simply phenotypes that one sees, or does not.

      When a highly inbred heirloom or such is crossed with anything you’ll see massive amounts of masking of recessive traits phenotypically – 50% (ish, plant genomes are very very odd) of the genome of the offspring will still carry the genes from the parent however, so it would still, in theory, be recoverable (given time) from a single cross – although any breeder trying to maintain an heirloom would be utterly crazy if they were just having it pollinate willy nilly and selecting the offspring regardless of phenotype. There is no more, or less, threat from the presence of a GM variety to heirlooms etc than there is from the presence of *any other sexually compatible variety* – these varieties have existed for years without this being a problem, I don’t see how GM makes any difference in this respect.

      • Brian

        The fact that you “don’t see how GM makes any difference in this respect” means that you would benefit from an education in evolutionary ecology. In natural systems, traits are not always expressed: and this is a good thing. The environment and evolutionary selective processes are not static. If roundup-resistance or another GM trait (beneficial or not) was transferred to the next generation of wild/agricultural species/varieties, and if selection on that generation includes selection on that trait – this “exposes” that species/variety to potential bottlenecks, because any individual plants that carry that GM trait are either selected against or for (based on whether it is beneficial or detrimental in that context). This trait will always be “ON” (its dominant), thus the population is always exposed to selection on that trait. Genomic loss can occur, in a way that had NOT happened without the introduction of a “novel” permanently turned on gene. If half of the wild plants had the new GM trait (pollen from GMO had spread to half of the wild population), then ALL of their progeny would have that trait, not SOME of the progeny. If selection processes acting on the entire wild population are affected by the presence/absence of the GM trait, then possibly all wild plants without the GM trait can die-out, or on the flipside, all the ones with the GM trait could die-out (be selected against). Either way, in this “imagined” scenario I describe a large proportion of genetic diversity would be lost. If the GM trait was recessive, loss would still occur, but at a slower rate, because the trait would not always be expressed. In natural systems, traits are not always expressed: and this is a good thing. This is my concern. Plants benefit from natural selection, in part “massive amounts of masking of recessive traits” assists natural selection from eliminating hidden beneficial traits. Losing this genetic diversity is a concern from GMO cross-pollination, as “natural” selection taking place on a introduced “permanently unhidden” trait, can reduce the genetic diversity of plant populations. Humans choosing that a particular trait is worth being permanently dominant can have far reaching effects. The “oddity” of plant genomes is to their benefit and ours in the long run. Thanks for reading and understanding the logic here.

        • Ewan R

          I need an education? I’m not sure I do, genomes are not transmitted wholesale down generations. Recombination my friend, recombination.

          “Genomic loss can occur, in a way that had NOT happened without the introduction of a “novel” permanently turned on gene.”

          How would this be different than the introduction, inadvertently, of say, an always on version of flooding tolerance (rice) or say, goss’ wilt resistance – both of which could be introduced through breeding without the use of GM.

          Lets see if I understand your scenarion (I’m not sure I do, it may need some explanation)….

          Half the wild plants have a new trait, which has been introduced by crossing to a GM plant used in agriculture (I assume). Ok, rather oddly large numbers given how biology works, but lets assume this worst case scenario. This would mean that for the GM trait 50% of the population are heterozygous for GM trait A (they are also, by default, heterozygous for every other gene that came across from the initial GM plant). This step, bar the 50% of the population bit, could conceivably occur.

          Next step – All the progeny have the trait.

          What model of genetics are you working with? The parental plants are 50% homozygous non-traited and 50% heterozygous traited. This means that in any cross between the homozygous plants you will get non-traited plants, in any cross between traited and non-traited you’ll get a segregation of 50% traited and 50% untraited, and in a cross between traited plants you’ll get 25% homozygous traited, 50% heterozygous traited and 25% untraited. In no conceivable situation will all the progeny be traited. Don’t presume somone needs a lesson in an education in evolutionary ecology when you appear to be completely ignorant of basic genetics.

          The 50% of the population was the offspring of a traited vs non traited other things come into play also – if the original traited plant was a hybrid then only 50% of this 50% will end up traited. (one, of many, of the reasons that your 50% number is a rather odd worst case scenario)

          Not one aspect of your scenario explains why there is more, or less, loss of diversity when a GM trait is present rather than not – each of the plants segregates out the base genetics of the parent plant exactly the same way – if a gene there confers a selective advantage you have to explain why this isn’t as risky as a GM trait – what if a disease resistance trait is in there, or nematode resistance, or such (non-GM)

          In natural systems, traits are not always expressed: and this is a good thing.

          This rather depends what on earth you are talking about. Any dominant trait is always expressed (this is what being dominant means, it assumes it is there, but then it rather has to – a GM trait is only expressed when it is there, and unless we assume genetics works differently for *reasons* then mendelian inheretance can be assumed). The malaria defeating *dominant* effect of the sickle cell causing allele is expressed in every individual who carries it, the sickle cell trait only in those unlucky enough to have two copies – it doesn’t skip generations (the recessive trait does, but if this is the arguement you’re making you appear to be suggesting that all traits are recessive, which is utterly bizarre)

          Thanks for reading and understanding the logic here.

          You’re more than welcome for the first. On the second I did no such thing. Much as I didn’t appreciate the oil painting of a fish riding a bicylce you presented as a closer.

          • Ewan R

            (rereading the above it becomes clear I either need an education in written English, or at least proof reading)

          • Brian

            Sorry for not being clearer, I do have the required understanding of genetics, but was not clear with my scenario description. In the one scenario I attempted to describe, by “all the progeny” I meant “surviving progeny”, as in the scenario I am imagining the “natural” selection acting on the trait as expressed down the line. If it is herbicide resistance, I am describing the genetic loss that occurs plants are put in an evolutionary situation where without the GM trait, they may not survive. With the GM trait being dominant and always being expressed, those plants without acquiring the trait will be lost, along with their unique genetic potential.

            • Brian said: “With the GM trait being dominant and always being expressed, those plants without acquiring the trait will be lost, along with their unique genetic potential.”

              The point is, those plants would have been lost anyway, if something comes along to take them out, whether the GM trait is present in other plants or not. If anything, the presence of the GM trait ensures that some of the genes of those plants will survive — in the plants with the GM trait. The only way the presence of the GM trait adversely affects the ones without the trait is if it out-competes the others, or if its presence leads to farmers spraying Roundup where they would not have otherwise. The only foreseen selective advantage the GM plants have occurs in the application of Roundup. In the absence of Roundup, the GM trait’s effect on fitness is most likely neutral.

  • Great forum. We wish to post the link in our website (www.isaaa.org) as part of our campaign to get the science side of the issue heard by the largely misinformed public, especially here in the Philippines, where the already struggling science community continues to battle an anti-science court order in relation to Bt eggplant trials. Mr Jeffrey Smith will be in the country this first week of July for a series of talk and media apperances, perhaps to convince government officials, lawmakers and some influential people to take action against the Golden Rice which is likely to get the first regulatory approval here in the Philippines.

  • theoldtechnite

    There’s this GMO debate on Hawaiian TV:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ydCDGi_TYc

    Unfortunately much of the debate devolved into one about pesticides. I don’t know why Dr. Valanzuela is so worried about insects becoming resistant to pesticides that he says we shouldn’t use in the first place.

  • Brian

    I am concerned over pollinator health and GMOs. Bt in the pollen is one of many examples of a little studied topic. I can list credible papers that describe how GMO pollen affects bee feeding, foraging, growth/development, and health. Even a recent review paper in PLOSONE, which concludes Bt pollen “does not negatively affect the survival of either honey bee larvae or adults in laboratory
    settings” [see Metanalysis of the effects if Bt Crops on Honey bees"(2012)] also points out that “..studies of acute toxicology performed in a laboratory setting may overlook sub-lethal or indirect effects that could possibly reduce the abundance of honey bees in a field setting..” and “Unfortunately few studies reported performance measures other than survival…The studies continue to be characterized by the use of very low replication with potentially limited statistical power” . It is precisely these studies that utilize single dose/short time period/lethal affect only methods that I also have issue with. The paper [Apidologie 32 (2001) 287–304] much earlier described the need for a case by case approach to transgenic pollen studies (for effects on honey bees and non-target species). The tip of the iceberg regarding sublethal feeding/behavioral/learning effects has been described in [Ecotoxicology (2010) 19:1452–1459] [Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 70 (2008) 327–333] and other papers. The other aspect in glyphosate resistance in bee visited plants: this chemical interrupts the shikimate pathway in beneficial gut microbiota [See 'The effect of glyphosate on potential pathogens and beneficial members of poultry microbiota in vitro' in Current Microbiology 2013 Apr;66(4):350-8] and this can be applied to humans and bees as well, whose digestion and health rely on healthy symbiotic gut microbiota which do have shikimate pathways and are affected by plants genetically engineered to endure the uptake of glyphosate. Any thoughts?

