By Tyler Reed

In Ter­ry Dawes’ arti­cle “Neil Young, GMOs and Mon­san­to: why the artist picked the wrong fight this time”, the author seems con­found­ed over the Amer­i­can pub­lic’s per­sis­tent dis­trust of GMO’s. But it’s curi­ous that the pri­ma­ry dis­cred­it­ing and mis­in­for­ma­tion tech­niques com­mon­ly employed by the pro-GMO indus­try to fur­ther it’s goals are the same ones Dawes uses in his arti­cle. It’s their modus operan­di: call the oppo­si­tion nasty names and then bash them with research that you cre­ate yourself.

hippy_ludditeDawes starts by assert­ing that the anti-GMO move­ment is nec­es­sar­i­ly “anti-moder­ni­ty”, long­ing for the days of chop­ping fire­wood and nights of no tele­vi­sion. This “call them hip­pie Lud­dites” tac­tic is both com­mon and com­i­cal in the pro-GMO realm. I have many friends and acquain­tances that are fierce­ly opposed to the sale of unla­beled GMO foods and they are uni­ver­sal­ly intel­li­gent, high­ly edu­cat­ed and tech­no­log­i­cal­ly competent.

(I must con­fess that my fam­i­ly has not had tele­vi­sion access since 1998. If some­thing of val­ue was trans­mit­ted by TV dur­ing the last 17 years, there’s a good chance I missed it. Unless it was shared on the Inter­net. Or on the radio. Or in a book. Or a pod­cast. Or in con­ver­sa­tion with friends.)

In fact, I would sug­gest that one of the rea­sons the major­i­ty of Amer­i­cans dis­trust GMO tech­nol­o­gy is because they are sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly and tech­no­log­i­cal­ly astute enough to see through the veil of mis­in­for­ma­tion that has been erect­ed by those prof­it­ing from genet­i­cal­ly engi­neer­ing our food. Regard­less, call­ing anti-GMO peo­ple names does not, in any sense, cre­ate sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence demon­strat­ing the safe­ty of GMOs.

hammeroftruthWhich brings me to my next point: the pro-GMO cam­p’s propen­si­ty for back­ing up their claims with research fund­ed by and/or per­formed by the very same com­pa­nies that are prof­it­ing from them. The first two-thirds of Dawes’ arti­cle is square­ly focused on using name-call­ing to mock and dis­cred­it the anti-GMO com­mu­ni­ty, build­ing up the antic­i­pa­tion for the sci­en­tif­ic ham­mer­fall that the read­er knows must be com­ing. And it falls with the same force that leads the major­i­ty of Amer­i­cans to dis­trust GMO evangelists.

Dawes points to a study con­duct­ed in 2014 by Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia-Davis geneti­cist Ali­son Van Eenen­naam that pur­port­ed­ly proves GMO feed has no neg­a­tive impact in live­stock. So being the hip­pie Lud­dite that I am, I imme­di­ate­ly Googled the author. And I found, to my com­plete lack of sur­prise, that the esteemed researcher Dr. Eenen­naam, who is about to lay to rest all of my con­cerns about the safe­ty of doing crap like mix­ing genet­ic mate­r­i­al from jel­ly­fish into veg­eta­bles, used to work for (drum-roll please)…. Monsanto.

Eenen­naam is a shin­ing exam­ple of how the GMO indus­try stacks the deck in its favor. They employed her when she came out of school with a brand new PhD, kept her around for a few years and then sent her back out into the world to cham­pi­on their cause. They do this not only with researchers, but with attor­neys, lob­by­ists, and politi­cians. For exam­ple, for­mer U.S. Sec­re­tary of Agri­cul­ture Ann Ven­e­man and for­mer Sec­re­tary of Defense Don­ald Rums­feld have both spent time on Mon­san­to’s Board of Directors.

blowholesA Google search for Eenen­n­maan’s research paper reveals a review of the same from the Lud­dite hip­pies over at GMWatch, called “Van Eenen­naam study marred by bias and sci­en­tif­ic short­com­ings”. The effec­tive­ness with which its authors blow holes in Eenen­n­maan’s paper is both enlight­en­ing and damn­ing, and I encour­age you to give it a read.

Dawes puts a final “booy­ah” on his sin­gle, dubi­ous ref­er­ence to sci­ence by quot­ing Dr. Steven Novel­la. Novel­la is a for­mer neu­rol­o­gist that spends his time debunk­ing para­nor­mal phe­nom­e­non and writ­ing blog posts and E‑books on top­ics like herbal sup­ple­ments and home­opa­thy skep­ti­cism. Appar­ent­ly in the pro-GMO world, that’s ample street-cred to imply some­one is an expert in the long-term health effects of con­sum­ing genet­i­cal­ly engi­neered food.

The remain­der of the arti­cle is more name-call­ing and per­son­al opin­ions about Neil Young. And there you have it, unde­ni­able proof that the anti-GMO com­mu­ni­ty is sim­ply a bunch of illit­er­ate whack-jobs bent on dis­cred­it­ing the pin­na­cle sci­en­tif­ic achieve­ment of human­i­ty. Nice work Mr. Dawes.

Tyler Reed is a tech­nol­o­gy con­sul­tant, soft­ware devel­op­er and DIY tech hack­er with a pas­sion for using tech­nol­o­gy to evolve com­mu­ni­ty-focused ini­tia­tives in urban agri­cul­ture and waste management.

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