Fearmongering from Rodale

In Looking for the Truth, I did a point by point critical analysis of Organic Agriculture Beats Biotech at its Own Game by Timothy LaSalle, CEO of the Rodale Institute. I gave Dr. LaSalle credit for being a smart person who allows his ideology to cloud his judgement.
After reading Why GMO Foods Have Failed at Producing Healthy Food for More People, I don’t think I should have given him that much credit. I already covered most of his points in my previous post, but he makes some new points in this article that are, frankly, reminiscent of the scaremongering lies promoted by the Republican party about imaginary death panels.
I had been of the mind that Rodale was a strong research institution that was overall a good force for agriculture and for science, even if I disagree with some of their recommendations about biotechnology. If Dr. LaSalle’s lack of critical thinking is any indication of what his organization is capable of, then I must admit I was misled as to their purposes.
One sentence from the article says it all:

As the four As (allergies, asthma, autism, and ADD) rapidly increase in U.S. health statistics, we must consider that GMOs could certainly be one of the causes.

Really? We have no other explanations for any of these? Such as increased self-reporting due to media coverage of previous increased self-reporting?
Hopefully I will soon have time to do another point by point analysis, but for now I’ll leave you with a thought from one of the commenters on the article, K:

Ignoring scientific data when it suits you is no way to become a respectable source of information. If treehugger wants me to go against scientific data when it comes to GM foods, why should I believe any articles that want me to go with science when it comes to global warming?

I don’t need an article that is all, “yay, GM foods!”, but I do need an article that presents both the pros and cons, or, at the very least, cons that are real and not made-up.

PS: I was tempted to accompany this post with one of the many insane fearmongering images people have made about biotechnology, but I just couldn’t stomach it.

Anastasia Bodnar

Written by Anastasia Bodnar

Anastasia Bodnar serves as the Policy Director of Biology Fortified, Inc. She is a science communicator and multidisciplinary risk analyst with a career in federal service. She has a PhD in plant genetics and sustainable agriculture from Iowa State University.


  1. In the comment that you feature, I find fault that the writer requests pros and cons in all posts, but instead I think should provide reference material for independent reader analysis. Pros and cons are not "either/or" in most cases. I think that this also points to a fallacy of the excluded middle. In a topic as complicated as the efficacy and safety of GMO there are not "two sides," but questions that can be answered through research and analysis.

    Your understanding of the complex issues and your clear explanations of the research are the main reasons that I read your blog, Anastasia.

  2. As the four As (allergies, asthma, autism, and ADD) rapidly increase in U.S. health statistics, we must consider that GMOs could certainly be one of the causes.

    Really? We have no other explanations for any of these? Such as increased self-reporting due to media coverage of previous increased self-reporting?

    Good point. These people never cease to amaze me. It is often said that ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’. It is not evidence of harm, either. The same bizarre logic has been applied to the CCD problem with bees as well. Of course bees are dying in places where there are no GMO’s being grown. A minor detail, I guess. I read an article some time back where Marion Nestle said (and I’m paraphrasing), ‘there’s no proof that organic foods are better for you, but I just know they are.’ Wow, I’d like to see one of her grad students get away with that statement.



  3. I read Timothy LaSalle’s latest screed and I think we had a collective minor upchuck. If he keeps writing this stuff I’m going to need more antacids. He’s taking his cue from the AAEM and the Lyme/Autism group’s position papers. I’m surprised that he’s talking about Autism and not linking to the one that claims that autism is linked…. but then again he commonly links to things he’s not even talking about.

    Re: Loren:
    I am really interested to find any statements by Marion Nestle about organics and nutrients prior to the latest UK study. She has pointed out the fact that organic marketing is dependent upon claiming more nutrients, but to my knowledge she has never denounced such a pursuit as "nutritionism" until after it was shown to be wrong… then the one’s who showed it to be wrong were the one’s practicing ‘nutritionism.’ Do a search for the term on her site, and the only hits that come up are the ones about the organic study. I think a certain nutrition professor has been engaging in wishful thinking for years.
    If you can find a quote of her essentially saying that she believes that they are healthier or more nutritious, please send it to me at karl (at) inoculatedmind [DOT] com.

  4. The link of GMOs to the 3 As is bizarre. Incidences of allergies, asthma, autism and ADD could equally be attributted to motorcar use, calorific intake or the release of ‘American Pie’ movies. After all, these have all been on the increase over the last decade or so too.

    When faced with this sort of ‘scientific analysis’ my University lecturer used to say, "I have two legs, an ostrich has two legs, therefore I am an ostrich".

  5. One could also suggest that the rise in popularity of Organic Agriculture is causing those diseases… it as valid as a ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc’ fallacy as LaSalle’s phantom GE food connection.

  6. The comment censorship thing seems weird. Especially considering that a lot of critical comments have made it through. It’s good to keep tabs on who allows comments and who removes them, in blogging about evolution it has been very instructive to note that the creationists were the ones stifling debate.

  7. Anastasia,

    Excellent job on both posts. I just tried to encourage TreeHugger readers to head this way to read your rebuttals. We’ll see if TH publishes the comment.

    In the meantime, thank you for writing such an illuminating blog.


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