Making Amends For Helping Take the “Pro-GMO” Movement Too Far

I have something to say to the larger skeptics community, but especially to food-world skeptics. In part, I need to issue an apology for my role in shaping a specific movement— the pro-GMO movement—  and for the mistakes I made in leading that movement.

pro-gmo movement
MAMyths in Chicago

But first, how did I end up a vocal writer and activist? It all started in January of 2011, when I was 29 years old.  That January, my daughter was born, and holding the crushing weight of that 6-pound, 9-ounce life in my hands triggered a tidal wave of pathological fear— the fear that any new parent experiences but magnified a hundredfold. I would later learn that this was the onset of postpartum OCD (which I recently described in a piece for SELF Magazine). I was constantly terrified, 24 hours a day, of harm coming to my baby.

To dampen the explicit and horrific scene playing out in my mind’s eye of my baby girl dying of SIDS, I would tiptoe to her crib at all hours of the night, when I should have been sleeping, to place my hand on her body and count her breaths, and gaze at the rise and fall of her tiny chest by the light of the moon. I had to count five breaths and if I wasn’t sure that I counted them just right, I took my hand off of her chest, and did it again. And again. Ad nauseam.

To dampen the vivid image of my family dying in a fire, I would tiptoe to the stove at all hours of the night, when I should have been asleep, touching the stove knobs in multiples of five and staring at them to “make sure” the stove was off. When you’re in the grips of OCD, you know that you’re personally responsible for preventing these almost prophetic visions from coming true— even though you know in the rational part of your mind that what you’re doing is ridiculous and not at all rational.

Before I was diagnosed with OCD, in those few crucial first months of motherhood, the information came at me in all directions, the way it comes at all parents. My family, friends, and the internet were all telling me that everything was full of toxins— from the products in my home, to the food in our pantry, to the clothes on my baby’s back.

The parenting fear machine

In retrospect, I see that there were two possible outcomes, at least on a macro level. I could either a) fall headfirst down the path I was starting on, and fall perhaps irrevocably into a rabbit hole of woo. Combine that with OCD, and it could have been bad. But instead, I found the skeptics movement (and I found Zoloft), and it led me to option b.

I clearly remember opening the copy of “The Baby Book” by Dr. Sears, which I’d received as a gift. I couldn’t have known that Dr. William Sears, known as the “father of attachment parenting,” was also a proponent of a lot of unsubstantiated fear-based parenting ideas.

Now, a disclaimer— I don’t think all tenets of attachment parenting are bad. For example, I think it’s great if you want to breastfeed your baby. I also think it’s great if you want to combo feed or formula feed your baby. I think it’s great if you want to WEAR your baby. But the implied and sometimes explicit message from internet forums associated with attachment parenting and its tenets went something like this:  

If you don’t exclusively breastfeed your baby for at least 6 months then you are risking damaging her for life. I later found out that wasn’t true. The internet told me that if you let your baby cry for even a few minutes at a time, you risk damaging her psychologically for life. I later found out that this isn’t true. I was told (even before I had my baby) that if you have an epidural to help manage the pain of childbirth, you may end up messing up your breastfeeding relationship with your baby. Also not true, and may I add, really sexist.

The alarming claims seemed endless. And I was tired and terrified. Just thinking about harm coming to my baby could send me into a cycle of knocking on wood, checking and re-checking stove knobs and door locks, and ruminating on every single possible outcome of every choice I made.
I turned to Google and, fortunately, I came across the first skeptics’ blog I started reading — Dr. Amy Tuteur’s “Skeptical OB.”

Soon, I was devouring more and more skeptic content, which I did in my free time for almost three years before I started writing for a then-new skeptics blog called Grounded Parents; a sister site to Skepchick. I realized then that I had an opportunity to help other parents feeling overwhelmed by the predatory and harmful parenting misinformation that seems to drive a prevailing parenting culture of chaotic and nebulous fear. We’re told that good parents have to do our own research on practically EVERYTHING when it comes to our kids— a virtual full-time job. I wanted to do my part to help make new moms not feel so guilty about the decisions that don’t really matter long term, and empower them to tackle what does matter.

The “GMO” lightning rod

Another long story short, my work found an audience, and then more audiences, and it was clear that I was resonating with people. Nowadays, my writing appears at a number of different blogs and news outlets, where I cover food, health, science, and parenting. I speak to audiences including skeptics and freethinkers groups, industry events, and universities about communication, and why people believe disinformation.

But back when I first started blogging in 2013, one of the most fraught issues making waves in the parenting and food world was GMOs, as is evidenced by Google Trends data showing an uptick in searches for “GMO.”

(Disclaimer: I’m not here to discuss the safety or equivalence of genetic engineering as a crop breeding method as compared to other crop breeding methods. I am speaking from the assumption that genetic engineering is as safe as any other breeding method, because the vast body of evidence shows that it is. I’m talking about how the conversation ABOUT GMOs has gone astray, and the larger impact on the skeptics movement. End disclaimer.)  

