This is one in a series of stories; visit The Daily Meal Special Report: GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) for more.
While protestors' concerns about GMOs and their goals for protesting vary from organization to organization and locality to locality, many people who actively protest genetically engineered foods cite the following issues as being at the root of their apprehension: an increased risk of crop contamination, altered nutrients, potential toxins, antibiotic resistance, amplified allergens, and ethical concerns.
The multinational chemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation Monsanto, which is at the forefront of GMO seed development, has been the target of a significant portion of the protests. Many of the concerns about Monsanto originate from the fact that the corporation has historically manufactured many products that proved to be extremely detrimental to the health of people and the environment, which the U.S. government now acknowledges, including Agent Orange, DDT, and PCBs. Protestors argue that Monsanto does not have a good track record of corporate citizenship and responsibility; therefore, Monsanto’s assertions that they are concerned with the health and welfare of the environment surrounding their testing centers should not be trusted.
Protests against GMOs have taken different forms. Some protestors have taken to crop destruction. Last August, a field of golden rice — bioengineered to biosynthesize beta-carotene, a source of dietary Vitamin A, in which diets in underdeveloped parts of the world are often deficient — was uprooted in the Philippines by protestors who believe the crop could be harmful. But very few protests have involved crop destruction: most activists have instead chosen to make their point heard through demonstrations, picketing, and spreading information about GMOs.
This winter, over a thousand locals from Hawaii were joined by a group of world-famous surfers bearing picket signs in the pouring rain as they raised their voices and picket signs against Monsanto, which has been developing GMO testing in Hawaii."I call the seed and chemical producers drug pushers, because basically what they want me to do is get addicted to their product and keep on buying more and more. Seeds are the source of life, and they are meant to reproduce in nature — not in a lab."
A quiet — but powerful — act of resistance that some small farmers have taken up has been developing seed collectives: rather than relying on GMO seeds, there are farmers who believe in keeping and exchanging heirloom, organic, non-GMO seeds that they can try to protect by keeping them separate from GMO crops.
We spoke with farmer and activist Gail Taylor about her concerns regarding GMOs, the role of farmers in GMO protests, and the strides activists have made in recent years. Taylor is a market gardener and yoga practitioner who lives in an intentional community in Washington, D.C. She is the owner of Three Part Harmony farm; an urban farm near her Petworth home, a member of the DC Black Growers' Network and the Mid-Atlantic Seed-Keeper's Cooperative, and a founding member of the Community Farmers' Alliance.
What efforts have you and your fellow protesters made that you are most proud of?
I was pretty pleased with our humble little group of folks who planted Blue Navajo corn on May 25th this year, which was also a day that people around the world held protests against Monsanto. I had already been invited to be part of a seed-keepers' collective, and since we have a growing site that's pretty isolated, it was possible to grow corn and not have it be contaminated by neighboring farms. Our efforts carry this sacred seed stock forward a few more generations. It was an honor to take the ears which had been given to our friend as a gift from others who grew it in New Mexico, and carry it forward. And this year we'll pick another corn variety to preserve. I feel like corn may seem symbolic, but in real terms it's terribly endangered because of cross-contamination issues. It's getting harder and harder for organic, GMO-free seed suppliers to certify their seed stock using third-party labs because GMO corn is becoming so pervasive and invasive. I'm lucky that I'm not surrounded by industrial, conventional farmers growing commodity crops. It's one of the advantages to being in a city.
How do GMOs negatively affect the "hands-on knowledge of food production and social justice values" that you hold in esteem?
For our farm, an important part of upholding social justice values means caring about our impact on the environment, and the people who do the work. I think one of the most devastating things about the use of GMOs is their forced reliance on increased amounts of chemical-based pesticides and herbicides. I call the seed and chemical producers drug pushers, because basically what they want me to do is get addicted to their product and keep on buying more and more. Seeds are the source of life, and they are meant to reproduce in nature — not in a lab.
It seems counterintuitive that a farm, a place so vibrant with life and growing things, would also be a place where humans, animals, and soils are poisoned from these chemicals. But each time the technology brings us a new and better version, it comes with even more pounds of poison that I have to use. If it's too toxic for me, it's too toxic for all of the workers, the volunteers, and especially the families who come through and visit our urban farm. There's no justice in a food system that purports to make food for the masses while at the same time poisoning the workers.