    • Brian,
      You said “The other aspect in glyphosate resistance in bee visited plants: this chemical interrupts the shikimate pathway in beneficial gut microbiota [refererence] and this can be applied to humans and bees as well, whose digestion and health rely on healthy symbiotic gut microbiota which do have shikimate pathways and are affected by plants genetically engineered to endure the uptake of glyphosate”. If you were to ingest substantial amounts of glyphosate, then maybe there would an effect on gut microbes. However, the actual glyphosate resistance gene (and the protein it codes for) does NOT affect us or our gut microbes. You also need to consider that we also eat a lot of protein, which contain the three products of the shikimate pathway – the aromatic amino acids phenylalanine, tyrosine and tryptophan. Any self-respecting microbe will switch off its shikimate pathway if there is an external source of aromatic amino acids. So even if you’re subjected to a low chronic dose of glyphosate, the aromatic amino acids in your dier will keep your gut microbes going. Same thing with bees, which get most of their protein from pollen and yeasts that grow in the nectar.

      • Brian

        Do you agree (with the first reference) that the style of scientific inquiry should be encompassing sublethal )”other than survival”) effects of Bt pollen? Is it concerning to you that most studies do not do this and have such poor statistical power? Those that do address these issues (see Ecotox. and Env. Safety ref above plus others) find behavioral abnormalities regarding short and long term memory, foraging, and feeding of honey bees. If these self-respecting microbes in honey bees’ guts are subjected to only low chronic doses of glyphosate in the pollen (and nectar), then why does GM pollen exhibit negative (sublethal) effects on honey bees? That remains a question un-addressed by most studies. Is anyone concerned about these issues? US EPA standard testing is not on the level of actually detecting what are real and potential negative effects of GMOs on bees. I understand the two issues (chemical and genetic) are intertwined, and it is worth examining to what extent. Assuming that the gut microbes will “keep going” as before exposure to glyphosate is one thing, having a paper that proves this is the case is another. Especially in the case of honey bees who have honey and nectar taken from them, often during the fall/winter when their digestive enzymes are at their lowest production potential – then they are often fed GMO soybean pollen substitute and GMO corn syrup honey substitute, which are not equivalent to pollen in digestible protein. In this scenario of a compromised honey bee diet (not so different that the standard american diet: poor in digestible nutrition), does that hypothesized low chronic dose of glyphosate now make a difference and interfere with nutrient availability ? Possibly – and worth examining, especially in the context of pollen containing known quantities of insecticidal Bt.

        • You are confusing glyphosate resistant crops with Bt crops as well as glyphosate resistant crops with the herbicide glyphosate. As far as I know, Bt corn and soy shouldn’t be an issue for bees since they are both wind pollinated.

          • Brian

            Tom, I am not confused about any of the nouns, I did not mix them up. However, bees can mix them (pollen from Bt crops and glyphosate resistant crops) as food for their sisters (honey bees, bumble bees) or children (queen bumble bees, solitary bees). Yes, thats is right: bees of multiple species regularly visit corn for pollen and soy for pollen and nectar. The scientists who have looked at Bt pollen and its effects on bees did so precisely because bees collect and eat the pollen, which contains Bt. The same goes for glyphosate resistant crops, as bees collect and eat the pollen which can contain pesticide residue.

    • theoldtechnite

      I would think the amount of microbes affected would have to be minimal, if any at all. You would notice fairly quickly if your intestinal bacteria were closing up shop. But let’s say a small amount are affected. Well, they would die off and be quickly replaced. How quickly? Considering that the solid matter of human feces is 1/3 bacteria by weight, i’d say very quickly indeed.

      • Brian

        The biodiversity and ecology of intestinal microbes is an expanding realm of science – humans are discovering new realities constantly. If some amount were affected by glyphosate reside in food, their replacement in this scenario would be occuring along with the replacement of more glyphosate residue (by eating). Causing fluctuations in the population dynamics and diversity of intestinal microbiota can have affects on human health. Where is the data that shows human intestinal microbes are not affected by glypohosate residues. Looking atr how and why this may be happening is relevant and a pertinent safety issue/area for risk assessment for human health affects.

        • As I said before, the amount of glyphosate we ingest will be too low and the amount of aromatic amino acids in our diet will be too high for there to be any significant effect on our gut microbes. (I even discussed this issue with some colleagues of mine over lunch who are doing research on gut microbe ecology and they agree with my assessment.)

        • theoldtechnite

          I think i have sad news for you Brian. Your intestinal bacteria makeup will change just by relocating to a new area, or trying a new diet, as anyone who has traveled to Mexico or Africa will testify. We are all born sterile (microbewise). Therefore, we acquire our intestinal, and other, bacteria from the environment.

  • And those same bees were unaffected by the insecticide sprays used before we started planting GM crops?

    • Brian

      Tom are you asking if “those same bees were unaffected by the insecticide sprays used before we started planting GM crops?” The answer is no, bees were not unaffected by insecticide sprays prior to GMO crops. Or to be clearer for you : YES, bees were affected by insecticide sprays prior to GMO crops. i am not sure what you mean by “those”. Are you referring to bee species? Or individual bees? While queen honey bees live multiple years, worker honey bees live out their lives in a matter of weeks.

    • Brian

      USDA data shows that areas planted with GM crops have higher levels of chemcial applications.

      • Brian, you are referring to Benbrook’s work that ironically extrapolated data to achieve the desired outcome. The synthesis was not based on hard data. I can ‘splain more if you’d like.

        There is always an exception to the rule, but if you look at National Academies of Science conclusions pesticide use is way down on corn and cotton using Bt.

        Plus, if farmers are paying more for the Bt trait and it causes them to spend more on pesticides, do you think they’d really use it? C’mon! They are the toughest customers and they will not use technology if it does not work!

        • Brian

          For GM crops, usage of herbicides has gone up. GLyphosate resistant weeds are discussed by the chemicals and GM industry because of the (un-desired) need for increased applications.

          • Brian, the claim, originating from Benbrook, that herbicide usage has increased because of GMO crops, has been discussed repeatedly here. You obviously pay a great deal of attention to the GMO controversy and therefore you can’t have missed this. Benbrook explains his data in some detail and makes it clear that he is talking about use of herbicides measured in weight or volume, not in environmental impact or toxicity.

            If I were a farmer using glyphosate and one year I diluted the product by ten to one, someone could say I was using ten times as much herbicide as before, but everyone would recognize that as nonsense. How is that different from switching from one type of herbicide to another that is less toxic?

            • Brian

              I am focusing here on the fact that the “environmental impact” and “toxicity to bees” is being improperly assessed. See my July 2 original post. It is being improperly assessed in the context of increased usage.

  • Brian, that paper about glyphosate effects of microbial growth in vitro has for the most sensitive organism has an MIC (minimum inhibitory concentration) 0f 0.075 mg/mL = 0.075 g/L.

    The human intestinal tract has a volume of a bit under 2 L. To get a concentration of glyphosate where the most susceptible species will be affected would require the consumption of about 150 mg of glyphosate, provide that stayed long enough and was distributed evenly across the digestive system.

    You could reach this by drinking a glyphosate formulation (not something I would recommend for other reasons), but to get it in food would require consumption of about 5 kg of cereals, provided the cereal contained the maximum residue. http://www.codexalimentarius.net/pestres/data/pesticides/details.html?d-16497-o=2&d-16497-s=3&id=158&print=true

    Human food consumption per day is only 1 to 1.5 kg/day, so there is no way that humans could consume enough glyphosate in food to affect microbes in the gut.

    • Just had a read through of the Shehata et al study “The effect of glyphosate on potential pathogens and beneficial members of poultry microbiota in vitro” (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00284-012-0277-2/fulltext.html) and there are other issues with how they have performed the experiments. First of all they use different kinds of growth media for different strains, which makes comparisons difficult. All of the growth media used appear to contain protein, which also makes the results hard to interpret. But the most significant thing about their methodology is they seem to be using formulated glyphosate (“Roundup UltraMax® (Monsanto, USA) which contains 450 mg/ml of glyphosate was used in this study.”), which also contains surfactant. Surfactants are highly toxic to bacterial cells (that’s why we use soaps and dish water detergents) so unless they use pure glyphosate on chemically defined minimal medium, this study tells us absolutely nothing about glyphosate toxicity in bacteria.

    • Brian

      Please do not assume excretion of glyphosate within 24 hours. That is incorrect.

      • Brian

        Certainly most studies I read could be improved, and this one could, but I would not hand over this project to people who assume 24 hour excretion rates for glyphosate. As for the media and surfactant issues: worth improving the methodology to please on those points! How much surfactant residues are in poultry or human foods? I wonder. The whole issue is worth tackling, not ignoring, for all the reasons mentioned in the original post, and many more. Shikimate pathways contribute to UV protection in coral reef ecosystems, which are undergoing bleaching (UV damage), concurrently pesticide residues are increasing in the oceans. Seeing this one can infer a relationship, but better to apply ourselves to the task at hand – figuring it out. i doubt it is just ocean temperature rising causing bleaching. Back to the matter at hand – it is better to require safety testing/independent scientific studies of toxicity levels (to gut biota) of glyphosate and other commonly ingested products, including novel genetic materials.