As a new parent, I’d started hearing rumblings about GMOs. GMOs were the weapon that big agri-corporations used to control us and keep us sick. GMOs “may be” responsible for purported rises in rates of autism, cancer, allergies, and more. The story went that GMOs were causing the rate of pesticide use to skyrocket. I learned it was better to stay on the safe side and buy organic, since the USDA organic program didn’t allow organic farmers to grow GMOs.

Well, as I learned, GMOs — or at least what people perceive GMOs to be— were being unfairly demonized. And I learned that there are companies, individuals, organizations, and industries with financial and/or ideological motivations to systematically mislead the public and demonize GMOs. And the more I learned about it, the more I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, and that’s exactly what I did.

I wrote blog post and article after article on how GMOs aren’t the cause of the myriad problems attributed to them. I tweeted about it regularly. I explained in every single way possible that if you’re against genetic engineering as the culprit of the aforementioned ills, then you have been systematically misinformed by those with a vested interest in doing so. Among the many verifiable facts that my allies and I often shared:

  • All crops, including those sold as organic and non-GMO, have had their genomes manipulated by humans using methods ranging from traditional cross breeding to exposure to mutagenic chemicals and radiation. So, in essence, even stuff labeled non-GMO has been genetically altered past recognition from its indigenous ancestor.
  • GMOs aren’t the only patented crops. Practically every commercialized grain, fruit, vegetable, and type of livestock has a patent on it, including items that can be grown and sold as organic and non-GMO.
  • So-called sustainable farming practices are not exclusive to organic farms.
  • The revenue of Whole Foods, even before it was acquired by Amazon, and at the time a leading corporate opponent of genetic engineering, rivaled Monsanto’s revenue.
  • That genetic engineering saved the Hawaiian papaya and is resurrecting the American chestnut tree from the brink of Extinction.
  • That genetic engineering can help save the diseased crops of subsistence farmers in the developing world, like the starchy banana, known as Matooke in Uganda, being wiped out by banana wilt.
  • That GMOs haven’t caused one illness ever.

“2, 4, 6, 8, biotech is really great!”

Gearing up for our 2015 March Against Myths with co-founders Karl Haro von Mogel and David Sutherland.


I even co-founded a science activist organization — shoutout to March Against Myths and my co-founders David Sutherland and Dr. Karl Haro von Mogel — to counter what we call “pseudoscience injustice.”

Our first campaign, which lasted 3 years, was called March Against Myths About Modification. You may have seen us in action if you happened to watch the Food Evolution documentary.

The first ongoing March Against Myths campaign grew out of the impetus to put an end to the pseudoscience injustice perpetrated by one specific and wide-reaching organization — March Against Monsanto (MAM). And boy is March Against Monsanto not actually a march against the agrichemical corporation Monsanto (which is now Bayer). It turns out that MAM is not only anti-Monsanto, but anti-vaccine, and anti-agricultural genetic engineering. MAM regularly promotes all manner of harmful drivel including cancer conspiracy theories, ableist conspiracy theories about autism, the notion that mental illness can simply be meditated away or treated naturally, and a lot more egregious falsehoods.

In May 2015, the first year of our counter protest, our allies around the country and the world literally marched against the March against Monsanto. We yelled chants like “2 4 6 8, biotech is really great,” and “what do we want? Safe technology. When do we want it? We already have it!”
By the third year of our counter protest, there were barely any March against Monsanto folks to counter-protest. We had confirmed reports from multiple locations that nobody showed up to march where their ranks were strong just a handful of years ago. I don’t want to make causation out of correlation, but we do take some hard earned credit for MAM’s dwindling numbers in the streets.

The pro-GMO allies who came out year after year to counter-protest, and day after day to correct anti-GMO myths on Facebook, Twitter, and comments sections— they were and are fighting a good fight, and I salute them.

Armed with facts against non-GMO nonsense

As I said, I also wrote and still write lots of blogs and articles about GMOs. I wrote about how the Non-GMO Project is ruining my shopping experience. I wrote about how the anti-GMO movement has a social justice problem. I wrote about how the anti-vaccine and anti-GMO movements are inextricably linked and cause preventable suffering. And soon, I began covering the growing pro-GMO pushback.

When Triscuit adopted the non-GMO project label, people objected, and loudly declared that they would no longer buy their favorite woven wheat crackers. I covered the backlash when Hunt’s tomato began using “no GMOs” in its marketing claims. People were showing up on social media to lambast Hunts for misleading consumers because a) there are no GMO tomatoes on the market anyway and b) non-GMO claims help perpetuate anti-GMO sentiment, which fuels policy that can keep beneficial GE traits from reaching the farmers and people who need them. I gave presentations on “GMO” and how it intersects with parenting, food, health, social justice and more from Florida to the UK and lots of places in between. I joined with other #Moms4GMOs to call on celebrity moms to judge GMO food with facts instead of misinformation.

