Why Do People Fear G.M.O.’s?

(Photo: Alexis Baden-Mayer)

(Photo: Alexis Baden-Mayer)

Genetically modified food (or G.M.O.’s) continue to provoke heated debates about safety and labeling, even though scientific evidence indicates they’re safe.  Why?  A new article in Cosmos by David Ropeik explores the psychology behind people’s G.M.O. fears. Here is Ropeik on why man-made risks “feel” scarier than natural risks.

Beyond those heuristics, several specific emotional characteristics also make G.M.O.’s feel scary. These “fear factors” have been identified in pioneering research in risk perception by Paul Slovic at the University of Oregon, Baruch Fischhoff at Carnegie Mellon University, and others. You can hear them pop up as the young man explains his fears. “It’s just not natural to take the gene from one species and put it in another. It’s just not natural!”

Indeed, taking a gene from a soil bacterium (Bacillus thuringiensis - Bt) that produces a natural pesticide and injecting that gene into the DNA of a soy plant, is hardly Mother Nature’s way of hybridising plants. But does that have anything to do with whether it’s actually risky? No. Scientifically, whether something is a risk depends on whether it is physically hazardous, in what ways and at what dose, and whether we’re exposed, at what age and how often. A radioactive particle in your lungs can cause cancer whether the particle came from the natural breakdown of uranium in the soil, which produces natural radon gas, or from a nuclear power plant accident. But risk perception research has found that natural risks don’t feel as scary as the the equivalent man-made risks. 

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  1. Seth says:

    My fear is not GMO’s per se, but the greed of the corporations doing the engineering.

    If a company like Monsanto is engineering food crops to generate their own pesticides, do I trust them to test properly that the pesticides aren’t present when it hits my plate? No, I expect them to be looking after their quarterly numbers. Do I trust the FDA to look into it? No, I expect them to be bought off (or pre-paid or staffed) by lobbyists.

    The results of this genetic engineering could be anything from utopian to apocalyptic. If the process was driven by a commitment to the common good, I would be for more comfortable. But the reality is the course of action is being determined by short-term profit motive regulated by intentionally ineffective oversight.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 62 Thumb down 59
    • Alvaro says:

      You seriously think dead customers wouldn’t affect their quarterly numbers? GMOs are not a new thing, they have been in the US market for years, thats about the best test you could do.

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      • Chris says:

        Cigarette companies have been killing customers for years without hurting their profits (especially outside of the USA). Automobiles are the number 1 killer of children in this country and kill over 30,000 people a year and yet the auto industry has fought practically ever single safety feature introduced and not suffered a decline in profits as a result of not incorporating new safety features. Clearly companies are OK with a certain number of customer deaths if it means protecting their profits.

        That said I do agree the fear of GMOs is misplaced and I find it especially funny that their are patents who fear their children eating GMOs but then happily strap their kid into a car to drive 1/2 mile or less to the store or school. Talk about irrational risk assessment!

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      • Dre says:

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      • Rick says:

        Actually general sales is a poor proof of concept, Alvaro. Cocaine was sold in Coca Cola (the origin of the “Coca” part and why it is just “Coke” now.) Many drugs have been sold for long times and they turned out to hurt or kill us, man-made or natural.

        But I disagree with GMO law as it is written now because a farmer has to PROVE he did not steal the corn he is raising. You see the corn a farmer raises if it has the gene is now licensed to the farmer and any seed that the farmer would hold back to raise next years crops much be relicensed from Monsanto in this case. A next door neighbor to a person raising Monsanto anti-Roundup gene had to prove he did not run over to his neighbor’s field and steal enough for his own crops because much of his corn, which is east of his neighbor’s field, had the gene. SOOOO he had to have illegally acquired the gene. Monsanto kept coming after him until he could not fight it anymore. NOW it is my understanding that the extension service has mapped the gene and will be able to prove it was Monsanto’s inability to control their pollen that was the issue. HOWEVER, lawmakers are putting pressured on the extension service not to “get in the middle”, code for “the company paid us a butt load of money or some other deal and we don’t give a shit about our farmers.”

