The purpose of me writing this isn’t to make fun of people, but to raise awareness. It’s less about denigrating a person or people and more about showing why junk science is both nonsense and how it can be detrimental, as evidenced by the fallacious study of Gilles-Éric Séralini that inspired Nigeria to ban the importation of foods made with biotech crops. Understandably, Séralini’s published study (referred to as “The Séralini Affair“) received significant criticism by members of the scientific community and was eventually retracted.
Beware: Links and quotes abound, as proof is in the pudding, the pudding being the studies and words of experts who specialize in this field. Consider this a quick go-to guide for some educational resources on this particular matter. Intellectual lethargy will greatly impede anyone’s comprehension of the science and facts behind the research and information disseminated within this blog post. You have to be willing to actually read if you wish to grow in understanding.
And this actually leads me to point #1…
(1) Words and linguistic distinction matters.
There is a tendency to either ignore, mutilate or warp the meaning of the following terms.
What it is
– The systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions. An analysis of numerous references and cross-referenced corroboration of all available information relevant to the topic, whether or not it agrees with your opinion and views.
What it is not
– Social media memes, a Google search tailored to one’s biased feelings on a subject or the aggregated consensus of people you trust or revere.
What it is
– the result of objective testing of a premise or hypothesis in a way that can be reproduced by others and is typically conducted via experimentation in a controlled environment. Competent and reliable scientific evidence means tests, analyses, research, studies, or other evidence based on the expertise of professionals who specialize in a given field, that has been conducted and evaluated in an objective manner by persons qualified to do so, using procedures generally accepted in the profession to yield accurate and reliable results. Also see here
What it is not
– Any “proof” that’s preceded by the words “I think…”, “I believe…”, “I know someone who…” and “I heard…”. Anecdotal evidence is proof of only an anecdote. Also, the plural of anecdote is not evidence. It doesn’t magically become not-anecdote just because more than one person repeats it.
What it is
– Science is powered by the usage of the scientific method, an exceptional methodology which defines the question, utilizes observations, hypothesizes, experiments, analyzes results, interpret the data, report results. Said results, if affirmative, should be repeatable. Critical thinking is the intellectual foundation for the scientific method, which is the effectual epistemological system by which scientists, and everyone else who reveres evidence, obtains and develops knowledge. Please review image
What it is not
– Use of vague/exaggerated/untestable claims, extreme reliance on confirmation rather than refutation, lack of openness to testing by other experts, absence of progress, personalization of issues, use of misleading/nebulous language. Science is not a big bully attempting to persecute or denigrate peoples’ beliefs. Nobody is out to get you. Scientists are varied and each has an area of specialization, all with the intellectual acuity to do their jobs precisely as possible and to, in short, weed out what simply does not work and to continually push for the advancement of provisional truths. Also, see here
, here and here
What it is
– Peer review is the process of subjecting scientific work to review by other experts in the field. It is a quality-control system that requires all new scientific discoveries, ideas and implications to be scrutinized and critiqued by expert scientists before they become widely accepted.
What it is not
– A means, in and of itself, to settle the actual validity of the work. That in any paper that has passed peer review, the science is entirely correct. Not so. Peer review is an “entry level” sort of test that weeds out the pseudoscience and obviously bad work, but is not intended to be a catch-all for outright fraud or experimental error. It isn’t the support of a claim that makes it true, it’s the honest attempts to disprove a claim through experimentation that solidifies it. It is also worth noting whom those “peers” may be, as practitioners of pseudoscience might form a circle of pseudoscientists who start a pseudoscientific journal. The reputation and track record of whom reviews must also be called into question.
What it is
– The act of inquisitive investigation and questioning assertions. To dissect the premises and conclusions of said claims and holding that the accumulation of testable, repeatable evidence as being of fundamental importance. Methodological skepticism seeks to determine true and false claims by apportioning strength of belief to the amount of evidence supporting a certain claim. Scientific skepticism is the application of this to the scientific arena.
What it is not
– Cloaked denialism which willfully ignores the preponderance of evidence which contradicts one’s belief(s).
Woo-promoters pseudoskeptics some people claim demanding hard evidence is an extreme position, that we ought to be agnostic about virtually everything. Given the difficulty of categorically disproving even the most absurd hypothesis they then go on to maintain that all those who ask for evidence, or that their lack of evidence which refutes actual empirical evidence, as being “pseudoskepticism.”
