November 07, 2012

Yet another #SciAm #fail on #Prop37

Do I think California’s Prop. 37, which would have required labeling of foods with GMO content, was perfect? No. If you look at the language, it was indeed too vague.

That said, do I think scientists should cheer, as this Scientific American blogger says they should, over its failure? No.

I don’t believe in the “Frankenfood” idea that GMOs are ebbbill. However, I also don’t believe this, from SciAm:
The simple fact is that there is no evidence that GMOs, as a blanket group, are dangerous.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Peanut allergies have skyrocketed in the last 15 years. Now, there’s no proof that this is due to peanut genes being inserted in other causes allergies, but it is indeed possible for that to happen, if an allergen producing gene gets put into a new foodstuff. And, contra this link, I doubt that “FDA precautions” are that thorough.

That’s why this statement by Ms. Wilcox at Scientific American is also wrong:
There’s also another reason that GMOs aren’t considered dangerous: decades of scientific research support their safety. As Pamela Ronald, a UC-Davis plant geneticist, phrased it last year in Scientific American: “There is broad scientific consensus that genetically engineered crops currently on the market are safe to eat. After 14 years of cultivation and a cumulative total of 2 billion acres planted, no adverse health or environmental effects have resulted from commercialization of genetically engineered crops.”
Second, we know that, in the case of pesticides and herbicides, the issue of “combined influence” from multiple chemicals is in some cases worse than a single chemical alone. Well, what if an allergen-inducing gene gets its effects intensified by being inserted in another food?

Now, as an in-depth Wikipedia article notes, genetic modification may also reduce allergies. So, fine; Monsanto can label foods that way, if it wants.

And, as Wiki also makes clear, the real problem is the relative lack of testing in the US, and the degree to which the USDA is in Big Ag’s pocket.

So, while it may indeed be true that anti-GMO advocated spewed vitriol at scientists, or “scientists” as a class, it may also be true that “scientists” made tin-foil-hat accusations that don’t stand up in reality.

And, for Ms. Wilcox to trust testing, when, per one of the scientific group “no on 37” posts she links, all pre-market testing of GMO foods is voluntary, is … well …

It’s unscientific! Again, “centrists” want more testing, more free-from-industry testing, etc.

But, that’s not the only bone I have to pick. Bora Zivkovic, marketer of SciAm’s bloggers (that’s what he does, even if it’s not his title) accuses me of being “passive-aggressive” when I accuse SciAm of lying.

Well, it is, re the allergen issue at least.

That said, this isn’t the first ethics fail by that magazine.

I blogged in depth a few years ago about how it ran a special section, purported to be about electric cars. It called the Chevy Volt an electric, which it’s not, as part of the “review.” And, the special section was sponsored by … wait for it ..


That’s bad enough. Worse is that, at first, Bora didn’t even see how that could be considered an ethics problem, then refused to admit it was.

That said, he next says, in the current contretemps, “They’re just bloggers, they’re not our staff.”


They’re blogging on SciAm’s website. Even if they’re dumb enough to accept “visibility” as the only “pay,” it’s still SciAm providing the platform for that visibility.

And, that said, I’ve pointed out other SciAm blogger errors and ethical issues before.

Update: Mark Bittman has more on Prop 37 and related food labeling/control initiatives that were defeated. He agrees that Prop. 37 backers made errors, even egregious ones, but said that it wouldn't have mattered because Big Ag was determined to defeat ANY labeling issue.

And, he's right -- labeling means control, and that's the last thing Big Ag wants to let go of. Too bad "scientists," even if they think that Monsanto has ... oh, a few problems ... don't recognize the issue is far more serious.

1 comment:

Bora Zivkovic said...

That is not what I do and not what I said. Stop putting your own words and ideas into my mouth.