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    • Andy says:

      Every concern you have about GM foods could easily be applied to conventional foods. Unless you think farmers who don’t use GMOs are in business for some altruistic reason? They just want to make sure people have enough to eat? Hell no. They are in it to make a living, just like anyone who makes and sells anything. This greed you speak of…who do you think funds labeling campaigns? Organizations of organic food producers, that’s who.

      Maybe people need to get over their distaste for “greed” and realize that it’s what makes every modern convenience possible.

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      • Phil Persinger says:

        Andy–

        I agree with you to the extent that there is no sure thing about food safety in a global market, but I can’t accept the equivalence you seem to posit between an outfit like Monsanto and a farmer who chooses to grow non-GMO crops– especially if the latter is working on a garden- or truck-farm scale. Not everyone works to maximize his or her income. Any farmer who aspires to that would be wiser buying– licensing, really– seed from Monsanto, Dow or Bayer every winter.

        It’s better, I think, to view the issue as a battle of ideologies– without all the verbal chaff of science or economics. The science will sort itself out over time: please keep in mind that many common medical procedures and treatments are questioned– and even discontinued– with the publication of very long-term studies. And, as we all know deep down, the economic behavior of individuals doesn’t always have a rational basis.

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    • bob says:

      Wow, if you expect the FDA to be bought off, how do you even decide what to eat? Do you grow all your food yourself for fear that the FDA will poison you for a quick buck?

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    • bob says:

      Additionally, I think even Monsanto knows that their short-term profits will take a dive if their customer base is reduced through deaths.

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      • Gus W says:

        What if the harm is not easily attributable to GMOs? What if the harm takes decades or generations to be recognized?

        But most of all, why has Monsanto pushed to get legal indemnification of GMO foods stealthily slipped into Congressional bills without any notice, debate or transparency? If the industry is confident their products will cause no harm, why wouldn’t they make their research public, why lie about cost hikes for labeling, why hire PR firms instead of just showing their scientific findings?

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      • pawnman says:

        It isn’t like Monsanto is the only company. What a field day other seed producers would have if they could prove Monsanto products were killing people.

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      • Average.Random.Joe says:

        Sounds like something the tobacco apologists said a half century ago. How well reasoning has improved in that time. My, my.

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    • abar says:

      it’s not the greed in and of itself, it’s the way greed demand control and control demands things like plants-that-don’t-seed. So when we have a near monopoly (Monsanto) and there aren’t enough farmers with their own diversified seed stock to plant next years food, what happens when the Monsanto seed supply goes bad for some reason? What happens if our entire food supply has the same exact same genome and there is a weakness that shows up in it half way through growing season and the entire US crop of , let’s say corn, dies on the stalk? Corn is an ingredient in about 75% of the food in the grocery store, and the vast majority (88%) of that is GMO corn, with only one gene sequence for the entire crop, it all has the exact same genetic weaknesses.

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    • Brian says:

      Greed. A keyword that people use to make corporations look bad. “greed” is what I would know as good business which tries to make products cheaper so that they will be more competitively priced and therefore, cheaper for you, the consumer. Are you really saying that you want conventional means to be used to make sure that the price stays higher only so that another farmer who doesn’t research into GMO can still sell his not so good crops at the same price as the current market? Are you screaming “greed” when a car company manufactures a more fuel efficient car that blows away other vehicles and protesting against that car company who now saves us money on fuel when we buy their car?

      People are simply afraid of change. They’ll vote for a man who promises change who can’t really change anything in government, but when real change comes, everyone freaks out. Someone changes a food to be better (or cheaper) everyone just tries to come up with a reason why it’s bad rather than accepting that only good has come out of the change.

      GMO is not going to cause health problems. The “natural” crops you eat today were actually modified unnaturally as well by forcing the best growing crops to cross breed with each other (forced by humans) and fertilizer had to be added to help it grow quickly. Everyone freaked out after WWII when this was achieved and attacked it like the attack GMO today, but it helped solve a massive world hunger problem and people are healthier than ever. And now this human altered crop is considered natural? Does anyone actually know what natural wheat is like?

      The only problem I have with GMO is when they try to make the product grow as huge as possible. It just tastes terrible. If they can make GMO crops to taste as good as possible, then all problems are solved in my book. People need to give up the “not healthy” excuse and attack the real problem which is that foods taste terrible these days.

