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Month: March 2013

The dark side of the anti-GMO movement

The dark side of the anti-GMO movement

greenpeacerice

Each year in Third World countries, millions of children go blind or die from the lack of Vitamin A. Wouldn’t it be great if scientists could come up with an easy solution to this human disaster? Well, they did.

Professor Ingo Potrykus of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Peter Beyer of the University of Freiburg in Germany found a solution. They created something called Golden Rice. It is rice genetically modified to produce higher amounts of vitamin A.

Given that rice is a staple in Asia and elsewhere, this was an easy way to help poor children get the nutrients they need. This beneficial creation didn’t go unnoticed by the anti-GMO/Organic activists and they wasted no time in attacking it. They have spread all kinds of unfounded rumors and lies about Golden Rice.

When MIT researchers conducted a trial with children in China, not to determine if they rice was safe, (it is) but to see if the rice did indeed deliver adequate amounts of Vitamin A, Greenpeace launched a propaganda campaign, accusing the researchers all kinds of ethical violations and using the kids, unwittingly as guinea pigs. They made such a racket that the Chinese Government freaked out and fired the Chinese researchers involved and paid compensation to families.

Greenpeace and others have continued their assault, holding up approval of this modern life saving measure. In the meantime, millions of kids are going blind and dying.  It is unconscionable and cruel, but that’s what the anti-GMO movement has become.

Greenpeace, a $300 million a year enterprise, full of well-fed, healthy, sighted westerners is advocating denying a life saving measure to poor children because their worldview disagrees with GMOs. It’s grotesque. There should be some way to haul them into the European Court of Human Rights.  That may sound like hyperbole, but considering they are campaigning to thwart life saving measures for millions of children, they should be held accountable.

But they aren’t the only ones waging a murderous campaign. Other groups and activists like Vandana Shiva also oppose saving children and starving people because the food may be GMO. As I wrote back in January,

Needless to say she hates GMOs.  This is where her rhetoric becomes dangerous. She hates them so much that she attacked OXFAM on their GMO stance when they were engaged in cyclone relief efforts in Orissa, a state on the southeast coast of India. She tried to persuade them to not supply GMO foods writing in an open letter that “We hope your food aid will be G.E. free.”  Shiva’s groupWomen for Diversity demanded the Indian government “immediately withdraw the corn-soya blend from Orissa.” Apparently it was better for people to starve rather than eat GMO food.

She hates “golden rice,” a non-commercially developed GMO rice with higher levels of Vitamin A which can prevent blindness in children. Millions of Third World children go blind each year due to lack of Vitamin A, yet Shiva would deny these children because GM is evil bad and golden rice is a“myth” and negates, “nature’s diverse gifts and women’s knowledge of how to use diversity to feed their children and families.” 

This descent into  cruelty can be traced back to 2002 in Zambia. At the time, the country faced food shortages and people were starving. The U.S sent food to help alleviate the disaster. Then, in waltzed foreign activist groups who convinced the Zambian Government that the food was “poison.” Zambia then warehoused all the food aid and refused to distribute it to their starving people.

The president of Zambia said today that his country, which is inching toward famine, would continue to refuse relief food that may be genetically modified, calling such food ”poison” and saying it is ”intrinsically dangerous.” ”I’m not prepared to accept that we should use our people as guinea pigs,” Mr. Mwanawasa said.

“Poison.”  “Dangerous.” “Guinea pigs.” Sound familiar?

The anti-GMO movement has decided the ends justify the means. They blatantly and without remorse, peddle dangerous nonsense.  When they aren’t peddling the imagined dangers of GMOs, they are vociferously defending and trying to rehabilitate the reputation of  the anti-GMO Gilles-Eric Seralini,  whose widely discredited RoundUp studies on rats was widely condemned by the scientific community.

In his quest to prove harm, he chose rats prone to tumors and allowed them to live longer than ethically acceptable in order to be able to show hideous pictures of rats with gigantic tumors. Science ethics experts, having seen the disturbing images could tell that Seralini had crossed ethical parameters in the use of animals in experiments.

