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.
Dawes 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.
Which 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.
A 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.