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.



  1. Craig Knauss

    Are GMO crops and foods dangerous? I don’t know. I’m not a micro-biologist. But I don’t think 15 years of use can give us a definitive answer. Can we tell in less than one generation what the long term effects will be? That’s like observing a species for 15 years and announcing that it has never been subject to evolution.

    Out here in Washington, we have Initiative 522 which will be on the November ballot. 522 requires foods that contain GMOs to state that on the package. That’s all. No health warnings or anything like that. Just a statement like “This product contains GMOs.” The food companies are claiming it’ll cost them a lot. We already have nutritional information on food. There was minimal financial impact of that. We have warnings on cigarettes and alcoholic beverages. There hasn’t been a single tobacco company, brewer, or winery that has gone belly up because of it. So what’s the big deal? There must be one because the Grocery Manufacturers is opposed to adding the statement. So is Monsanto. And Dow Chemical. And Bayer. Why? And why do they run a commercial from a non-GMO certified farmer claiming it’ll harm her financially when absence of GMOs in her produce doesn’t require her to do anything? It makes one wonder.

    All Washington Initiative 522 wants is a few words added on the package telling consumers when there are GMOs in the food, for those that actually care. And most food package labeling is updated frequently anyway.

  2. Robert Wagerr

    The GE labeling is about fear generation, not the consumers right to know.

    “We are going to force them to label this food. If we have it labeled we can organize people not to buy it.” Andrew Kimbell-Center for Food Safety http://www.activistcash.com/person/1562-andrew-kimbrell/

    “How – and how quickly – can we move healthy, organic products from a 4.2% market niche, to the dominant force in American food and farming?
    “The first step is to change our labeling laws.
    — Ronnie Cummins

    “Personally, I believe GM foods must be banned entirely, but labeling is the most efficient way to achieve this”
    – Dr. Joseph Mercola

  3. Craig Knauss


    ALL processed food is labeled already. Look at the dietary information on the food packages. It is just a matter of adding another line of print if GMOs are used. Maybe you should read those labels sometime and see what’s on them. You’ll find things like propylene glycol (also used for RV anti-freeze), coloring made from beetles, etc. And most people don’t really care about it. Have the warning labels put the tobacco companies out of business? No. Have warning labels put the alcohol industry out of business? No. Have all those warnings on the “Ask you doctor about …..” commercials put the drug companies out of business? No. And if the GMO issue is just nonsense, why are the grocery manufacturers, Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, etc. so afraid of it? They are spending $17 million in Washington to defeat I-522 by running deceitful ads.

    Regardless, what a handful of activists say will not have any measurable impact.

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