Reflexive Reaction to Franken Foods

Genetically Modified Organisms

I have to admit that I am not a geneticist, and I only have a background in the studies of genetics from a high school and early level college series of classes in biology and organic chemistry. I don’t deem myself an expert in GMO’s and so you are welcome to take what I write about them with a certain level of dismissiveness if you wish. Of course, you are welcome to take all of what I write with a certain level of dismissiveness. I am used to it.

I strongly support the concept that teaching critical thinking to all students and pupils and all citizens is critical, so that we can responsibly examine presuppositions and how we use them to address critical issues facing society. I don’t think that we should reflexively defer to scientists on questions, but we should learn how to read what they publish, how to sort the media’s interpretation of science and how to respond when it comes to the questions we pose our policy-makers.

You really should know that I am not a climatologist, but I am sufficiently convinced that the preponderance of data supports the fact that human activity has accelerated the overall global warming trend that we may or may not have been cycling through had nature been left to itself. I am sufficiently convinced that the processes of evolution account for the ongoing diversity of life and even can account for abiogenesis. I am sufficiently convinced that the sun was born from the remnants of a supernova, and that time started just “before” planck time and that we are still “in” the big bang as the universe and space continue to expand faster than the speed of light.

With all that being said, I am dismayed that the public attitude towards GMO foods and their research is largely colored by an anti-science and anti-skeptical denialism. What I need to remind people is that denialism is not a prejudicial function of conservatism. It finds its roots and home all across the political spectrum. Yes, Creationism and Climate-Science denial are largely confined to conservative protectionism of the status quo, but anti-GMO sentiment that is reflexive is largely a leftist movement. And, as a liberal I am frankly embarrassed by the approach of leftists on this issue. It is the same approach used by anti-vaccination autism and “toxin” screamers. If the product is developed by a major corporation that stands to make a profit, then it is automatically bad. Of course, I wonder if the people that rail against GMO are doing so from their Microsoft or MacIntosh machines.

I have been subscribing to Change.org’s e-mail updates to find what sort of activism I can endorse and participate in that I believe will make our country a better place. I also subscribe through my google reader to Truthout.org to get news from non-mainstream media. Both sources have a tendency to provide reliable journalism and reporting from a liberal (meaning reality-based) outlook. But they have been sending me action points related to fighting the development of GMO foods, crops and pest-resistant plants.

There is a great potential benefit to moving from traditional forms of hybridizing plants towards inserting genes into existing species of food crops. There are also potential dangers which must be scientifically tested, and confirmed to be safe.

The problem is that GMO denialists are absolutely opposed to any research into the development of what they refer to as “Franken Foods.” Two quick links, because I must leave for work, for you to use to identify what I am referring to. The take home message from my post is not that all GMO should be accepted uncritically. No, they should be studied methodically because the potential benefits of moving towards GMO based agricultural and tied in with organics can go a long way towards mitigating the oncoming droughts and continued desecration of the planet.

The change.org article and comments with ad homs against Robert Wager:

And a new study — which had to resort to analyzing data sets produced by studies conducted by Monsanto and another biotech firm, Covance Laboratories, and submitted to European governments because researchers couldn’t get seeds — has found that Monsanto corn impairs rats’ kidneys and livers. The “data strongly suggests” that after just 90 days of eating GM corn, rats experienced kidney toxicity and showed effects to their hearts, adrenal glands, spleen and blood cells. (The study was published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences.)

And a response at David Tribe’s GMO Pundit to the faulty attributes of the study quoted:

The picture shows only one test result, but it shows it very well, telling the story of Seralini making far too much out of random variation in rat biology that occurs in all animal feeding trials.
Yes there is a difference in average relative kidney size between rats fed the GM corn and those fed its comparator variety in this feeding trial, but when the range kidney sizes of values of rats fed a variety of (non-GM) corn varieties is included, it becomes clear that this difference is within the range of normal variation.

Learn how this science stuff works, people. PLEASE!

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