GMO Wars: 107 Nobel Laureates vs. Greenpeace

Can my fellow liberals, who too frequently count themselves among the idiotic “No GMO!” constituency, please get off the science-denial bandwagon now, leaving it to the far-right, with its young Earth creationists and global warming denialists?

It’s the latest sign of a rift between the scientific establishment and anti-GMO…

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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6 Responses to GMO Wars: 107 Nobel Laureates vs. Greenpeace

  1. thefreeorg says:

    I take it that a ‘Nobel Laureate’ is by definition sold out to the criminal capitalist bandwagon that is destroying our only planet, by the very act of accepting this ‘honour’ and the associated loot. Indeed if I am not mistaken was not this Mr Nobel one of the inventors of Nuclear Weapons?

    • Santi Tafarella says:

      Hi thefreeorg:

      In evaluating experts, you raise some important criteria: Are they motivated by something other than the truth? Are they actually experts in the matter at hand? Do they have a financial interest?

      These are fair questions, and can be discovered, but you’ve rushed to judgment. There are other criteria, after all, that come into play in evaluating experts, and I’ll list a few, accompanied by the answers I would give surrounding this particular issue (GMOs).

      1) Is there a broad consensus among scientists on GMOs? (Yes.)

      2) What esteem do these particular scientists possess among their peers? (Stratospheric esteem. They’re Nobel laureates; they have a reputation among their peers for having their bullshit detectors on high, and other scientists regard them as people who know what they’re talking about.)

      3) If the scientists were to have a financial interest in GMOs, and expressed a strong opinion in favor of them that they did not in fact possess, they would not just be compromising their integrity, but risking their reputations in exposure. Does this make sense psychologically for an otherwise esteemed scientist to behave in this way? (No.)

  2. Keith says:

    Santi, you’re stereotyping and name-calling when you describe the “No GMO” constituency as “idiotic.” There are many good reasons why liberals, conservatives, and people in between might be opposed to GMOs, especially for developing countries. Here are just a few:

    1. They require ever-increasing amounts of herbicides like Roundup to keep weeds at bay. GM Roundup-ready crops put selection pressure on weeds, and weeds that are resistant to Roundup end up thriving. Bt corn and cotton also put selection pressure on pests like bollworm and corn borer, and it’s only a matter of time before they become resistant.

    2. GM crops are more expensive and, as noted in #1, require more herbicide and pesticide. When crops fail due to drought, pestilence, etc., the farmers lose everything. For example, “India’s shift to industrial farming techniques starting in the 1960s left the majority of the nation’s cotton farmers increasingly reliant on loans to purchase pricey fertilizers, pesticides, and hybrid seeds, and eventually GM seeds, making them vulnerable to bankruptcy when the vagaries of rain and global cotton markets turned against them” (

    3. Farmers can’t save GM seed and plant it, like they can with traditional crops. They have to buy new seed every year.

    4. Planting GM crops encourages monoculture, that is, planting single varieties of corn, soybeans, rice, etc. If, through natural selection, these crops become vulnerable to certain pests or diseases, entire crops can be wiped out, which is pretty much what happened during the Irish potato famine. Planting many different crop varieties helps prevent this from happening. Can you imagine what would happen if all the farmers in the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, etc., planted only Golden Rice and their crops were hit with rice tungro bacilliform virus?

    I realize the article you posted was talking about Golden Rice, which was enhanced nutritionally using biotechnology, but your comments were about the “No GMO” constituency in general. These are just a few valid reasons they might oppose GMOs.

    • andrewclunn says:

      Point 3 has some validity to it, if only because of the IP issues related to modified genes. The rest is pure garbage though:

      1) Resistance developing in pests is merely a declining advantage, not a weakness.

      2) If they’re more expensive, then why purchase them? Oh yes, because they greatly increase corp yield (

      “The yield and profit gains were also greater in developing countries than in developed countries. Finally, the studies in the meta-analyses that were published in peer-reviewed journals showed more dramatic effects, both in yield and profit gains, than those published elsewhere. Put another way, the more rigorously vetted a study, the more likely it has been to find benefits for GMOs.”

      4) Interesting that you bring up the Irish Potato famine. This happened without GMOs and in fact without large agricultural businesses. How then is this a case that mono-cultures are a unique practice of GMOs? In fact, the ability to react to new blights is an advantage of genetic modification. Besides, capitalism and world wide markets already protect us from famine related to this. See the Gros Michel banana and Panama disease for a recent example of this happening.

      Further, see how anti-science groups like Greenpeace spread missinformation about GMOs in the Philippines ( This is a GMO crop developed to help with vitamin A deficiency.

      “Vitamin A deficiency also depresses the immune system, raising overall mortality from other causes such as diarrhea, measles, and pneumonia. For these diseases the additional toll is estimated at 1 million preventable deaths a year, or around 2,700 per day, mostly among children younger than 5.”

      Santi gets this one right. Drop the apologetics for the anti-science lunacy that is the anti-GMO movement.

  3. Staffan says:

    I can’t tell whether GMOs are good or bad but it’s clear that liberals oppose it for religious reasons. When you suppress an aspect of human nature it re-emerges in some other guise. The current liberal guise of religion can best be described as a form of nature worship that is especially centered around the food we eat. Organic, gluten free, whole food represents sacred purity. GMO is humans going right into the essence of that purity with our dirty little fingers.

    (That said, I don’t trust consensus of scientists one bit. A current review of SSRI meds showed scientists who are paid by Big Pharma were more than 20 times as likely to arrive at a positive conclusion. The whole point of science it that we can have knowledge rather than consensus.)

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