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    A Backdoor Effort To Label Genetically Modified Food
    By Hank Campbell | February 17th 2014 04:05 PM | 33 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone...

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    A Washington state referendum to put warning labels on genetically modified foods, I-522, failed in the last election, but a new effort is more clever - they want to warn the public about Frankenfish and are couching it in an effort to simply make the public aware if it's farm-raised or caught in the wild or, oh yeah, a TRANSGENIC ABOMINATION OF NATURE.

    As many in the science audience know, the AquAdvantage fish has been the victim of a spectacular anti-science governmental fail for over a decade and a half. If you think the left or right is more anti-science, you can use this fish - engineered to grow a little faster than regular farm fish - as evidence. When Republicans controlled Congress, it couldn't get approved, when Democrats controlled Congress it couldn't get approved. When a Republican controlled the White House, it couldn't get approved and when two Democrats controlled the White House, it couldn't get approved.

    House Bill 2143 says consumers have the right to know exactly what kind of fish they are getting thrown at them in the Pike Place Fish Market. I suppose I would agree, if the intent weren't so obvious. It won't look different than any other fish, and it won't taste different than any other fish, but you just need to know it is different than other fish, because it grew a little faster, thanks to the evil tinkerers in science. The belief is that this caters to political constituency fish farmers, no differently than when politicians cave in to corn farmers about ethanol.

    Washington state is a blue state, of course, and there is a reason Democrats in Congress want warning labels on GMOs - because their constituents do. Put "Franken-" in front of almost anything and anti-science progressives are going to be against it because they are motivated by fear - of biology, of vaccines, of energy. Science for progressives is like gay marriage for social conservatives; a slippery slope to Hell. It's why states like Washington and California lead the country in anti-vaccination sentiment also. When conservatives want to put a label on science textbooks because they might contain evolution, they are rightfully mocked for being anti-science. But when progressives want to put a label on food because it might contain GMOs, they are applauded as consumer activists. And science media criticizes the former, but enables the latter, by giving credence to claims it is instead about 'not trusting corporations.'


    This is how anti-science progressives see biology. In this light, those on the right wing not accepting evolution are a lot less dangerous to poor people, because religion does not cause the third world to starve. 

    I noted one time in the LA Times that Frankenstein Was Not A GMO and so this Franken- business makes no sense anyway but, other than a hilarious comment by someone wondering how a science article got published in the LA Times, it didn't change many minds. People scared of science would rather get Dengue fever (well, let poor people get it, anyway) than believe that a harmless critter that helps prevent it could actually be harmless. And this fish is just as harmless.

    Do people want to know what is in or on their food? Without a doubt. But only when prompted to worry about genetically modified foods do people suddenly get worried about them. Only 7 percent simply list it as a concern, while everyone else lists pesticides (usually in regard to conventional farming) or foodborne pathogens (usually in regard to organic farming).

    Food labels are a terrific idea - especially if they include the level of pesticides on organic food, which a government study in Canada found to be higher than conventional food before they quietly swept it under the rug.

    Canadians could probably live in Washington state and feel pretty comfortable about their science mentality.

    Comments

    This article argues disingenuously. We have seen examples of GMO's turning out to be huge mistakes; corn that kills butterflies, or contaminates food crops with inedible strains. While most GMO's are perfectly harmless, they have a potential to be toxic, allergenic, or carcinogenic. Neither I, nor anyone else in this country, has any reason to trust corporations like Monsanto with our health & well being. You don't have to be irrationally anti-GMO to be concerned about clear labeling of our food, and articles like this that ignore real concerns in favor of cheering GMO! GMO! are transparent in their agenda, which is not lamenting the lack of scientific literacy, but instead the lack of blind trust in big agri-business.

