Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nuttery on the Left: The Anti-GMO Hysteria

One of my friends shared this piece of shit video on Facebook.

 This "Health Ranger" is also the perpetrator of Natural News:  http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/NaturalNews  Curiously, this guy also happens to believe every other food myth of the radical left:  raw food diets, "alternative" medicine, and whatever hits his fan from day to day.

My friend is a sucker for a lot of this stuff.  Like me, she went into a field that didn't require a background in the sciences.  Unlike me, she isn't ashamed of her ignorance and fails to use her intelligence to make up for her educational lacunae.  I know quite a few people like this.  They're smart but not schooled in the sciences or practiced in true skepticism.  My friend claims to be "skeptical" when in reality she's just suspicious.  Not the same thing at all.

The anti-GMO movement is particularly irksome to me because it paints all genetically-modified foods with the same tainted brush of suspicion. It would be one thing if they claimed that specific strains of GMO corn affected the environment, or that peanut allergies are due to one specific variety of peanut. But no, they don't differentiate between products.  It's all suspicious.

And rather than go to pubmed and read up on the research themselves, they let crackpots like "The Heatlh Ranger" tell them what to think.  Some "skepticism" there.

Here's what I found by searching pubmed:  There is a possiblity that crops grown to be impervious to roundup may have residual roundup on or in them, which may affect endocrine functions in mammals (rats are the only animals studied so far).  That's pretty much it.

There are issues that could indeed make GMOs bad, but there are also potential advantages too:
  • Higher yields means less hunger and less land used for crops
  • Hypo-allergenic crops can be developed
  • Sterile plants won't invade natural areas
  • More nutritious crops can be developed
  • Crops that make it to market reduce waste
Not to mention, everything we eat is already genetically modified, through selective breeding and hybridization.  Nothing we eat, from the banana (hear that, Kirk Cameron?) to the cow, is as it was originally found in nature.

And speaking of nature, this is the source of the anti-GMO hysteria:  the naturalistic fallacy.

In some people, it borders on the religious.  They revere their romanticized natural condition without really knowing much about actual nature.  They believe in the magical power of food to make them live forever, or at least until 100.   They pass along whatever their leaders say without questioning it.  And they reject all alternate explanations for even obvious myths.

I have encountered many varieties of "food nazis."  They demonize particular foods and insist that everyone else should follow their advice on healthy living.  (The Nazis were big health nuts, we often forget)   They don't want the rest of us to enjoy an omelet because they ignorantly believe that eggs cause high cholesterol (they don't).  Or they have never been fat and they believe they know what foods fat people should eat (no long-term studies of diet have shown more than modest temporary weight loss).  Or they think killing animals for food is unnatural for humans (we evolved as omnivores, not vegans).

They mean well, so you can't smack 'em.  So you have to rant in a blog post.  So I did.


Anonymous said...

I concede your point that people are quick to jump on a band wagon. And yes there may indeed be some good that could be developed by GM research. The real issue is the FDA ties to Monsanto and the like. The FDA has a history of false positives. And I for one do not want to be a guinea pig. So, yes I use my purchase power not to contribute to the corporate food system. Seems that the internet has given everyone an avenue for entertainment. One would never be skeptical without first being suspicious.

LadyAtheist said...

Anonymous you seem to confuse suspicious with skepticism. If you are suspicious *before* being skeptical how can you be skeptical at all as you've already assumed a stance?

I find it odd that people are so concerned with GMOs but not concerned about where their medications are manufactured (including their woo "medicines") Ever notice that almost everything you can buy in a store states its country of origin except medicine or food?