8 MILFs Who Are Taking a Stand Against GMOs
Move over, Stifler's mom (that's an American Pie reference, in case you live under a rock). There's a new group of MILFs in town. And it's not just their pretty faces and smokin' hot bodies that make them sexy. It's their stance on GMOs, those pesky scientifically-altered crops that send most clean eaters running in fear.
Because what's more appealing than a lady who's passionate about the quality of her family's food . and willing to fight for it? From signing Conceal or Reveal petitions to advocating for GMO labeling laws, these eight stunning celebrity moms are jumping on the activist train to a GMO-free wonderland.
Jen's new alias is a farmer. The mother of two grows her own food as a way to avoid the GMOs and pesticides that come standard with much of the conventional produce you pick up at the supermarket. She also speaks out for GMO labeling and attends Just Label It events with fellow anti-GMO MILFs.
Buffy isn't fighting vampires anymore she's on that anti-GMO grind. Featured in a video alongside other anti-GMO moms, Gellar advocated for food companies to "reveal" what's really in their food.
Her husband might tamper with footballs on occasion, but this Brazilian bombshell doesn't want anyone messing around with the food she feeds her family.
Jillian Michaels pushed for better health on The Biggest Loser, and now the super fit mom of two is pushing for GMO labeling. And hey, when you're with Jillian, no one's a loser.
Julie Bowen's modern family isn't into GMOs.
The actress and mom of three joined (much less MILF-like) celebs like Michael J. Foxx and Chevy Chase in a video called "Just Label It!"
The Furious 7 star was fast to react to sketchy food labels once she became a mom. "When I started looking into what's in the food that I feed my son, I discovered how difficult it is to figure out," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "I want GMOs labeled so that I don't have to guess whether or not they're in our food."
Everyone's favorite Snow White wants clear knowledge of what's in her son's food to become more of a reality and less of a fairy tale.
Remember Darlene Conner from the show Roseanne? That's Sara Gilbert, author of The Imperfect Environmentalist. She has it out for GMOs&mdashwhich are (big shocker) notoriously bad for the environment.
Why Do Some Academic Scientists Stand Up For GMO Crops?
Academic scientists have played key roles in the history of “GMO crops.” The science started in their labs and flowed into the start-up phase of the industry. University scientists also played a central role in the effort to guide the technology safely to the market with unprecedented regulatory oversight. And throughout this time they have played an important role in communicating with the broader public in the face of significant disinformation.
On September 5 th , the New York Times published an article by Eric Lipton titled “Food Industry Enlisted Academics in G.M.O. Lobbying War, Emails Show.” Lipton misleadingly implies that there is some sort of recent and inappropriate industry influence on science communication. One needs to look back well before the email age to understand the motivations of those scientists who continue to explain and defend these crops.
The whole field of genetic engineering emerged from basic science labs like that of Paul Berg at Stanford around 1972. As the new science began to take form, Berg and colleagues organized the Asilomar Conference in 1975 where they self-imposed strict research guidelines that were highly precautionary. That set a tone that continued.
In the late 1970s, other academic scientists began to take on the challenge of applying genetic engineering to crop plants. When the first biotech start-up companies were founded in the early 80s, their employees and science boards came from those academic labs. The genetic trait of glyphosate tolerance that would eventually be commercialized as “Roundup Ready” was first conceived and pursued, not by any big company, but by a recent post-doc from UC Davis who chose that as his project in the early days of the start-up, Calgene.
Similarly, the very early work with the Bt-based, insect resistance concept was the project of another post-doc freshly out of academia who joined the start-up, Agrigenetics. Academics also played key roles in the development of the basic methods of getting genes into plant cells such as the “gene gun” (developed at Cornell University), and Agrobacterium transformation (Mary Dell Chilton of Washington University played a key role).