    Hank
    I'd like to know about this food crop that became inedible due to GMOs. You have overturned a $100 billion industry by discovering that.
    I can't find a link to the specific incident I was thinking of, but here are some related links. It was about 10 years ago, and if I recall, Taco Bell had to use white corn for their tacos, because an inedible biofuel corn had cross-pollinated most of their yellow corn suppliers. Hmm... maybe the Starlink episode from 2000 is what I was thinking of?
    http://www.organicconsumers.org/ge/tacobellban.cfm
    http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/ciencia/ciencia_geneticfood02.htm
    http://rense.com/general4/gec.htm
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/StarLink_corn_recall

    Hank
    That was a legal issue, not a science or health one.  It was not approved and should not have been sold, that does not make it harmful. Food has to show substantial equivalence and they had not done it.

    You won't find anyone harmed because of GMOs because it has not happened. Not so much as a stomachache. On the other hand, the list of people who have died and been hospitalized due to organic food is quite long.
    Josh Bloom
    "You won't find anyone harmed because of GMOs because it has not happened. Not so much as a stomachache. On the other hand, the list of people who have died and been hospitalized due to organic food is quite long."    

    you go girl!!
    Josh Bloom
    "... because religion does not cause the third world to starve."

    Perhaps not directly, but religion-based objections to birth control and abortion led the U.S. to ban the use of foreign aid for "family planning", and it might be argued that unwanted births are part of the population issues that are, in fact, related to hunger in the third world. Lee's work on food shortages among nomadic groups in northeast Kenya is a great example.

    On the other hand, while I agree that fears about the health risks of GM foods are unfounded, I am struck here, as in the climate change debate and many others, over the extent to which opponents of GMOs believe that they have *better* science; the claim that they are 'anti-science' seems weak. 'Science' is a tool used by both sides of many of these debates, and is not rejected by one side as much as both sides think they have superior science. For example, I read a series of papers recently on the risks of fluoridation, all of which certainly appeal to 'science' to make the case that fluoridation is harmful. The clearest examples of "anti-science" positions that I see are Creationist claims on the order of 'God said it, I believe it.' That's a real rejection of 'science,' not just an effort to trot out better science, and that's quite different from the anti-GMO crowd or the climate change deniers who think that there is empirical evidence to back up their position. Dave Taylor

    Typically if you ask for a link to their "better science" they will give you links to discredited studies, activist sites, and youtube. Not really sources I would call scientifically rigorous.

    Hank
    Well put. 

    Now, I don't necessarily side with you on implicating religion in starvation by one religion being against birth control. It is to easy to implicate almost anyone or anything when using second-order effects. There is no way to know how many people would not have starved if birth control were everywhere, whereas we can have a high degree of accuracy in how many real deaths and instances of blindness occurred because of irrational protests against Golden Rice.

    The rest of your comment is spot on, but it misses a psychological point; the zealots against GMOs - and I don't mean the sincere skeptics and the moderate precautionary principle people, any more than I mean the 85% of Catholics who accept evolution when it comes to being anti-science - do have their beliefs as a religious fervor. Hook up an anti-GMO activist and an evangelical preacher to an fMRI and get them talking and their brains are going to be firing the same way.

    A rejection of science is 'would any evidence change your mind?' and while I laud your belief that anti-global warming or anti-GMO people just need a little more evidence and they will come to the middle, 8 years, 100,000 articles and 100 million visitors is a pretty good amount of data - and I just don't see fundamentalists against vaccines, energy, food, climate science or evolution ever changing their minds. Fortunately, that is not how policy gets made, instead about 10% of any group ends up making the difference. But as we see in efforts to put warning labels on GMOs by Democrats or efforts to squash CO2 mitigation by Republicans, they may have defectors from the other party but they are both solidly representing core constituents. Politicians are not forcing their constituents to adopt a position, they are carefully adopting positions their voters want.
    Thanks for your reply. Your point about the psychological issue of, shall we say, intransigent adherence in the face of counter evidence is important, and reminds me of the problem of demarcating what/who is 'science' in the first place? Latour brought this up years ago in Science in Action when he traced spirals of debate and challenges outside of relatively small communities of "science", much of which had little to do with Science in any classical sense, but could have massive impact on policy. Since most politicians are not scientists -- or are not scientists specializing in the vast majority of technoscience issues they legislate about -- what you identify is perhaps closer to anti-scientist rather than anti-science. My friends who object to GMOs seem more driven by distrust of Big Agriculture and Monsanto than by passionate adherence to a flawed biology or physiology, and I find it more effective to chip away at their anti-corporatism than to criticize their commitment to 'science', but in the end these are dinner party debates of little consequence. I'm more concerned on a daily basis about patients who trust more in miracles than medicine.