        • Brian, no one is assuming glyphosate is excreted within 24 h. In fact the data show between 82 and 98% is excreted within 48 h for rats fed glyphosate. There is still no where near enough glyphosate in food to reach levels close to the smallest MIC.

          Tom helpfully points out that the study used formulated herbicide. This means that most of the effect is really likely due to the surfactant in the formulation. Surfactants cause damage to cell membranes. There is no point worrying about the surfactant unless you are going to go around drinking herbicide. The surfactant will not be absorbed by leaf cells, and even if it is, it will be too large to be transported to the grain that is eaten.

          So in summary, with reference to my earlier calculation – it is even more unlikely you could ever reach a concnetration that would harm gut bacteria, without drinking herbicide.

        • I should add that personally I don’t think Shehata et al used formulated glyphosate to intentionally mislead readers. I’m guessing that they went with formulated glyphosate simply because pure glyphosate can be really expensive. Sigma Aldrich, which is one the main suppliers of lab chemicals globally, charges for nearly 100 USD for 250 mg of high purity glyphosate when sold in the EU (which is where the study was conducted). Shehata et al would have had to spend 5000-10000 USD on pure glyphosate to get enough for their study. Instead they went for a 20-dollar canister of formulated glyphosate from their local gardening outlet.

          If you want to address the effect of an amino acid synthesis inhibitor on microbes, you need to use a growth medium that lacks proteins and free amino acids with a simple nitrogen source like an ammonium salt or urea so that you force the microbes to make their own amino acids. You should also give the microbes a ready source of carbon (e.g. glucose) and phosphate so they don’t start chewing on the glyphosate molecule before it has a chance to have an effect on amino acid biosynthesis.

    • theoldtechnite

      For the sake of argument, if a percentage of intestinal flora were adversely affected by any glyphosate ingested, wouldn’t said flora evolve fairly quickly to tolerate it? There seems to be an assumption by many that only detrimental organisms will evolve to tolerate this or that chemical or strategy that is used. I.e. the corn borer will evolve resistance, but the monarch will not, as an example.

      • Paul

        For the sake of argument if intestinal flora can adapt to withstand glyphosate, then by which means are the intestinal flora adapting to this change? By process of natural section are they building up resistance to glyphosate or is it through horizontal gene transfer with the roundup ready gene present in the GMO food passing through the gut? If this is process is really happening, it would be safe to say that GMO food is some how altering our bodies in some way shape or form! Therefore in this type of a scenario GMO food can pose unpredicted side effects of which more researched needs to be done on this!

        • Paul, the more likely scenario is that the bacteria start acquiring single base changes in their own ESPS genes that would make them resistant to glyphosate or that the ESPS gene would duplicate producing more enzyme. But as I have been saying over and over again on this thread, as long as there’s an external source of aromatic amino acids (i.e. food) in the gut, the bacteria won’t be affected by glyphosate.

          • Paul

            Has there been any research done to determine if glyphosate does actually have any sort of effect on human gut bacteria?

            • Not on glyphosate specifically. But on the other hand you need to consider that your regular diet also affects your gut microbe population. If you switch rom low to high fibre, you will see an effect on proportions of bacterial species. If you switch from a lot of dairy to no dairy, you will see an effect. If you need to take antibiotics, your gut microbe flora can change permanently with a completely different set of dominant species. And floras differ from person to person. Just because you see a change doesn’t mean it’s good or bad.

  • Guys, you know I’m also vocal about the Luddism coming from the anti-GMO hysterics, but I can not understand why you would decide to work with Cato institute on this. I think it’s very damaging to a pro-science cause to align with an organization with a ideological bias that forces them to routinely deny things like climate science.

    One can’t fight against anti-science attitudes by aligning with pseudoscientists when it suits one’s purpose. Cato is a hive of bullshit artists and liars, and I’m very disappointed this was the venue that was chosen. It de-legitimizes your valid scientific position on the safety of GMO to present it from the podium of cranks and denialists.

    • Hi Mark,

      I understand your perspective, but I haven’t “aligned” with the CATO Institute, nor have Kevin and Jon to my knowledge. As you may have read about the lead-in to the event (follow the chain of links in this post), CATO asked Jon to put together a debate on the topic of the future of GE crops, and as a result of circumstance it ended up being a forum rather than a debate. CATO has its perspective on the issue, but that wasn’t pushed on us, nor was there coordination between them and us as to what we were going to say. I made a couple of corrections on statements the moderator said, and there were more I suppose I could talk about like those digs at climate science which were out of the blue and non-sequitur.

      Moreover, as a result of this event, I got contacted by someone within a DC organization that has been anti-science on some political issues who is trying to change things within the organization, so there’s hope even from participating in an event with an organization that has done that.

      If speaking at an event hosted by CATO is “aligning” with them, then I hope you will look forward to Kevin and Anastasia who may speak about the exact same things at an upcoming anti-GMO conference which is sure to be filled with its own brand of anti-science as well.

  • They’re a pro-business group, Libertarian with a big “L”, that don’t believe in any regulation period. These are the same assholes that come up with their yearly “economic freedom” report, which seems to suggest all the worlds problems are due to socialist and regulatory policy and the truly “free” states are places like Bahrain and Mauritius, while it’s big government keeping down the people in Chad and Mozambique. They’re a joke of a “think tank” and have no academic credibility on any issue from science, to economics.

    Think about what it looks like then, when the pro-science group stands in front of a bunch of screens with “CATO” in big letters behind them. Talk about a PR blunder. It feeds into the false perception of those that defend GMO science as in the pocket of big business, and foolish big “L” libertarianism. The image is terrible. It doesn’t matter if you’re not truly aligned with them or maintained appropriate distance from their amoral ideology. The perception will be otherwise.

    The only way you’d catch me standing in front of a bunch of CATO screens would be if I were pissing on them while giving the audience the finger.

    • Mark, look at this another way. I’ll go to any forum to extend this message. I’ll talk to witches, neo-Nazis, cub scouts or those in vegetative states. It is about education and educating anyone that will listen. In some cases, like in my personal feelings for CATO, many groups need exposure to science and the scientific method. They need to know how science works.

      In many ways they are like the anti-GMO folks in that they have their ‘experts’ and cozy up to them. On issues like gun control, climate, corporate cronyism, they are first to turn a blind eye to the realities, IMHO.

      That is EXACTLY why scientists need to jump at the opportunity to get in front of them. We need to shake their hands, look them in the eyeballs and let them know that we are out there advocating hypothesis-driven science. Not that I matter one lick to them, but getting science conversations started maybe helps train us on how to keep it real.

      • theoldtechnite

        LOL, You remind me of Winston Churchill’s staement:

        “If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.”

        I agree with you.

    • Thomas Egebak

      MarkH, you obviously know rather little about what libertarianism actually is. Described really shortly, libertarianism is not pro-business, its pro-liberty, including free markets. In general big business prefer to ally with government to profit rather then having to work hard in the free markets.

      Libertarianism favour regulation, but not the rubbish that pass for laws today. There should be basic laws to prevent things like fraud, theft and the like, but not endless amounts of rules describing everything in detail. I mean, why should there be rules saying a lemonade stand should have a fire extinguisher? There are so many funny laws in the US, and that is why when you see libertarians argue, you will see them go against regulation, its because 99% of it is just exceptionally dumb.

      I agree it it is a PR blunder, but only because CATO is so demonized.

  • Anders

    Yeah, I wondered about this as well. Given, I’m a European socialist so I might not exactly be representative of your american audience, but I really wondered why you were promoting this so heavily when Cato does not exactly have a reputation for scientific integrity.

  • This is Jon Entine. I’m the one that CATO approached. As Karl, wrote, the invitation came out of the blue, and came with zero strings attached–I put together a debate, they would sponsor and pay expenses (no one would be paid) and I and whomever I recruited would have total editorial control. Our original moderator, from outside CATO, dropped out after the event transformed from a debate into a forum. Everyone at CATO handled themselves professionally. As a consequence, this issue was discussed in a variety of forums across the ideological spectrum. I wonder how people would have felt if this forum had been sponsored by, say, Mother Jones magazine or the Center for Food Safety? Those are self-proclaimed “progressive” organizations that are icons of Ludditism on this issue. Although their science standards on genetic issues is extremely low, I for one would welcome a debate even though their overall stance on this issue (and frankly some other “disruptive technology” issues) is bereft of science. Maybe I’m naive, but I believe it’s healthy for this issue to be debated/discussed from a science perspective in as many forums as possible–right, center, left, libertarian, etc.

    • Anders

      “I wonder how people would have felt if this forum had been sponsored by, say, Mother Jones magazine or the Center for Food Safety?”

      I don’t get how you even think this would be analogous? Mother Jones has a problem with GM science, if they wanted to address it that would be wonderful. Cato on the other hand wants to use the pro-science veneer of being ok with GM (probably, in a weird mirrored way of the opponents, they like it *because* of the corporate factor) in their other anti-science pursuits. Sure, someone might have learned something, but you also lent your credibility to Cato and lost some if it in the process.