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  2. Dave says:

    I find it interesting that many on the left accuse the right of being anti-science when it comes to things like evolution and global warming, but they can be just as anti-science when it comes to things like GMO’s and “natural” foods.

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    • TedS says:

      To be fair, the right has been (and still is) more frequently anti-science. I do agree with you, though – my fellow liberals can be maddeningly anti-science when it comes to GMOs. The problem is that many people have built up a belief system in which natural things are good/healthy and corporations are bad. You can’t simply change their mind about GMOs with compelling arguments or evidence – you would have to first change those other beliefs as well. Without doing so, good science gets dismissed as having been “bought” by agribusiness and bad science and anecdotes get trumpeted and their conclusions exaggerated.

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    • James says:

      Or nuclear power, which is probably an even bigger leftist anti-science paranoia pushbutton than GMOs.

      The irony here is horizontal gene transfer is a perfectly natural process. Or as Shakespeare puts it

      “this is an art
      Which does mend nature, change it rather, but
      The art itself is nature.”

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      • TedS says:

        Nuclear power is another one, but it’s not as hot right now (at least in the US) as GMOs. It’s ironic that self-described environmental activists contribute to global warming by keeping fossil fuels, rather than nuclear, the status quo for power generation.

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      • Phil Persinger says:

        Ted & James–

        And then we have perfectly uncategorizable phenomena like Jenny McCarthy.

        Left and right politics aside, there’s a real difference between being anti-science and being anti-technology– and being skeptical of either or both. Consider the hypothetical supporter of nuclear power (or enthusiastic Internet browser) who is also a creationist and almost surely a quantum- mechanics-denier.

        If one is skeptical of the wisdom of the proliferation of GMOs or nuclear power plants, that doesn’t necessarily make one anti-science. DDT, atomic weaponry, Three Mile Island, Bhopal, Fukushima, etc.: the problem is not the science but the technology (and the management of that technology) we’ve chosen to deploy in order to harness the science. Maybe one is just worried that the other shoe will drop.

        Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4
      • James says:

        “…the problem is not the science but the technology…”

        No. While I certainly wouldn’t claim that there aren’t problems with technology as well, it seems that the real psychological problems are down to a lack of understanding of the basic science. So we have e.g the “Omigawd it’s radioactive, we’re all gonna DIE!” nuts, who never bother to question (until afterward) the technonogical wisdom of building ANYTHING on a tsunami-prone shoreline.

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      • Phil Persinger says:

        James–

        I’ll grant you your point, because there is a big passel of Jennys out there.

        It’s less-than-thought-through technology, slip-shod management and god-awful PR that have soured the Jennys– and a lot of others– on the promise and romance of cutting-edge science. Back in the day, science was an a priori good whether or not one understood it. I’m old enough to remember a proposal by ConEd to build a nuclear power plant on the East River in Queens, NYC. Many people bought into the idea at the time, but that was before Three Mile Island; no one would buy into it now, be they Jennys or Feynmans. The science is the same, the technology is undoubtedly better– but who would (or should) trust the planning and management?

        Nice Shakespeare quote, by the way…

        Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1
      • TedS says:

        Events such as Three Mile Island and Fukushima are not trivial, but such events are incredibly rare. Weighed against the consequences of global warming caused by burning fossil fuels that’s still an easy choice.

        Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
      • Oliver H says:

        Actually, nuclear power has very valid and scientific reasons going against it that are fully in line with standards of risk assessment. People just tend to forget that even small probabilities deal not with whether something happen but with an average frequency.

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      • TedS says:

        France has been using nuclear power safely for decades. Germany has been moving away from it since the Fukushima disaster. Despite pushing conservation and clean energy as much they realistically can, Germany generates a lot more carbon for the power they use. Further, the carbon output has gotten worse in the last few years as they move away from nuclear because they’ve had to burn more coal.

        Global warming is by far the biggest environmental threat of our time. I certainly wouldn’t discourage risk assessment for nuclear power, but the risks have to be weighed against exacerbating global warming.

        Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1
      • Oliver H says:

        Germany has renewable energies well on the way to move to the number 1 energy supplier, having already surpassed nuclear power and bituminous coal. Lignite is still leading but declining. Given that Germany has a carbon dioxide emission per capita that is on par with Japan, despite the strong use of nuclear power by the latter, your suggestion that Germany is exacerbating the risk of global warming with its policy is somewhat, ahem, fanciful.