    I think there is a good natural experiment underway to test or measure the impact of religious based bans on foreign aid: Clinton reversed the Bush (1) policy; and Obama reversed the Bush (2) policy blocking such aid, and the results have been measurable. In brief, foreign aid for fertility limitation lowers birth rates and reduces stress on food resources. This may be a secondary result, but so what? The impetus for the restrictive policies was religious, and the effects have been palpable. Let's not propose that death is merely the secondary effect of decapitation; systems are more complex than that.

    Hank
    Ah, even then it depends on the prism you use. From a practical point of view, Bush did more to help Africa than Clinton (the perception is, of course, otherwise because 'he is a Democrat') and if a starving person has to get handed a pamphlet to do it, they don't care. I would rarely quote Bob Geldof, but there is no one on Planet Earth who has done more to improve the lives of starving Africans than Mr. Live Aid: "You'll think I'm off my trolley when I say this, but the Bush administration is the most radical - in a positive sense - in its approach to Africa since Kennedy...Clinton was a good guy, but he did fuck all."

    Obama simply repackaged Bush policies and called them his own and tries to take credit for it. My example is just to show that most people are going to frame things the way they want to frame them - I don't care about how religious Bush was, if it caused him to care about starving people more than Clinton or Obama - and he did more for them than Clinton or Obama - then I would cede to him the benefits of a liturgical society in that instance.

    If we think nation-building is hard - bordering on impossible - the hubris of trying to impose cultural change is even harder. Africans have cultural and religious practices that are suspect to us - we did not create an anti-birth-control culture there - but if we demand we change those first, we are killing them.

    We have seen the pattern in every developed country; population control follows wealth and wealth follows food. Insisting that population control happen first is in defiance of both history and the evidence and so it is probably doomed to fail. They need food - which we can help them grow locally, if we accept science and activists get out of the way. 
    Hmm. We don’t disagree so much as I find claims about the relative merits of Bush versus Clinton or Obama in Africa to be non sequitur. The point was that there has been a religiously motivated foreign aid policy that had effects on population and hunger. That remains a fact. It has been documented in Kenya and Namibia, where I've seen it first hand, and no doubt elsewhere.

    Now, I hesitate to debate details of African culture(s) or the complicated relationship between income and fertility. I have spent only two years in sub-Saharan Africa, providing medical care while my wife, and anthropologist and human rights lawyer, was doing research. She, however, has spent much more time than that in Africa, and has seen and recorded the effects of international policies on numerous local communities. She is smart enough not to debate amateurs, but since I am also an amateur I don’t mind. She points out that for thousands of years the population of human forager communities was small, and only grew rapidly with the invention of plant domestication and a shift to horticulture. In other words, “wealth” – here the availability of resources – led to population growth, as the additional energy available (Marvin Harris’s terms) was converted into children. In marginal communities today, in parts of Kenya and in Namibia by my first-hand experience, community size is just about at the carrying capacity of the local land, and thus food resource availability is highly sensitive to small shifts in population. These are the settings in which fertility regulation is needed to keep populations small, or, as Lee documented in the work I mentioned earlier, child mortality rises, and the elderly die earlier due to nutritional pressure.

