Last week, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson told people in a short video to “chill out” on the subject of GMOs and as a result, a lot of folks got really upset. As I wrote in response to the initial outrage, I am fully aware that Dr. Tyson is an astrophysicist, not a genetic biologist – but I am sure he still has a better grasp of science than most of those who are angry with his remarks.
Dr. Tyson finally responded in a followup post on his Facebook page on August 3rd, addressing the butthurt from those who probably had no issues with anything else he had ever said – right up until he stuck their sacred cow in the grinder. I’m pretty sure if he had said the opposite, the anti-GMO crowd would have loudly proclaimed him an expert, because that’s how bias confirmation works.
The two following quotes are the most important out of his statement:
“Had I given a full talk on this subject, or if GMOs were the subject of a sit-down interview, then I would have raised many nuanced points, regarding labeling, patenting, agribusiness, monopolies, etc. I’ve noticed that almost all objections to my comments center on these other issues.”
You obviously can’t cover the entire subject of GMOs in a two-minute and twenty-second video. It is entirely a far too complex issue to do that. However, many of the anti-GMO activists want to make it a “GMO bad! Monsanto is trying to kill us all! Organics good!” type brief talking point, because that’s how Big Organic operates their advertising and PR campaign.
“If your objection to GMOs is the morality of selling non-prerennial seed stocks, then focus on that. If your objection to GMOs is the monopolistic conduct of agribusiness, then focus on that. But to paint the entire concept of GMO with these particular issues is to blind yourself to the underlying truth of what humans have been doing — and will continue to do — to nature so that it best serves our survival. That’s what all organisms do when they can, or would do, if they could. Those that didn’t, have gone extinct.”
The various areas of concern with GMOs that Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson lays out are worth talking about, but those are mostly ignored in the current anti-GMO hysteria. Rather than address these, Big Organic’s marketing seems to push the image of Monsanto as some sort of Evil Empire that they’re nobly taking on. It is very important to point out that just like the companies that sell genetically modified products, the organic industry is also for profit, and they’re both competing for market share. The current crusade to force companies to label products made from GMOs? It seems to be part of a strategy to tip the scales further in the favor of Big Organic.
Anyhow, I find it pretty ridiculous and hypocritical that some of the same people who claimed that he wasn’t qualified to speak on the subject due to his area of scientific study also consider one Vani Hari – also known as “Food Babe” – to be an expert on the subject of GMOs and nutrition. What’s her degree in? Computer science. Yet, she has almost 700,000 fans on her Facebook page and attracts millions of viewers monthly on her website. On foodbabe.com she pushes books, diet plans and other products when she’s not off taking another vacation in Fiji, thanks to the small fortune she makes off the gullible people who gobble up the nonsense and products she peddles.
The author of the blog “Puff The Mutant Dragon – Adventures In Science” explains:
Food Babe’s blog is frustrating to read because she’s writing about a subject with so much potential and yet so much of it is wrong. It really would be fascinating to discuss in detail all the stuff that’s in your food. There’s a lot of things in there you don’t know or think about. Take this business with the epichlorohydrin-polyamide resins; or the natural carcinogens produced by molds on moldy peanuts. Those are things you probably didn’t know, right? It would be very cool for someone to go out there and blog about all this kind of stuff; take a close look at what’s really in your food and how it’s made. It would be a real eye-opener. Unfortunately, that’s not what Food Babe is doing.
She’s just feeding her four million followers more of the same old Mother Nature Knows Best crap — if it’s not natural, don’t buy it. And that’s why her blog is such a seamless blend of interesting facts and mindless ignorance. That’s why she can simultaneously slam polyamide-epichlorohydrin in tea bag manufacture (which might be something worth criticizing) and the flu vaccine (which has been extensively tested for safety and is certainly not). (Source)
So not only is Ms. Hari’s degree not in biology or chemistry, it isn’t in nutritional science either. But all of these people somehow think she’s qualified to speak on the subject, and Dr. Tyson isn’t. Some even went so far to accuse Dr. Tyson of being a paid shill for Monsanto (while completely overlooking the fact that Ms. Hari is a shill for Big Organic), which apparently is the only company that they can think of that does genetic engineering modification. In case you’re wondering, Monsanto is only one out of six major companies that specialize in it.
I’ve been accused of singling out “Food Babe,” but right now she seems to be the new rising star for Big Organic, and a prime example of those who are trying to cash in on the organic boom. Especially so since Mike Adams, the founder of Natural News, is looking at potential legal trouble for allegedly creating a fake Holocaust-themed site in an effort to smear his critics. This isn’t a matter of people who dislike the business practices of Monsanto and other seed companies and are trying to preserve biodiversity. My beef with her and others is based on the fact that they use misinformation and scare tactics to sell their own products rather than address patented technology, corporate responsibility and other legitimate concerns.
These aren’t crusaders for food safety, these are opportunists who prey on the easily hoodwinked and encourage them to ignore science. We can have a discussion on the real issues with both genetically modified and organic foods, but not so long as people reject science and embrace fear instead.
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