        As for nuclear power, you ignore the fact that rarity of events is not an argument when the worst case is simply not considered acceptable. You are probably falling for the common mistake to believe that an event happening once in a hundred (or a hundred thousand) years happens only once every hundred (thousand) years, but the rarity is simply an averaged frequency and does not indicate any safe period whatsoever. They key question is: “Are you willing to live with a worst-case scenario?” and if the answer is “no”, then the only conclusion is to not use something. And given that the worst case scenario for pretty much every alternative, including potential future fusion reactors, look relatively harmless compared to many a fission reactor, I say that the money would be better spent in developing alternatives.

        Incidentally, France had to shut down many of their reactors when the rivers used for cooling did not carry enough water. With an expected rise in extreme summer weather, that’s likely to happen more often in future, making these plants not particularly reliable.

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      • TedS says:

        I’m not trying to disparage Germany’s clean energy – which is a good thing – but it simply isn’t ready yet to replace nuclear power. Replacing nuclear power with renewable energy makes sense. Replacing it with coal, as Germany has also been doing in the last few years by rapidly scaling back nuclear power, does not.

        You seem to keep dodging the issue that avoiding nuclear power means burning more fossil fuels, which means more global warming. Maybe that won’t be the case in the future, but it is now. Our choices are the small risk of (mostly minor) nuclear incidents or the certainty of accelerated global warming. Measured by economic impact, deaths, disruption of lives, etc., those nuclear disasters don’t compare to global warming. I am absolutely willing to live with your supposed worst case scenario if it is the unlikely consequence of addressing global warming.

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      • James says:

        “… rarity of events is not an argument when the worst case is simply not considered acceptable.”

        That’s the whole anti-science argument in a nutshell. Fukushima is perhaps as close as we can get to a perfect object lesson. On the one hand, we have a nuclear “disaster” in which no one died (from radiation, at least: I understand that several people died as a consequence of the forced evacuation), but the resulting hysteria causes shutdown of other nuclear plants and their replacement with fossil fuels, which will indisputably cause many deaths.

        On the other hand, some 15,000 people died in the tsunami. There have been similar tsunamis on that coast in the past (under the shoguns, markers were posted to warn future generations of the danger), and undoubtedly there will be others in the future. Yet hardly anyone seems at all bothered by the fact that Japan is spending billions to rebuild in the danger zone.

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      • Linch says:

        “you ignore the fact that rarity of events is not an argument when the worst case is simply not considered acceptable”

        1) You and I have very different notions of what constitute a “fact.”

        2)This is patently ridiculous unless you have infinite risk aversion. If you give me a button that has a 50% chance of curing all diseases, providing human being with cheap and efficient space travel and nearby colonizable planets+biological immortality, but also a .0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001% chance of killing every person on this planet, well, first of all I probably doubt the button really does what you say it does. But I’ll definitely press it.

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      • Oliver H says:

        “You and I have very different notions of what constitute a “fact.””

        Yes. You evidently believe it’s whatever you claim it to be.

        “This is patently ridiculous unless you have infinite risk aversion. If you give me a button that has a 50% chance of curing all diseases, providing human being with cheap and efficient space travel and nearby colonizable planets+biological immortality, but also a .0000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001% chance of killing every person on this planet, well, first of all I probably doubt the button really does what you say it does. But I’ll definitely press it.”

        Thanks for demonstrating how eminently scientific your arguments are. Aside from having an overinflated ego and certain antidemocratic tendencies, the argument unfortunately proves very little.

        Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2
      • Oliver H says:

        @Linch:

        In future, before grandstanding on risk and probabilities, maybe make sure first that you understand the difference between single-time events and continuous processes.

        Cause, you know, it happens to be important.

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    • Dan says:

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      • James says:

        On the contrary, they are diametric opposites. In one case, global warming, intelligent people follow the science even though it might cause some short-term inconvenience. In the other, the opposition ignores the science, even though it would benefit them.

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    • BOO says:

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      • James says:

        1) Correlation is not causation.
        2) Youtube is not a recognized scientific journal.

