Shedding Light in the Darkness

A Response to New Scientific American Article Dismissing GMO Concerns


“Why People Oppose GMOs Even Though Science Says They Are Safe” by Stefaan Blancke, Ghent University, Belgium

Hi Stefann,

There are so many obvious falsehoods in your Scientific American opinion piece, I’m surprised it didn’t come with a warning label. I’m all for free discourse, but when you state as fact information that is actually incorrect, it requires addressing.
For example you talk about, “emphasizing the benefits of current and future GM applications,” which include –
1. improved soil structures – herbicides kill the soil.
2. higher income for farmers in developing countries – not proven. A study by a Washington University anthropologist found crop yields from India’s first genetically modified cotton crop may have been
overemphasized, as modest rises in crop yields may come at the expense of sustainable farm management.
“We’re getting higher yields, but we’re not better off,” said T. Venkatesh, a cotton farmer, in a New York Times interview. “Our costs have gone up much faster than the price of cotton.”
3. reduced vitamin A deficiency – the science behind Golden Rice does not prove benefits, and it threatens genetic diversity among traditional rice varieties.
4. drought resistance – Monsanto’s drought resistant corn is no more effective than existing non-GM varieties according to the US Department of Agriculture. Plant pathologist Doug Gurian-Sherman
reported Monsanto’s leading drought tolerant corn option reduces yield loss by just 5 to 6 percent and only in areas of modest drought.

Oh and about those “environmental benefits?” A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists noted: “GE crops do have the potential to cause a variety of health problems and environmental impacts. For instance, they may spread undesirable traits to weeds and non-GE crops, produce new allergens and toxins, or harm animals that consume them. At least one major environmental impact of genetic
engineering has already reached critical proportions: overuse of herbicide-tolerant GE crops has spurred an increase in herbicide use and an epidemic of herbicide-resistant ‘superweeds,’ which will lead
to even more herbicide use.”

So in conclusion, maybe you should stick to philosophy, where the truth has always been a bit relative.

aloha, Jon Woodhouse, M. Ed., Maui, Hawaii

Stefaan Blancke, a philosopher at Ghent University (Belgium) and co-editor of Creationism in Europe. His interests include pseudoscience and the way it reflects underlying intuitions.

Here is his response!

Dear Jon,

Thank you for your e-mail. My views are based on scientific studies published in international peer reviewed journals (I can send them if you want). Isn’t it a bit unfair then to claim that I get my facts wrong, and all you have on offer are unsubstantiated claims, anecdotes, and obscure quotes? I’ll change my mind about a current or future GM application if there is evidence that it is harmful, but so far I have seen none. On the contrary, the evidence shows that genetic modification provides us with a powerful tool to create a sustainable type of agriculture. You might want to take a look at it before you dismiss this important technology?

Best, Stefaan

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