The League of Nerds on GMOs

League of Nerds demonstrating safe viewing habits
League of Nerds demonstrating safe viewing habits

The League of Nerds (TLoN) is a podcast hosted by two charming young science nerds: James Gurney and Myles Power. Recently, they began exploring the GMO debate in more detail. I’ve been subscribed to them on iTunes for some time and listen to their interviews every week. They don’t cover only GMOs, of course. You’ll find a long list of the science- and evidence-based issues they explore on their site. Note: the language in these podcasts may briefly and occasionally run to the PG-13 level, so do keep them away from impressionable children and tone trolls.

TLoN interviewed Kevin Folta recently, and the episode Are scientists shills? explored some of the issues around the recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests of public scientists.

To discuss some of the issues around corporate science and GMOs, they invited Vance Crowe to chat: Why does everyone hate Monsanto? With Vance Crowe from Monsanto! I loved this exchange in the episode with Vance:

James Gurney: Oh, by the way, can you just confirm, as far as you know, that we’ve never received money from Monsanto?

Vance Crowe: Yeah, guys, I mean, if it’s any consolation, no one had heard of you before I brought this up….

Apparently because I’ve made myself somewhat of a nuisance to them on Twitter, as in the hat wear suggestion I made for their viewing of Genetic Roulette shown above, Myles and James invited me to be on the podcast. In an attempt to earn my cape and tights for full League of Nerd status, I agreed. We talked about a range of things, from natural GMO sweet potatoes to GMO vaccines. We talked about why we do outreach on science topics, some of our strategies, and about changing minds on GMO issues, Bill Nye specifically.

So if you’ve ever wondered why I sound like beyond the keyboard clicking, now is your chance to find out. The first show covers that “natural GMO” sweet potato paper, as well as some of the reasons I do science activism.

The second episode talks about GMO vaccines in organic production, Bill Nye’s evolution on GMOs, and other issues around the public perception of GMOs. We talk about the need for folks to bring entertainment aspects to the nerdity, like the SciBabe has done.

Here are links to some of the references I’m making in the pieces, but if there are other aspects you’d like to know more about, or have additional links, just let me know. Happy to provide my sources.

Links and references:

Kyndt, T., Quispe, D., Zhai, H., Jarret, R., Ghislain, M., Liu, Q., Gheysen, G., & Kreuze, J. (2015). The genome of cultivated sweet potato contains T-DNAs with expressed genes: An example of a naturally transgenic food crop Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112 (18), 5844-5849 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1419685112

Nanotechnology: Armed resistance

The Cruel Irony of Organic Standards

Cyanogenic plants 

Quinoa pesticide
GMOs approved in the Philippines
The Amish use GMOs, you know.
GMO Vaccines in organic production.

Talks & Interviews


  1. I listened to your the section on organic and GMO vaccines. I then decided to do some googling. Here is a link to a discussion document on GMO vaccines in organic production. The relevant discussion starts on page 61.
    It appears to be a mess. Defining exclusive methods based on traditional breeding techniques seems like a quagmire.
    What is strange is that the EU allows all vaccines and Canada forbids all GMO vaccines, even non-GMO vaccines if the vaccine was produced using a GMO cell culture feeder system.
    But what is most odd about all of this is that chemical and physical mutagens are allowed to genetically modify bacteria or viruses, but nothing of a biological origin.

  2. Yeah–we’re fine with random mutations that we don’t know anything about (Brucellosis), but not the ones that work better because we refined them:

    Modified live vaccines generally have been found to produce greater immune responses in vaccinated animals and have become more common in new vaccines than killed vaccines. Live vaccines require that the genome of the disease causing organism be modified to create a living, but not virulent, pathogen which can be packaged in the vaccine. The excluded methods definition (205.2) includes methods which genetically modify organisms or influence their growth and development by means not possible under natural conditions or processes which are not considered compatible with organic production.

    We demand crappy random vaccines!
    It is a mess.

  3. I wonder how long Canada would forbid a GMO vaccine to a deadly contageous disease if the developer feels no need to repeat the development process just to make it non-gmo.

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