    These are technical epidemiological issues, but I don’t think it is possible to dismiss the role of religiously based foreign aid policy on such outcomes. That’s not just me talking: this is the position of WHO, USAID, OAS, etc. At the same time, your broader point about the barriers to rational science policy strikes me as sound, and if I am quibbling over a miniscule point I should acknowledge that on the bigger issues we agree.

    Dave Taylor

    Thank you both for intellegent well-stated posts. It made reading articles on the computer worthwhile.

    I am an organic farmer, so on the surface one would automatically assume that I should join the non-GMO crowd. I used to farm using gmo's and spraying the crops with pesticides but was driven in the organic direction in 1999 because of economics. which is exactly how I see this argument. I do not care about any of the science behind non-gmo vs gmo because in the end the marketplace will decide. If consumers start demanding to have state or county or even farm of origin labeling on their food then they will get it. and believe me it will soon be here. So, in the end it doesn't matter where you stand on this issue. At the end of the day the big retailers will demand of their suppliers to do what will benefit them(retailers). No matter how much money Monsanto or any other company wants to throw at beating back the tides of food labeling they will eventually lose. people are starting to get more educated on their food purchases and vote everyday with their dollar on the way it should be

    Consumers have a right to know where their money is going, and which corporations it is supporting. That is besides the right to decide for ourselves what we choose to eat. Science has been known to be wrong from time to time. Aside from that, there are reasons other than food safety or scientific proof for the choices we make. In the grand scheme of things, genetic science is in its infancy. There is much that is not known. Insufficient time has passed to know if unforeseen results will occur. I am not anti-science, but I do not think that these efforts are science-led. They are profit-seeking, and that leads to corner cutting. Take the corporations out of the equation, and the conversation might change. As long as GE technology is a 'corporate asset', the discussion will continue to be about whether ownership of the food supply is ethical, and at least some consumers will continue to reject it - for reasons beyond the science.

    I absolutely agree that the consumer has the right to know. BUT, wading though all the information to become a true educated consumer can be a full time job. We all know that the results of scientific studies change as often as most change their pants; i.e. salt, butter vs. margarine, coffee, caffeine, ddt, omega-3's and on and on and on. The best thing that I think someone can do to bypass all of the haze out there is to get to know a farmer and buy direct from him. Ask him his practices on his farm and if what you get from him/her up to your families needs then continue to buy from that person. If more consumers would take an active approach to their food we could improve our local economies, pollution, health and so on and so forth. It doesn't have to be organic or even non-gmo for that matter but the locality of its source is the key.

    Hank
    I agree with both of you. When organic food has been found to have more pesticides than conventional food, the public should know about that - because pesticides have been shown to be harmful. No tests have found GMOs to be harmful and yet multiple states have put forth efforts to put warning labels on GMOs, and California's initiative went so far as to exempt organic food, alcohol and restaurants, which made even less sense if consumer choice was really the issue, and not accomplishing through law what the $29 billion organic food industry can't accomplish in the marketplace.

    All of the health fads and scare journalism 2.0 mentions were perpetuated by mainstream media, the same people who have given traction to GMO worries. They give equal time to environmental hysterics and science even though they are nowhere near equal, it is incredibly lopsided false balance. Science never changed its mind on DDT, for example, science dismissed Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" as a bunch of anecdotes - but media gave it attention, the public bought the book, hearings were held and it was banned. There are no legitimate scientists - zero - who have found a problem with GMOs after almost two decades in use. One philospher crackpot from India and a charlatan in France get as much attention as every science organization, though. There is a difference between science studies and epidemiological correlations and the examples 2.0 lists were all the latter.

    I also agree there should be food choice but the demographic most inclined to declare there should be labels is most inclined to ban food and deny choice - they did it with trans fats, they did it with soda. And they have tried to ban GMOs. So the first commenter is actually bucking the majority of people concerned about GMOs in endorsing choice. The progressives against biology absolutely do not want choice. They want to choose for us.

