GE Survey: More believe safe than not, most undecided

In 2010, Thompson Reuters released a survey* (PDF) of public attitudes toward genetically engineered food in the US. They had several significant findings, some of which should be fairly obvious, but some are real eye-openers. The questions were straight-forward and the raw data was posted online, but there was a distinct lack of visual representations of these results. I thought we could all use a good look at some simple graphs that demonstrate facts that many studies have shown consistently over time – that there are more people who believe that GE crops are safe than not, while most people are still undecided. It also showed that most people say they would eat GE plant-based foods that are currently on the market.

Question number one asked people to self-report their understanding of GE food. While self-reporting has its own problems (Like people who say they completely understand GE foods yet don’t really know anything about them), it does provide some information about how aware different groups are about GE. The survey reports that 65% of people are aware that some foods in the store are genetically engineered, and high-income and highly-educated people are up in the 80s. As for the understanding of the concepts, check out these results:

As you might expect, education level influences people’s self-reported understanding of GE food, and the column with the asterisk shows a significant result, which should be a no-brainer: People with a high school education or less report that they have a low understanding of genetic engineering. This understanding appears to be a result of higher education, and as we have discussed on this blog before, secondary education has room for improvement. You can look at the data for age and income in the paper, but I thought the education level was the most interesting.

Next, they asked the survey participants their opinion about the safety of GE food, and this reveals a result that is partly surprising, and partly expected.

Most people are undecided about the safety of genetically engineered foods. This should come as no surprise to anyone in this debate, although quite frequently people on the anti-GE side (and sometimes the pro-GE side) think that most people believe that these foods are unsafe. This is entirely not the case, as the peer-reviewed literature shows that most people are undecided in general about GE, and that includes safety. But there are a few surprises in these results.

When I describe the shape of public opinion on GE, I often say that the people who have decided in favor or against GE as being roughly equal, but both minority groups next to the majority of undecided people. This Reuters survey reveals that in fact more people in the US believe that GE foods are safe than those who do not. And as you move from younger to older, less to more income, and lower to higher education that you see the greatest differences. Amongst people over 65, who make $100k per year or more, or have advanced degrees, there are twice as many people who believe GE foods are safe than those who believe that they are unsafe.

This has several important implications, including the fact that companies that advertise their products as being “non-GMO” tend to have people of higher income and education as their niche market – and therefore marketing their products on the basis of GE foods being unsafe may not resonate with these customers. These results also mean that there is a positive correlation between education and belief about the safety of GE foods.

The survey asked a question about labeling of GE foods, and found an unsurprising result:

Consistently, surveys have shown that about 90% of people, when asked, believe that GE foods should be labeled in the store. Anti-GE organizations tend to state that this is because most people want to avoid GE foods. Most of these surveys don’t delve into why people want them labeled, but some published papers do. Consumers want more information about genetically engineered food, which makes perfect sense considering how many people are still undecided about its safety, benefits, impact, etc. For those who dislike the idea of GE foods, naturally they would want to avoid them. Amongst those in favor of GE, there is probably more diversity of opinion about labels, ranging from no need whatsoever, to wanting to know if something is GE because you would want to buy it. I would rather know that some foods were GE than not, myself. But the important factor in deciding how much people want a mandatory food label is the strength of the desire, not an answer to a simple binary yes/no question. This can be (and has been) asked in several ways, such as how much people would be willing to pay for GE labels, or for people to rate different kinds of labels in order of importance. Examining attitudes on labeling outside of these contexts does not give guidance for public policy.

Now here comes the real news – would people eat GE foods?

This is the result that most people who talk about the acceptance of genetic engineering should pay attention to. Despite lack of knowledge about GE crops, uncertainty regarding its safety, and a desire for labels – most people surveyed would eat genetically engineered plant-based foods, to the tune of 60%. This 60% represents people who would eat GE foods if they knew they were genetically engineered, so even if you were to institute mandatory labeling for GE crops, this is 60% of those people who would happen to read that on the label – people who do not would not change their decision. Furthermore, we can also see that acceptance of genetic engineering in animals is lower – at about 40% for both fish and meat. This is similar to where opinion on plants was years ago, and we have not yet had genetically engineered animals on our dinner plates. So this result could either reflect an inherent difference in attitude between genetic engineering of plants and animals, or, a difference in attitude that reflects the time since the introduction of GE plants.

There are, as with all studies, certain caveats. This survey was conducted on 3,025 people, with an error rate of 1.8% That’s pretty good, however it does not reveal the limitations of the type of data collected. This is data based on self-reported assessments of current and/or future hypothetical behavior – something that is known to give an inaccurate picture of actual behavior. Survey respondents can sometimes give what answer they believe they should give, rather than how they would actually behave. And people can sometimes be really bad at self-assessment. For instance, when asked about generosity toward charitable organizations, respondents rate themselves as being much more generous than they actually are. The best kind of research you can do on human behavior is to actually study human behavior, or set up hypothetical situations that more closely reflect reality. This is the stuff of peer-reviewed research, and not the kind of thing you can do with phone surveys.

The Non-GMO Project reports on their website that a 2008 CBS/New York Times poll, “53% of consumers said they would not buy food that has been genetically modified.” Yet, we find that this survey find that fully 60% self-report that they would eat GE plants, and 40% for animals. How can we put these two results together? First, the statement on the Non GMO Project website that these 53% “would not” buy GE foods is false – the study did not give results that are clearly delineated like that. Although I have been unable to find any data from the original 2008 poll, this book chapter(PDF, pg 7-40) describes some of the results in more detail. The 53% figure represents the people who personally rate buying a GE food “not very likely” and “not likely at all.” These are expressions of likelihood, not determinations of the binary behavior of whether or not they would in practice. The 53% figure also lumps together people who feel moderately disinclined and strongly disinclined to buy them – and if their results follow other existing research, then the people who feel strongly disinclined are in a minority. It was also a question about buying attitude, not eating behavior, and the sample size was one third that of the new Reuters survey. Finally, 50% is right in the middle of 60% for plants, and 40% for animals, so it could reflect the average attitude of people toward GE.

However, There is another difference: time. The CBS/NY Times poll was conducted in 2008, and the Reuters survey was conducted in 2010. There has been much discussion about GE in the past few years, perhaps attitudes have changed somewhat – a possibility that we cannot rule out. The survey also found that 70% of people were aware of GE foods in the marketplace, whereas the CBS poll found only 44% were aware of them in 2008. Clearly, more people are aware of them, and perhaps have become educated about them. I’d like to know where they learned about them! (By coincidence, Biofortified was founded in 2008.)

I would like to make one last point about labeling of GE foods. Several groups are pushing for mandatory labeling, often suggesting that there will be widespread rejection of these GE foods once labeled. This survey shows that when asked, and when aware that food have been genetically engineered, still 60% self-report that they will eat GE foods that are on the market. We already know that people don’t read the labels, as found by Charles Noussair in 2002. And this quote from Noussair bolsters my comment about the difference between opinion surveys and actual behaviors:

“Opinion surveys capture the respondent in the role of a voter, not in the role of a consumer,” he says. “The two behaviors can be quite different, as many studies have shown.”

