[Video Link] Kevin O’Leary, co-host of the CBC business news program The Lang and O’Leary Exchange uses every dirty trick in the book to try to derail an articulate 14-year-old girl named Rachel Parent, who advocates for GMO food labeling. Every time, the girl keeps her cool and stays on track.
The conversation got ugly when O’Leary accused Parent of being a “lobbyist” against GMOs and then equated her position of questioning GMOs to somehow supporting malnutrition and the death of children. Remaining cool-headed and composed throughout his harangue, Parent countered that people have a basic right to know what’s in our food and explained she has no vested interest in honest food labeling. She then highlighted the most basic facts for O'Leary: genetically engineered crops don’t actually out-produce organic crops, GMOs are treating human beings as lab rats, and consumers have a right to know what they're buying or eating.
Two months ago, news outlets reported that an Oregon farmer had found Roundup herbicide-resistant wheat growing in his field. He hadn't planted it. In fact, nobody sells it — Monsanto tested such wheat eight years ago, but never sought federal approval for it. So what happened? After two months of investigation, here's what we do know: It doesn't seem like GMO wheat is invading the US. Testing has yet to turn up evidence of this wheat anywhere else in the country. What we don't know: Why a research plant that never went to market would pop up in a single, unrelated field almost a decade later. Experts' best guess is some kind of mix-up, where a small amount of research seed got mislabeled and later sold. Meanwhile, Monsanto is suggesting deliberate sabotage. Read the rest
I lovelovelovelovelove this Grist series on the nuances, contradictions, and confusions surrounding the public debate over genetically modified foods. Nathaniel Johnson has done some really fantastic reporting, challenging distortions from both sides and getting you (the person might actually be buying and eating this stuff) closer to the truth than just about any other journalist I've seen. Two parts of the series you absolutely must read: A complex look at whether or not there are safety regulations for GMO foods, and an exploration of plant breeding and the differences between "natural" genetic modification and the kind that happens in a laboratory. Read the rest
The Genera Project was started last summer to create an easily-searchable catalog of peer-reviewed scientific studies dealing with the risk, benefits, and safety analysis of genetically modified plants. The project isn't done yet — for instance, the "easily searchable" part isn't yet active and they aren't done cataloging the 600+ studies in the database. I thought it was worth pointing this resource out to you folks, though, especially because at least 126 of the studies currently in the database are free from questionable funding — either from big corporations or blatantly anti-GMO activist groups. Definitely a project to keep an eye on. Read the rest
Today, on Twitter, I learned something new and interesting from environmental reporter Paul Voosen. Over the years, I've run into reports (like this one from the Union of Concerned Scientists) showing that genetically modified crops — i.e. Roundup Ready corn and soybeans, which is really the stuff we're talking about most of the time in these situations — don't increase intrinsic yields of those crops. But I've also seen decent-looking data that seemed to suggest exactly the opposite. So what gives?
Turns out, this is largely an issue of terminology. Read the rest
Earlier today, I posted on the recent paper that claims to have found a link between eating genetically modified corn and the growth of tumors in rats. Short version: The research sucked. It's a terribly done study and it demonstrates why "peer reviewed" does not always mean "accurate".
But now, this story is getting worse. Turns out, the authors of the study (and their financial sponsor, The Sustainable Food Trust) manipulated the media to ensure that the first news stories published about the study would not be critical of its methods or results.
First, some background. When a journal is about to publish a study that they think will be big news, they usually offer the full study to reporters under an embargo system. The reporter gets to read the study, do their reporting, and write a story ... but they can't publish that story until a specific day at a specific time. If you're a daily or an online publication, there's a lot of pressure to have your story ready to go the moment the embargo lifts. Otherwise, you'll look like you weren't on the ball. There's a lot of problems with this system, but it's very common.
What's not common: Forcing journalists to sign non-disclosure agreements promising to not show the study they're reporting on to any independent researchers or outside experts. If you're trying to make sure your publication runs a story on the study right when the embargo lifts, but you can't show the study to any third-party experts before the embargo lifts, then the story you run is going to (inevitably) contain only information the authors of the study want you to talk about. Read the rest