What it is
– Ridiculous, misconceived, paranoid, unfounded, outlandish or irrational theories which are based upon “hunches”, inner apprehension, exalted intuition, misinformation and disinformation. Denialism also plays a factor as a conspiracy theory becomes a total crackpot conspiracy theory when all evidence that might disprove the theory instead becomes co-opted as proof of the “cover-up” of said theory; requiring loyalty, resources, and competence on the part of the conspirators far in excess of what any actual conspiracy can muster. Most all conspiracies do not take into account the wide scope of logistics, benefits, exposure and plausibility their notions either ignore or downplay.
See The Conspiracy Theory Checklist to get a better grasp of which questions ought to be asked before determining whether such a claim is warranted or not.
What it is not
– Please see “What it is” section of Research
, Peer Review
, Science and Skeptical Criticism
(2) Unsubstantiated claims.
Instead of me copying or rewording points and counterpoints previously stated, I would like to direct you to a very informative article that disabuses the common notions associated with anti-GMO advocates. Reason.com goes over five key assertions made by the supporters of flawed anti-GMO propaganda –
(a) “GMOs are unhealthy”,
(b) “GMOs increase herbicide use”,
(c) “Genetic engineering creates dangerous side effects”,
(d) “GMOs harm the environment”,
(e) “GMOs do not increase yields, and work against feeding a hungry world”.
Spoiler alert: The article dissects each posit and promptly explicates why each issue raised is belched from the bosom of one unapprised with the science behind the production of GMO crops and its produce.
(3) Actual Scientists (not Google Masters) co-sign its usefulness and safety.
The credentials and unanimous confirmatory votes of these scientific-based organizations speak volumes. The name of each organization is my attempt at linking to the source of each organization’s statement.
– The American Association For the Advancement of Science (or AAAS)
: “The science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe.”
– American Medical Association, the premier body of physicians in the US: “There is no scientific justification for special labeling of genetically modified foods. Bioengineered foods have been consumed for close to 20 years, and during that time, no over consequences on human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature.”
– World Health Organization (or WHO) is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. They state: “No effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of GM foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved.”
– The National Academy of Sciences is a non-profit organization in the United States. It is the premier scientific body in the US. They state: “To date more than 98 million acres of genetically modified crops have been grown worldwide. No evidence of human health problems associated with the ingestion of these crops or resulting food products have been identified.”
– The Royal Society of Medicine is England’s top medical society and is an independent educational organization for doctors, dentists, scientists and others involved in medicine and health care. They state: “Foods derived from GM crops have been consumed by hundreds of millions of people across the world for more than 15 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 USA.”
– The European Commission (or EC) is the executive body of the European Union. They state: “The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are no more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.”
– American Council on Science and Health
: ”[W]ith the continuing accumulation of evidence of safety and efficiency, and the complete absence of any evidence of harm to the public or the environment, more and more consumers are becoming as comfortable with agricultural biotechnology as they are with medical biotechnology.”
– American Dietetic Association
: ”It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that agricultural and food biotechnology techniques can enhance the quality, safety, nutritional value, and variety of food available for human consumption and increase the efficiency of food production, food processing, food distribution, and environmental and waste management.”
– American Phytopathological Society
: ”The American Phytopathological Society (APS), which represents approximately 5,000 scientists who work with plant pathogens, the diseases they cause, and ways of controlling them, supports biotechnology as a means for improving plant health, food safety, and sustainable growth in plant productivity.”
– American Society for Cell Biology
: ”Far from presenting a threat to the public health, GM crops in many cases improve it. The ASCB vigorously supports research and development in the area of genetically engineered organisms, including the development of genetically modified (GM) crop plants.”
– American Society for Microbiology
: ”The ASM is not aware of any acceptable evidence that food produced with biotechnology and subject to FDA oversight constitutes high risk or is unsafe. We are sufficiently convinced to assure the public that plant varieties and products created with biotechnology have the potential of improved nutrition, better taste and longer shelf-life.”
– American Society of Plant Biologists
: ”The risks of unintended consequences of this type of gene transfer are comparable to the random mixing of genes that occurs during classical breeding… The ASPB believes strongly that, with continued responsible regulation and oversight, GE will bring many significant health and environmental benefits to the world and its people.”