Mary-Dell Chilton meets with Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden at the U.S. Department of . [+] Agriculture (USDA) in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, May 12, 2015
Academic scientists were also deeply involved in the sustained dialog about how to properly regulate this new category of crops so that it’s benefits could be achieved without environmental or health issues. This was a very public conversation with input from diverse stakeholder groups, but since most of this occurred prior to the internet age it tends to go unrecognized. One of the reasons that academic scientists defend this science today is that they are aware of the unprecedented establishment of a three-agency regulatory framework that was put in place well before the first commercial launches. For the scientists from academia, industry, regulatory agencies and food companies, the shared goal was to get this right. The safe track record over the past 20 years confirms that they did.
A faded copy of the table of contents that a colleague sent me many years ago
There were a great many public events in this process, but the interesting one I had the opportunity to attend in 1988 was called an international conference on "Risk Assessment in Agricultural Biotechnology.” It was held at UC Davis and was organized by UCD researchers -George Breuning, Tsune Kosuge and Jim Marois. Their vision was to connect the biotech scientists with ecologists, immunologists and ag economists to insure that all the potential issues were being addressed. I recently spoke with Jim Marois and we were recalling the wide-ranging nature of the discussions and the diversity of attendees. Jim kindly located a copy of the proceedings from that meeting and had it scanned. If you would like to see what the discussion was like 7 years before “GMO” commercialization, I encourage you to download (162MB) and browse this document.
An anti-GMO protester I met in Kauai in 2013
In spite of all these efforts to launch biotech crops in a responsible fashion, vehement opposition arose. The 2013 speech by ex-anti-GMO activist Mark Lynas to the Oxford Farming Conference provides some perspective on the motives of the original activists. Before and soon after the technology was commercialized, academic scientists became involved in voluntary efforts to explain and defend the new crops. They gave talks, they wrote books, they set up lecture series and they started blogs and discussion forums. These were not efforts solicited by or funded from the biotech companies. They were motivated by a sincere desire to counteract the rampant disinformation that has severely limited the application of this technology. In 2009, I joined this effort as a non-academic scientist wading into the blogosphere.
In 2013, a biotech industry association decided to launch a website called “GMO Answers” with the goal of giving consumers the opportunity to get answers to any questions they wanted to ask. Logically, the company hired to run the website went to the community of already-active biotech science communicators to see if they would be willing to field some of the questions as unpaid participants. I was also asked, and the reason I agreed is probably the same as that for my academic colleagues – the hope that this platform would make it possible to reach audiences we might otherwise not reach. Some of the questions are quite interesting. I once got a question about whether there was GMO marijuana (short answer pot has definitely been "genetically modified" for higher THC content, but using clumsy old, mutagenesis breeding, not modern genetic engineering).
For any of us who helped answer questions on GMO answers, it was only an extension of what we already do for our own, independent reasons. We are motivated to explain a technology with vast, unrealized potential, much of which would be offered for free in the developing world, or commercialized in channels other than the current players. None of us are told what to write and what matters from our side is that our answers are accurate and understandable.
There is much more at stake in the “GMO Debate” than some current or even future businesses of large companies. Particularly with some of the latest breakthroughs on the science side and dramatic reductions in research costs, we are looking at an era when even small entities could bring new things to the market or to people who need it via a non-market avenue. What stands in the way is the very well funded anti-GMO machine. The current pro-biotech academic scientists might be characterized as “tilting with windmills,” but they aren’t doing anything inappropriate or new.
Chad White: Anti-GMO tribal conformity and mythology, part 2
While many anti-GMO folk support the scientific consensus on climate change, they belittle these same science institutions by denying the consensus on genetic engineering (GE).
The oil companies have not been able to overturn the consensus on climate change, so how could Monsanto have more power than they do?
I don’t want readers to “believe” anything I am saying, I want them to be intellectually honest and employ rational inquiry into the claims I make and those made by opponents of biotechnology.
Sadly, when I talk to people about biotechnology, it is often the first time they have heard someone in favor of the technology. They had only heard from anti-GMO activists, yet take a staunch stand.
I’m a hippie who is falsely accused of shilling for Monsanto at least weekly. Anger often fills the space between certainty and lack of evidence.
False information about biotechnology has increased organic sales, but it’s not helpful towards our planet’s sustainability efforts.
I find it somewhat ironic that the very people who seem to be most concerned about climate change seem to be against one of the major tools we can use to actually combat some of the deleterious effects of current farming practices.