        And personally, if you want me to give any consideration whatsoever to any argument, you will make the effort to write it. (Preferrably in English, but I’ll make a stab at French & Spanish.) Life’s too short to use Youtube for anything but funny pet videos.

        Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2
      • abar says:

        @ James
        1) Correlation is not causation, BUT causation does result in correlation. So correlation is a red flag.
        2) Nice ad homiem. The fact that YouTube isn’t a peer reviewed journal does not make the facts presented there less real.

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  3. Nate says:

    I don’t “fear” GMOs but I have a TON of questions that I don’t believe are being answered. How does GM change the bioavailability of all the different nutrients of the food? How does it affect how the consumer’s body process the food and what are the health risks to eating foods that your body doesn’t recognize because of these genetic changes? What side effects on livestock fed with GM products carry forward to the people who then eat the livestock or their products, such as milk, cheese, eggs, etc. I think these are legitimate concerns that have either not been thoroughly studied or ignored when tests reveal internal complications such as precancerous cell formation, changes in blood cell counts , allergies, and many others are marginalized and/or ignored by organizations both public and private.

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    • Enter your name... says:

      (1) How does GM change the bioavailability of all the different nutrients of the food?

      Not at all. You get just as many calories, carbohydrates, vitamins, etc out of the food as you would if you poured the same “chemicals” (you know, like Vitamin A in golden rice) right on top of the food.

      (2) How does it affect how the consumer’s body process the food and what are the health risks to eating foods that your body doesn’t recognize because of these genetic changes?

      Not at all. Your body doesn’t recognize “food”. It recognizes “chemicals” like “starches” and “proteins”. A European caveman’s body is just as capable of dealing with sugar cane and potatoes as yours, even though those two foods were exclusively present on other continents. Your body does not know or care whether the bt “chemical” got into your stomach by eating underwashed carrots (where it’s present naturally) or by eating GMO soybeans.

      (3) What side effects on livestock fed with GM products carry forward to the people who then eat the livestock or their products, such as milk, cheese, eggs, etc.

      None. That’s been tested extensively.

      It’s possible that you could do something remarkably stupid and expensive, like overdosing the livestock on a massively vitamin-enhanced product, in which case you’d have slightly higher vitamin content in the animal products, but that already happens without GMO products, when you have people who are bad at math adding vitamin supplements.

      Eating DNA does not change your DNA. If you eat a bunch of plants, your cells don’t decide that 46 chromosomes is so human, so let’s have 18 of them like carrots. That’s not how it works.

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  4. Ed Rybicki says:

    “Indeed, taking a gene from a soil bacterium (Bacillus thuringiensis – Bt) that produces a natural pesticide and injecting that gene into the DNA of a soy plant, is hardly Mother Nature’s way of hybridising plants.” Ummmm…FAIL! Sorry, that is EXACTLY how Mother Gaia engineers plants, via Agrobacterium tumefaciens: that bug causes crown gall by inserting DNA into the host plant cells that provides a nice little niche environment for the bacterium to grow.

    In fact, if people actually understood just how much other DNA finds its way into plant genomes, they would lose all fear of GMOs. Or, alternatively, not eat anything ever again – which wwould be a fitting Darwinian punishment for stupidity.

    Seriously: just the tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) genome, for example, contains genes or sequences derived from Agrobacterium, from plant-infecting single-stranded DNA geminiviruses, from single-stranded RNA potyviruses, from insects that feed on plants, and from other bacteria and probably from fungi. NATURALLY.

    In fact, some of those sequences probably adventitiously help tobacco resist certain pathogens – so Nature/Gaia did something millenia ago that we are only just copying now.

    ANd if we want to get radical, all mammals owe the fact they can make a placenta to one or other retrovirus that inserted into an ancestral genome, and left a bit behind.

    Genetic engineering is NATURAL, people: its been going on throughout the evolutionary history of life on this and probably other planets. We humans have just learned how to direct it better, is all.

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    • Oliver H says:

      “Ummmm…FAIL! Sorry, that is EXACTLY how Mother Gaia engineers plants, via Agrobacterium tumefaciens: that bug causes crown gall by inserting DNA into the host plant cells that provides a nice little niche environment for the bacterium to grow.”

