GMO Labeling Will Hurt Farmers and Consumers

Biotech_GMO_InfographicA_Sept171Trying to convince you that GMO labeling is unnecessary is not the reason for this post. The need to write is to express my opinion about something I read prior to the elections regarding GMO labeling. A statement I recently read on a Facebook debate made me realize people don’t really understand what it will take to put that label on their box of Corn Flakes.

http://nebraskawheatie.com/gmo-labeling-harvest/

This farmer explains the process of getting grain ready to sell, and described what would have to change to add GMO labeling to food. It’s an excellent article, and it’s great to hear from an experienced farmer, so I highly recommend that you read the full article above before continuing.

Labeling GMO’s isn’t just as simple as slapping a label on it. It would require drastic changes to how farmers process crops and send them to market, resulting in more man hours and higher costs, which hurts the farmers and the consumers. It’s not just a label being put on food; it requires a completely different system that drastically increases the time and money that would be required to grow and sell these crops. I actually didn’t realize how much was involved in labeling until now.

Of course, maybe that’s what the organic industry wants. If they can bog non-organic farmers down with unnecessary costs and time delays, then more people will buy their organic food because they won’t be the “expensive option” anymore. See what’s happening here? They’re saying “label GMO’s!” because it’s a smart way to make their competitor’s have to charge more.

By the way, I’m mentioning the motives of the organics industry to make a point. Anti-GMO activists blame the Pro-GMO ccompanies for lying and manipulating things to boost their profits, but that’s exactly what the organic industry is doing here. They’ve found a very successful way to demonize GMO companies- they ask for labels, GMO companies know that requiring labels will hurt farmers and raise prices for consumers so they oppose it, Organic industry claims they have something to hide and are ashamed of their products. Well played, organic industry. Well played. Now no matter what pro GMO people do, they’re demonized. If they support labeling, then the eventual outrage of farmers and consumers about rising costs will make people hate them. If they oppose labeling, then people say they’re corrupt and hiding something. Either way, the organic industry wins: GMO’s will be less desirable to grow and buy because of unnecessary regulations and costs.

It reminds me a lot of anti-abortion extremists: If they can’t make abortion illegal, they’ll bog clinics and women down with unnecessary costs and hoops to jump through so it becomes difficult and stressful to even consider having an abortion. It’s a bullying tactic and a very effective marketing ploy by the organics industry. And believe me, they’re raking in the profits. Literally, as in they’re a billion dollar industry that thrives on scaring people away from anything non-organic.

GMO’s have been proven over and over again to be safe. Labels are there to warn us of potential dangers, and there are none. The overwhelming consensus of the scientific community is that the GMO’s currently approved are safe and nutritionally the same as their non-modified counterparts. It’s also true that approved, safe GMO’s are being opposed based on misinformation and efforts by the organic industry, resulting in preventable deaths and malnutrition in countries that could greatly benefit from these improved crops. People are literally dying because of anti-GMO activism. It’s not helping people, it’s hurting them! That’s why I blog on this issue, because NO ONE should have to starve or be denied better food just because some people have been misinformed.

If you accept the consensus of the scientific community on climate change, pollution statistics, evolution, and other scientific issues, why do you mistrust them on this issue? Why are you Pro Science on everything else but not this one issue? Either we can trust the consensus of the scientific community, or we can’t. And PLEASE stop calling anyone who supports Monsanto or is Pro GMO paid shills. That argument is offensive, tiring, and untrue, and it makes it look like you have no other argument except to attack our character or mental capacity to think for ourselves. I respect facts and science, not logical fallacies and offensive character assassination.

*disclaimer* I am not paid by Monsanto or any other company or industry. Never have been, never will be. As of this article’s posting date I don’t even make ad revenue on this blog, although I might use Google Ad-sense in the future to help financially (still no connection to Monsanto). I’m also not a scientist or a farmer. I’m just a blogger who actually listens to what the scientists are telling us, as they hit their heads against the walls in frustration as misinformation and pseudoscience runs rampant and real people around the world suffer as a result.