    As someone who grew up on a farm, I agree the only way to really know what pesticides are on food remains to ask the farmer - if you buy it at Whole Foods thinking it has no pesticides you are buying a dangerous bit of advertising. You had better wash your organic food from there or any farmer's market or any store unless you are sure. 

    From a science point of view, GMOs are harmless, but it is correct to worry about pesticide levels.
    I agree with you Hank of being rightfully skeptical of organic food in any supermarket, and do not wish for any food to be banned. A person has the right to choose any product they want whether they are choosing based on price points or a label on the cellophane wrapper on the foam tray. The last thing I want is for the elimination of choice because that cancer could and would spread to all parts of society in America(or is I mean).
    I was wrong in saying scientific studies in reference to butter/ddt, etc. I know that they are fuel for an agenda that the person on the other end of it wants to put out, and it is usually successful to a degree. 90 percent of what the average American reads is propaganda anyway.
    I am not what most would consider "educated" but I do consider myself up to date on what is going on around the country in regards to our food regardless of the label. I am someone that is in the trenches everyday of this food "warfare" that is being waged. regardless of where you stand on the issue I do not think that it is fair to consider organic/non-gmo a fad at this point. It is growing and will continue to grow because consumers want to know more about what they are eating. I am just saying that consumers are going to continue to demand transparency from everyone in ag-business and I know where I want to be when the shoe falls.
    Say what you want about Vandana though Hank, there is a reason people like her have the following that they do. Right wrong or indifferent people like her aren't going away, they are only going to multiply.

    Hank
    Yep, and I think transparency is terrific - just not selective transparency. Big Organic should not be allowed to exempt itself but all of the initiatives to-date have been done just that way.

    Vandana will never be taken seriously by science because she hyperbolically compares farmers to rapists - it's the kind of nonsense activist crackpots do. What is a shame is that feminists are apparently so desperate for people to embrace them that they let her get away with trivializing rape that way.

    I do have a little more optimism about the wisdom of crowds. I don't think anti-science beliefs about food are going to snowball, I think just the opposite - that when people realize they have been duped by labeling and selective transparency the market corrects itself. And they are beginning to realize it.
    I think we absolutely agree that the marketplace should be left alone as it is and that legislation shouldn't dictate a producer's operation. Also that when someone spends there money that they should know up-front what they are getting regardless of what genre of food product it is that they buy. Believe you me I am no advocate for "big" Organic anymore than "big" Bayer or what have you. I want to be left alone to make my own decisions just as much as my neighbor, who decides to plant the triple stax. I dont judge him as i would hope that he wouldn't judge me. It is a choice of operation that each person gets to make.

    Vandana doesn't need to be taken scientifically. I understand her correlation of rape, don't agree with the rhetoric, but i know it was used as shock factor. I could definitely care less what the feminists think of it. But on her part, do you think she wants to convince scientists, or consumers and farmers who are a vast, vast percentage of the world. She can speak the language of a large percentage of consumers in the U.S. and a very small part of the farmers in the U.S. But she speaks directly to a large majority of the farmers in third world countries. I realize that third world country farmers may embrace our technology when they see what it can do for them, but do they want it? I dont know if it is right or wrong for them I'm just a pebble in the road in the grand scheme of things but i know how i would feel in their situation. Change is hard to swallow.

    In regards to the wisdom of the masses, who knows. Economists get things wrong all the time. Markets do not do what grain analysts expect all the time and weathermen are wrong more than not, or at least it seems with hay on the ground. On that i hope the scientists are right and my inner skeptic is wrong. Time will tell. You have a stance and a belief and defend it very well. I hope you are right.

    It seems pretty simple to me. If it is harmless and the same as other food, why are producers of GMOs afraid of having their products labeled?

    The notion that they've been "proven safe" is absolutely ludicrous. It does take a scientist to tell you that we can't know the long-term effects of GMOs when they were only first available in 1996.

    The WHO says that gene transfer is plausible even though "unlikely".

    Nor does is this really comforting.
    http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2012/09/gmo-corn-rat-tumor.

