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    What's Healthier, A GMO Cupcake Or An Organic One?
    By Hank Campbell | October 27th 2012 11:14 AM | 21 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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    Are you healthier if you eat cupcake from a mix you buy in a grocery store, which would be required to have a GMO label if California's Proposition 37 passes, or an 'organic' cupcake from Whole Foods?

    On a science site, you know I would not ask that question if the answer were not obvious.  Humans are inherently irrational, even in our quest to rationalize our odd behavior, like claiming random mutations due to high-energy cosmic rays are better than precisely controlled human ones, because the former are 'natural' - or eating an incredibly healthy cupcake because it is more expensive and in a fancy 'health food' store.

    Science 2.0 contributors Lindsay Starke and Michael Taft are the high-powered machine behind the Being Human conference I attended earlier this year and have started a new Being Human website, so I did a guest post for them: GMOs Won't Kill You, But That Organic Cupcake Might where I discuss irrationality, especially when it comes to food, and how that is a component of what makes us human.

    Comments

    Gerhard Adam
    The problem isn't the irrational arguments, since those can be readily dismissed.  What is more difficult is how readily rational arguments are also dismissed by those with a belief.
    Mundus vult decipi
    What's healther? Glyphosphate, 2,4-D, Carbamates, Organophosphates....

    Or is it healthier to avoid all these. Sure, there will be some pesticide contamination in organic foods, but there is significantly less than those found on GM and conventionally grown crops.

    And Mr. Science Man. I have a mutation in my BCHE gene. I bet you don't even know what that means, or how that can be significant. But since you love science and research so much, I'll let you look up. Then get back to me about the pesticide thing. And then using science (and logic) tell me if I should avoid pesticides. And if so, which ones.

    But it just takes a little bit of logic to know that eating pesticides isn't good for anybody. There are plenty of studies on this. Furthermore, organic foods prohibit many ingredients: such as partially hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame), artificial flavors, and ingredients such as MSG.

    You'll likely find partially hydrogenated oils and artificial flavors and colors in non-organic cupcakes that have GMO. So, I think it would be fair to say if you randomized organic cupcakes with non-organic, it's likely the organic cupcake would be a healthier option most of the time. There may not be much of a difference in nutrition facts, but there could be a huge difference in ingredients - some proven to be very unhealthy.

    Oh, but there are no studies on cupcakes. I can't just use logic, because logic is irrational. And humans are irrational right? And they have conflicts of interest (such as myself). Right?

    But then there is an argument in farming practices. Some don't like the fact that these farms are polluting our groundwater. Some, such as myself, believe in sustainable techniques. You know, the way we've always done it. Like crop rotation, natural fertilizers, etc. It's the way humans done it for thousands of years, and it worked. Farmers are ingenious, and they will adapt to what the market demands. With the rising consumption of organic foods, you can see many farmers have already figured out how to do this.

    But all the law does is require products a label if it contains genetically modified ingredients. Nobody is requiring anyone to change the food supply. But consumers can vote through what food they purchase. This is how it always worked. But you don't have a voice or a vote if you don't have the right to know what's in your food.

    Hank
    But it just takes a little bit of logic to know that eating pesticides isn't good for anybody.
    So you don't use a cellphone or a radio, right?  Because radiation isn't good for anybody either? 
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Yes but if you asked 'What's healthier a cellphone or a hands free?' most people would know the answer, there is plenty of evidence in the media that mobile phones are the less healthy option. The Telegraph recently published this article claiming that mobile phones can cause tumours court rules

    A health comparison between GM cupcakes and organic cupcakes is not so simple, some GM cupcakes might have been made from flour that was ground from seeds engineered to contain the insecticidal bacteria bacillus thuringiensis or Bt in every cell of their body that might be unhealthy for its consumers but then some organic cupcakes might also have been made from flour ground from seeds that were heavily sprayed with Bt or manure and then not washed properly which might also be unhealthy for its consumers. So who knows the answer until someone bothers to do any credible long term feeding studies giving us the answers one way or the other? 
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Hank
    there is plenty of evidence in the media that mobile phones are the less healthy option
    The media is not evidence.  I suppose I should be thankful you didn't link to the Daily Mail.
    We don't have a choice. Well, actually we could live in a Faraday cage. But it's not likely cellular radiation will go away unless it ends civilization.

    And yes, I have a phone. Most of the time, I use my tube headphones instead of wired headphones or bluetooth and I have it set up to automatically turn off 3G when on a phone call. So there is SOME control.