Japan is arguably one of the most GE-cautious nations in the world, yet, 94% of its soy is imported, 71% of which is from the U.S., and 93% of that is genetically engineered. Therefore, despite the presence of mandatory labels, at least 62% of the soy in Japan is genetically engineered, and people buy and eat it there. Labels will not eliminate GE foods from stores, because people will buy and eat them nevertheless. Adding an extra cost to everyone’s food based on public opinion and not actual behavior or demonstrated need should give you pause. If it is your own desire you are expressing by pushing for these labels, remember that this survey shows that public opinion on the safety and acceptance of genetically engineered foods is not in your favor. If anything, it shows the need for more information, and what happens when more people get it.

*As noted in a comment below, the survey is from 2010, but it appears to have resurfaced recently, so I thought it was just released, but that the data was from 2010. The first sentence has been edited to reflect this fact.

Follow Karl Haro von Mogel:

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 recently moved back to his home state of California. His favorite produce might just be squash.

  • Ewan R

    I’m baffled by the meat/fish difference, I can’t see why one would be down with eating modified beef, but not modified salmon, or the other way round (well I guess perhaps I can – conceptually more easy for fish genes to escape into wild populations – still an oddity however)

    On the understanding question – what would have been awesome, as a followup, would be a series of easy through difficult questions about GE foods, which one could then use to assess actual versus perceived understanding – I’ve encountered a lot of people who’d tell you they’re a 5 on understanding and would then bemoan that all wheat products are awful because of GM wheat for instance – I’d venture a guess that the most knowledgable folk actually fall in category 3 and 4 (which rather begs the question how does acceptance of GMO and opinion of labelling parse out by self reported level of knowledge – I’d almost be willing to bet that category 5 is more anti-GMO than the rest)

    • Yeah, that is odd on the animals. The amount of genomics I see around cattle is actually pretty impressive–the breeding is very high tech. And the known mutant breeds like the double-muscled don’t seem to bother anyone.

      It also surprises me how many people end up siding with Big Over-Fish on the salmon.

      I think I’d have to not give myself a 5 just because I don’t understand other people’s grasp of breeding and genomics.

    • GregH

      I think it’d be kind of neat to see questions about other types of plant improvement included, particularly labels. If 90% of people want GE food labeled, but they say the same thing when asked about crops altered with mutagens or with extra chromosomes or out of a tissue culture, ect. then that changes the interpretation a little.

      I think it might be good to add general biology questions to it too. I can’t help but imagine that if you ask questions about GE, like if you ask if Bt crops have decreased pesticide use with the answer being yes, then someone will probably accuse you of bias, but if you asked about the general biology behind the technology then that shouldn’t happen.

  • Rob Smart

    Interesting study and I appreciated your analysis until the final paragraph where you hung the idea of GMO food labeling adding cost to “everyone’s food.”

    That simply isn’t true. In fact, the idea that mandatory GMO labeling adds any noticeable cost to such foods is seldom backed up with fact. On the other hand, there are knowledgeable people in the field that estimate cost increases in the small fractions of pennies (http://www.naturalnews.com/031399_GMOs_food_labeling.html). Not something that should give people “pause.”

    Finally, there are 2.3 billion consumers in other developed and developing countries that have mandatory GMO labeling, including all of Europe, Japan, China, Brazil, Australia, Russia and New Zealand. Its time for America to stop putting industry interests ahead of consumers, and require labeling of GMO foods.

    Cheers,

    Rob Smart
    a.k.a., @Jambutter

    • Hi Rob, thanks for stopping by.
      There have been many studies done on the cost of food labeling due to the added cost of segregating and testing different supply chains. The article you link to does not state who or where this study was done, nor does it point out key differences between the EU and the US. Most GE food consumed in the EU is imported, and little is produced in the member states. Most of the imported food is for animal feed, and imports are already segregated. GE foods are far more widespread in the US, so there is a difference between the US and EU in what we would expect in costs from labeling. For your reading enjoyment, here are some studies and news stories about costs of labeling regimes in the US:
      OSU Economist estimates cost to Oregon at $100k-$1.25 million, plus cites competitive disadvantage to Oregon products sold outside the state. Also, California is much bigger than Oregon and has more GE foods.
      Study mentions increase in cost per bushel, 15% increase in handling costs.
      Here is a paper that finds that if the ratio of people who are concerned about GE foods to those who are indifferent is low, due to the cost of labeling, that a “does not contain” voluntary label is most appropriate, and that a mandatory “does contain” label is not – and this is due to both the cost of labeling, and the opinions of consumers.
      This study also looks at the cost of labeling, relative to the potential upsides and downsides.
      And another that looks at different countries.
      And how about another?
      So there are a lot of knowledgeable people publishing in peer-reviewed journals and elsewhere that say that there are real costs involved in instituting segregation and mandatory labeling.
      It is interesting that you say that this cost is miniscule, because the argument from the organic sector has been that these costs are enormous. Which is it? Are you saying they have been making this up?

    • I know below you said certain sources weren’t trustworthy. Just so you’ll know, here’s some guidance on sources that might be valuable for you to know about:

      Top 10 Worst Anti-Science Websites

    • hmmm…link borked.

      Here it is: http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4283

  • Rob Smart

    What do you mean by “argument from the organic sector has been that these costs are enormous”? What costs? Labeling non-GMO products?

    Regarding your comment, while your links support your position of added costs associated with GMO labeling, such costs will actually reduce (or keep the same) the cost of non-GMO foods, which today fully bear the burden of such labeling costs. That must be part of why GMO food producers are fighting so hard, since it would result in organic foods becoming more cost competitive. In addition, why didn’t all these food companies stop selling products in countries containing a third of the world’s population? Simple. They can’t afford to.

    You and others also try to paint a picture of cost increases that can’t be absorbed without passing them on to consumers. Industry has a way of working hard to preserve and grow its profits, so this isn’t a surprising position to take. But it doesn’t explain how the GMO industry has been able to absorb the significant cost of developing patentable products, patenting those products, and enforcing such patents, while food costs have actually come down since GMOs hit the market. Why didn’t consumers have to absorb these costs that are significantly greater than labeling? Could it be that the real issue is that industry knows SALES will suffer? Hmmm.

    • The argument from the organic (and non-GE) sector is that the cost of testing and segregation to determine non-GE status has been too high for them to bear. In order for you to argue that testing and segregation of the entire food supply does not involve a cost – you have to argue against what they have been saying. If you have to test and segregate ALL commodity crops to determine GE status, and not just the non-GE ones, you will be increasing the costs overall. Instituting mandatory labeling will likely not decrease the costs of non-GE foods, as they will still have to do the same testing and segregation. If you take your cost competitiveness argument and turn it around, you could say that the reason why mandatory labeling in say, California, is so well-funded by non-GE food companies? It will change the relative cost of non-GE foods.

      The reason why the increased cost of seeds has not resulted in increased food prices is mainly due to the fact that the farmers save money on the number of pesticide and herbicide applications, labor, and other costs. They also get higher yield for Bt corn and cotton.