Stories can make opinions intractable in face of fact, regardless how fictional the story is. Our brains evolved an us-against-them mentality because it was not only advantageous, it was tantamount to survival. We have taken that tribal stance and applied it to issues like vaccinations, gluten consumption and eating organic, says Harriet Hall at Science-Based Medicine:
Religions and ideologies play into the hero plot since they match up well with the individual’s moral hunches and provide external justification. They validate emotional instincts, provide purpose and a common enemy. They can be useful but can also be dangerous people have died for false beliefs. Some people accept a belief only if it can be shown to correspond to reality others accept beliefs just because they are part of a coherent system.
Like most people, I have an affinity for like-minded people. We have built our own ideological tribes, echo chambers for our own thoughts, thoughts that perpetuate themselves every time we hear them reverberated back to us.
We are neurochemically confirmation-bias addicts.
Like most people, I defaulted to the position of my own in-group, which is the anti-GMO movement of the left.
I believe in the idea that profits should not be a greater priority than the health of people and the planet. And I value reason and evidence because I want my beliefs to accord to reality as best as can be.
While I know that I am quite capable of making mistakes, by supporting my beliefs with evidence, I enable a self-correcting mechanism with which I can revise a false belief. I remain willing to change my mind if provided with sufficient evidence.
I value reason and evidence and consider belief revision to be an undervalued virtue.
The evidence will say otherwise, but some facts will never be considered by people moved by fear, misinformation, and the constant barraging of the same message over and over.
A particularly vile lie the anti-GMO continue to repeat like a mantra is that GMOs cause Indian farmers to commit suicide.
This is one of the easiest myths to debunk when you apply a small amount of doubt and look for the evidence. This emotionally riveting and manipulative accusation is no minor claim!
While opponents of biotechnology have little concern about withholding lifesaving technology from malnourished children going blind, they shamelessly repeat such lies as this.
This is only one claim among hundreds I have yet to see a single opponent of this technology retract their claim after being shown it’s false. They just skip along to the next knowledge claim to which they themselves have never applied doubt.
In fact, the trend on farmer suicides in India is stable, and even dropped a little after the widespread adoption of genetically-engineered Bt cotton in 2002.
While some farmers are still tragically committing suicide, there is no evidence of a correlation between the two trends.
GM cotton, because it expresses its own pesticide within its tissue, does not need to be sprayed as often.
Farmers benefit twice over – they have to spend less on pesticides, and they are less exposed to toxins in the field.
The IFPRI paper confirms both that pesticide use has dropped and that yields have risen thanks to Bt cotton.
This has led to substantial income gains for farmers, and benefits overall to rural societies.
End of part 2. Next week: The ludicrous anti-GMO narrative, and why the entrenched espousers just can’t quit it.
GMO Food Critics See Losses at Ballot Box—and a More Hostile Congress
Ballot initiatives that would have mandated GMO food labels failed in Colorado and Oregon.
It received a lot less attention than the Republicans' successful attempt to seize control of the U.S. Senate, but Tuesday's midterm elections may have marked the broadest attempt yet by critics of genetically modified food to advance their cause at the ballot box.
The anti-GMO movement's two biggest efforts—ballot initiatives in Colorado and Oregon that would have required labels for genetically altered food—were roundly defeated by voters in those states on Tuesday. (Related: "4 Ways Election Results Could Intensify U.S. Energy Battles.")
But opponents made local headway in Hawaii and California, where voters adopted two county-level bans on the production of genetically modified organisms—GMOs, or plants or animals genetically altered using DNA from bacteria, viruses, or other plants and animals.
The results in Colorado and Oregon follow similar ballot initiative defeats in California in 2012 and in Washington state in 2013. The food industry spent nearly $70 million to thwart those efforts. After Tuesday's election, the industry has poured more than $100 million into anti-labeling campaigns. (Read about how genetically modified crops could revolutionize agriculture.)
Now, legislative action around GMOs may shift to Congress, which will see Republicans take control of the Senate and expand their control of the House in the new year. (Learn why congressional action on climate change is even less likely than before.)
A GOP-led Congress could add momentum to the incongruously named Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. The food industry-authored bill would institute voluntary GMO labeling nationwide and would preclude states from adopting their own mandatory labeling laws. (See "The GMO Labeling Battle Is Heating Up—Here's Why.")
