Is the campaign against genetically modified crops basically a bunch of anti-scientific hooey?
Michael Specter SAYS the answer to the question in the headline above is affirmative:
I recently watched “OMG GMO,” Jeremy Seifert’s aggressively uninformed “documentary” about the corporate duplicity and governmental callousness that he says drives the production of genetically engineered crops—which are, in his view, such barely concealed poisons that he actually dressed his children in full hazmat gear before letting them enter a field of genetically modified corn. Seifert explained his research process in an interview with Nathanael Johnson of Grist: “I didn’t really dig too deep into the scientific aspect.”
Fair enough. Normally, I would ignore anyone who would say that while publicizing his movie. But Seifert has been abetted by Dr. Mehmet Oz, the patron saint of internally inconsistent scientific assertions, and Seifert’s message of fear and illiteracy has now been placed before millions of television viewers.
Seifert asserts that the scientific verdict is still out on the safety of G.M. foods—which I guess it is, unless you consult actual scientists. He fails to do that. Instead, he claims that the World Health Organization is one of many groups that question the safety of genetically engineered products. However, the W.H.O. has been consistent in its position on G.M.O.s: “No effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of G.M. foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.” Britain’s Royal Society of Medicine was even more declarative: “Foods derived from G.M. crops have been consumed by hundreds of millions of people across the world for more than fifteen years with no reported ill effects (or legal cases related to human health) despite many of the consumers coming from that most litigious of countries the U.S.A.” In addition to the W.H.O. and Royal Society, scientific organizations from around the world, including the European Commission and, in the United States, the National Academy of Sciences, have strongly endorsed the safety of G.M. foods. I could cite quotes from a dozen other countries.
By themselves, genetically engineered crops will not end hunger or improve health or bolster the economies of struggling countries. They won’t save the sight of millions or fortify their bones. But they will certainly help. First, though, we have to adopt reality as our principal narrative. For people like Jeremy Seifert, that may be too much to ask.