      FAIL! Sorry. Mother Nature takes a wee bit more time to weed out what doesn’t work and doesn’t mass-spread the latest creation over the whole planet within a few years. Mother Nature has no incentive to do so, a company losing patent rights within 20 years, however, has every incentive to have as many farmers as possible globally use their product as quickly as possible.

      “Genetic engineering is NATURAL, people: its been going on throughout the evolutionary history of life on this and probably other planets. We humans have just learned how to direct it better, is all.”

      You’ve evidently never had a genetic engineering experiment produce anything BUT the expected outcome. We have learned how to direct it better? How presumptuous. A lot of our engineering is still tinkering with systems we understand only rudimentarily. Attempts to integrate DNA stably into a genome have ended at times instead of a cure in replacing one disease with another.

      Acting as if molecular biology was a closed subject in which everything there was to know is known is highly naive.

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  5. Kristine a says:

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    • Andy says:

      No, there are not cases of that happening. There were cases where GM corn was suspected of causing allergic reactions, but after investigation it turned out to be other things.

      That increase in health issues and allergies has also coincided with the rise in organic produce. You could just as easily blame them. Without a causal relationship, there’s no evidence that GM foods are causing these things.

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    • James says:

      I don’t quite see the problem, if these allergic reactions do in fact occur. People can be allergic to all sorts of perfectly natural foods, from eggs to peanuts to shellfish. So should I not be able to enjoy a dish of pad thai, just because someone else might be allergic?

      As for Monsanto… Monsanto is not genetic engineering, genetic engineering is not Monsanto. Sure, that particular company’s business practices leave a lot to be desired (and current laws probably should be changed to take reality into account), but do you try to ban cell phones because you don’t like your particular provider?

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  6. Steve says:

    I’d say it’s because the people that say it is safe can only do so from the limited and likely biased sampling done by the promoter of the GMO product.

    The of a radioactive particle used in the above paragraph (which is a risk in both situations) is not the same as the GMO example.

    The risk of the “unnatural” change (of gene splicing between very different living things) is that because it is completely new and not likely to ever happen on its own, we have no basis for saying that it was “ok”. There is no historical evidence that showed that the introduction of this into the wild was successful / helpful / hurtful – evolutionary.

    What we have is limited testing that was paid for by the developer, restricted by the developer, and because they’ve said it was successful, promoted by the developer.

    We hear that certain things can and have happened:
    - only those that covenant with the producer in the way desired are allowed to test
    - tests are repeated until successful results can be shown
    - result data is squashed under threat of lawsuit
    - possible side effects are brushed aside
    - products recalled without comment

    Then combine this the potential risk of outside contamination with actual results – escaped modified crops:
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_food_controversies#Escape_of_modified_crops)

    I’d say that people have a well-founded fear of GMO crops…

    How about this – we require all GMO producers to make their product available (at regular costs) to any researcher that wants to study the product. The researcher is allowed to publish all data and results.

    Then throw something in there to “protect” the producer from bad-guys (btw – the bad guys are getting the product anyway, and they don’t want to publish…).

    I’d feel a whole lot more comfortable if the research and publishing process were not stifled…

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 14 Thumb down 18
    • Enter your name... says:

      Last I heard, any researcher could, in practice, get his hands on as much GMO seed as he wanted, at the regular market price. You just need to talk to a couple of farmers. The seed producers’ contracts can’t really tell the farmer that he’s not allowed to sell his soybeans to individuals who might be inclined to feed them to lab animals rather than to livestock.

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      • Steve says:

        It’s best if you check these sorts of things out…

        “Under the threat of litigation, scientists cannot test a seed to explore the different conditions under which it thrives or fails. They cannot compare seeds from one company against those from another company. And perhaps most important, they cannot examine whether the genetically modified crops lead to unintended environmental side effects.”

        http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-seed-companies-control-gm-crop-research/

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      • Enter your name... says:

        Steve, that contract only applies to people who are “reproducing” the seeds. It does not apply to people who are buying soybeans for the purpose of feeding them to pigs.