The nominally bipartisan bill has had few co-sponsors, but a more business-friendly Washington could give it new life.
Genetically engineered foods must be labeled as such in 64 countries, but in the United States only Vermont has approved labels. Even there, the law doesn't take effect until July 2016—if it can withstand legal challenges. (Related: "Can Genetic Engineering Save the Florida Orange?")
Maine and Connecticut also have passed GMO labeling bills, but both remain dormant unless and until other states also pass similar legislation. Legislation to label genetically altered food has been introduced in 20 states.
But anti-GMO activists aren't about to let up.
"The question is, Will the groups continue trying in other states?" asked Erik Olson, senior strategic director of food and health at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Clearly, they will."
Here's a closer look at what happened this week at the ballot box:
Colorado. Voters strongly rejected Proposition 105, which would have mandated labeling for genetically modified foods. The lopsided two-to-one vote came after chemical companies Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer contributed more than $16 million to defeat the measure.
"Those huge, out-of-state corporations fueled by greed may have won this election, but they have not truly won. Our voices can never be drowned out with truth on our side," said Larry Cooper, co-chair of Right to Know Colorado, which pushed for the measure.
Oregon. The vote was much closer in Oregon, but Measure 92 still failed, in what was the most expensive ballot initiative in state history. Nearly $27 million was spent by the same seed giants that toppled the Colorado initiative, dwarfing spending by supporters, which included the moguls behind Ben & Jerry's ice cream. The statewide vote followed an earlier one in Jackson County in May, when voters there approved a ban on GMO crops.
"The ballot initiatives in Oregon and Colorado prove that America has the best democracy that money can buy," said Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now.
Maui County, Hawaii. A ballot measure slapping a temporary ban on genetically engineered crops passed by a slim margin. The new law will prohibit the growth, testing, or cultivation of GMOs until environmental and health studies declare them safe.
Opponents, which included agribusinesses and family farmers, called the law flawed and said it would hurt the local economy. Indeed, the GMO seed corn industry on Molokai Island, which is part of Maui County, may be threatened as a result of the election.
But supporters, who were reportedly outspent by more than 87 to 1, hailed the result.
"Residents of Hawaii are acutely aware of their islands' ecological uniqueness, and they are willing to stand up to chemical companies to ensure that biodiversity is protected," said Ashley Lukens of the Hawaii chapter of the Center for Food Safety.
Humboldt County, California. Voters handily approved Measure P, which will prohibit growing genetically modified crops in the northern California county.
Despite the setbacks for GMO opponents, public distrust of genetically modified foods seems to be growing. And companies that make and sell food are paying attention.
General Mills early this year changed the recipe for Cheerios, so that they no longer include genetically modified ingredients. And national retailer Whole Foods said it would label genetically altered products sold in its North American stores by 2018.
"Tides are beginning to turn," said Nicole Darnall, a researcher at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, in Tempe. "At the core of this issue is citizens' right to know and putting power into citizens' hands. History has shown that corporations can stall these sorts of measures, but ultimately they tend to get passed."
Farmers can still buy, trade or save conventional seeds
Farmers can freely buy conventional seeds from seed companies, participate in the legal trading of seeds and even save conventional seeds from their harvest. No one is forcing farmers to buy genetically modified seeds. If farmers want the added benefits of growing genetically modified crops, then they have to follow the legal requirements of that contract, such as not saving the GM seeds. Companies that develop GM varieties are not patenting basic foods, just their GM variety. Even new conventional crops come with a version of a patent called plant variety rights. This enables the developer to license it and those that violate that license can be sued in court.
For some conventional plants, many farmers may even prefer to buy new seeds than save seeds from the previous harvest. This is because many hybrid plants provide larger yields than the first generation plants from those hybrids.
Also, this line of argument is not related to the safety of genetically modified foods, but about the actions of certain corporations. Therefore, even if true, it would not by an argument against GM foods.
Anti-GMO Activist Campaign is "Full of Errors, Fallacies, Misconceptions, Misrepresentations, and Lies."