      • Rob Smart

        Thankfully, we’re talking about shifting the label cost to those products that actually include the ingredients that over 90% of Americans want to know about. I don’t need to argue on their behalf, since all of these non-organic foods will be released from the burden of having to prove their inherent value.

        For those commodity crops and products derived from such crops, they will have to decide whether they are producing a product that the market is demanding. If they are, then they will be able to charge the price necessary to cover costs and generate desired profits. If not, then they will have the choice to go the non-GMO route.

        Can you provide any evidence that EVERY product in countries requiring GMO foods be labeled must be tested the same way?

        As for your second aggregate cost example, this time for California, you paint a BIG COST picture, but on a per capita basis its noise compared to so many other things.

        Finally, farmers saving money on pesticides and herbicides doesn’t do anything for GMO seed companies to recoup the expenses I described, since the farmers are saving the money, not the chemical companies. And the higher yields you claim are fiction.

        • OrchidGrowinMan

          higher yields you claim are fiction

          Citation?
          If this is true (that the observed, measured, documented yield improvements [in financial terms] don’t exist after all), then it’s a major discovery; we’ll have to revise all our testing, economic analysis and observational tools: an upheaval like this will win you the Nobel Prize!

          • Rob Smart

            Nice sarcasm. Is that how you deal with unfortunate outcomes on bets you’ve made?

            Citations? Here are several articles for your reading enjoyment (there are many more):

            1. Do GM Crops Increase Yield? The Answer is No – http://www.stwr.org/food-security-agriculture/do-gm-crops-increase-yield-the-answer-is-no.html
            2. Genetic Engineering Has Failed to Significantly Boost U.S. Crop Yields Despite Biotech Industry Claims – http://www.ucsusa.org/news/press_release/ge-fails-to-increase-yields-0219.html
            3. Failure to Yield – http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/food_and_agriculture/failure-to-yield-brochure.pdf
            4. OxFam comments on Failure to Yield – http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/food_and_agriculture/Oxfam-statement-on-FTY.pdf
            5. Exposed: the great GM crops myth – http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/exposed-the-great-gm-crops-myth-812179.html

            Where should we pick up our Nobel Prize?

            • Rob,
              The next time you decide to try to use “Failure to Yield” to support your argument that GE crops have not delivered higher yields, I suggest you try reading it. I was right about to post my above comment, quoting from the report where it estimates the yield advantage of Bt traits in corn, and then I saw your comment come through citing the very same report, and I just about fell off the couch. It does not support your argument – and since you put it up as your authority on the subject, you are now placed in the difficult position of admitting that you were wrong.
              Also, the Independent’s made-up “exposed-myth” was exposed by Barney Gordon, the author of the study they misrepresented. You can read about it here, or simply read the words of the misrepresented scientist himself:

              “The article you saw in the Independant was a total distortion of the research. My research concerned manganese application on soils that are known to respond to Mn application. We used one conventional variety and a glyphosate-tolerant near isoline (not genetically identical). The objective of the research was to improve soybean yields under optimum management conditions, not to make any statement about GM crops.”

              • Don’t forget my coverage of the made up myth exposure: A scientist speaks out and Exposed, indeed. Exposed, indeed was actually one of my first long posts! Please excuse the not-so-sophisticated writing, but the facts are pretty solid.

              • Rob Smart

                We find ourselves in the proverbial rat hole of arguing about who’s science is more legit.

                Fortunately, science isn’t what will decide the case in the court of public opinion, which is great science much of what industry cites as proof has been bought and paid for.

                Since I already know you’ll challenge this claim, I’ll ask you to prove that it is not. You can’t, so don’t try.

                So, I’ll repeat my earlier request that you tell us (the 90+ percent of Americans) why — regardless of all the science and studies we can throw at each other — genetically modified foods in America should NOT be labeled given we want such labels.

                If you can convince me that 90+ percent of Americans are wrong for wanting such labels, then I’ll back off.

                • There is only one person here who is in a proverbial rat hole. You put up “legit” science that was not legit and not science – and even proved your case wrong. Why are you unwilling to admit this mistake?
                  I have never said that people are wrong to want labels for GE foods, and I don’t think they are. Although for most current GE crops I don’t care one way about whether I’m eating one or not, for certain ones, even I want to know whether or not it is GE. I want to know that the cotton that I sew my fantastic repertoire of shirts (check our photo album for evidence of these) is made from Bt cotton, because then I will feel better about using fewer insecticides and less land in the life cycle of these shirts, and all my other clothing. But it is not worth it enough for me or anyone else for me to impose the traceability and extra cost of testing, segregating, etc that would be required for accurate labeling of this one aspect of the cotton.
                  I am not an opponent of labeling per se – in my opinion is comes down to relative benefits and drawbacks. It is not in any way (for me) about trying to hide the identity of such crops and foods to protect any company or anybody – it is about overall societal benefit pure and simple. In the future, it might actually be very cheap and easy to track and provide all of this information and more, with databases of information that you can pull up on your iPhone 15’s by simply pointing it at the food package. Change the equation and it changes my opinion.

        • Rob,

          Please let me know what evidence would convince you that certain GE crops have provided higher yields on the farm. Would it be university-conducted independent studies, perhaps? Published in the peer reviewed literature? Respectfully, I think you would deny their significance. Instead, I would like to point you to the ironically titled non-peer-reviewed, non-university publication put out by the Union of Concerned Scientists, which was ironically titled “Failure to Yield”. The USC, if you are familiar with them, are highly critical of genetic engineering. The publication states on page 22:
          National Aggregate Yield Advantage of Bt Rootworm
          and Bt Corn Borer Corn

          An estimate of the yield advantage provided by all Bt corn currently grown in the United States combines the yield advantages of ECB and rootworm Bt varieties taken separately. A low estimate, using the ECB yield advantage of 0.8 percent combined with the rootworm yield advantage of 0.5 percent, amounts to a total yield advantage of 1.3 percent. At the upper end, a 4.0 percent yield advantage for ECB added to a 1.5 percent yield advantage for rootworm gives a 5.5 percent yield advantage for the national corn crop. A 2.3 percent yield advantage for ECB is probably more realistic (see p. 20), which, added to the mean for rootworm of about
          1 percent, gives an estimate of 3.3 percent.8 Because of the uncertainties, a 3–4 percent yield advantage for Bt corn is probably reasonable.

          If you call it fiction, then you are calling their work fiction, and you are questioning my honesty.

          You said “I don’t need to argue on their behalf, since all of these non-organic foods will be released from the burden of having to prove their inherent value.”
          But the problem is, these same food sources will not get away without being tested, either. The cost will not be shifted away from organics and toward GE foods – the cost would be multiplied so that all foods have that same increased cost. The cost of organic food will not go down as a result of this.

          • Rob Smart

            Want to make this a simple discussion?

            Then tell me why — regardless of all the science and studies we can throw at each other — genetically modified foods in America should NOT be labeled given a near-majority wants such labels.

            If you can convince me that 90+ percent of Americans are wrong for wanting such labels, then I’ll back off. Until then, you’re candidly pissing up a rope.