    Food, on the other hand - We have control over the food we purchase, and what food we put in our mouth. The organic labels were something the USDA did right in my opinion. And this is just another label.

    You may argue the consumer doesn't understand. It may be true in many cases. But the ones that understand usually have a reason why they are avoiding GMO food. And there can be limitless reasons - such as science (or lack of long-term studies), ethics, health, and environment - why one may choose to avoid food with this label.

    You may not get a stomach ache, but conditions (such as chron's, bowel hyperpermeability, etc) have spiked since the introduction of GE foods. Sure, correlation doesn't equal causation. And one could argue, but they were already on the rise. I agree there. But we still have to ask ourselves - Why could this be? Could it be our food? Science can take a very long time to find these answers.

    And even when evidence comes out that the food may not be safe, the methodology of the study is bashed. Sure the study may not be perfect. Perhaps it really it is very flawed. But the criticism of negative studies (especially by those who have conflicts of interest) will continue with EVERY study. You WILL find something wrong with every study. And this food fight will continue perhaps forever in my opinion, unless there is overwhelming evidence and consensus leaning one way or another. We are not even close to being there yet. I'd say give it another 10-20 years before we start understanding the health impacts of these foods and herbicides/pesticides. The DOW 2,4-D move may be the riskiest move I have ever seen. I personally would never eat a chemical that was present in Agent Orange. This is turning the world into a science experiment, and I do not support it.

    I would consider myself informed. I understand the science, and I will cast my vote by not buying products that contain GE ingredients.

    Hank
    . I understand the science, and I will cast my vote by not buying products that contain GE ingredients.
    Sure, I have no issue with choice. It is social authoritarians who wrote a terrible referendum to put warning labels on GM foods and go around banning everything they personally don't choose.  I am not one of them and apparently you are not either, since you can buy GMO-free foods right now, the same way you buy organic - by looking for a sticker that says so.   No reason to micromanage the entire food chain for people who choose to accept science and risk factors differently than you do.   
    What do you have against the bill? Yes, it can be quite confusing if you don't know California law. Much of what is said by the No On 37 people is simply wrong misleading. Especially the "frivolous lawsuits" scare tactics. It isn't a bill that covers everything. But it's a good start in my opinion. Of course you have every right to disagree, but I recommend reading the analysis by James C. Cooper, J.D., Ph.D. from George Mason University School of Law.

    And from George Mason University School of Law analysis:

    Label GMO further allows a defendant 30 days to cure a violation, which
    will bar a suit for damages. Knowing that a defendant can avoid paying
    damages and attorneys’ fees by taking appropriate ameliorative actions
    will reduce the expected payoff from a suit, and hence incentives to file a
    suit in the first place.

    Label GMO and Proposition 65 both are designed to help the public
    make more informed choices. Like Proposition 65, moreover, Label GMO provides a
    private right of action to enforce its provisions. Compared to Proposition 65,
    however, Label GMO covers less economic activity, provides more exemptions from
    its provisions, and is likely to provide greater certainty for businesses. These
    important differences substantially reduce the potential for Label GMO to foster the
    type of abusive private litigation associated with Proposition 65.

    It doesn't explicitly says these things in the drafted bill because they are already covered in California law.

    Hank
    What do you have against the bill? Yes, it can be quite confusing if you don't know California law. Much of what is said by the No On 37 people is simply wrong misleading. Especially the "frivolous lawsuits" scare tactics. It isn't a bill that covers everything. But it's a good start in my opinion. 
    It's not a start, I live in California so I know what it does and that 'analysis' you quoted left out the most important part - because it is an end-run around the legislature no one can fix it, so it isn't "a start", it can't be changed.  It is ridiculous, stupid law created by people from outside the state who sell magic soap.

    California already has a reputation for being overrun by crazy, anti-science idiots and this will make it even worse.
    It's not magic soap. I bought it. It's just coconut oil. It goes good on your food too.