      • I’m missing something with your comment. Why would it be “wonderful” if Mother Jones wanted to address GMOs? They already do it in a non-scientific and outrageously irresponsible way. It’s not just that issue that they are irresponsible about. They are Luddites are most technologically cutting edge issues, including the balanced use of chemicals, particularly in agriculture, and the role of technology in energy extraction. I would raise the same concerns about participating in an event sponsored by Mother Jones because of its questionable understanding of basic empirical science (its ag/food write, Tom Philpott, is an editorial embarrassment). That said, I believe in dialogue in any and all places that will have it. I was willing to dialogue with Jeffrey Smith and Seralini–two people whose views I believe are dangerous and if followed would contribute to global hunger and poverty..yet we should not have forums with an organization who to my knowledge has never weighed in on the GMO issue? That’s kind of bizarre to me. You either believe in healthy dialogue or you don’t; you can’t pick your opponents or forums or you will end up talking to yourself.

        • Anders

          What I meant was if they wanted to address the problem of them having such bad reporting on GM by inviting Biofortified reps to discuss that would be wonderful, and might do some good.

          “you can’t pick your opponents or forums” Say what? Of course you can, sometimes it makes sense to do debate someone at a particular venue, sometimes it doesn’t. To take an extreme example, should Obama have debated with the birthers instead of mocking them?

          • With respect to your position, that’s a terrible analogy. You’re mixing Apples and oranges. As the left has shown on such issues as GMOs, fracking, nuclear energy and vaccines and the right has shown on climate change and evolution, invoking one’s science creds is a pretty week argument. If Obama attacked a birther because of her views on climate change, that would be foolish. Attacking CATO for its views on an issue that is likely in tune with the science (Actually I don’t know that anyone at CATO has written on this issue) is, in my mind, equally as foolish (in my mind). All this said, Anders, we’re on the same side here, I believe. I respect your concern over where these issues are discussed. Perhaps I’m older than you (61) and therefore see things differently, but I firmly believe that any forum that’s well organized presents a do-not-miss great opportunity to discuss this issue. I certainly have not seen any “progressive” organizations rushing to hold genuine forums or debates on this–most of them are too scared about alienating the wacko part of their base. Technophobia–the kind endemic at places like Mother Jones–is to me one of the preeminent issues of our times. I’ll fight against it in any forum that I can. I don’t know CATO’s motivation for sponsoring this but I saw no cynicism or opportunism in how they conducted themselves in terms of guaranteeing the independence of the speakers; I cannot say that of so-called progressive organizations where the stank of anti-GMO fever hangs heavy.

            • Anders

              I think we see differently in the issue of assuming someone’s age and proceeding to make condescending remarks, that’s for sure. That aside, I don’t know where you got the idea of anyone attacking Catos presumed view on GM? At issue is if whatever small gain there might be from this appearance that was, let’s be honest, mostly preaching to the converted, offsets the credibility afforded to Cato which is, by and large, an anti-scientific organisation. I suspect will not agree on the answer, and that’s fine, but hopefully at least the Biofortified staff, for whom I have great respect and admiration, will consider these matters more carefully next time.

  • With this discussion of whether it was right to participate in the CATO forum, I’m interested to see what those who are critical of the appearance think about back when it was just going to be a debate between Jon and Anastasia vs Smith and Seralini? Would it have been a bad idea to participate in the debate format itself?

    It seems their politically-based positions on other issues that clash with the science affect the perception of this forum, and even the participants. under what conditions or circumstances would it have been acceptable to participate in such forum or debate? I’m with Kevin about reaching out to many different groups of all political persuasions (except perhaps the neo-Nazis, since I am German in heritage it would lead people to make too many assumptions), but I don’t want to outright reject every group that has something they are anti-science about. Perhaps weaving some examples into our presentations that challenge their other ideas? I’m interested to see what you think.

    • I’m actually not a great fan of such debates period. I’ve been on the record for years saying in general denialists should not be debated. The problem is that you have absolutely nothing to gain in such an exercise.

      At best, you get to inform some people that will already be primed to be on your side. Given what we know about how humans think, and form opinions, it’s unlikely that informing them is actually all that helpful. This is the idealistic, but hopelessly-flawed belief of the the science educator. What the data on human political and ideological psychology has shown, however, is that the more informed someone is on a subject, the more dug-in they are likely to be. People don’t just respond to information and change their mind, this is a fundamentally unsound view of how people think and act in response to ideological conflict. Instead, humans form ideas and opinions based on core ideological beliefs and heuristics that have been constructed during their whole lives. When they encounter contrary information, they ignore it. When the encounter consistent information, they use it further cement their position. People aren’t scientists, weighing data and facts and dismissing hypotheses that aren’t supported by data. They are ideological and emotional creatures that accept or dismiss information depending on whether or not it conforms to the identity they have constructed over years. We talk about this a lot at the denialism blog. This is the science of understanding “motivated reasoning”, and it might be worth your while to look up Dan Kahan’s research and Chris Mooney’s writing on the subject. The data are clear, informing people is worthless.

      So, is debate or informing the public helpful? Probably not. If anything it just exposes your position to greater risk. For one, it legitimizes these pseudoscientists as somehow legitimate and worthy of sharing the stage with those who actually perform real science. That alone is damaging to your cause. Second, denialists don’t need to stick to things like data, facts, reason, or even basic honesty and decency. In a debate they have profound advantages over scientists who historically get overwhelmed by what is ultimately an exercise in rhetoric, not the weighing of facts.

      I disagree, fundamentally, with debating with cranks and denialists for these reasons.

      • Interesting point. I agree in some part. The only hope I had going in is that the cranks would blunder on key points, which would provide fodder for future articles. I do think you overstate both your case and the evidence however. We know for certain that some people do change their minds on issues, often over relatively short periods of time, and “information,” however identified is the reason for it. We’ve seen that on the debate over gay and lesbian rights, for example…a dramatic shift in public opinion in just a few years, though the seeds of that change have been in place for years. Some of the shift comes when a respected authority figure changes their minds. That happened, I believe, when President Obama spoke out on the issue more directly after having been circumspect, which influenced the views of many blacks. So…while I agree with the general thrust of your remarks, to me it’s too cynical and broad brushed. I read Mooney’s work and found it frighteningly simplistic, filled with sweeping generalizations that washed over the truth every many cogent points. But the subject you raise is intriguing–what then is the proper way to influence public opinion? Is Biofortied or the Genetic Literacy Project just talking to the converted? Every time I engage a liberal friend of mind who is reflexively anti-GMO because other liberals are anti-GMO, and they hear the facts, and then the read articles on Biofortified and GLP, they’ve altered their views. Love to hear more of your thoughts on what we–meaning those who believe the debate should be driven by empirical research and weight of evidence–should do to swing the swing vote.

  • Gay rights were not won by formally debating for their virtue. It was a cultural campaign lasting decades that changed the way people felt emotionally about homosexuality, while successfully demonstrating the opposition to be little more than bigots. If anything it reinforces the point. We didn’t have a debate about homosexual rights, we had Will and Grace, vocal proponents of equality fighting court battles, and a ground war fought by homosexuals proudly coming out of the closet and demonstrating just how common and normal they really were. People’s minds weren’t changed. The old bigots are dying off and the young don’t give a damn about homosexuality. Sadly, that’s where much of the progress is going to come from. But developing the atmosphere for that progress is no simple or obvious thing, and I can’t pretend to have all the answers. If anything the neo-Luddites are ahead on this game, as they are the ones making the movies, getting their world-view saturated into pop culture, and presenting themselves as the “good guys”, opposed to big ag and evil corporatism. To really have a cultural impact on these types of beliefs one has to think in such terms, but sadly there isn’t much money in portraying scientists as heros and technology as the savior of humanity. These days it’s too often the opposite.

    Things that do work, however, are not engaging on the facts with denialists. It’s just not productive, since they don’t care about the facts, and they are not honest brokers in a debate. What you need to do is what you actually are doing at biofortified. It’s not debating these jokers, it’s demonstrating that they are scientifically and intellectually bankrupt Luddites. It’s not enough to put information out there and try to educate people. You have to marginalize the corrupt actors in the debate and make them a joke. While it’s a great thing to have a repository of legitimate information about GM on the webs, it’s only going to serve those who search it out to reinforce their existing opinions.

    Anything that elevates the Luddites to the level of legitimate brokers in a debate is doing the cause of science no justice.

    As far as engaging people one-on-one, that’s great! That’s one of the few areas in which I’ve had great success as well in changing the way people think, but it also relies on the pre-existence of trust and friendship between the two parties. That’s also demonstrably one of the areas in which the psychology has shown argument to be effective. In small groups, with trusted individuals there is a significant chance to influence individuals. At a large debate? Nothing happens. The people who show up are there to root for their side to win, and no one will accept that they lost. By all means, encourage crop scientists to “come out” and speak about what they do and why it will benefit humanity. Right now the Luddites are winning the perception war with propaganda trying to portray all scientists as corrupt vampires sucking from the teat of big ag.