            • Richard R

              ” — regardless of all the science and studies we can throw at each other — ”

              Rob, with all respect, Karl is discussing a study that you brought up. When I first read the UCS study on Failure to Yield I thought – yah, ok, but this is all pretty obvious. The study, if I recall correctly, stated that there were no biotech products that increased “intrinsic yield.” Intrinsic yield, in my lay person terms was the maximum yield potential with no environmental stress. At the time of the study, there wasn’t anyone who was selling a product that would do that – all the benefits from GMO products were related to reducing environmental pressures – be it weed, insect or disease. So, as Karl points out, there is a yield advantage from GMO products as outlined in the failure to yield study.

            • Eric Baumholder

              All this discussion over GMO labeling reminds me of racial profiling. Just because a lot of people like the idea doesn’t mean that it should be mandatory.

          • OrchidGrowinMan

            Karl,

            You also have to be careful in defining the term “Yield.” It could be “kg/Ha,” “kC/Ha,” “kg/$” or even “$/$,” which is the most realistic in this case where the most significant GMOs are intended to reduce the cost of inputs for a given value of outputs. That they do (or don’t) reduce the toxicity applied could also be accounted for, especially if we can monetarize “toxicity applied” (which could be defined like Σ[A=1→n]((Tox(A)xQty(A))for substances 1-n with their specific toxicities and quantities).

            As far as I can tell, GMOs win in both evaluations, or at least (at worst) are neutral.

            • Yeah, when I talk about yield, I almost always mean the raw weight of food. For other types of yield (carotenoids per square foot?) it makes sense to specify those types. Yup, farmers are making the $/$ calculation to be sure.

              I just wanted to note that I think it is pretty cool that several people have descended to comment and discuss simultaneously. Just wish it was discussing evidence and implications and not this myth-debunk cycle that gets so tiresome.

              • OrchidGrowinMan

                Karl,

                I was thinking about that: Who cares if those goats engineered to produce pharmaceuticals in their milk are not as productive (in a litre kind of way) as dairy cows; the value is astronomically higher (boy, I hope somebody jumps on that for “danger of gene drift”). The same for Golden Rice: we need to value the more nutritious products higher, but not in a way that reduces accessibility for the poor. _I_ would pay more for Golden Rice, but there are people for whom we should make it MORE economical than deficient product. The big economic models need to account for that.

              • Eric Baumholder

                Karl, all,

                When discussing yield improvements, it’s important to bear in mind the countries/cultures/climates involved. For instance, it’s well known in the US that the introduction of herbicide-tolerant crops has meant a profound improvement in farm family income. This is because the ease of management of HT crops makes it easier to have a ‘regular’ job in town. On the other hand, actual bu/a yield improvements in the US have been marginal. That is because US farmers are so consistently at the cutting edge of technology that HT crops don’t make that much difference on an absolute basis.

                This hardly compares to the situation in developing countries. For them, GM crops have been utter game-changers. Yields of soy, cotton and corn soared dramatically where the GM versions were allowed. And, since farm family income in developing nations is *directly* tied to absolute yield (bu/a etc.), farm family income improved dramatically. Farmers who dared not dream of owning a tractor now have one, and their kids are going to school.

                These are two very different situations, and the latter is the most miraculous. Activists who insist on using US production figures to underpin their main arguments are definitely gaming the system. We need to know better.

  • Rob Smart

    By the way, your first link supporting your case of labeling increasing food costs stated this:

    “Requiring labels for genetically modified foods could cost an average Oregonian less than a dollar a year, or as much as $10, depending on how requirements are defined and applied.”

    So, <$1.00 to up to $10 a year is prohibitive? Even if $10, that's less than $0.03 per day.

    Your second link contained this:

    "Thanks to Wayne Fuller and Phil Dixon for developing the statistical experimental design and to Daniel Monchuk and Terrance Hurley for their generous help in conducting the auctions, and to MONSANTO for providing some of the products used in the experiment."

    How about you come back with some credible and independent links that actually support your case?

    • If we took the same numbers for Oregon and applied them to California, then we’re looking at a cost from $37,000,000 to 370,000,000 to the people of the state. That is not insignificant. But keep in mind that the Oregon study was done in a state and a time in which there were fewer GE crops grown. There are a lot more now, which will likely make segregation and testing different, and more expensive. This also does not count the costs to the state itself for overseeing that the labels are being applied.

      In one way or another, these costs will make it to the consumer. If food corporations are as profit-hungry as you make them out to be – why would they want to absorb the cost?

      It is normal practice for researchers to thank others for helping in some way or another, and Monsanto providing a product for them to use as an example in their experiment. It does not indicate that the experiment was paid for by Monsanto, or that the results of the experiment were influenced by the, in any way. Don’t try to dismiss research just because the M-word shows up in the acknowledgements. Tell me, how were they supposed to get a Monsanto GE product to use in the experiment WITHOUT getting it from them and thanking them for providing it? (And in an academic manner fit for publication?)

    • Just for some perspective, $0.03 can make a big difference in some situations. Consider school lunches. If a school has 1000 students, and lunch is 1/3 of the day’s food for each student, that’s a total increase of $10 a day. Not much, you say? That’s $2,700 per year (assuming a 270 school days per year). How much produce could be purchased for those students instead of footing the bill for that mandatory label? If an apple is $0.30, we’re talking 9 extra apples per student per year (and wholesale apples are probably even less than that). Ok, 9 apples per student, so what? Remember that schools aren’t the only facilities trying to feed many people on a budget. That lost cost, while small on an individual level, adds up quickly.

      You’re right that companies are often able to keep prices the same even while costs go up. How does this happen? Workers get paid less and more shortcuts are taken.

      Food that’s more expensive or workers that are paid less? Personally, I say let those who seek out labels foot their own bill and leave the rest of us alone.

      The kicker is that studies that actually test people’s behavior have universally shown that few people are willing to pay more for a “non-GMO” label. The poll in this post, while well done, is still just a poll. Let’s get those people down to a simulated market and see what is their price threshold is for those labels that they say they want.

      PS: I know Phil Dixon. He helped me with my stats once upon a time, and taught an excellent statistics course at Iowa State. Good guy, and master statistician. I doubt he’d allow his name to be put on a paper he thought was less than stellar.

      • Rob Smart

        What you see as an expense, I see as an investment in the health of our children.

        As the recent school lunch vote by Congress shows, they are more interested than the USDA, which was charged with making school lunches more nutritious, in preserving the profitable-for-corporations status quo than dealing with the health crisis resulting from diet-related diseases that are sickening and killing Americans at increasing rates. Not to mention the rapidly increasing health care costs to treat all of these people.

        We can either make conscious choices as a government and society to change our behaviors, which includes empowering consumers to make better, healthier food choices, or we can kick the can and deal with a much bigger problem down the road.

        • OrchidGrowinMan

          Citation?
          You appear to be befgging the question that “better, healthier food choices” have something to do with the “GMO-ness” of a product, rather than its composition, etc.

        • What you see as “an investment in the health of our children,” I see as a waste of money that could have instead been used on more healthful food!