A recent report by experts in medicine, pathology, food regulation and plant science found that Seralini’s study showed a “regrettable example of failures at multiple levels during the execution and communication of research.

The study appeared to sweep aside all known benchmarks of scientific good practice and, more importantly, to ignore the minimal standards of scientific and ethical conduct in particular concerning the humane treatment of experimental animals.

The report also says that there was an “abject failure” to “treat the experimental animals in a humane manner within standards of regulatory authorities, with the aim of “propagandising”.

The ends justify the means.

UPDATE:  At a recent Academia Europaea conference at Cambridge University, the co-inventor of Golden Rice said,

“If our society will not be able to “de-demonise” transgenic technology soon, history will hold it responsible for death and suffering of millions: people in the poor world, not in overfed and privileged Europe, the home of the anti-GMO hysteria.”

Send in the anti-GMO clowns

Send in the anti-GMO clowns

Every once in a while you read something that fires on all cylinders. That most recent something is an analysis on a Canadian website Troy Media. The junk science clowns behind the GMO scare is the last  installment of a four-part series  Quacks and Conspiracies.

The author, Alan McHughen systematically demolishes all the nonsense peddled by the anti-GMO crowd.

GMO technologies have been around since the early 1970s and have given us many useful products, from human insulin to safer crops grown with fewer pesticides. Moreover, in over 30 years of experience, according to authoritative sources such as the U.S. National Academies and the American Medical Association, there is not one documented case of harm to humans, animals or the environment from GM products.

That is an impressive track record, considering the extent of GM products in pharmaceuticals, agriculture, food and industrial applications. So why are so many still fearful of this technology? One simple answer is junk science and its carefully crafted use as a weapon of mass fear.

That’s it in a nutshell. McHughen goes on to take apart the nonsense peddlers like  Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the U.K.’s Soil Association, accusing them of  “fear-mongering,” and deploying “their considerable media-manipulating machinery to spread more scare stories.”

I wish he would have included the Organic Consumers Association, headed by anti-vaccine and professional activist. Ronnie Cummins, but hey, you can’t have everything. But all in all it’s a great piece and he even includes a video from Penn and Teller who castigate the activist groups and publicize Norman Borlaug who most people have probably never heard of.

In the video, P&T relate how in the early 2,000s, Greenpeace and other activists went to Zambia and urged the government to refuse the GM corn that was donated to help with a famine by saying it was “poison.”

According to the article,

As reported by the BBC, Mwanawasa duly locked up the food in the warehouses – the same GM corn eaten without incident by millions of Americans – and then watched his subjects die, insisting such a fate was preferable to eating “poison.” That is, until the starving Zambians broke into the warehouses and gorged themselves healthy on the allegedly poisonous corn.

Readers of this blog know that I can be harsh on anti-GMO activists and actions like they took in Zambia is why I do take a hardline. I think it’s criminal that well-fed westerners would deny starving people food because they have a problem with it.

I feel the same way about the Golden Rice issue. Here we have a solution to the problem that would prevent the deaths and blindness of millions of Third World children due to lack of Vitamin A. Activists, led by Greenpeace promote all kinds of bogus information about the rice and lobby governments to reject it. I’m sorry, I think that is advocating mass murder, pure and simple.

In a private email, a reader of this blog suggested I should tone it down so I don’t alienate the people I am trying to reach.  But I am not against the well-meaning people who are taken in by these groups. They think they are doing the right thing.

What I try to do is alert them to the fact they are being used by extremists and charlatans.  The downside of that is no one wants to think they’re a rube. I know whereof I speak. I used to fall for every bit of nonsense that came down the pike because it fit in with my worldview. Then I found out I was being a rube. Psychic Ouch.  So, I dusted off my ego and became the progressive contrarian. 

Since I started this blog, I’ve come to realize that maybe I’m not so much a contrarian in the strictest sense of the word. I think I defined myself by the rules of my tribe which makes me a contrarian. I look for the facts and evidence and if the facts and evidence  take me to different place, I have to go with it.