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Farmer Suicides in India are NOT Caused by Monsanto or GMO’s.

srjcehhoq6pplqj7xt4aHere is the myth:

“Every 30 minutes an Indian farmer commits suicide as a result of Monsanto’s GM crops. In the last decade more than 250,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves because of Monsanto’s costly seeds and pesticides.”

This is pretty appalling story, and it’s easy to see why people who read it become angry about GMO’s and start to hate Monsanto. If I hadn’t seen the other side of the story, this claim would make me angry too. But the story is not true- at least not the part about Monsanto causing farmers to kill themselves. It’s not just farmers in India who are committing suicide in India- it’s a nation-wide problem, and GMO’s are not the cause.

The number of farmer deaths in India is much less than the general population. According to the report, the rate of suicide deaths among agricultural workers is around seven deaths per 100,000 people, whereas the overall suicide rate in India is close to 15 deaths per 100,000.

“In fact, our study found that the numbers of deaths of men in occupations other than farming was twice as great, meaning there were more deaths in clerical occupations, students, and other occupations than in agricultural work,” he said.

So it’s not just farmers who are affected by this high suicide rate. In fact, they’re less affected than other parts of the population.  So why does the anti-GMO movement ignore this important fact? Do they not care about the other countless Indian people who are driven to kill themselves even more frequently than the farmers?

Or do people’s lives only matter if their deaths can be used to support their anti-GMO agenda?

Sadanandan confirms that more than 250,000 debt-ridden farmers have committed suicide during the last two decades. But he says that the real seeds of despair are financial policies that were implemented by the Indian government in the early 1990s.

In particular, the entry of foreign and new generation private banks has made banking in India competitive and led to fewer loans to agriculture and farmers. With increased competition, banks saw lending to the farm sector as unprofitable and unreliable. This drop in institutional lending forced farmers to borrow from private moneylenders at exorbitant interest rates and increased farm indebtedness. When faced with heavier debt burden that they could not repay, many farmers in India took their lives. This, I argue, happened more in some states—particularly, in states where banking became more competitive with the increased presence of foreign and private banks.

The cause of the Indian suicide rate among farmers is not GMO’s, but the nation’s bad banking policies that are driving people into debt. Other social and economic factors are also likely contributing to the nation’s general suicide problem. But there is no evidence that GMO’s are the cause, or even a supporting cause, of these suicides. Cotton is thriving in India, it’s not failing at all.

But myths are hard to stamp out once they’ve been spread long enough… Especially when the myth is a powerful emotional story that can be used to convince people that Monsanto is pure evil and GMO’s are poison.  Fear, not bad banking policies, sells news.

“An evil corporation dumping genetic monstrosities on impoverished farmers makes for a much sexier narrative than the nuances of financial reforms in the banking sector. And therein lies the real tragedy of farmer suicides in India. Anti-GMO activists, by hijacking this story to cultivate sympathy for their own agenda, are distracting us from the solutions that could actually work.” [emphasis mine]

And this is why I am rapidly losing respect for the anti-GMO movement in general (not individuals who oppose GMO’s, I always respect people even if I disagree.) It enrages me to see the plight of these people turned into an emotional ploy to promote the anti-GMO agenda. Instead of addressing the actual causes of these suicides, which need to be addressed immediately, the attention is erroneously directed against GMO’s and the bad banking policies and other societal injustices are left unchallenged. India is not very friendly to the LGBTQ community, there is a lot of violence and injustice that would certainly be affecting how often LGBTQ Indians take their own lives, but do we hear about that when we talk about the nation’s high suicide rates? Of course not. That doesn’t help the anti-GMO cause. 

If GMO’s are really that bad, then surely they should not have to twist the facts and create sensational stories like this to make their point.

If Monsanto is truly an evil company, then crying wolf with stories like these is only hurting the anti-GMO cause because now I am skeptical of all stories about Monsanto being evil. I’ll certainly research each issue on an individual basis, but the anti-GMO movement has really turned me off to their cause even more than I was before by promoting this despicable false narrative.