          The problem here is that you are starting from the assumption that genetically engineered plants are more dangerous than non-genetically engineered plants. This assumption has been proven false by many studies, many of which were conduced with no industry influence, many of which you can find here: Studies with independent funding.

          You see, the literature is made up of many studies. When we want to see what the science tells us, we can’t just look at one person’s work – Seralini for example. We need to look at the body of overlapping studies and take them as a group because one study or two studies or even ten studies may be wrong.

          Once you get past that false assumption that genetically engineered plants are the problem, we can get down to finding solutions to the real problems.

          If you want to make a real difference in children’s health, help lobby for bringing kitchens back to schools, because we all know that fresh cooked food is better than pre-made frozen alternatives. Encourage school gardens, because we all know that kids are more likely to eat veggies they helped to grow. Press your elected officials to support growers of non-commodity crops. These things will do so much more than lobbying to increase the cost of food for the sake of a label that tells us nothing.

          • Rob Smart

            2,300,000,000 people around the world have the choice of purchasing GMO foods or alternatives. The only developed nation on the planet that does not provide such choice, which also claims to be the beckon of democracy, is the United States.

            If you’re so confident that your independent science is so convincing, then please tell me why you’re against labeling of such foods. Using your logic, the demand for such products will only increase with such recognition.

            If you don’t agreed with that outcome of labeling, then please explain why consumers would shy away from such products. Show me your independent science-based studies that say labeling is not in the best interest of GMO seed and food companies.

            Otherwise, I and 90 percent of other Americans are sick of being dragged around by corporate interests (see #OccupyBigFood).

            • OrchidGrowinMan

              As far as the labeling thing, I think you should look at 27CFR7:
              Here’s a link. Please read it, then tell us what you think:
              http://cfr.regstoday.com/27cfr7.aspx
              Are you proposing replicating that for each commodity?

            • Richard R

              A couple of thoughts. You state that the only developed nation that does not provide a choice on gmo labeling is the U.S. What is your criteria for developed? Canada has no requirement to label. Hopefully you would include Canada as developed.

              Second thought. Why should there be any requirement to label when there are no differences in the ingredients, other than the label gmo? Why not require labeling all food as non-kosher?

              Final thought, why isn’t the organic label a sufficient label for being non-gmo? Certified organic is non-gmo,therefore the food is already labeled.

              By the way, feel free to discount my comment as without merit since I work for Monsanto, but as I have stated elsewhere, my opinions are my own and I am not paid to comment.

            • I am most certainly not against labeling. I am pro-labeling, provided labels are voluntary unless there is a legitimate safety claim, and in all cases labels should be truthful.

              A “may contain GMOs or ingredients derived from GMOs” is totally useless from all but a philosophical standpoint, and as Richard already pointed out, we don’t have mandatory labels for philosophical differences such as Kosher or Halal.

              There are so many other issues related to growing crops that are so much more meaningful than knowing if there’s a gene in there that was developed using genetic engineering. For one thing, it would be really useful to know the exact trait, whether it was Bt, Roundup Ready, or virus resistance, for example. I’d also like to know about certain mutations. For example, brown midrib is a mutation that makes corn leaves more digestible to cows and better for biomass fuel production. It’d be cool to know if that was in there. And then we can ask, what about integrated pest management methods? How much of each type of pesticide was used? What sort of tillage? And then there’s additional questions about the crops themselves – what is the biodiversity within the field? How many different crop species and how many varieties of each crop? What is the crop rotation like? These questions don’t have any effect on health, but they are certainly interesting to know and do tell us a bit about the environmental conditions on and near the farm. Then we can ask about the conditions for the workers on the farm, which is important to me and hopefully to many others as well.

              When I go to the CSA or farmer’s market, I can ask these questions because each seller has one or only a few farms that they source from. It’s totally reasonable to gather information from a small number of sources. Now, let’s consider a bigger company. Barilla pasta, for example. How much wheat goes through the pasta plant I lived near in Ames, Iowa every day? How many millions of bushels of wheat? It’s mind boggling. Can you imagine having to keep track of all of these details, or even one detail, for the wheat that came from one field or another? All of the wheat gets mixed together! So you end up with a “may contain…” label for just about everything – useless.

              Now, I’m not saying that the “mix it all together” method is good, or bad. There’s advantages and disadvantages to doing things this way. But, if you want a mando label for GMOs you have to consider this.

              The research shows that very few people are willing to pay more for a non-GMO product. So, it doesn’t make sense to me to revamp the whole production system and have to separate things out, etc for the sake of a few people who have a concern that can be met with a voluntary label.

              Now let me take this home a little bit. I am not immune to arguments for labeling…

              Personally, I’d LOVE a “contains animal products” label. Avoiding animal products is an ethical stance that I hold that affects my eating and purchasing of food and other items. Still, as convenient as it would be, I am against a mandatory label. There is no health concern with having animal rennet or animal gelatin, it is a pure ethical concern. I believe the FDA should stay out of it, and spend our tax dollars (the few that they get) on safety issues. Instead, I will choose to purchase items that have voluntary “vegetarian” or “vegan” labels and I will write to companies and sign petitions to encourage companies to switch to veg alternatives to animal derived ingredients. It’s not perfect but I find it works reasonably well.

              You want vegetarian labels? Shop at Wegmans and buy store brand. You want non-GMO, shop at Whole Foods. And of course there’s lots of individual brands that cater to these and other groups with special requests.

            • @Rob Smart: I think you are under the common misconception that people care a lot about GM food and the labels. On average, they don’t. People are more worried about: 1) chemical products, 2) food poisoning, 3) diet-related diseases, 4) obesity, 5) lack of freshness, and 6) food additives, colours and preservatives. (See http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/riskcommunication/riskperception.htm – other studies have shown similar US responses)

              Also their shopping behaviour shows: Even people who say they dont want to buy GM food, do so. And if GM is cheaper, it gets the biggest market share. Check out these two publicly funded, peer-reviewed publications: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/medicine/research/divisions/dns/projects/consumerchoice/index.aspx http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v25/n5/full/nbt0507-507.html

              When prompted for it, people go for labelling. But I would warn to overrate this answer.

    • Ewan R

      Late to the debate here, but I’d offer the following in response to the whole

      So, <$1.00 to up to $10 a year is prohibitive? Even if $10, that's less than $0.03 per day.

      Population of the US (according to google, so therefore perfect) is 307,000,000 – how well would the electorate take to news that they were going to be subject to (what essentially amounts to) a food tax of $307M-$3.7Bn for utterly no reason at all.

      It is, after all, not prohibitive. Right? (~50% of the country would explode violently and the other ~50% would perhaps ponder on why that money wasn’t going to something meaningful like healthcare)

      Numbers. You’re doing them wrong.

  • OrchidGrowinMan

    Ewan,

    I think your idea of a quiz to objectively evaluate expertise/knowledge is excellent: See Dunning-Kruger:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

    On another subject, the trend of reported knowledge vs education (and age and income, which are surely correllated with education) is not surprizing. I connect that to the current “College is a Crock” movement that, apparently rightly, points-out that (2)4-5(6)years of work expereience INSTEAD of college on average is advantageous to individual lifetime prosperity (see http://youtu.be/VpZtX32sKVE).

