"Anti-science" or "cautious" ... how you regard skeptics of positions that are ethically or scientifically subjective is often a matter of how you already believe.   If you are a Republican concerned about the ethical implications of human embryonic stem cell research, whole books can be written on how Republicans hate science.   But if you are in astronomy and have watched every program started during the Bush years get gutted since Democrats took control of Congress, you might think Democrats hate Congress(1) more.  In reality there are legitimate issues involved and it is up to policy makers to navigate them.

If you're not familiar with herd immunity, it is the percentage of people who need to be vaccinated in order to make sure everyone stays safe.   The concept is important because vaccinating 100% of people is an unrealistic goal but 95% is a safe buffer, factoring in some people who will not get vaccines at all yet keeping all people safe due to the safety of 'the herd'.    GMOs can also offer a kind of herd immunity but just like in the case of pharmaceutical companies and public safety, who start marketing a new vaccine every time they receive a multi-billion judgment against them, and biotechnology companies like Monsanto, who seem to go out of their way to run roughshod over concerns, their lack of credibility provide ammunition to those who want to disbelieve the science whether it is evidence-based or not.

A recent study found that genetically modified Bt corn in the U.S. upper midwest has suppressed the European corn borer quite nicely but the overwhelming benefit has gone to growers who do not even plant Bt corn.

Bt corn is genetically modified with a protein from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that kills pests as naturally as any organic process.  The Science study places the total economic benefit of Bt corn's across the upper midwest during that period at about $6.9 billion in reduced crop losses - a terrific benefit for farmers.

One advantage of making the science case so clearly in this example is that agriculture has always been important in those states so they have kept meticulous pest records for 45 years.   European corn borer moths can't tell the difference between Bt and non-Bt corn, so females lay eggs in both kinds of fields and when the eggs hatch in Bt corn, the larvae feed and die within 48 hours.

Because this has been an important science issue for farmers there, they have listened to the data instead of advocacy groups.    Since herd immunity doesn't work below a threshold, a generous buffer, 20% of corn planted there, is non-Bt corn to make sure that no herd immunity develops.   Mathematically that means enough moths that build any resistance to Bt corn will mate with those who are not and not pass their immunity to offspring.

It's a big win for farmers, for society and for science when evidence wins out over hysteria.   This doesn't mean Monsanto gets a free pass on everything they might create in the future, but it's a good sign science is on the right track to feeding the world of 2050.

Citation: W. D. Hutchison, E. C. Burkness, P. D. Mitchell, R. D. Moon, T. W. Leslie, S. J. Fleischer, M. Abrahamson, K. L. Hamilton, K. L. Steffey, M. E. Gray, R. L. Hellmich, L. V. Kaster, T. E. Hunt, R. J. Wright, K. Pecinovsky, T. L. Rabaey, B. R. Flood, E. S. Raun, 'Areawide Suppression of European Corn Borer with Bt Maize Reaps Savings to Non-Bt Maize Growers', Science 8 October 2010 330: 222-225 DOI: 10.1126/science.1190242

(1) Not to mention a persistent powerful Democrat trying to kill public access for tax-payer research.