Better late than never, Slate is running a terrific article, "Unhealthy Fixation," denouncing the massive campaign of pseudoscientific disinformation and lies perpetrated by environmental and organic activists against genetically enhanced crops. Astute Reason readers will be well aware of the data and arguments made in the Slate article, such as, the lies activists tell about biotech safety why mandatory GMO labeling is a bad idea how anti-biotech activism kills and blinds kids the mendacious campaign against GMOs in Hawaii and the fact that organic crops are not healthier or better for the planet.
The Slate article's subhed, however, sums up the arguments well:
The war against genetically modified organisms is full of fearmongering, errors, and fraud. Labeling them will not make you safer.
Well, yes. In any case, Slate's Will Saletan reports:
I've spent much of the past year digging into the evidence. Here's what I've learned. First, it's true that the issue is complicated. But the deeper you dig, the more fraud you find in the case against GMOs. It's full of errors, fallacies, misconceptions, misrepresentations, and lies. The people who tell you that Monsanto is hiding the truth are themselves hiding evidence that their own allegations about GMOs are false. They're counting on you to feel overwhelmed by the science and to accept, as a gut presumption, their message of distrust.
Second, the central argument of the anti-GMO movement—that prudence and caution are reasons to avoid genetically engineered, or GE, food—is a sham. Activists who tell you to play it safe around GMOs take no such care in evaluating the alternatives. They denounce proteins in GE crops as toxic, even as they defend drugs, pesticides, and non-GMO crops that are loaded with the same proteins. They portray genetic engineering as chaotic and unpredictable, even when studies indicate that other crop improvement methods, including those favored by the same activists, are more disruptive to plant genomes. …
… the fundamental flaw in the anti-GMO movement [is that] it only pretends to inform you. When you push past its dogmas and examine the evidence, you realize that the movement's fixation on genetic engineering has been an enormous mistake. The principles it claims to stand for—environmental protection, public health, community agriculture—are better served by considering the facts of each case than by treating GMOs, categorically, as a proxy for all that's wrong with the world. That's the truth, in all its messy complexity. Too bad it won't fit on a label. …
The relentless efforts of Luddites to block testing, regulatory approval, and commercial development of GMOs are major reasons why more advanced GE products, such as Golden Rice, are still unavailable. The best way to break the herbicide industry's grip on genetic engineering is to support the technology and push it forward, by telling policymakers, food manufacturers, and seed companies that you want better GMOs.
The whole article is well worth your attention.
Note: I will mention that readers who seek a more extensive treatment of these issues might want to take a look at my new book, The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-First Century (St. Martin's Press, July 21). I have a chapter, "The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes?" in which I report the data on biotech crops and debunk activist disinformation, and another "Never Do Anything for the First Time" in which I explain the powerful threat to innovation posed by the precautionary princple.
Maui County: GMO moratorium vote
Despite many of the anti-GMO candidates losing in the primary election, groups like the Center for Food Safety are still working on stirring the pot in this county. Voters will get to decide on the issue on November 4. This has spurred the activists into some disturbing behaviors in our community here. There have been campaign signs vandalized and also stolen, which is not surprising at all.Gubernatorial candidate, Duke Aiona, had his sign spray painted on Molokai. The ballot initiative signs on Molokai that asked voters to vote no were changed to “yes” votes. A vote no sign was taken and frame broken on private property of Christy Gusman. Proud vandals on Instagram boasting their activities of re-doing the vote no signs on Maui.
The activists have even resorted to defacing private property in the name of this movement. These are photos from the historic whaling town of Lahaina, where someone had some chemical fun with spray paint to get their message across.
These people who claim to malama the aina or “care for the land” and be pono, or “righteous”, apparently forget these thoughts as they go about “campaigning”. The sad thing is that long time local folks, like this 90 year old senior citizen, wind up cleaning up their messes.
Not only was there graffiti and theft going on in Maui, Molokai and Lanai, but there were also reports of people being harassed by activists at the County Fair, who were pushing their brochures at people as they entered the fair, pressuring them to vote yes on the ballot initiative. How do I know that? My mom experienced it first hand at the fair. She had brochure shoved into her chest as she entered. She then proceeded to give that activist a piece of her mind.
Someone also took out a Craigslist post against Monsanto, as well. They took images of Monsanto workers and their families, and posted them as an ad to target the employees for harassment. (The ad was flagged and eventually removed.)
