Unfortunately, he was completely wrong and Scientific American blogger Christie Wilcox is having none of it.
The science is a study published in Cell Research showing that microRNAs (miRNAs) from food can get into our blood. Okay, that happens millions of times per day but it was Levaux's claim that in GMOs, “new DNA can have dangerous implications far beyond the products it codes for” that annoyed Wilcox.
Well, that is the precautionary principle run amok, which we have warned about many times, and another example of the bizarre 'trust scientists on global warming but not on food because they are out to kill us' mentality prevalent among the kookier leftwing fringe of environmental groups. If Republicans said this nonsense, it would be called anti-science but since it is all people on the left, this gets dismissed as False Equivalence (Winner of the Top Science Media Cliché of 2011 Award!) and people who hate science on the left are not called anti-science, they are anti-corporation. But it's anti-science if you don't have a political agenda.
So if miRNAs are dangerous – guess what? – you’re already ingesting them every time you eat. And, to get a little gross, let’s be clear: when we eat something, we don’t just ingest the miRNAs from the species we intentionally eat. Did you know, for example, that foods you eat are allowed to contain mold, hair, insect parts, and even rat poop? All of those bits of organisms which we inadvertently eat have DNA, and – you guessed it! – miRNAs, too. If miRNAs are so dangerous, we would never have been able to eat anything previously alive in the first place.What? No veal? You can bet I am writing me a letter to Congress if that happens.
"Perhaps what ticks me off most, though, is that Ari’s scaremongering overshadows the very real and interesting implications of the science he failed to cover," Wilcox writes, and this is really the key point, whether it is kooks on the left who think precisely-controlled genetic changes tested for a decade are more dangerous than random cosmic ray mutations, or kooks on the right who think belching poison into the air won't be a problem. Science can educate us, science can help us, science can hurt us - but in order to know the difference we have to let it work.
(1) And in fairness to The Atlantic, they now put a big ol' disclaimer up saying they had nothing to do with his content. I haven't seen a publication run from a writer so fast since the most popular guy on Psychology Today, Satoshi Kanazawa, got clobbered for claiming an evolutionary psychology reason why black women were ugly.
The Very Real Scaremongering of Ari Levaux By Christie Wilcox, Scientific American
H/T RealClearScience for the link