    I for one would be much less suspect of GMOs if the companies that made them didn't go so such large lengths to try to prevent their labeling and control studies.

    Hank
    Your comment makes no sense. "why are producers of GMOs afraid of having their products labeled?"

    Okay, let's force you to wear a shirt that says "I do not beat my wife". Why would you be afraid to do that? Have you not stopped beating your wife?

    You linked to an anti-science, politically partisan publication that was talking about a paper that was retracted due to a lack of data and shown to be fraudulent (actually, if you had read the study and know the rats he used, fewer rats got cancer than should have gotten - that particular line gets cancer 80% of the time after two years and fed GMOs they only got cancer 70%) - I do not think it is making your case the way you thought it was.
    You obviously didn't read the article because it states plainly that the study was inconclusive and didn't say what anti-GMO activists said it did. But sure, let's talk about that retraction.

    The article should never have been retracted. It was retracted AFTER the journal hired a former Monsanto employee as an editor. And it was retracted even though it didn't fit the standard that ethical regulations require for retraction. It was tantamount to scientific censorship.

    A. Wallace Hayes, editor of the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology, made a statement when the article was retracted. In it he said, found no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data," but after reviewing Séralini's raw data, determined the results were "not incorrect," but "inconclusive," and therefore not suitable for publication.

    "NOT INCORRECT" ... doesn't sound like it's wholly discredited to me.

    The Committee on Publication Ethics, which Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology is a member of states that editors should only consider retracting a study if there is evidence of plagiarism, unethical research, or unreliable findings based on misconduct or honest error.

    Under that standard, the article should have been left in the publication. At best, they should have issued a correction or statement or better yet, publish scholarly criticism. The retraction IS MORE DAMNING than the scant evidence in the study.

    As for rats, those same rats were used in several other studies published by the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology that concluded that GMOs were safe... those studies apparently were not "tainted" by the use of those rats.

    The International Journal of Biological Sciences notes that the most detailed regulatory tests on the GMOs are three-month long feeding trials of laboratory rats, which are biochemically assessed. The tests are not compulsory, and are NOT INDEPENDENTLY CONDUCTED. The test data and corresponding results are kept in secret by the companies.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2952409/

    That is not science.

    As for your poorly crafted analogy the old "have you not stopped beating your wife?" question, it's simply not apt. A much more apt comparison is the notion of informed consent to a medical procedure. What you are arguing is that informed consent is not needed and that by informing the patient they'll make a poor decision. Therefore doctors ought to just do what's "best" for the patient without their knowledge.

    Not labeling GMOs is inherently different that other products. You are in essence forcing people to eat GMOs. Because there is no way (absent genetic testing) to distinguish the products apart, if GMOs are not labeled, the only way to avoid them would be to obtain your own non-GMO seeds and grow your own food. And to me, that is the motivation of the GMO producers... to get into the food supply secretly so that consumers have no way to make a choice. And that's what you want. You want to force some people to eat things they don't want to.

    I for one find it incredulous that any person who believes in science thinks that we can conclusively know much of anything about the long-term effects of GMOs that have only been around for 20 years. Are GMOs more susceptible to genetic mutations? Can you say that with confidence when speaking about a time-frame of 20 years? 50 years? How long does it take cancer to develop in cigarette smokers?

    And there is no comparison to climate science denial and anti-GMO activists. We have weather records going back at least 100 years. We have data that's available to the entire public. GMOs have been around since the mid 90s, and the data from testing is only available to the GMO companies and people who they approve.

    If you want to make the case that the benefits of GMOs outweigh the risks that's fine. There are plenty of benefits to tout, but to say there are NO risks, or that it's settled science is preposterous. The WHO won't say the science is settled, the NHI won't say the science is settled but you say listening to them makes me anti-science. Get real. I'm neither an anti-GMO activist nor a proponent. What I am is open-minded, reasonable and logical. I already eat GMOs but do think is that everybody ought to be able to make that choice for themselves. And I don't think it's some kind of insanity for a person to wish to avoid the risk, however limited, of eating them.