Not only did they put out bogus ads to harass the biotech workers, fake profiles were also made of workers. Their images were stolen and then the harassers turned their names into heinous versions instead. Above you can see that someone took the profile picture of a biotech employee and used it to comment on the social media as the “Earthly Farmer”. (This is the same tactic done by the anti-GMO activists on Kauai!)
These SHAKA activists also took to Photoshopping biotech employees into demons for anti-GMO posters. Just look what they did to Dave Stoltzfus.
What has been missing in considering this initiative in Maui County has been recognizing the economics of a “temporary moratorium” to study the effects of GMOs and considering the economic impact a moratorium could have on those islands. A well known economics expert, Paul Brewbaker, was recently hired by the Maui Chamber of Commerce to study the effects of this proposed initiative there. What he found was that it would be devastating to this county, which is no surprise. It would hurt many local families. It’s estimated that unemployment may rise to some 25% on Molokai alone!
Story here: Hawaii News Now – KGMB and KHNL The anti-GMO activists sent their biology bachelor of science degree, newly minted “economic expert” State Senator Russell Ruderman, to supposedly debunk Dr. Brewbaker’s study. He did not disclose that he owns four natural health food stores on the Big Island and has no expertise in economics. He’s the same state senator that published articles in the Big Island newspaper “educating” people on Bt. This man is always overstepping his scope of expertise, which is typical of many anti-GMO activists. Just take a listen to the claims he makes on the morning news. The activists also decided to attack the Maui United Way because of the name they chose for themselves: Maui United. The MUW wanted to avoid confusion due to the similarities of the name and sent a cease and desist order for use of the name. These nasty folks tried to play the 6 degrees of separation and trashed the MUW for accepting a donation from Monsanto. You can see the MUW president’s response in the photo just above. Maui County is definitely an ugly place at this moment with this heated debate between those versed in science and those who prefer to reject the evidence.
Death Threats From Anti-GMO Nuts
When all else fails, revolutionaries, being revolutionaries, turn to violence. A new “Monsanto Collaborators” website created by millionaire organic activist Mike “the Health Ranger” Adams charges that hundreds of thousands of deaths have been caused by GMO crops, and that people who support genetically modified organisms, like myself, Fox News’s John Stossel and the former ABC Newsman Jon Entine, are guilty of mass genocide, and hence deserving of a punishment that befits our crime.
“Every 30 minutes, a farmer commits suicide due to GMO crop failures,” Adams claims, blissfully unaware, apparently, that stories of mass suicide by farmers in India, perpetuated by another millionaire organic activist, Vandana Shiva, have been thoroughly debunked.
The suicide rate among Indian farmers began to increase years before GMO crops were introduced, and the rate of farmer suicides has remained constant since GMOs were introduced, even as adoption of GMO crops across the Indian subcontinent has steadily increased. Pesticide usage has decreased 40 percent, while yields and profits have increased.
Adams had called for precisely such a list, asking “How do you even decide on a punishment that can fit the scale and magnitude of such a collection of crimes?” He stresses that he in no way condones “vigilante violence against anyone,” but in the same breath says, “I believe every condemned criminal deserves a fair trial and a punishment that fits the crime. Do not misinterpret this article as any sort of call for violence, as I wholly disavow any such actions. I am a person who demands due process under the law for all those accused of crimes.” (Emphasis added.)
Hardly reassuring, now is it?
Adams needs to brush up on his common law. If I and my fellow pro-GMOers are “condemned criminals,” why do we need “a fair trial”? (Hint: we don’t, at least not if we’re “condemned,” which means we’ve already had a trial, fair or otherwise.) Are we, in fact, “condemned”? Or just “accused”? Adams’s hollow words amount to little more than the classic political apology: “I’m sorry if you were offended by what I said.”
Meanwhile, I have never had anything to do with Monsanto. It’s the science behind GMOs that drives my work, not the profit margins of any corporation. A lot of good people work for GMO companies like Monsanto. But the executives have grown somewhat complacent, frankly, intent it seems only on making money off the GMOs they’ve already got on the market. By failing to stand up to anti-GMO organic activists such as Adams and Shiva over the past decade, these executives have ensured that we’re stuck with the same handful of GMO crops that were available 11 years ago when I hung up my organic inspector’s hat. Can you say “stagnation”?