I hope that my posts are well-reasoned and evidence based, despite the sometimes strident tone.

Oh, of course I digressed once again from my original point. So let’s finish this one off with another quote from the article. It has to do with my bete noire, Jeffrey Smith.

 Meanwhile, the New World spawned another popular junk scientist in the person of Jeffrey Smith, who has penned several books decrying his perceived hazards of modern agriculture, saving the most potent venom for genetically modified crops and foods. Smith’s self-published, non-peer-reviewed Genetic Roulette, for example, expounds upon already questionable reports – almost all from non-peer-reviewed sources – in a confident, technical voice that suggests that he actually has some scientific or medical credentials. However, closer inspection of Smith’s CV reveals that the closest he has come to scientific credentials is working as a ballroom dance instructor and a flying carpet yogi. Genetic Roulette is so packed with scientific misunderstanding and misinformation that a group of actual scientific experts established a Web site to counter and explain, point by point, some 65 false claims.

The violent side of anti-GMO

The violent side of anti-GMO

 

Who was our fearless anti-GMO leader talking about? She was talking about Marie Mason, an eco-activist  who was convicted  in 2009 of  13 counts of arson and property damage.  She set fire to a building at Michigan State University that was doing research on GMOs.  Liberal anti-science darling Vandana Shiva thought what Mason did was a good thing. Shiva is not only an anti-progress, anti-science menace, she’s an asshole.

Mason is an extreme example, but more and more we are seeing green groups,  like Greenpeace, physically attacking and destroying GMO test fields. On one hand they scream about how GMOs aren’t tested, then proceed to destroy test fields.

Over the past decade, green groups have engaged in destruction of trial fields across Europe and beyond.  The problem has become so bad that scientists fear for their lives and their fate of their research.

Last year, some dumbass group called Take back the Flour was planning to destroy a publicly funded wheat field trial. The scientists involved took to the internets to appeal to them not to be dumbassses.

I think that video is brilliant. I wish I knew their names because the dark haired woman gets it right when she says that if you destroy the experiment we will never know the answer of whether what they are doing will work. The main blonde woman is also correct when she says that scientists don’t know everything, “that’s why we need to conduct experiments.”

Those scientists aren’t Monsanto shills. they are independent scientists trying to help make the world a better place.

In Italy, a Green group destroyed an olive tree field taking with it  20 years of research.

In 2011, Greenpeace nitwits attacked a  GM trial wheat field in Canberra, Australia.

The increasing violence of the anti-GMO crowd has become so serious that actual security measures have been taken. An  article in Science Daily, Fighting GM Crop Vandalism With a Government-Protected Research Site explains why this is become such a serious problem.

As of 2010, opponents of genetic modification had destroyed more than 100 field trials in Europe. At the Reckenholz site, a group of more than 30 masked activists threatened researchers and destroyed about 30 percent of the experimental plants in a 2008 field trial.

But wait, there’s more.

In an unrelated attack in Gross Lüsewitz, Northern Germany on July 9, six activists overpowered a security guard and ransacked test plots of fungus-resistant wheat. They also destroyed potatoes engineered to produce a chemical that may one day be used to make plastics. The fields, owned by the company Biovativ, were part of a government-funded trial.

Two days later, another group of vandals trampled a demonstration garden of GM potatoes, wheat, and maize in Üplingen, ScienceInsider reports. No one has been identified in those assaults.

What is interesting is that anti-GMO activists point to Europe and elsewhere about how they label foods containing GMOs. Europe, specifically, has become very anti-science.

In 2008, vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin drew criticism for her absurd beliefs – from Creationism to climate denialism – but few seem to realise how far that same anti-science sentiment has crept into our own politics. Link

Thankfully, Mason’s extreme action hasn’t become the norm in the U.S. We can also be thankful that the destructive behavior in Europe and OZ hasn’t made a big trouble here.

The UC Davis Police Department has increased patrols around some campus research fields after anti-genetic engineering activists claimed responsibility last week for destroying three research plantings of sugar beets and corn.

That was 1999. How long before we see more of that numb nut behavior here?

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