    Finally, unlike climate change or vaccinations, my choice to eat or not eat GMOs isn't going to endanger the health and safety of my neighbors and/or fellow Earthlings.

    The National Institute of Health gives the following recommendation regarding GMOs:

    "Genetically engineered foods are generally regarded as safe. There has been no adequate testing, however, to ensure complete safety. There are no reports of illness or injury due to genetically engineered foods."

    And I think that's about right... and fair.

    Of course complete safety is an awfully high bar and it shouldn't be the standard by which things are released into the marketplace. But that's not what we're talking about. We're talking about giving people information and allowing them to choose. GMOs will have plenty advantages in the marketplace to offset any imagined/assumed resistance to GMOs. Higher yields and easier management mean lower prices and that's the decision that consumers will have to make.

    Hank
    The article should never have been retracted. It was retracted AFTER the journal hired a former Monsanto employee as an editor.
    Your conspiracy tale is unconvincing. It was retracted because it became clear it should never have been published - and wouldn't have been in a real journal. It included no data, he refused to show any data and when even the EU - where they are terrifically anti-science - asked for his data he refused to show it, saying everyone is in a vast conspiracy against him.

    You quote the NIH site so I did a search for that quote. I don't know if you are being intentionally dishonest or simply don't know that is Medline, hosted at the NIH, and is not required to use any studies. It's basically Wikipedia for medical questions, written by whoever feels like writing.  The editor works for Ebix, Inc., for example, so I did a search for that company and they do "Insurance Software Development Software outsourcing."

    So you won't accept science but you will accept anything that feeds into your distrust of science if it is verified by an insurance company employee - yet you don't trust the companies that actually do science, they are unethical by their very existence? That crazy logic may convince other Mother Jones readers, but it is not going to convince starving people who want to grow food or anyone in science.
    please, as a plebian, define science. Most of the dying generation of farmers (70+ yrs old, which is the bulk of them) are skeptical of modern agriculture. They are born and bred on the land, and have a true feel for it. So the last twenty years of "science" is supposed to negate that?? We are either at the boon of modern agriculture that will change the world forever, or we are the generation that our descendants will curse forever for raping the land....................

    I don't know the answer, nobody does, pick your side and hope that your great great grandchildren forgive you

    Hank
    Let's not bog the audience down in philosophical sophistry and boring gibberish about personal definitions of 'science'. If people don't know what science is, they should read Mother Jones or other places.

    The farmers who had a "feel" for the land in the age range you listed loved DDT and thought that policy makers were crazy for banning it. They loved science, they embraced it, for one obvious reason:


    So I don't think you should be speaking for farmers, since their take on science has been quite clear. The only farmers protesting science today are the ones overcharging for 'organic' food. These old farmers used far more pesticides and herbicides than are used today.

    I grew up on a farm and it baffles me that someone 20 years older than me had some mystical 'connection' to the land that my generation lacked.
    DDT was great and they were right, it saved countless thousands of lives. It was crazy that it got banned because of public outcry over one person's objections.

    I do not speak for all farmers in that age range, just the many i know in a small part of the country on some of the most productive soil in the world. They don't know what they are uneasy with, they just know this isn't what THEY consider farming. Of course the majority of farmers today buy into science because in the rural community it is the only thing that is pushed, and the only thing they know. Between lack of information and peer pressure a farmer will never go in a different direction than where the herd is already headed. I can't blame them, they are feeding the world for goodness sake.........