Organic agriculture began in response to the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer after ammonium nitrate was first pulled — in literally infinite quantities — from the Earth’s atmosphere in 1917. The brilliant German Jew, Fritz Haber, had finally cracked the code that had eluded humankind for centuries. Early proponents of organic farming claimed this disconnected us from Mother Earth, and so it was that opposition to synthetic nitrogen became the basis for organic farming.
In the 1960s, Rachel Carson’s bestseller Silent Spring pushed the organic movement to also reject synthetic pesticides. Then when genetic engineering finally came of age in the early 1990s, organic activists wasted no time in opposing it as well, without even waiting to see how this technology might alleviate issues caused by the use of ammonium nitrate and synthetic pesticides. Again, talk about stagnation.
See the pattern? The organic movement has consistently rejected technology. To their credit, early organic scientists knew they had to innovate the alternative to synthetic ammonium nitrate: natural composting. And they did. The scientific, test-based, peer-reviewed works of luminaries Sir Albert Howard and Lady Eve Balfour are still used to this day by honest organic farmers.
But rejecting pesticides was a bit more problematic. Natural pesticides and other strategies were adopted, but this was when the organic movement became essentially negative. Then, when GMO crops were rejected, the once-proud organic movement finally came to define itself exclusively in terms of what it was not rather than in terms of any provably positive values it might possess.
And so it is that organic activists now find themselves pretending that GMOs kill farmers, while ignoring the benefits GMOs have provided to India, which has gone from Third-World status to an agricultural export nation in less than a generation, thanks to the adoption of every single innovative technology that Adams and Shiva summarily reject.
Lighting our homes likewise went through many stages of innovation. From open fire pits to the torch, the candle, the lantern, and finally the gas light, technologies in succession have undergone centuries of fine-tuning before being replaced.
Then along came the light bulb. Not only was it a quantum leap forward in terms of efficiency, convenience, and safety, but after every other technology had hit its “glass ceiling,” the light bulb also offered us a way forward: in fact, the only way forward.
The light bulb, just like the science of genetic engineering, represents not merely an innovation that we can fine-tune and perfect. It is well and truly the only innovation worth innovating further.
Sure, someone could come up with a new version of the coal-oil lamp. But it will never touch the efficiency of even the most primitive electric light bulb. Likewise, we’ll continue to see improvements in traditional forms of plant breeding and organic farming techniques. But only the science of genetic engineering offers the means to viably advance food production beyond our wildest expectations.
It used to take six hours for the average worker to earn enough to buy a candle that would burn for one hour. Today you can buy an hour’s worth of electric lighting in a half second.
Farmers, both in India and right here in America, have overwhelmingly made their up minds and have adopted GMO crops. Shouldn’t we take a cue from them and ignore activists who don’t run their own farms? If a farmer lies about the efficacy of a new form of technology, he goes broke. If Adams and Shiva lie about new forms of agricultural technology, they rake in $40,000 per engagement on the lecture circuit.
Will Ethiopia be a springboard or a stonewall for GM crops in Africa?
To the Editor — As a systems agronomist with substantial experience in the Consortium of International Agricultural Research centers (CGIAR) and national research institutions in sub-Saharan Africa, I have followed with interest the recent controversy around plantings of transgenic crops in Ethiopia. Until 2015, the country took a vocal stand against genetically modified (GM) crops, underlined by its strict proclamation on biosafety in 2009 (Proclamation No. 655/2009) 1 . The regulation was so inflexible that a special permission was required to transit any “modified organisms” through Ethiopian customs. Six years later, the country loosened its restrictions in an amended proclamation (Proclamation No. 896/2015) 2 . The latter proclamation allows ‘the commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) cotton and confined field research on GM maize and enset (Ensete ventricosum), a food plant whose cultivation is endemic to Ethiopia. As a result, Bt-cotton has been under widespread production and the country has lately issued a five-year permit to conduct confined field trails on drought-tolerant and pest-resistant GM maize 3 . GM maize trails were successfully conducted in 2019 by the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research 4 .