        Furthermore, it is a fundamental tenet of law that you cannot bound by a contract that you were never a party to. If a farmer sells you his GMO crop, and you plant it, then the farmer might be in breach for selling it to you (if he knew you were planting it), but you can’t be. “End-user agreements” require your agreement, not mere possession of the product. That’s why I can’t sign a agreement with my bank that says you’ll make my mortgage payment, and that’s why it’s legal for you to sell unopened/uninstalled/unused software on eBay, even if you are not an “authorized dealer”. Only people who have (at any time) agrreed to one of those seed licenses can be bound by them.

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      • Rob says:

        @Steve:

        I would love to see those provisions tested in court. The article didn’t mention whether or not they have been.

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      • Average.Random.Joe says:

        Enter your name… – “End-user agreements” require your agreement, not mere possession of the product.” That isn’t true. This is wrong on so many levels, it is hard where to start. If I obtained the goods though a means that were not legal, I have no rights to the goods. The fenced goods that I buy from a thief or robber will be confiscated and I will be charged if I did so knowing the goods were stolen. IP law regularly prosecutes and wins in cases in which illegally obtained goods that were bought and used by a third party. That third party can’t violate IP rights just because the terms of the original contract were violated. If I have a secret sauce and I contract with all employees to keep it confidential and one hands the recipe to my competitor, I can go after the employee that broke the employee AND the competitor.

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    • Bill says:

      “The risk of the “unnatural” change (of gene splicing between very different living things) is that because it is completely new and not likely to ever happen on its own, we have no basis for saying that it was “ok”. There is no historical evidence that showed that the introduction of this into the wild was successful / helpful / hurtful – evolutionary”

      You couldn’t be more wrong, we have a clear basis for saying it’s OK. We know the exact DNA sequence being inserted, from which we know exactly the amino acid sequence of the protein being produced, and can not only predict more or less how it will behave from this information but directly test it in the laboratory to confirm which is required by the FDA. You’re still falling for the naturalistic fallacy.

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      • Steve says:

        So what you’re saying is that because we know the exact gene sequence that is being removed from Species A, we can very definitely predict all of the ramifications of that change. And even if we can’t, we test to make sure it is ok.

        Fine – please explain this statement from Wikipedia that explicitly says that “Crops not intended for food use are generally not reviewed by authorities responsible for food safety”.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_food_controversies

        “Governments worldwide assess and manage the risks associated with the release of genetically modified organisms and the marketing of genetically modified food on a case by case basis. There are differences in the risk assessment of genetically modified food, and therefore in the regulation of GMOs, among countries. Some of the most marked differences occur between the United States and Europe. Crops not intended for food use are generally not reviewed by authorities responsible for food safety.[81] Food derived from GMOs is not tested in humans before it is marketed as it is not a single chemical, nor is it intended to be ingested in specific doses and times, which makes it difficult to design meaningful clinical studies.[82] Regulators examine the genetic modification, its protein products, and any intended changes that those proteins make to the food.[83] Regulators also check to see whether the food derived from a GMO is “substantially equivalent” to its non-GMO-derived counterpart, which provides a way to detect any negative non-intended consequences of the genetic engineering.[82] If the newly incorporated protein is not similar to that of other proteins found in food or if anomalies arise in the substantial equivalence comparison, further toxicological testing is required.[82]”

        I’m not saying that I know there is an issue – I’m saying the evidence to date has been extremely one sided because the producer prohibits open testing, and does not necessarily test (or reveal test results) on a wider basis.

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      • Oliver H says:

        “You couldn’t be more wrong, we have a clear basis for saying it’s OK. We know the exact DNA sequence being inserted, from which we know exactly the amino acid sequence of the protein being produced, and can not only predict more or less how it will behave from this information but directly test it in the laboratory to confirm which is required by the FDA. You’re still falling for the naturalistic fallacy.”

        No, you are falling for the presumptuousness of partial knowledge. No, you cannot predict more or less how it will behave from this information. To claim so is ridiculous, as it assumes full knowledge of how the protein produced will interact with other proteins and how that, in turn, influences regulatory mechanisms in the target cell.

        If we could predict such things, there would be hardly any reason to do transfection experiments anymore.

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  7. bob says:

    It’s the same with the “organic” label. There are lots of things out there in nature that are poisonous to humans. It’s not automatically safe just because man did not tamper with it (ie, organic).

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  8. Food Fraud says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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