    Other areas of interest are “innoculation” strategies that prepare people for anti-science arguments. There are some interesting little studies that show that if you prepare people for the illogical argumentation of conspiracy theorists or pseudoscientists, they are less likely to believe their arguments when they encounter them. It’s hardly rock-solid research yet (the usual psych experiments on undergrads) but it’s suggestive that a “meta” argument about how pseudoscience is conveyed is protective and useful to prevent its spread.

    Historically, denialist movements have only been successfully quashed when there has been a sufficient amount of contempt and mockery directed at the proponents until there is a social cost to being a member. You don’t get to be a moon-landing hoaxer or a holocaust revisionist without taking some major lumps, and that’s the way it should be. Rather than meeting with such individuals in debate, we should instead erect a wall of contempt and mockery for neo-Luddism. My personal goal with my blog is to make “conspiracy theorist” the worst epithet in the English language. It’s slowly working, not due necessarily to any efforts of mine, but I feel like we’re seeing a backlash against the Mike Adams’ and Alex Jones types. We can’t meet such opponents as if they’re legitimate equals, we need to treat them for what they are, liars and cranks.

  • Oh, and don’t be too dismissive of Mooney. He’s a good guy, and while the “Republican Brain” might be a stretch, he’s really good at explaining the science of anti-science. For instance see here. The irony is that it’s published at Mother Jones! Hah. I wonder if any of them read it and had a moment of introspection about their anti-GM nonsense. I doubt it.

  • Mark, for what it’s worth, I thought Mooney’s first book was great. His second book suffered from a fundamental lack of understanding of basic genetics. It was also disingenuous, trying to make it appear as if “progressive” Democrats were actually embracing of technology, using his personal support for advanced energy extraction techniques (eg fracking) as representative of the majority of Democrats, when that is patently untrue. He also did not acknowledge that the largest body of evolution deniers are not Republicans but Democrats (blacks, a strong majority of whom, like southern whites, are so wrapped up in religion that they embrace pseudo-science in disturbingly large numbers, even higher than ill-educated white evangelicals). The real indictment of him–and what in my mind suggests he’s an opportunist rather than committed to science, and letting the chips fall where they may–is that he with a powerful bully platform has remained on the sidelines on the GMO debate. He clearly does not want to derail the money train express, which is being hailed by knee jerks as a savior and conservative basher as those groups are in the thrall of anti-GMO fever and would be appalled if their spiritual leader took on the (pseudo) liberal base on this issue. Until he has the guts, like Mark Lynas, to come out and take on the anti-GMO Luddites, I will continue to see him as an ideologue and opportunist who hit a lucky homerun bashing the fat pitch of anti-science Republicanism. He’s gutless.

  • FYI, Here’s a review I wrote last year for Forbes of what I think is his less-than-convincing second book:

    Republicans are Stupid … That’s the Stupid Premise of a Stupid New Book by an Anti-Republican Gadfly
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2012/05/03/republicans-are-stupid/

  • Ah, but RWOS was pretty good, and Storm World I thought was excellent journalism. I’ll give you the Republican Brain is a stretch. But he really isn’t a polemicist. Like many journalists he takes a scientific idea and stretches it over a premise that just doesn’t fit every once in a while. But there is a difference in anti-science attitude between liberals and conservatives. Like I said, check out Kahan’s research. The thing is, it’s a matter of degree, but the data shows on most issues conservative risk assessments are bizarre. Interestingly, on GMO, the one issue in which you’d be sure that liberals would pull ahead, they’re dead equal! We’ve been discussing the parity issue at denialism blog for a while now. While I initially started at a position of parity, I’ve come to accept the data shows conservatives really are worse on most scientific issues, but it’s a quantitative effect, not a qualitative one. I think what we will ultimately find to be to blame is ideology, and since conservative ideology tends to be more extreme and even rabid in this country, it creates the appearance of more antiscience coming from the right. Liberal ideology itself isn’t safe from antiscience, it just happens the liberals in this country are pretty milquetoast, and the absence of extremism creates the appearance of more science acceptance. The issues on which we do see extremism – animal rights, GMO, environmentalism – is also where we are seeing the antiscience from the left. So yes, I too disagree with Mooney on the cause. While conservatives are more likely to deny science, I don’t think it’s something fundamental about personality types attracted to conservatism as much as it’s personalities that are attracted to extremism, which happens to be mostly conservative in this country. If we had a culture of more rabid liberal ideologues we’d be complaining about the anti-science left. The poison is ideology, independent of which ideology it is.

    Finally Chris Mooney does reject GMO paranoia, although it’s clearly not a major focus of his writing. I’m happy to send him an email or tweet sometime when Mother Jones oversteps again and ask if he’d like to help clean the anti-science in the liberals’ house (as I have). Ugg, too much self-promotion in these comments.

    Anyway, I could also ask the same question of you sir! What do you think about Forbes, where you have published, providing a megaphone for Heartland’s James Taylor? He puts out some of the most vile anti-science dreck on global warming there is. Or even closer to home? What do you think of the Mercatus Center at George Mason? What do you think about the nature of the founding of George Mason? (guess what, it’s a spin off of my Alma Mater created to generate academic legitimacy for conservative polemicists in right wing Washington think tanks). I see you’re also an AEI fellow. What do you think of AEI’s position on global warming? I see many articles of Jonah Goldberg’s mixed in with yours at AEI on “Energy and Environment”, and you accuse Mooney of being a polemicist? You share space with one of the most prolific global warming denialists!

    So maybe I’ll pose a new question to some of the scientists that are part of biofortified. Do you see how working with global warming-denying conservative think tanks is undermining your credibility on environmental issues even with your allies? Because I tell you, I’m unquestionably a defender of the technology, and I am frankly disturbed that I’m arguing with an AEI fellow here about who the anti-science polemicists are, and hearing about how he set this up for you guys. You’re in bed with some shady groups when you start working with AEI, Cato, Heartland etc. These are the preeminent global warming denialists in this country. Do you not see how this undermines your position with environmentalists when these are the groups that are denying the most important science related to the environment? How can you be trusted as non-partisan sources of scientific information on the environmental impact of a technology such as GM, when you clearly have some relationship with some of the most atrocious sources of anti-science in the country?

    • “So maybe I’ll pose a new question to some of the scientists that are part of biofortified. Do you see how working with global warming-denying conservative think tanks is undermining your credibility on environmental issues even with your allies? ”

      I think “working with” is a huge exaggeration. There’s no ongoing activities, no partnerships, nothing like that. The original goal was a debate and CATO was simply providing a podium and microphone. It is at least partly my fault that it didn’t end up being a debate,and I’m very sorry for that. Someday maybe I’ll be able to work on Biofortified full time so I’ll have the freedom to do these types of things.

      I’m willing to get behind podiums wherever they are to discuss the science of biotech and other ag topics, no matter whose podium it is (within reason). I’ll happily speak to groups who are anti science on some things, whether they are on the right or left. It doesn’t mean I endorse their anti science positions.

      In the past year, I spoke at a wheat industry meeting and Karl spoke to a gathering of vegans. Does that mean either of us embraces every aspect of wheat growing or every aspect of veganism? Of course not, we were simply talking about the science to whoever will listen. Same goes for this event.

      • A group of vegans is very different from well-funded think tanks that are responsible for the content generation for anti-environmental denialism. I think the appropriate metaphor would be to compare hosting a forum at the Discovery Institute. I would be very disappointed in any pro-science group that would attempt to legitimize such an organization by holding any semblance of scientific discussion there. It’s not a matter of going amongst the sinners, it’s actively promoting the devil.

      • Point of clarification, I spoke for a group of humanists in Chicago, whereas I think it was Kevin who spoke for or was interviewed by the vegan group. I would speak for Catholic groups, even though they get crazy anti-science on stem cells, abortion, and STDs.

        Heck, I would speak at the Disco Institute if they invited me under the same circumstances… and I would include lots of mentions of evolution. I wasn’t very familiar with CATO and just stuck to thinking about the topic at hand.

        I also object to characterizing it as “working with” CATO or any such group. While I imagine that some people would automatically assume something like that, or that maybe we actually work for CATO, I have not even heard this from the worst anti-GE commentators on twitter, facebook, or anywhere else. Not even GM Watch tried to do that, and they usually do. They mostly tried to ignore it. I was prepared, since I knew CATO is libertarian, to say I don’t support the same political approach to these things if the topic of regulations came up and was of a certain flavor, but it didn’t seem relevant to mention it.

    • Wow. MarkH–I don’t know who you are or your motivations–but you’ve taken a civil discussion over science and policy and steered it straight into the ditch of “black helicopter” conspiracy theories, innuendo and personal attacks. It’s sad and baffling, and smacks of the ideological excesses of the wacko right and left.

      First a few facts unrelated to your personal rant against me. I believe Mooney has shown himself to be an opportunist and fraud on key science policy issues. Two of the most prominent issues of the day, which go to the heart of the role of empirical evidence in driving public policy, are energy and natural resource extraction and biotechnology. On both of those issues, unlike people like Mark Lynas or Bjorn Lomborg, and many top science writers, he has gone into a hole. A few tweets or an errant email is not moral courage.