    The chart is nice and i know we are very efficient on a farmer per acre basis compared to those that came before us, but where are those bushels going? how many people does an acre of 165(roughly this years national avg.) bushel corn feed, and i mean directly? some will go to ethanol, some to livestock, some exported, etc. I know there is a number that is put out there and it sure makes people feel good when each acre is feeding "x" amount of people. But we can do better than that, because last time i checked people do not live off of corn and soybeans alone.
    Back to efficiency, Sure iowa corn goes to kansas feedlots and illinois corn that doesn't go down the river goes to chickens in georgia depending on the year, but is that as efficient as it gets? The farmer may spend less man hours on his fields directly but how many man hours does it take to get NH3 from texas, ship potash in, ship seed in from out of state, three passes with the sprayer, and the trucking to get all of that product where it needs to go. If we factor all of that in to the man hour equation i highly doubt the chart looks nearly as dramatic. There is way more off farm logistics involved today than there was years ago. The amount of fuel burned to make all of that possible is mind boggling, just so your average grain farmer can spend less time per 100 bushel of corn. I can't help but think that the tradeoff is beneficial. I don't believe in man-made global warming or climate change or whatever it is called now, but it still seems like we could do better.

    And I'm sure there is some organic farmer out there somewhere that is overcharging for their product via dishonesty in practice or whatever it is, that happens in all industries. Just like any business, if you are honestly doing that then you will not be in business for long. If the markets support people paying a premium for "organic" food then it isnt overcharging. It is simply charging a price that the marketplace demands, if one farmers is to high they will move on to the next where it is cheaper. In all honesty the organic prices DIRECTLY from the farmer not the supermarket are a much truer form of free markets than the CBOT.

    Farmers from an older generation didn't have a "mystical" connection to their land, they just apparently spent more man hours on the soil and knew that a one size fits all plan didn't work for them.

    B

    "If people don't know what science is, they should read Mother Jones"

    And with that, you just lost all credibility.

    Hank
    With who, Mother Jones readers? They don't read science anyway. You are welcome to insert any publication that puts politics first and science last; Fox News, Grist, you name it.
    I think the debate over GMO's is nearly as beat up and boring as any topic that comes up in the beltway. Do I agree with it? Don't I agree with it? What does it matter as long as we still have the free choice in America to make the decisions where to spend our dollars? Don't get me wrong, it is easier to pick up a "GMO" fed pork chop than a non gmo, but we still have that choice. We live in the greatest country in the world where we take for granted free choice, and then argue which choice is the best????????????

    Just buy what you think is right and tell your friends about it, if they join you then great, if not then I guess my neighbor who raises GMO crops will still be able to feed his kids. While we still have the option to vote with our dollar in a free market society I think we waste a decent amount of time debating what will eventually be decided by the natural force of the marketplace. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . NOW back to obamacare

    Great article! Genetic modification often comes across as evil or dangerous (see Prometheus), but it is this kind of research which will likely be the only way we as a species survives over the long term.

    One thing I find quite interesting is that GMO's, in general, were started to relieve believed future food shortages. Initially praised because of the ability to feed the world are now condemned because some companies make money off them. And this is really the crux of the issue. If someone is making money it becomes instantly evil. If the creators of GMO's were altruistic you would probably see many of these same people singing a different tune.

    Again, great article.

    Hank Campbell thinks "food" created in a laboratory is the same as food created by God.

    The God Complex is a live and well with these so-called "scientists".

    Josh Bloom
    Let's see if you know anything about this.  Before recombinant DNA techniques, how were new and different varieties of foods (seedless watermelons and bananas for example) made? 
    Josh Bloom
    Mr, Bloom I know that you are attempting to discredit the comment you are responding to by making them feel ignorant to the advances of science. It would be like me quizzing you on what are the most effective ways to raise organic crops/livestock. Of the two subjects you know much about one and your victim may know more about the other. I don't know what a piece of paper from a university entitles you to, but it sure as hell doesn't give you the right to talk down to anyone. Some of the most knowledgeable people I know never set foot in the glorious universities of this country, they learned what they know through hard work and years of experience. when it comes to agriculture I just wish that all of you egomaniacal university spit outs would take your grant money and shove it up your yoo-hoo and leave the real specialists do what they do best.