    I assert that higher education has other purposes than individual prosperity: General Prosperity (competitiveness), Democracy and Social (and Technological!) Advancement depend on an educated populace. Quoting Thomas Jefferson:

    “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” (as cited in Padover, 1939, p. 89)

    “. . . whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that, whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them right.” (as cited in Padover, 1939, p. 88)

    (from http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/winter96/jefferson.html)
    Tragedy of the Commons, anyone?

  • Here are the facts from activists and scientists who volunteer their time and money because the only research available to farmers and biotech students are funded by pharmaceutical companies (aka propaganda)

    ~USA forbids GMO labeling because most Americans would reject the product
    ~USDA regulation permits an unlimited amount of GMO contamination in Organics
    ~USDA admits it cannot keep track of GMO trials or prevent contamination of non-GMO crops

    ~FDA permitted widespread introduction of GMO products without ANY significant safety testing
    ~FDA refuses to pursue safety testing of GMO’s
    ~USA is force feeding countries (India/Africa) rich in biomass into accepting GMO products all in the name of greed, control and depopulation

    @foreverflavor

    • Melissa,
      Not all research is funded by corporations, in fact we have a list of over 100 independent studies on GE crops here.
      Labeling of GE foods is not forbidden, it is just not required. There has been a lot of safety testing of GE crops by companies and by independent scientists in both the US and Europe – around the world in fact. I can’t understand why the US would want to control and depopulate Africa – wouldn’t that get rid of the customers for the GE crops you say our country is forcing them to accept? It makes no sense to kill your customers on purpose. But then again, conspiracy theories are impervious to logic.
      By the way, I volunteer my time here on this blog.

      • The corporate model for agriculture requires farmers to grow food to meet market demands, often resulting in high profits for chemical companies like Monsanto and Syngenta. Chemical farming may produce a higher crop yield but the cost is beyond repair, destroying land and lives. Food is a fundamental human right, no company or corporation should dictate what food to grow or crops to harvest.

        • No one is dictating what food to grow. Common misconception. Farmers can choose to grow their stuff, or someone else’s.

    • It seems we have three options here for consideration:

      1) large companies want to depopulate developing countries (for profit? where is money making in depopulation???)
      2) large companies are indifferent to developing countries (unlikely because they are always looking to expand their markets)
      3) large companies are interested in cultivating new markets in developing countries (even in some cases through humanitarian work that they hope will lead to self-sustaining people with deposable incomes so they can buy more stuff)

      Just sayin’.

      As for “USDA admits it cannot keep track of GMO trials or prevent contamination of non-GMO crops” I beg to differ. While in graduate school I had to apply for permission from the USDA to plant a GMO trial. There was quite a bit of paperwork involved, where I had to detail exactly how I was going to prevent spread of my trial GMO. Representatives from the USDA visited my farm to make sure I was following all of the rules.

      For my GMO corn trials, I used many methods to prevent unwanted contamination of non-GMO corn. For example, we planted the seeds a month after all of the field corn was planted, ensuring that my plants would not be shedding pollen until after all of the other plants were already pollinated. We had 300 meter distances all around our field, separating our corn from the other corn. We had a double row of field corn to “soak up” any pollen that did blow away from our plants and a few rows of bushy sorghum beyond that. Granted, my trial was a lot smaller than the trials of large companies, but containment is totally possible.

      Just as it is possible to contain the GMO during trials, it is also possible to do so when growing the crop once it has been deregulated. The key is that neighboring farmers have to cooperate to get the job done. I discuss this in Coexistence takes conversation, which I welcome you to read and hopefully comment on that post.

    • OrchidGrowinMan

      That’s just silly.
      Look-into the discussions ON THIS SITE of the testing that is mandated and done.

      Who is force-feeding whom? Force-feeding them in the interest of “depopulation”?

      As far as the labeling thing, I think you should look at 27CFR7:
      Here’s a link. Please read it, then tell us what you think:
      http://cfr.regstoday.com/27cfr7.aspx
      Are you proposing replicating that for each commodity?

      Incidentally, does anybody know why children’s vitamine drops smell like beer? Is the reason related to this quote from the above American Code of Federal Regulations (emphasis mine):

      (i) Health-related statement means any statement related to health (other than the warning statement required by §16.21 of this chapter) and includes statements of a curative or therapeutic nature that, expressly or by implication, suggest a relationship between the consumption of alcohol, malt beverages, or any substance found within the malt beverage, and health benefits or effects on health. The term includes both specific health claims and general references to alleged health benefits or effects on health associated with the consumption of alcohol, malt beverages, or any substance found within the malt beverage, as well as health-related directional statements. The term also includes statements and claims that imply that a physical or psychological sensation results from consuming the malt beverage, as well as statements and claims of nutritional value ( e.g., statements of vitamin content). Statements concerning caloric, carbohydrate, protein, and fat content do not constitute nutritional claims about the product.

      • OrchidGrowinMan

        Bah! HTML fail (the previewer works differently than the site!) The relevant parts are towards the end of the paragraph of unallowed label contents:

        statements and claims of nutritional value ( e.g., statements of vitamin content). Statements concerning caloric, carbohydrate, protein, and fat content do not constitute nutritional claims about the product

  • What you call silly, I call propaganda. The research here is nothing but paid for signed, sealed and delivered by corporations and Congress.

    • OrchidGrowinMan

      So the whole community of scientists in every country, whether government-affiliated or not, having come to an almost unanimous consensus, are all “in on” the conspiracy, and only undocumented or unsupported DGAP informants are not?

      • That reminds me, I’m due for my next HyperMonsantoFDAcorp payout come thanksgiving. Dog bless the global conspiracy! Almost as lucrative as the global warming conspiracy and -shudder- the subatomic particle conspiracy!

        • OrchidGrowinMan

          Dude,

          Bad News: We all got ours already!

          Watch for the Black Helicopters and those scary SUVs in front of your house….

    • If I was paid so much by the corpro-militar-gov conspiracy or whatever, you’d think I could afford a better apartment or a better car. Sheesh. My corporate masters need to get on that check sending, it’s almost Christmas! :p

  • One Man, One Cow, One Planet … its on you tube. Check it out.

    • OrchidGrowinMan

      Biodynamic gardening is essentially an organic system of gardening using preparations made from cow dung, silica crystals and various medicinal herbs.

      That one?