      The reality is that Mooney had a platform and has blown a huge opportunity, and his obsession with self-promotion and his allegiance to past benefactors like Mother Jones and his anti-science base (on risk technologies) seems to explain why. It’s easy to attack to wacko Congressional Republicans (who for the most part are antedeluvian on science issues), which is like picking low hanging fruit. Character is defined in the breach. Great; he supports evolution. What about issues that actually matter today? He’s shown no guts to take on the wacko left establishment on meaningful policy issues. You seem to think that’s okay; I think it’s gutless, and shows his true character.

      Your statement that conservatives are more likely to deny science, while intuitively attractive (again, Republican legislators and evangelicals reject evolution and are seeped in climate change denialism) does not hold up under scrutiny. As I wrote in my Forbes piece, unless you want to exclude as “liberals” all blacks and most Hispanics, the incidence of science denialism on key issues like evolution and the origins of homosexuality are about equal when comparing Democrats and mainstream Republicans–they both are terrible, frankly.

      The American black population is the heart of American liberalism, and its a great tradition–I stand with many views held by African Americans. Their views of science is not one of them. I have a longtime colleague and friend, who I quoted in my linked Forbes piece, who is a top geneticist, and black, who is appalled but the views of African Americans–the heart of American liberalism. Upwards of 70% of blacks deny the science of evolution.

      I an unapologetic atheist, and I believe that’s what the science points to. If you establish a rejection of a god of any kind as the true science position, then there is little statistical difference overall between so-called Republican or Democrat views on the subject. Look at the data…Mooney and others always cook the books by excusing Democrats who believe in one-godism but by also embrace natural selection. Huh? You either embrace science or you don’t.

      Anyway–this is entirely silly side issue. The real issues today are not creation theory or evolution, but policy critical ones like energy, climate, and agricultural biotechnology–and except on the issue of climate change, the hard left (eg, Mother Jones, Grist) looks really, really bad here. By and large, they are precautionary obsessed and reject empirical evidence, except when it suits their views.

      As for your personal attacks on me based on assumed associations–it smacks of the kind of smear tactics I’m used to seeing by Tea Party types and other extremist groups, and also by trashy publications like Mother Jones, whose trade is ad hominem attacks.

      The GMO debate is hardly about me, but since you attacked me so personally, with so little knowledge of the facts, I’m forced to defend myself. I don’t know who you are–never heard of you frankly–but I have a 40 your public record that is evidence of my views on the issues about which I write about. Twenty major international awards in television and print; eight books, including three on biotechnology and two on chemicals; teaching positions at NYU and Miami (Ohio); 12 year columnist for liberal publication Ethical Corporation in the UK; unpaid fellowship at the American Enterprise Institute, where I was recruited after co-authoring an attack on the anti-science stem cell policy of the Bush Administration in a long analysis in the Washington Post’s Outlook Section (http://www.aei.org/article/society-and-culture/race-belongs-in-the-stem-cell-debate/); frequent columnist in leftwing publications such as Slate, Daily Beast, Guardian, Dollars and Sense, Progressive Populist, as well as to moderate/conservative publications like Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, National Review, etc.); unpaid contributor (not a columnist) for Forbes.

      As for my affiliations, I am an UNPAID fellow at two think tanks–the American Enterprise Institute and the Center for Health and Risk Communication, a ‘leftwing’ think tank at George Mason University. I’ve also worked with the Brookings Institution and organized an event with their support or science denialism.

      You clearly no nothing about think tanks. Although any one think tank many have an institutional reputation, each think tank is made up of individuals. I’ve never been asked as part of my affiliation with either my left wing or my more conservative thank tank affiliation as to what my political registration is or been asked or encouraged–ever–to take a position on any issue. I have numerous friends at AEI who, like me, are political liberals and moderates. (BTW, I know of no article by anyone at AEI supporting climate change denialism, but as I have no expertise in that issue, it is not one that I follow or write about.)

      In fact, and especially at AEI, I’ve been warned to maintain my absolute independence, which I have. The Genetic Literacy Project, which emerged as part of my affiliation with the liberal CHRC at GMU, is funded 100% by two foundations–Searle and Templeton, two foundations known for supporting independent science research.

      Your attempt to smear every scholar at AEI and CHRC and personally associate me with organizations that you hold in contempt is a classic smear tactic. I have no affiliation or ever have with CATO or Heartland or Mercatus or anyone personally or politically at Forbes.

      In sum, I have a full body of work that attests to my ideological independence–award winning documentaries, more than 400 television news programs as a network producer and executive; well received best sellers on science issues particularly on genetics and chemicals and risk, and more than 800 published articles. In other words, I appear to be someone you do not recognize–someone whose ideology is science, rather obeisance to outdated, crusted and indeed reactionary ideological talking points. If you can’t get your head around that, that reflects on you, not me.

      When you began to engage this issue on Biofortified, I was heartened and thrilled. You had some thoughtful comments. Great stuff. Whether we agreed or not (and we largely did) was secondary; we need new strategies to drive this debate forward. You were furthering the discussion on a critical issue of the day, and that’s what I live and die for.

      I hope going forward you will direct your (thoughtful) comments toward empirical evidence and issues and not engage in the cesspool of innuendo and and ad hominem attacks that has become the calling card of extremists on the GM issue, including Mother Jones and Grist and NaturalNews.com. Otherwise, you will become what you claim to condemn.

      Now let’s put this discussion back on track.

  • Wow. MarkH–I don’t know who you are or your motivations–but you’ve taken a civil discussion over science and policy and steered it straight into the ditch of “black helicopter” conspiracy theories, innuendo and personal attacks. It’s sad and baffling, and smacks of the ideological excesses of the wacko right and left.

    Interesting response. Perhaps text is not conveying the tone that I was trying to convey. What I was attempting was to point out it’s not Mooney’s personal job to serve as policeman for Mother Jones or any other publication he writes for. To respond to antiscience in such pages would be admirable sure, but not a requirement if that’s not his bag. I was similarly pointing out that organizations that you write for (Forbes), and are a fellow at (AEI) have an extensive history of antiscience positions with regards to global warming. Do you have a similar obligation to use your megaphone to denounce their anti-science? If Mooney has blown opportunities in this regard, then you have as well.

    Your statement that conservatives are more likely to deny science, while intuitively attractive (again, Republican legislators and evangelicals reject evolution and are seeped in climate change denialism) does not hold up under scrutiny.

    And here again I think we have a missed opportunity. I think we actually agree with each other here. I was trying to make the point that the issue isn’t where on the political spectrum one falls in terms of left vs. right that predisposes to anti-science, and I disagree with Mooney on this point. I think what they are noting is a tendency for more extremism on the right in this country than on the left. It’s the extremism that predisposes to an anti-science position. This is why I keep referring to Kahan and posts like this and this in which he really tries to dissect where risk-assessment becomes flawed along the political spectrum. Based on his data (which Mooney uses) there is a tendency for one of his groups to be more anti-science. But as Kahan points out, there is not a huge partisan difference between his hierarchical group and egalitarian group! In fact, Kahan has written a paper that tests, and rejects, Mooney’s Republican Brain hypothesis!. So no. I do not agree with Mooney on this, I’ve consistently been on the parity side of this debate, and to the extent there is a difference along a partisan divide it has more to do with the extremism present on the modern day right than some inherent property of conservatism. So can we agree to agree here?

    Anyway–this is entirely silly side issue. The real issues today are not creation theory or evolution, but policy critical ones like energy, climate, and agricultural biotechnology–and except on the issue of climate change, the hard left (eg, Mother Jones, Grist) looks really, really bad here.

    I agree.

    You clearly no nothing about think tanks. Although any one think tank many have an institutional reputation, each think tank is made up of individuals. I’ve never been asked as part of my affiliation with either my left wing or my more conservative thank tank affiliation as to what my political registration is or been asked or encouraged–ever–to take a position on any issue. I have numerous friends at AEI who, like me, are political liberals and moderates. (BTW, I know of no article by anyone at AEI supporting climate change denialism, but as I have no expertise in that issue, it is not one that I follow or write about.)

    And here is where we disagree. I do know a bit about think tanks. I’ve been making fun of them for years for the generally shoddy quality of work coming out of right wing think tanks like Cato. Their economic freedom report, which is a prima facie laugh-fest, is just one example I cited above. AEI, CEI, Cato and Heartland are the conservative core of global warming denial in DC. As far as AEI involvement, would you accept Media Matters as a source? I mentioned Jonah Goldberg, who appears alongside you on the AEI website in the energy and environment section, do you read what he writes? Granted, AEI is not the worst of the group, that would be Heartland, but you’re not exactly standing up for science by offering 10,000$ rewards for scientists to bash the IPCC. And how about Cato, who I’ve persistently made fun of throughout this thread? Well, let’s start with the man at the podium, standing right next to you throughout the talk. Patrick Michaels, the infamous Deleter of Inconvenient Data. He’s hardly a scientific role-model and one of the foremost climate change deniers of the last two decades. I mention the Mercatus center at George Mason (a “right wing money magnet”) because it was founded by Charles Koch (as was Cato), and is an incredibly well-funded source for anti-environmental lobbying and policymaking in concert with ALEC. This is not secret black-helicopter type stuff. This is right there, in-your-face lobbying against legislative action on climate change, and numerous scientifically-questionable statements from all of these think tanks and groups is just a google search away. If you haven’t seen it, you’ve haven’t been looking, or listening, or really paying attention at all really.