– International Seed Federation
: ”The development of GM crops has benefited farmers, consumers and the environment… Today, data shows that GM crops and foods are as safe as their conventional counterparts: millions of hectares worldwide have been cultivated with GM crops and billions of people have eaten GM foods without any documented harmful effect on human health or the environment.”
– Council for Agricultural Science and Technology
: ”Over the last decade, 8.5 million farmers have grown transgenic varieties of crops on more than 1 billion acres of farmland in 17 countries. These crops have been consumed by humans and animals in most countries. Transgenic crops on the market today are as safe to eat as their conventional counterparts, and likely more so given the greater regulatory scrutiny to which they are exposed.”
– Crop Science Society of America
: ”The Crop Science Society of America supports education and research in all aspects of crop production, including the judicious application of biotechnology.”
– International Society of African Scientists
: ”Africa and the Caribbean cannot afford to be left further behind in acquiring the uses and benefits of this new agricultural revolution.”
– Federation of Animal Science Societies
: ”Meat, milk and eggs from livestock and poultry consuming biotech feeds are safe for human consumption.”
– Society for In Vitro Biology
: ”The SIVB supports the current science-based approach for the evaluation and regulation of genetically engineered crops. The SIVB supports the need for easy public access to available information on the safety of genetically modified crop products. In addition, the SIVB feels that foods from genetically modified crops, which are determined to be substantially equivalent to those made from crops, do not require mandatory labeling.”
– Consensus document on GMOs Safety (14 Italian scientific societies): ”GMOs on the market today, having successfully passed all the tests and procedures necessary to authorization, are to be considered, on the basis of current knowledge, safe to use for human and animal consumption.”
– Society of Toxicology
: ”Scientific analysis indicates that the process of GM food production is unlikely to lead to hazards of a different nature than those already familiar to toxicologists. The level of safety of current GM foods to consumers appears to be equivalent to that of traditional foods.”
– Transgenic Plants and World Agriculture – Prepared by the Royal Society of London, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Indian National Science Academy, the Mexican Academy of Sciences, and the Third World Academy of Sciences:“Foods can be produced through the use of GM technology that are more nutritious, stable in storage, and in principle health promoting – bringing benefits to consumers in both industrialized and developing nations.”
– French Academy of Science
: ”All criticisms against GMOs can be largely rejected on strictly scientific criteria.”
– Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities
: ”Food derived from GM plants approved in the EU and the US poses no risks greater than those from the corresponding conventional food. On the contrary, in some cases food from GM plants appears to be superior with respect to health.”
– International Council for Science
: ”Currently available genetically modified crops – and foods derived from them – have been judged safe to eat, and the methods used to test them have been deemed appropriate.”
(4) No food is 100% safe.
Remember the listeria crisis in 2008 (23 deaths), the e.coli incident in 2012 and the organic sprouts issue from an organic farm in Germany which affected almost 4000 people and killing 53 others?
Yeah. Well, here’s an undeniable truth – there is no documented evidence of harm to human health or deaths from consumption of GM foods since they were introduced to the market two decades ago
GM crops and GM foods have been the most heavily tested food products in the history of our regulatory system. With over 20 years and 2000+ peer-reviewed studies proving that GM crops and GM foods are safe, the only individuals beating the conspiracy drum are the uninformed or those who have attached their cognitive sails to the swaying of gross doses of both misinformation and disinformation (aka, junk science, or pseudoscience).
Click the image for full size. Also, to get a better understanding of how the graph works, see here
(5) Don’t forget independent studies.
This information provided by Biology Fortified is but a partial list independently-funded studies on genetically engineered crops. You want evidence from actual testing and research, here it is. Also, there is an extended listing here. The consensus is the same – GMOs A-ok.
In short, the very notion that GMOs are bad for you is absolute bovine. All well-known and reputable scientific organizations, the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community and every single independent scientific body that has ever evaluated the safety of biotech crops has found them to be safe for humans to eat.
Don’t be silly, folks. Being skeptical is a very good thing, however, being uninformed and basing opinion on a hunch, falling prey to the seductive trance of bad science, conspiratorial notions or New Age mumbo-jumbo is the antithesis of skepticism.