I want facts, not lies and deceit. And I’m sick and tired of hearing about how evil Monsanto is when the anti-GMO movement has no qualms about deliberately lying to promote their own agenda, even if it means the real issues get ignored and real people continue to be harmed. But that’s ok as long as GMO’s get banned, right? The end justifies the means?

Sources:

http://seekerblog.com/2014/02/17/vandana-shiva-and-the-gmo-suicide-myth/

http://io9.com/the-gmo-mass-suicides-are-a-myth-1565342067

http://news.nationalpost.com/news/the-myth-of-indias-gm-genocide-genetically-modified-cotton-blamed-for-wave-of-farmer-suicides

Core Truths: 10 Common GMO Claims Debunked (link)

36a44a197f91a6cc8e34b8188ada4e9dGMO’s are not perfect. But neither is any other kind of farming. Here are some common claims about GMO’s debunked.

http://www.popsci.com/article/science/core-truths-10-common-gmo-claims-debunked

I appreciate that it acknowledges the faults and potential problems with GMO’s as well, because any industry that claims to be perfect and the only way to do things is being dishonest (including organic!) All farming methods can use improvement, especially when it comes to effective but safe pest/weed control (though we’ve made great progress in these areas).

I for one am looking forward to the non-browning Arctic Apples! 😀 I hate it when my apples get brown and nasty after I cut them. I will certainly be trying these new apples when they become commercially available.

“If You Want More Healthful Food, Then Opposing GMO’s Will Accomplish Literally Nothing” (link)

GMO-Corn

“Even more important, however, is that the entire framing of the debate is wrong. This is not about grassroots people vs the power of large corrupt corporations. This is about the marketing of some large corporations against the marketing of other large corporations. For example, Monsanto’s 2014 revenue was 14.8 billion. Whole Foods was 12.9 billion. The organic food industry sales for 2014 was 51.8 billion. The organic food industry has demonized GMOs in order to promote their own brand over a competitor’s [emphasis mine].

“If you want more healthful food, then opposing GMOs will accomplish literally nothing. Worse, it will hurt nutrition globally by depriving those who need it most of one entire category of potential solutions. Golden rice, for example, could be providing vitamin A to deficient children, except for mindless opposition to GMOs. There are GMO potatoes that produce less acrylamide when fried, a potentially carcinogenic compound. The GMO potato is literally more healthful then the non-GMO varieties.”

Read the whole article here, it’s really good: http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/missing-the-point-and-wasting-resources/

This is why I always try to go back to the science. What do the scientists who actually study and work with GMO’s say? What do their studies show? The overwhelming consensus is that GMO’s are safe. I don’t care what Monsanto says or what the organic industry is trying to sell me- I want the facts! And I’m tired of people demonizing the scientific community whenever the science does not support their personal agenda. Facts are facts, whether we like the implications of those facts or not. And the fact remains that GMO’s have been proven to be safe over and over again by countless studies over decades of intense research.

Yes, there are a few scientists and doctors who oppose GMO’s. There are also a few doctors and scientists who think Vitamin C and baking soda can cure cancer, that vaccines cause autism, that deny climate change, and many other scientifically debunked or unproven things. Doctor Oz has gotten in trouble for peddling snake oil to the public, using his degree in medicine to mislead people into thinking that these products actually work when there is no evidence that they do. Of course this is not a popularity contest- the number of people who accept something doesn’t necessarily determine truth- but when only a few scientists oppose something and they are repeatedly unable to prove it, and the other 90% of scientists have buckets of evidence that have been rigorously peer reviewed, then why should we take those few seriously? Even doctors and scientists can be wrong sometimes; hence the vital importance of intensive peer review and multiple studies. GMO’s have more than passed this test. When anti-GMO activists can show their own extensive peer reviewed studies proving GMO’s to be unsafe and also explaining why almost 2,000 other intensely reviewed studies showed them to be safe, then I will seriously consider their claims.