    Hank
    Argue with the crackpots behind Prop 37 - the earliest financial supporter, outside homeopath, alternative medicine quack Joe Mercola, was Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps All-One! So if he says it is magic soap, it must be true, just like his claiming GM foods cause autism.
    Thor Russell
    "like claiming random mutations due to high-energy cosmic rays are better than precisely controlled human ones, because the former are 'natural'"

    Not entirely sure what you mean by this. Sure mutation whatever the cause is part of natural selection and conventional breeding will use anything that can be useful. A grower could argue they are "better" because they happen all the time and are "free" to use or discard if you want without having to pay a lab. Labs introduce many random mutations anyway in search of the "precisely controlled" one. Automatic testing of many molecules or genetic changes is a useful technique. 
    Most of the time random mutations just do nothing. There was an article awhile back about increasing plant mutation with radiation sources, this was ineffective and safe as far as I was aware. I deduce this from the fact that it is not widely used and got no attention for safety issues. It wasn't abandoned for producing dangerous food as far as I know.
    Thor Russell
    Gerhard Adam
    The problem with the "random mutations caused by cosmic ray" argument is that this will still occur, except that now it has additional genes that can mutate.  After all, it isn't as if this is an "either-or" choice.
    Mundus vult decipi
    like claiming random mutations due to high-energy cosmic rays are better than precisely controlled human ones, because the former are 'natural'

    What's really going on here is that the human caused mutations are done by the "evil corporations" who only care about making money and don't really care about people unless they have to. This is a well justified attitude considering the history of corporate indifference to people and the environment.

    Also, this is economic authoritarianism not social. Social authoritarians want to tell you who you can sleep with, whether you can use birth control, who you can marry etc.

    Hank
    I know how you vote.  People who use the legislature to control behavior are social authoritarians; so you can try to frame people controlling behavior by banning plastic bags, golf and sales of goldfish using government as the 'economic' kind and anyone not wanting to use government to fund birth control (still economics) as social, but it is unauthentic.  In reality, you dislike the uncomfortable truth about the side you are on. What does 'who you can sleep with' even mean?  Do you want to sleep with your dog? 
    Gerhard Adam
    People who use the legislature to control behavior are social authoritarians; so you can try to frame people controlling behavior by banning plastic bags, golf and sales of goldfish using government as the 'economic' kind and anyone not wanting to use government to fund birth control (still economics) as social, but it is unauthentic.
    So, you would agree that additional tax cuts to the wealthy are simply social authoritarians attempting to get them to create jobs?  Or perhaps having laws against drinking and driving are just social authoritarians trying to change drinking behaviors? 

    As you well know, terms like "social authoritarian" aren't particularly helpful, since that is what politics is about, and the entire basis for having a legal system.  The purpose is to control behaviors, by creating the proper incentives and punishments. 

    While it may be easy to argue that putting labels on foods is simply a social authoritarian way to create a public warning label, but what does it say about the social authoritarians that feel the public is better kept ignorant?  It is all well and good to consider that everything should be voluntary, but then ... why have a congress and laws? 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    So, you would agree that additional tax cuts to the wealthy are simply social authoritarians attempting to get them to create jobs?
    Sure, when did I ever say otherwise?  I was not the only person to note that the fetish of Republicans on 'entrepreneurs' during their convention was misguided - most people sign the back of checks, not the front - but insisting that a special personal income tax for entrepreneur  millionaires will impact hiring at corporations is even goofier. I don't know why you bring it up, it is not even close to anything I have ever claimed in 10 years of writing on the Internet and has nothing to do with the article I wrote on rationalism regarding food.

    Claiming any law is social authoritarianism is just amateur relativism. I want no part of sophistry.
    Gerhard Adam
    Claiming any law is social authoritarianism is just amateur relativism. I want no part of sophistry.
    Nevermind ... you've made your point.
    Mundus vult decipi
    People who use the legislature to control behavior are social authoritarians

    It's actually more complicated than this. It's really about regulating behavior between non-consenting people; at least this is the way I look at it. If you create air pollution without others consent that can be regulated. If you buy a gold fish you're affecting the environment without consent that can also be regulated; although I think this is silly since goldfish are not an endangered species. If goldfish were an endangered species then I would totally agree with this. If a corporation puts things in your food without notifying you that also happens without consent and can therefore be regulated.

    If you have sex with another consenting adult of the same or different gender while using contraceptives and then decide you want to get married that's fine with me. I don't care because it involves consent. A social authoritarian on the other hand would try to regulate this type of behavior.

    Hank
    It's actually more complicated than this
    Yes, yes, yes, it is all subtle distinctions and nuance and complex thought when it comes to things you like and want to rationalize, but when you talk about "evil corporations" or your political opposition it is nicely cut-and-dried and black-and-white. 

    We knew this after your first comment.

    I think the new Halloween 'Scientific Blooding' banner is great and should remain here, as it better represents this site these day than the name 'Scientific Blogging' does.