  • Little Hamp

    To GM v. not to GM–almost beside the point, isn’t it, at the rate of global topsoil loss? High yields cant be sustained when theres no soil to grow it in. industrial farming methods r highly linked to soil loss, but even organic farming can be part of the problem if farms are depleting someone else’s soil to enrich theirs. At a conference in Cali recently, I heard the statement, “GM foods have bought us time–maybe 15-20years. At the current rate of soil loss, we’re facing worldwide famine between 2036 and 2050.” now this is from memory so forgive any distortion, but nothing I’ve seen here addresses these aspects of the problem we face, which is directly linked to some of the problems others have mentioned in the developing world: deforestation for example. Treating soil as a vehicle to introduce pesticides & chemical fertilizers to plants everually destroys its productive capacity…

    I avoid GM, hormone & antibiotic laced food whenever possible. No scientist but enough of a Darwinian 2feel queasy about introducing something I didn’t evolve eating over millennia into my tiny lifespan on earth. So that means I grow my own & buy from/barter with farmers I know for a lot more, eke out the rest from the grocery store. I’m lucky to have such choice (& determined enough to exercise the choice despite the cost& my relative poverty). But a few inches of topsoil is the difference between life and death… not just of you & me, but of civilizations… Who’s addressing that?

    • Little Hamp, I agree with you that loss of topsoil is a big deal. And so would any farmer worth a damn. So I disagree that no one care or that no one is working on it.

      It wasn’t that long ago that we (as in agronomists and farmers) didn’t really understand the importance of soil. It was N,P,K in and crops out for a long time. Farming, and the agronomy behind it, has gotten a lot more sophisticated. For example, fertilizers are applied in accordance with soil testing and GPS coordinated, making sure that not too much nor too little is applied. Herbicide resistant crops, while they are not without fault, reduce the need for plowing. Iowa State has some great work on erosion and what farmers can do to stop it, and I’m sure other universities do as well!

      • OrchidGrowinMan

        Jinx: you owe me a soda!

    • OrchidGrowinMan

      M. Hamp,

      I will agree that topsoil loss is a Big Problem, as is decline in soil quality (which is related), but, the “No Till” techniques made practical by genectically-engineered traits are very significant in addressing this, a big positive. It’s generally better to have in the toolbox lots of ways to try to address problems.

      Also, a quibble: I’m pretty sure none of my ancestors (in an evolutionary scale) ever had to face ingesting soy, kiwi, mango, bananas, beans, rice, squash, corn, tilapia, asian pears, girasol, peppers, tomatoes, quinoa, potatoes, sweet-potatoes, pineapple or any of the other foods that don’t come from their ancestral homeland. Is there any reason to suppose that the composition of a food from a novel species, genus and family is more familiar to my body than that of a food containing but one novel gene?

      • Eric Baumholder

        OrchidGrowinMan,

        I am quite confident that most of the plants you list are instances of biopiracy and will shortly be subject to international sanctions for retribution and redress.

        😉

        • OrchidGrowinMan

          Just leave my peanuts alone!

  • Eric Baumholder

    An interesting highlight is that polls of European consumers consistently reveal that they know more about GM crops than those in any other geographic region.

    Well, they *claim* to know more. After all, their news is saturated by claims of dangers, and reports of crop attacks. This is the basis of European consumer ‘expertise’ on the topic of GMOs, so it’s no wonder their leadership blocks modified crops at every turn. Call for a show of hands at a meeting of EU officials: ‘Who does not want to be re-elected?’ You won’t see any hands raised.

    Coupled with generous public subsidies, this dynamic puts European policy on GMOs firmly in the hands of Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, et. al.

    • GregH

      That’s one of the things that gets my goat about the Greenpeace and FoE type organizations. They always claim that people don’t want GE food, and I think, ‘Gee, that couldn’t have anything to do with you guys lying to them about it for years, could it?’ It reminds me of similar things I’ve seen said about Golden Rice, like ‘It isn’t helping anyone right now, therefore it is no good.’ Yeah, and who’s been fighting against it since the start?

  • Ewan R

    Further on being late to the debate (which illustrates why I should in general probably just keep a good 6’ away from the keyboard, given that most points have been roundly eviscerated with far more style and far fewer words than I would have used (although with a saddening lack of parentheticals)) and with a little more time to spare…

    First, Rob Smart:-

    Want to make this a simple discussion?

    I believe that Karl just wanted you to address the fact that the studies you cited to support your point don’t – I’m also thinking a number of readers would like some sort of explanation as to why you think it is fine and dandy to use such quackery as naturalnews as any sort of evidential source. Until you do you’re just shifting the goalposts wildly when you realize that your points aren’t backed by your citations – were this not the case you’d simply have opened with your “want to make…” statement rather than falling back to it when all your other lines of support have been cut.

    What you see as an expense, I see as an investment in the health of our children.

    You know what’d be an investment in the health of our children? Mandatory universal healthcare. How about we throw $300M – $3Bn at that, at something which will actually make a bloody difference, rather than chasing after snipes labeling something which has been shown to have no measurable impact on health.

    The only developed nation on the planet that does not provide such choice, which also claims to be the beckon of democracy, is the United States.

    I believe that Canada has been mentioned (they do however have voluntary labeling) – I imagine Iceland would be pretty upset to hear that they aren’t a developed nation (I’d imagine that Bulgaria, Belarus, Macedonia, Romania, Turkey and Ukraine might argue that they were developed also, alongside a number of South American countries (Japan seem to be an interesting case in that the EU has them down as being both mandatory and voluntary)
    But hey, why be right when you can be dramatic?

    • Ewan R

      I knew I shoulda trademarked my phrasing above… I’d be able to reclaim all of Anastasia’s ill gotten corporate monies.

      /meta

  • Ken Roseboro

    A couple of comments. This survey is not new; the date is Oct. 2010.
    Also, Karl you state in the last paragraph that
    Japan is arguably one of the most GE-cautious nations in the world, yet, 94% of its soy is imported, 71% of which is from the U.S., and 93% of that is genetically engineered. Therefore, despite the presence of mandatory labels, at least 62% of the soy in Japan is genetically engineered, and people buy and eat it there.
    However, most of the GM soy imported by Japan is used for animal feed. Japan imports about 1 million metric tons of non-GMO soybeans each year for food use to make tofu, soymilk, miso, etc. Japanese soyfood manufacturers use non-GMO soybeans because they know that is what Japanese consumers want.

    • Hi Ken, thanks for the input. Do you have any good sources of information for what percentage of say, tofu, is derived from GE vs non-GE soybeans in Japan?

      • Ken Roseboro

        Hi Karl, I don’t have those figures. I’ve only been able to find the soybean import figures. Japan imports non-GMO soybeans mainly from the US and Canada. But I would assume that the majority of tofu is made from non-GMO soybeans. There are particular varieties of soybeans that are used to make tofu and I believe most of these are non-GMO.
        I’ve attended the Midwest Specialty Grains conference for several years and they’ve had representatives from the Japanese tofu or miso associations and they always tell the audience that they want to buy US non-GMO soybeans at a good price.
        As you may know, soyfoods are a staple in Japan. There are literally hundreds of tofu manufacturers, many of them small local shops.

    • Charles M. Rader

      Tofu manufacturers in America also think that their customers want non-GMO soybeans. I eat a lot of tofu and I would prefer to buy tofu made from GMO soybeans, but I never find it offered for sale.

      • I rarely buy tofu (or so many other vegetarian-oriented products) for that reason. Sometimes you can find tofu at Chinese markets that does not have the non-GMO label. When I find it, I buy a ton and pig out on tofu 😀

        • Looks like Mr. Smith is expressing his opinion of your (or coincidentally someone else’s)tofu preferences on twitter. I have saved plenty of nasty things he has said, including some dehumanizing ones. It is troubling that he takes this issue so personally, and uses official channels of his organization to lash out like that.

