But fear-mongering appears to work. A survey by the Pew Research Center last year showed that 57% of Americans thought it was unsafe to eat genetically modified foods.
And that’s despite the fact that hundreds of scientific studies, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have all said there’s no good evidence that GMOs are unsafe.
I’ve spent much of the past year digging into the evidence. Here’s what I’ve learned. First, it’s true that the issue is complicated. But the deeper you dig, the more fraud you find in the case against GMOs. It’s full of errors, fallacies, misconceptions, misrepresentations, and lies. The people who tell you that Monsanto is hiding the truth are themselves hiding evidence that their own allegations about GMOs are false. They’re counting on you to feel overwhelmed by the science and to accept, as a gut presumption, their message of distrust.
While there are valid concerns about some aspects of genetically engineered agriculture, such as herbicides, monocultures, and patents, none of these concerns is fundamentally about genetic engineering.
As Saletan argues, “Genetic engineering isn’t a thing. It’s a process that can be used in different ways to create different things”.
To think clearly about GMOs, you have to distinguish among the applications and focus on the substance of each case. If you’re concerned about pesticides and transparency, you need to know about the toxins to which your food has been exposed. A GMO label won’t tell you that. And it can lull you into buying a non-GMO product even when the GE alternative is safer.
Cosmos magazine discussed some of the same issues in our special issue on agriculture last year.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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