    Yes, I appreciate you are an individual and are influenced by no outside group. You are an island, immune to the pressure of the funding behind all of these organizations you work for and are associated with. Fine. But back to my first point. How does it look, when you, ostensibly trying to defend science, are standing on a podium, with Cato behind you (and all the Koch-ian global warming denial association), next to Patrick Michaels of all people, and say you’re interested in promoting non-partisan science?

    It looks bad to me. It will look bad to other people. I’m sorry that you were the last to know about the anti-science lobbying efforts of AEI, and the frank global warming denial published folks like Taylor and the Heartland Institute in Forbes, and the fact that Cato was co-founded by a Koch brother (the veritable devil of the left-wing media). But it will be impossible for others to ignore these associations. The message that is created is that the same groups that advance global warming denial seem super-thrilled to advance the pro-GM agenda, and you think this will warm the cockles of the left-wing environmentalist movement? This is the message to the masses you want to send?

    This is not helping your cause. This is giving Grist and Mother Jones ammunition.

    • I understand what you are saying, but what’s the conclusion? If someone who is pro science can never appear physically next to anyone who has some anti science views, we are severely limiting ourselves both with regard to podiums and audiences.

      I’m equally willing to write an article for Grist and Forbes even though both publish MANY things I disagree with. Are you saying I shouldn’t do either? If we all (pro science folks) took this advice, very few people would ever see a pro science piece.

      • Well, if you remember, I’m generally against such exercises and I’m not alone.

        This is actually a fascinating and long-debated problem, and I won’t pretend that many people don’t disagree with me for compelling reasons. But many writers with extensive experience arguing against denialists have come to the same conclusion, including Eugenie Scott of the NCSE, Richard Dawkins and the late Stephen Jay Gould, and Michael Shermer. Debating with true-believers is a not an easy, or often successful task, and most who have engaged in the exercise over the years have decided it is at best futile, and at worst, harmful.

        So, what about your question, what are the forums that will work? How do you find a podium without some taint of pseudoscience?

        Well, it is admittedly hard, but there also is a matter of degree here. If you are debating against what you feel is a liberal version of anti-science (although that is debatable on GM as when polled people that are conservative are equally-likely to express concern about their safety – see Kahan again), it’s probably a bad idea to host a presentation at a Koch-brother-founded think tank with a reputation for anti-environmental pseudoscience while standing next to someone who has actively campaigned against global warming science for 20 years. Call me crazy.

        Crafting a pro-science message is not easy. Presenting it to the public will require accessing trusted media sources that have durability and permanence. Allies should be sought among the skeptical community, because they’ll defend and debunk antiscience all day long for free. They are out there, and they include folks like PZ Myers, Dave Gorski, Richard Dawkins, and Michael Shermer. All of them have written about how anti-GM attitudes are absurd Luddism. Allies should be sought out among the environmentalist community, and here is where I think it’s a big mistake for Jon to be so dismissive of Chris Mooney. He is not anti-GM by any stretch. Nor is Revkin for that matter, and his work is read by pretty much every single environmentalist, even if the NYT has demoted it recently. Mother Jones and Grist have fallen for this tripe, but they are also reasonable people, and could be engaged directly and be asked to have a forum. It’s not about never standing next to the anti-science types, but about crafting your message so that the information is disseminated through sources that your opponents usually rely upon. I’m not talking about Naturalnews or infowars, those are two big lost causes. But MJ? Huffpo? Why not?

        • Points taken on this. If I were to plan and propose a similar such event in the future, I wouldn’t propose to do it hosted by an organization disliked by the target audience, politically or socially (or scientifically). But I think you come down too hard on agreeing to participate when asked. Would you turn down a chance to go on Fox News to talk a little plant science? Maybe if one came prepared with a good barb about the host’s treatment of other science topics?

          • I think that’s a good point, if you acknowledge the issues with the venue and get it out there it may help to deflect such automatic criticism. I still think it’s just a tough problem without an easy answer.

            In some ways you guys are part of a new skeptical movement, and all skeptical movements have their appeal and limitations. You guys are in the wonderful position of being to argue for science, technology and innovation to improve the world’s food supply, all noble goals. Your limitation is that there is a built-in “poisoning the well” argument due to the assocition with biotech and ag companies that you’re just corporate shills. It’s similar to the arguments we encounter in SCAM skepticism that we’re all pharma-shills, yada yada. So I, for instance, would be very cautious about holding a talk for say, Eli Lilly, on how acupuncture is BS. It’s too easy for them to be dismissive and it’s just preaching to the choir.

            I hope that you become involved with the larger skeptic community, go to Skepticon etc., because when it comes to facing down this stuff, they’re the best allies to beat back against the echo chambers on the internets. They already are writing about this, in particular I enjoyed PZ’s article on GM last month. Also consider reaching out to AMP, because there is a great similarity between this and animal rights extremism. It’s hard to fight back against these insular communities of crackpots that just generate un-ending conspiracy theories and bullshit, but it can be done with patience and time.

            I think one of the great victories of late has been the success in beating back the anti-vaccinationists in recent years. It was accomplished by various skeptics like Offit, and Orac just beating back at this stuff, challenging articles in the lay press, keeping the mainstream media honest for about a decade. Now with the return of various vaccine-preventable illnesses, and the complete undermining of the autism/thimerosal/vaccine timing links, they’ve got nothing left to stand on and are being routinely criticized in most major publications for being dangerous crackpots. It will have to be the same way here. Just collect examples of how this has been harmful for progress, how they make scientific and factual errors, and eventually their arguments lose traction and become a joke.

    • Mark, I’m glad the discussion seems back on track. A few random thoughts:

      –Mooney: My beef with him is not that he hasn’t challenged Mother Jones. Who cares if he does that. It’s that he’s gutlessly not engaged this issue, except for a few minor hedges in tweets that no one has seen. The fact is, the “conversion” by Mark Lynas was one of a few seminal moments over the past year in the battle against anti-GM wacko views. I believe strongly that the tide will only turn in this debate when so called “liberal icons”–and like it or not, as a science commentator Mooney has that status–puts empirical science ahead of their brand and, like Lynas, takes a strong public stand on one of the key science issues of our times. Until he does that, in my mind he’s just a sad sack hack, sticking to the low hanging fruit of anti-Republican criticisms.

      –how to Andrew Revkin get injected in this debate. Unlike Mooney, Revkin has always taken transparent and independent and nuanced stands on a range of issues, whether it’s climate change, or anti-chemical hysteria or or fracking or nuclear energy or GMOs. He’s a model for what clear-headed journalism should be.

      –the use of “pro science” and “anti-science”: I’ve used the terms a lot over the years, and it’s common for those of who are committed to follow the muse of empirical evidence and weight of evidence science to invoke those phrases. Here’s a suggestion that we all try to reign in use of those terms. I know for certain that hack journalists like Tom Philpott, scientists at Union of Concerned Scientists and fringe campaigners like Jeffrey Smith all think of themselves as “pro science,” so the likes of us slamming them with the anti-science label certainly won’t get them to review their positions, and I dare say it won’t influence any of their “followers” who fervently believe they represent “progressive science.” Faye Flam over at Knight Science Journalism Tracker wrote a thoughtful short essay on the overuse/missue of the term that resonated with me. For those of you interested, take a look: http://ksj.mit.edu/tracker/2013/06/anti-science-label-has-become-clich%C3%A9. I suggest that we who believe in evidence based science refrain from verbal and/or writing shortcuts and ponder not using those phrases anymore…instead refer to empirical studies and weight of evidence. It’s more cumbersome, perhaps, but it prevents us from falling sounding just like the creeps we criticize. Frankly, I would also be wary of using the term “climate change denialists” to describe anyway who raises such issues as the costs and benefits of various strategies to limit carbon pollution. Hard edged leftists sometimes invoke that term to savage Bjorn Lomborg because he’s asking slightly different questions than “Is there climate change” and rather focusing on “In a world of limited government resources and political constraints, how we priortize public “problems” and how do we allocate public resources.”

      That’s my three cents for the day.

      By the way, if you are a true skeptic, you might check out the cover story ten years ago of Skeptic magazine, when I did an essay on my book Taboo…or see the Skeptic lecture I gave on another book, Abrahanm’s Children…both dealing with population genetics. I believe, based on what you’ve written, that you could give them fair reviews and you’d find them of interest. Regards, Jon

      • –Mooney: My beef with him is not that he hasn’t challenged Mother Jones. Who cares if he does that. It’s that he’s gutlessly not engaged this issue, except for a few minor hedges in tweets that no one has seen. The fact is, the “conversion” by Mark Lynas was one of a few seminal moments over the past year in the battle against anti-GM wacko views. I believe strongly that the tide will only turn in this debate when so called “liberal icons”–and like it or not, as a science commentator Mooney has that status–puts empirical science ahead of their brand and, like Lynas, takes a strong public stand on one of the key science issues of our times. Until he does that, in my mind he’s just a sad sack hack, sticking to the low hanging fruit of anti-Republican criticisms.