I recently wrote another blog on this subject that has links to studies and information about the safety of GMO’s. Check it out if you want to learn more about the safety of GMO’s.

How I Got Converted to GMO Food

GMOs

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/25/opinion/sunday/how-i-got-converted-to-gmo-food.html?_r=0

In regards to the above article:

This isn’t the first scientist I’ve heard that is practically begging us to stop believing and spreading the misinformation about GMO’s because it’s hurting people. People around the world are not being allowed to use better crops because of anti-GMO misinformation and paranoia, even leading to Greenpeace ruining field trials by literally pulling up the plants.

“In Africa, however, countries have fallen like dominoes to anti-G.M. campaigns. I am writing this at a biotechnology conference in Nairobi, where the government slapped a G.M.O. import ban in 2012 after activists brandished pictures of rats with tumors and claimed that G.M. foods caused cancer.

The origin of the scare was a French scientific paper that was later retracted by the journal in which it was originally published because of numerous flaws in methodology. Yet Kenya’s ban remains, creating a food-trade bottleneck that will raise prices, worsening malnutrition and increasing poverty for millions.

In Uganda, the valuable banana crop is being devastated by a new disease called bacterial wilt, while the starchy cassava, a subsistence staple, has been hit by two deadly viruses. Biotech scientists have produced resistant varieties of both crops using genetic modification, but anti-G.M.O. groups have successfully prevented the Ugandan Parliament from passing a biosafety law necessary for their release.”

If we’re serious about helping people, and about people’s health, then we need to start listening to the scientists who are sharing their stories and asking us to stop perpetuating misinformation. People talk about the mythical GMO-causing cancer that has been repeatedly debunked, but people are starving because anti-GMO activists won’t let them use better crops? Forgive my French, but that’s bullshit.

(Just to clarify: Being pro GMO doesn’t mean I necessarily support Monsanto. Businesses should be held accountable for their bullying practices whether they’re GMO businesses or not; this is a problem rampant in large corporations in every industry. If they’re acting irresponsibly they should be called out on it. But that doesn’t mean GMO’s are evil.)

This is a speech by a plant geneticist in a TED talk, discussing GMO’s and how they’re helping people:

http://www.ted.com/talks/pamela_ronald_the_case_for_engineering_our_food

An article summarizing the safety of GMO’s, as verified recently by a team of Italian scientists who scrutinized almost 2,000 studies on GMO safety. Their verdict confirmed the already proven consensus- they’re safe.

http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2013/10/08/with-2000-global-studies-confirming-safety-gm-foods-among-most-analyzed-subject-in-science/

An article about how farmers are affected by GMO’s:

http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/agriculture/2015/04/18/non-gmo-farming/25951693/

This article from The Science Babe talks about GMO’s, among other things. She cites sources to prove what she’s saying. I encourage you to check out those links and see for yourself the consensus of the scientific community.

http://gawker.com/the-bullshit-hypocrisy-of-all-natural-foods-1702686054

Aspartame: Is it really that bad for you? I used to think so. Here are the facts.

side-effects-of-aspartame1I see memes like this one about aspartame all the time. But are they accurate? I also see memes that claim Vitamin C supplements can cure cancer, vaccines cause autism, and so many other claims that have no scientific basis. So what about aspartame? Are these claims true, or are they just more paranoia and pseudoscience?

