The #GMO hashtag has long been the pivot around which biotechnology discussions on Twitter have revolved. On May 5, advocates who support genetic engineering and modern sustainable farming practices are teaming up to correct misinformation around the technology and to help show that all approved GMOs are safe for consumption and are a key ingredient to feeding a growing global population. If you take to Twitter today, you’ll likely see the #ScienceHug hashtag alongside of #GMO in posts from the scientific community.
Award-winning land-grant researcher Kevin Folta from the University of Florida called on people to counter anti-GMO messaging and “correct false information [about GMOs] kindly and with evidence” on what he referred to as Genetic Engineering Disinformation Day.
Folta, who specializes in plant science and has long been an advocate of genetic engineering, encourages science-minded folks to share kind, thoughtful, evidence-based posts — a stark contrast when compared with the hate and hostility that often comes from GMO critics.
Additionally, he said, “Share what you know to the level you know it, admit your limits. That’s what opponents of science rarely do.”
The Twitter effort comes two days after long-time Spain-based GMO critic Paul Thacker made allegations in a Disinformation Chronicle article about GMO and crop-protection pioneer Monsanto having been too closely involved in the scientific research and messaging surrounding biotechnology and glyphosate-based products such as Roundup.
Because genetically engineered seeds are resistant to glyphosate-based herbicides, the two are inextricably linked in the minds of the public (to note, there are several other crops, including varieties of apples, potatoes, and squash that are engineered to resist disease, spoilage, and pests and that are not grown in conjunction with Roundup or other glyphosate brands).
Much of the criticism over glyphosate originated with a 2015 International Agency for Research on Cancer’s classification of glyphosate as a “probable” carcinogen.
When the IARC first made its decision, it was immediately controversial. But that controversy has been growing in the years since, especially because every single government agency or regulatory body that has reviewed it disagrees. The IARC, which also classifies coffee as a probably carcinogen, has seen its findings frequently refuted in the scientific community.
The data point to the fact that glyphosate isn’t a carcinogen as used in modern agricultural settings, something that should then lessen people’s concerns over GMO technology overall. In fact, GMOs are some of the most-regulated foods around the world, so very little happens in this space without extreme scrutiny.
The scientific community also celebrates the many environmental benefits associated with GMOs. Over the past 20 years, GMOs have reduced pesticide applications by 8.6 percent and helped increase crop yields by 22 percent. Reduced pesticide use associated with insect resistant GM crops and reduced tillage that is possible with herbicide tolerant crops are believed to be beneficial to bee populations and other pollinators. GMO crops contributed to sustainability and climate change solutions by conserving biodiversity — in 2018 alone they helped save 59.7 million acres of land and reduce CO2 emissions by 50.7 billion pounds, equivalent to taking 15.3 million cars off the road for one year.
#GMOs actually require less pesticides and brings higher yield and income to farmers. Look at the experience of Bt eggplant in Bangladesh for example.Better harvest means less hunger and yes to life! #Sciencehug
— Arpita Bhattacharjya 🌻 (@greenfork) May 5, 2022
This is an excellent example of the “ad hominem” logical fallacy. Instead of discussing evidence, impugn the integrity of the speaker. What’s worse, is that I’m not “wildly pro-industry” and my “industry ties” are almost non-existent. Sadly. #ScienceHug #GMO https://t.co/xynzpgWLzQ
— Kevin Folta (@kevinfolta) May 5, 2022
The hope is to see what a day of correcting activist misinformation about GMOs can do to help improve acceptance of modern agriculture, science, and civil dialogue.