        And this is where we had our miscommunication (and I apologize) in which I applied the same standard to you. For one, I did link an article in which Mooney replying to Shermer affirms he states the anti-GMO position is groundless and sites AAAS consensus. Second, why not apply the same argument to your writings in Forbes, or your fellow position at AEI? It’s not every writer’s job to police every publication they write for. It’s good when they do (and I feel like he did) but there’s no law.

        –how to Andrew Revkin get injected in this debate. Unlike Mooney, Revkin has always taken transparent and independent and nuanced stands on a range of issues, whether it’s climate change, or anti-chemical hysteria or or fracking or nuclear energy or GMOs. He’s a model for what clear-headed journalism should be.

        Agreed, and it’s a place one should consider hosting a debate on this topic.

        –the use of “pro science” and “anti-science”: I’ve used the terms a lot over the years, and it’s common for those of who are committed to follow the muse of empirical evidence and weight of evidence science to invoke those phrases. Here’s a suggestion that we all try to reign in use of those terms. I know for certain that hack journalists like Tom Philpott, scientists at Union of Concerned Scientists and fringe campaigners like Jeffrey Smith all think of themselves as “pro science,” so the likes of us slamming them with the anti-science label certainly won’t get them to review their positions, and I dare say it won’t influence any of their “followers” who fervently believe they represent “progressive science.” Faye Flam over at Knight Science Journalism Tracker wrote a thoughtful short essay on the overuse/missue of the term that resonated with me. For those of you interested, take a look: http://ksj.mit.edu/tracker/2013/06/anti-science-label-has-become-clich%C3%A9. I suggest that we who believe in evidence based science refrain from verbal and/or writing shortcuts and ponder not using those phrases anymore…instead refer to empirical studies and weight of evidence. It’s more cumbersome, perhaps, but it prevents us from falling sounding just like the creeps we criticize. Frankly, I would also be wary of using the term “climate change denialists” to describe anyway who raises such issues as the costs and benefits of various strategies to limit carbon pollution. Hard edged leftists sometimes invoke that term to savage Bjorn Lomborg because he’s asking slightly different questions than “Is there climate change” and rather focusing on “In a world of limited government resources and political constraints, how we priortize public “problems” and how do we allocate public resources.”

        Agreed, anti-science is imprecise, especially because pseudoscientists are paying science the highest form of flattery – imitation. They crave the legitimacy science confers so they try to coach their arguments as if they have scientific support when they do not. Hence the language of denialism, which is actually quite precise and useful. Denialism refers to specific tactics of pseudoscientists and can be separated from partisan judgment. It refers to the use of cherry-picked data, fake experts, moving goalposts, conspiracy theories etc., to rhetorically challenge scientific data, rather than engaging in a debate in the scientific literature itself. Since it is a critique of specific methods it lacks the imprecision of “anti-science” claims.

        For instance. Patrick Michaels is a denialist because he engages in serial deletion of inconvenient data, engaging in what some might call lying to congress in his misrepresentation of Hansen’s work. Hansen, being polite, suggests this is “close to fraud”, I would not have been so kind. He is a fake expert because rather than representing the totality of the scientific literature supporting the reality of anthropogenic global warming, he distorts it for a political think tank, thus using his credentials to lend support to a position that diverges from the reality of the scientific literature. Lomborg is not so easy to categorize except maybe as a “lukewarmer”, someone who argues yes, global warming is real, but hey, why should anyone think we should do anything about it because um, malaria! This is not exactly a sign of an intellectual dynamo. I’m no alarmist, but we’re living in the test tube, and am impatient with such rhetorical tactics used to delay any action to address potentially harmful human contributions to rapid climate change. The limited resources schtick is a tired old trope too. For a country that’s geared up to fight world wars, and put men on the moon, investing in clean technology and deployment of that technology seems a feat within our reach, and if anything, economically desirable.

  • If you’re interested, here is the counterpoint to my argument from DJ Grothe, president of the James Randi Educational Foundation. Like I say, good skeptics disagree, he thinks I’m too fatalistic. I’m not really. I’m trying to be a rigorous empiricist.

  • I just finally worked up my thoughts on this CATO drama, and posted them over at Jon’s site. Reposting them here:

    I admit that when I first saw the venue, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. It was uncomfortable for me. But you know what–comfort is over-rated. Getting out of the comfort zone is very informative and worthwhile, even if it’s just for the learning experience.

    And I would also say that one of the biggest sins in these hot topics is only talking to each other. It’s astonishing to me to see the anti-GMO folks repeat the same terrible information that they recycle around from each other. And because they only talk to each other, they don’t know how bad their information is.

    But actually, the more I thought about the CATO thing specifically: for years I tried to make inroads with progressives on this issue at DailyKos. I was as welcomed in plant science/ag discussions there as an ant at a picnic. What’s the difference?

    • Heh. For a couple of days now I’ve been thinking about this–who should we talk to, where should we talk to them, etc.

      And then this just came over the twitterz:

      https://twitter.com/DanielChamovitz/status/354708771014062082

      My scheduled interview for tonight on a radio show out of Northern California was cancelled last minute when they found out I am pro-#GMO .

      Alas.

      • And while I’m at it, I’m now remembering a story about Raj Shah. He was with Gates at the time, but now with USAID.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/12/magazine/12wwln-shah-t.html?pagewanted=all

        “After I went to Berkeley to meet with the Food First people,” he told me, “I came away very much wanting to work more closely with agro-ecological groups. We talk to anyone who will talk to us. How could we aspire to be transformational if we didn’t?” He paused, and then added musingly: “I guess I really don’t know why there is so much hostility. I really think we have something to learn from them.”

        They shut us out, and shout us down. You can only go where they’ll have you. And that’s not guaranteed to be receptive either. And that’s on the left.

  • Justin P

    Great job at the forum.

    I do like how this comment thread devolved into politics rather than science. It seems to me, that Mark is getting his political views in the way of science. Way too much ad hominem for my tastes.

    • And what political views are those? That people shouldn’t lie in front of congress? That it looks bad to promote science next to those who have engaged in scientific fraud? Nice try.

      • Justin P

        “The only way you’d catch me standing in front of a bunch of CATO screens would be if I were pissing on them while giving the audience the finger.”

        What is why you are a joke.

  • Jacob Baratta

    Will the photos/slideshow used in this event be posted as promised in the previous thread (which appears to have either disappeared or does not use the Cato tag)?

  • Say what you want about CATO- at least they offered a forum and covered our costs to be there. Recently I submitted a proposal to give, at our expense, a workshop at the “Seeds of Justice” conference in Seattle. They had an open call for proposals and I put one in for “What Scientists Think” and we were going to do an unfiltered Q&A in real time, with some provocative slides of how science works. You can read it here:

    http://kfolta.blogspot.com/2013/06/a-workshop-proposal-for-justice-begins.html

    We were supposed to have heard an answer by July 10 if our proposal was accepted or not.

    I have heard nothing.

    It is sad because at first contact they were supportive and encouraging. I seriously believed that they were going to give it fair consideration. Alas, they must preach to the choir to maintain the madness. I put a few thoughts here, and a kick-ass photoshop job.

    http://kfolta.blogspot.com/2013/07/seattle-workshop-our-proposals-fate.html

    So thanks to CATO for a place to get the science message out.

  • Joan Russow

    It is unfortunate that those opposed to genetically engineering were presented as “anti-scientist” or dispensed with as “naturalistic beliefs” The CATO institute is fully aware of the fact that government, institutes, academia, regulatory bodies have all colluded with Corporations to muzzle the credible science against genetically engineered food and crops.

    There has been mounting scientific evidence, about the harm to human health and the environment, of various genetically engineered food and crops.

    For years, there has been sufficient evidence to justify invoking the precautionary principle, and to call for banning genetically engineered food and crops. The precautionary principle reads -where there is a threat to human health or the environment, the lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent the threat. The precautionary principle, which appears in the universally adopted Rio Declaration and in the legally binding Convention on Biological Diversity has become an international peremptory norm and as such, a state obligation.

    It is incomprehensible that Companies such as Monsanto were ever allowed to meddle with food security. Monsanto, for example has left a legacy of environmental and health disasters from Agent Orange, PCBS, Dioxin to GE food and crops etc. Monsanto et Al should have been prosecuted for gross or criminal negligence, their charter should have been revoked and they should have been prevented from introducing any other products into the ecosystem.

    Monsanto et al could only have been allowed to function because of intimidated or muzzled scientists, because of revolving doors among biotech corporations ,regulatory agencies, and governments; and because of gutless regulators, collusive academics, compromising NGOs.

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