I’ve been doing a lot of research on this issue lately. I grew up hearing that aspartame was very bad for you, so I have avoided it myself for many years. But the more I look into it, the more the evidence points to it being just fine to consume. Study after study after study has shown it to be safe. In moderation, as with every other thing we eat, aspartame appears to be perfectly safe for people to consume in their regular diet.

https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/pepsi-removing-aspartame/

http://www.realclearscience.com/journal_club/2015/05/08/aspartame_sensitivity_doesnt_exist_109214.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=17828671&ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

Now I am not arguing that corporations are all good corporate citizens or wouldn’t dream of sweeping some inconvenient evidence under the carpet. But I am saying that a decades long conspiracy among industry, federal regulatory agencies, the medical community, and multiple research institutions and individual researchers – all under the nose of the press and lawyers looking for big class-action suits – is implausible in the extreme. I am also arguing that we should fairly assess all the evidence, not just cherry pick the evidence we like and dismiss the rest out of hand. https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/aspartame-truth-vs-fiction/

You’ll notice something about the links I’ve posted- they all cite scientific studies and/or quotes from verifiable sources, I believe all of them link to these studies or tell you the names so you can verify it for yourself. One of these links is from the US National Library of Medicine. THIS is the kind of research I try to do. I want to know what the actual science says. And contrary to many pseudoscience adherents and conspiracy theorists, I generally trust the consensus of the scientific community.

“But what if they’re wrong or lying? What about this doctor or that person who disagrees?” Then prove it! Get other scientists who have the required education and experience to perform their own studies and concretely prove that aspartame is unsafe! But you don’t have to do that unless you really want to, because they’ve already been doing this exact thing for 30 years, and it’s STILL considered safe for consumption. Shouldn’t this tell us something? Instead of assuming that there must be a decades-long conspiracy by all these countless independent researchers to hide the “truth”, doesn’t it make more sense to assume that maybe people’s fears about aspartame are unfounded?

Picture5-540x300
I want my views to be based on facts. If something is truly bad for me, I’ll avoid it and I’ll encourage others to do the same. But if it’s not, I don’t see why I shouldn’t use it or why we should be stoking fear and paranoia about the food we consume. If there are other scientifically sound studies that show significant possibility of harm from using aspartame and these studies are backed by scientists experienced in this specific field, I’d certainly take that into account. But aspartame is one of the most highly studied food additives of all time, and 30 years of intense research has not proven that its unsafe or harmful.

Is there a downside to aspartame? Surely there must be one. And there is- but it’s not just aspartame.
The only downside I’ve seen of aspartame is also true of any other calorie-free sweetener: If you’re trying to retrain your taste buds to not crave sweet things anymore, then consuming artificial sweeteners will do the same thing to your brain as eating regular sugar. When we eat sweets, we then crave more sweets, even if there’s no calories. We crave the taste psychologically. So if you’re trying to retrain your brain to not crave sweets, then aspartame and all other calorie free sweeteners are going to hurt your progress.

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Please read through the information in the links I shared here before making comments about me not knowing what I’m talking about. Yes, I am just a blogger with an opinion, but this isn’t really about my opinions. This is about sharing the already confirmed consensus of the scientific and medical community. I may not be a scientist or a doctor, but the people who did these studies and verified its safety are. Don’t take my word for it- go research it yourself!

Please keep in mind that if you comment that aspartame is bad for me, I will be asking you for sources. I’ll certainly consider what you have to say, but you’re not going to change my mind with just your opinions or by citing sources that are not verifiable or reliable. I require proof- and so should you.

My Journey Away From Creationism and Criticism of Lee Strobel

debunking-creationism-in-two-minutes

(This was originally my reply to an internet discussion about the claims made by Lee Strobel in “A Case for a Creator”, where he interviews supposed experts and uses several examples to “debunk” evolution, such as Haeckle’s Embryos and the Archeopteryx. I decided to modify it into a blog post since it was almost that long anyways lol.) 

I was a creationist for most of my life, it was a very serious interest of mine because I am incredibly passionate about truth and facts. I strongly supported Kent Hovind, Ken Ham and others like them, I loved Answer in Genesis and I had a big binder full of what I thought was proof against evolution, including the exact examples mentioned in “A Case for a Creator” (my copy of that book was dog-eared and highlighted).

Until I actually studied evolution from a non-creationist source.

When I started being open enough to question things, I started questioning creationism too. I was shocked at what I found- and then I got angry. I felt utterly betrayed.

