We need to stop saying ‘GMOs are safe’


The anti-GMO movement has perfected the art of cherry picking. They can be provided with mountains of evidence against their case, but if the slightest word or phrase is out of order they latch onto it to deny everything.

Take the mainstream media headlines that scream “GMOs are safe!”. The articles are generally very fact based and provide all the citations one could ever hope for. Unfortunately because doubt is their product, these extremists only need to refute the headline and not the rest of the article.

Their “refutations” typically sound like the typical science denial mantra, a mixture of fact and fantasy. They accurately explain that science can never be 100 percent certain that anything is safe or certain. The tobacco industry did this by not actually refuting cancer claims, but by saying “we just can’t know for sure.” Climate change deniers do this as well with their attacking of climate models.

The problem is that they are right, which is why we need to be wary of the terms we use. Greenpeace hurts environmentalists because they scream about being sure the world is ending tomorrow, making it easy for the deniers to point out the flaws in that logic. Those of us (and I include myself) who state the scientific consensus as being that GMOs are safe are doing the same harm to biotechnology.

That isn’t the scientific consensus. The consensus is that the risks involved with the genetic engineering of crops is no greater than that of using other breeding methods. Given the random nature of artificial selection and the lack of a controlled environment, genetic engineering may actually be safer.

Those who oppose biotechnology love to sing the praises of the precautionary principle. That until we can prove these crops are 100 percent safe they should stay in the testing phase. But as they like to point out, this can never actually be done. So by comparing the risk to that of other breeding methods we can call them the hypocrites. If the risk is no greater, than why not apply the precautionary principle to non-GMO herbicide tolerant sunflowers and patented organic tomatoes?

Ultimately that is the only sentence needed to debunk any anti-GMO argument. “There are no risks that can be applied to GMOs that can’t also be applied to non-GMOs.”


Stephan Neidenbach is a middle school teacher, father, and blogger. This article was published with his permission. You can follow Stephan on Facebook and Twitter.


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