  • Eric Baumholder

    Charles,

    You gotta be careful of tofu, a kitchen explosion might be an “unknown side-effect” of GMO tofu.

    Freak Tofu Explosion Terrorizes Portland
    http://gawker.com/5863550/freak-tofu-explosion-terrorizes-portland

    A female resident of Portland, Oregon was at home cooking tofu when, suddenly and without warning, her kitchen exploded. 😉

  • What’s laughable about this story is not that more people BELIEVE GE is safe but that the GM biotech industry, as a whole, has not conducted a single long term human or animal feeding study that proves GE is safe.

    Arguing about what people believe and perceive is a distraction from the reality that GE is a risky untested human experiment.

    • Hi Scott, thanks for stopping by. Your statement that no long-term animal feeding studies have been conducted is completely false. In our list of risk-related studies, you will find several multi-generational feeding studies that have been published in peer-reviewed journals. You will also find studies involving human tissues, cells, and blood serum such as to test for allergenicity and such. While “long term human feeding studies” are often called for by opponents of genetic engineering such as yourself, these kinds of studies are extremely difficult to conduct for any kind of food, and are not likely to give us any useful information one way or another. We don’t even have long-term human feeding studies that “prove” that macadamia nuts are safe.

      By coincidence, last night I was perusing the site of GM Know, and I was getting lost in the misconceptions published on that site. Statements about there being no research on GE foods are just one of them. For instance, from the FAQ page:

      All GMOs are patented. There are NO instances in any issued GMO patents that claims they offer increased human nutritional value.

      Apparently Golden Rice, Super Cassava, and Omega-3 soybeans don’t exist. That’s news to me. They aren’t yet on the market, but that is an issue of time, not of the limitations of genetic engineering.

      Is the act of genetic engineering precise?

      No. The entire foundation of genetic engineering is that the introduction of one foreign gene, bacteria or virus into a plant will activate one protein, producing one desired effect and nothing more. But this ignores basic science – the chances of harmful unintended consequences with GE are substantially increased:

      Compared to the previous techniques used in breeding, genetic engineering is more precise. All the listed changes that genetic engineering can cause already happen in breeding, and often to a much greater extent. The recombination of genes and even their movement throughout the genome over time is random, unpredictable (for the most part), and there have been many studies that compare these downstream effects between GE and non-GE breeding methods. See the risk atlas link above.

      Granted, it may be difficult for non-scientists to sift through the scientific details, which is one reason why we’re here. We have plans to make the risk-related studies more accessible and understandable for everyone.
      Finally, the issue of perception should be important to you, as opponents of GE often assume that most people agree with their position that GE crops are unsafe. GM Know is campaigning against growing GE crops on public lands in Boulder, Colorado. Going into a political issue without an accurate understanding of public opinion is not a good idea.

    • GregH

      The patent bit on your site is is some interesting logic. My favorite apple, SnowSweet, is not GE, but it is patented. It is a new variety of apple, distinct from all the others (as a taste test would make clear). I wonder what changes in the plant give SnowSweet its, in my opinion, unique flavor? Who knows. I sure haven’t got the faintest idea what’s going on in there (compared to a Bt corn or herbicide tolerant soybean where I do know what produces the GE trait). In fact, because it is under patent, as much as I’d like some budwood from a SnowSweet tree to graft onto my common as dirt Golden Delicious, I won’t do that, because that would be illegal, since you can’t propagate it without a paying royalties. The popular Honeycrisp was like this too, until its patent expired. I doubt anyone would claim that those patents make SnowSweet or Honeycrisp not the same as normal food, or not substantially equivalent to other apples, or needing years of multi-generational testing to ensure safety, and I don’t see why the patents on GE crops should be viewed differently. Seems like something of a double standard (though either way I don’t think a legal status should come into much consideration when dealing in scientific fact).

      • The supposed contradiction between substantial equivalence and patent requirements also come up alot. To paraphrase, it goes like this: Substantial equivalence means that they’re not different enough, yet for a patent, they must be different for the new food to be considered novel enough for a patent! Except this ignores that the novelty of the invention does not necessarily translate into a difference in nutritional content – which is what substantial equivalence is about.

        The focus on patents on the GM Know site is interesting, because it is an attempt to frame the issue in corporate and property terms. It reflects a perspective that views genetic engineering as merely a corporate tool, and not a tool that is generally usable by anyone. Like perspectives on the safety of GE crops, it is a good idea to understand the landscape of public opinion, because not everyone buys anti-corporate arguments.

        It is also rather ironic because GM Know appears to be sponsored by food corporations such as Earth Balance, and according to one comment on this page, Whole Foods. There is also no information about these corporate sponsorships on the GM Know site.

        • GregH

          Now that I think about it, I know where I’ve seen that site before. I once replied to who I assume is this same person (unless that was someone else just putting in the link) on another site. http://commonsenseagriculture.com/2011/11/21/labeling-gmos-gmes-and-cool/#comment-1561 It started off with the very odd statement of ‘GMOs are first and foremost a planting system,’ which seems to display a real misunderstanding of what a GE crop actually is. I thought I put things in pretty good terms, but never got much in the way of a reply though (yet again, time probably wasted on the internet…probably shouldn’t try to hit every point in one of those type of comments), and I doubt there will be one on this site. I kind of figured that someone actively writing and tweeting and talking in Boulder about this subject would care to correct whatever they feel I got wrong, but I suppose not (though it could have just been that it was a somewhat large comment). Oh well. I think maybe by the very nature of the two stances quick soundbites, instead of a lengthier debate, favor the point they are trying to make over the one I was.

          And looking at their twitter messages, and the comments on this news article ( http://www.dailycamera.com/boulder-county-news/ci_19502891 ), if those comments are accurate then it looks like GMKnow also has a unique definition of ‘Corporate power on display.’ Corporate power seems to be synonymous with expertise. Sure would have been neat to go to that meeting and see it firsthand.

  • pyst

    since bt is an insecticide its usage would fall into an integrated pest management context. As it was also a by product of a naturally occurring bacteria it was approved for use in organic agriculture. Now organic farmers would be in the same boat as any other farmer when there is crop damage spray or not to spray. So the IPM is neutral at least hopefully in that context as is seed drilling.

    What is not neutral is competing in the marketplace of food and the ridiculous distortions that are occurring because of patents. Note also that any attempt to compare performance in the marketplace will have to include those elements.

    I know farmers have to follow the program and keep costs under control.
    The use of gmo seed implies the loss of thousands of land races in the
    all out push for production. What we need is more farmers getting back to being farmers that save seeds or getting them from their neighbors.

    So in this case patents are an unfair market advantage that diminishes biodiversity
    by dumping the cheapest crops we can into the marketplace. Seems short sighted to me.
    I think we should remove the patent regime for gene splicing as it is little more than swapping a gene from one lifeform to another. The public has invested trillions in education and the biological research that got us here. Nothing is being invented it is cut and paste.