Creationism had grossly misrepresented evolution to me, in some cases drastically. I was led to believe that there was significant scientific opposition to evolution, even though there isn’t. I was told that there wasn’t sufficient fossil evidence for evolution, when in fact there are thousands of fossils and biological links that prove evolution beyond any reasonable doubt. Even if the Archeopteryx was debunked, which is isn’t, it wouldn’t change the other mountains of evidence for evolution in the fossil record, biology, genetics, and so much more. I was told to ask questions that makes no sense, like why we still have monkeys if we evolved from them (we didn’t evolve from them, we had a common ancestor).

Scientists debate the details, as they do in every branch of accepted science, but there is no real scientific debate on whether evolution itself is a fact or not.

Scientists use evolutionary biology every single day to understand how viruses evolve and change so they can treat it. Without understanding evolution, we would not have vaccines and cures for many diseases. That’s why we have to get a new flu shot every year, because the virus is constantly evolving. Scientists have figured out evolution so well that they can predict evolutionary patterns in the fossil record, which has been confirmed over and over again by fossils we discover.

Here are some sources about the basics of evolution:

Excellent 10 minute description of evolution: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdddbYILel0

Great youtube series on the basics of evolution: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85diEXbJBIk&list=PL0201355430A94385

Evolotion 101: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evo_01

Answers to Creationist arguments: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/15-answers-to-creationist/

Creationist sources tend to rely on fundamental misunderstandings of evolution and by ignoring the scientific rebuttals to their criticisms. Lee Strobel’s book is a perfect example of this.

Strobel’s Book

There are some major problems with Strobel’s book, A Case for a Creator. For one, he uses Haeckle’s Embryo’s as an example of evolutionary proof even though they were debunked as frauds long ago. No scientist uses that as evidence to prove evolution, there’s plenty of accurate information without needing to use forgeries. So why do Strobel and other creationists specifically use an example that evolutionary scientists today don’t even accept as factual or relevant? It’s incredibly misleading and dishonest. It’s cherry picked to make evolution look unreliable. This alone should call Strobel’s journalistic credibility and competency into question. No truly unbiased author would use such a bad example of evolutionary proof unless he either didn’t understand evolution or was grasping at straws to debunk it and was willing to blur the lines a little.

Another problem with his book is his very biased choice of “experts” to interview.

“And in order to obtain the “hard facts of mathematics” and the “cold data of cosmology,” Strobel interviewed Dr. Craig, who doesn’t even have an undergraduate degree in mathematics or cosmology! Dr. Craig’s credentials are purely in theology and philosophy. While Dr. Craig is indeed qualified to publish on related topics, such as the philosophy of science, he is not among the first people one should approach with questions about mathematics and cosmology–unless one already has an underlying agenda.” http://pleiotropy.fieldofscience.com/2009/02/strobels-case-for-creator.html#sthash.XfHUYuiu.dpuf
“Strobel is frankly misleading about his experts’ qualifications. While spending paragraphs touting each of his interviewees’ “doctorate-level” educations, he fails to point out that most of them do not have doctorates in the fields dealing with the issues on which they were interviewed. Rather, most of them have doctorates in philosophy or theology, and perhaps undergraduate degrees in a related science. Strobel clearly meant to insinuate that he picked doctorate-level experts in the fields dealing with the issues they were interviewed about; but, with a few exceptions, this is not the case. This does not bode well for his claim of standing “in the shoes of the skeptic.” Further, the opinions expressed by his experts are minority opinions in their fields. Of course, minority opinions can and do become majority opinions. But if you are conducting an investigation concerning a particular field of study, you don’t simply interview those with minority opinions and treat their opinions as representative of that field. This provides further evidence that Strobel’s pretense of playing the skeptic is a complete farce.” http://infidels.org/library/modern/paul_doland/creator.html

As for the other examples in Strobel’s book, scientists have debunked those issues many times. I could go into details, but I encourage you to research those claims for yourself.

I strongly encourage you to study science from scientific sources.