As you might have gathered, I took, and still take, a lot of issue with Non-GMO Project and non-GMO labels. I specifically took issue with the companies with non-GMO labels on their products, and their demonstrably systematic false advertising suggesting that non-GMO means everything from better treatment for farm workers to better for the environment and for health, because none of those claims are true. A non-GMO label doesn’t tell you anything about the conditions of farm or factory workers that made the product, or the pesticides used, environmental impact, which corporations were involved along the supply chain, whether there are patents on the crop involved, healthfulness, or anything else. All it tells you is that the whole food or the ingredients in a product were not derived from crops created with modern molecular genetic engineering.

So this vast misdirection about what GMO means and doesn’t mean is egregious, especially coming from organizations like the Non-GMO Project, whose labels appear on tens of billions of dollars worth of products a year.
Without question, a lot of my work on this issue made quite an impact. I had clearly emerged as a leader in this seemingly cohesive pro-GMO movement. Soon, as I started shouting from the rooftops about how I was avoiding any products with non-GMO labels, more and more self-described “skeptics” and “rationalists” started following suit.

Nowadays, I often see people on the internet denouncing companies for adopting the non-GMO label, and that’s a good thing because industry shouldn’t cave to obvious and harmful misinformation. After years of pushing for it, it’s almost surreal for my colleagues and I to see so many people speaking out about why genetic engineering is one important tool in the toolbox of agricultural techniques that together, aim to feed the world’s growing population while preserving our planet.

Genetic engineering is safe and beneficial, but…

…Something feels wrong about this stronger than ever pro-GMO opposition to anti-GMO, and this is where my apology comes in. As much as I stand behind the factual accuracy of everything that I have written and said about genetic engineering, I need to apologize for the role that I played in turning the pro-GMO movement into what it is today, which is stronger than ever but has overstepped its bounds.

Don’t get me wrong. I still firmly believe that genetic engineering is a crucial tool to help nourish our growing population in a sustainable way. But here’s what’s so interesting about GMO; what gives GMO so much power:  ‘GMO’ represents a lot more than just genetic engineering. It’s a social construct. Like any social construct, what “GMO” means to people can vary from person to person. And it’s precisely for this reason that the polarization around GMO has done us no favors.

Seriously, if you want to see all of the nuance and critical thinking get sucked out of a room, just say GMO. Nuance gone. On all sides. GMO is positioned, both by design and happenstance, as a spoke around which conversations about the food system spins. And because food is one of the foundations of life itself, it is powerful.

GMO raises a vast array of justified socio-economic anxieties — including very real anxieties about our environment and the future of our planet, workers rights, disease rates, corporate control of the food and political systems, and the systemic inequality propping up our society, from systemic racism, sexism, and the yet unhealed gaping wounds of the legacies of colonialism, slavery, and environmental destruction around the world.

Because GMO represents so much more than just genetic engineering, and because it can represent so much to different people, the polarization of arguing “against” GMOs and arguing “for” GMOs is really, on several levels, a conversation about any and all of those things.

In the last few years, much of the polarization around GMO has centered around labeling— and now it’s law — the USDA has mandated that all genetically engineered foods or ingredients must be labeled by the end of this year, but what that label will look like still isn’t settled. Currently, the proposed icons feature the letters “B-E” which stands for “bioengineered,” some with a curved line below the letters resembling a smiley face. This mandatory labeling decision has driven the pro-GMO camp into a frenzy. They say that these labels stigmatize a useful agricultural technique that can help farmers and people all over the world. The mandatory labeling decision has also driven the anti-GMO camp into a similar frenzy. They argue that labels should explicitly carry the term “GMO” or GE, and should not at all evoke happy or positive connotations.

So now we’ve come to the culmination of a battle of sort. But what have we solved? Think about it— what are we solving with this fight? Nothing. Because all of the socio-economic issues that GMO raises are systemic, and labels are, by their nature, superficial.

We skeptics and science enthusiasts pride ourselves on knowing how to separate truth from fiction and to read and understand a scientific paper. I encourage you to let go of that urge for a moment. Yes, it is important as consumers to be educated about food labels and their consequences. But while this battle has raged, with ranks on both sides, we’ve forgotten that different values drove us.

Cracks in a movement reveal where our values diverge

And now, post-Trump era, those diverging values have manifested in a divide in the “pro-GMO” movement that previously seemed like a united front. Some have condemned and denigrated this divide as “infighting.” But it’s not infighting. There never were pro-GMO and anti-GMO sides. There were just people. People with values. And the woman who marched in my ranks against March Against Monsanto 3 years ago— at that time, our shared values, in that case, the need to follow science when it comes to food policy, were strong enough to unite us. But this is the same woman (a Trump voter by the way) who now fiercely rejects the notion that acknowledging racism, and sexism, and other structural inequality should drive the way we talk about and shape our food system.

To her and others like her, the unity of the pro-GMO movement is more important, aligns more with her values, than people like me “breaking the pro-GMO ranks” to have conversations with so-called anti-GMO enemies on how to achieve the shared goal of justice in the food system based in the shared value of equity and justice for all. Now that our values are becoming more and more apparent in the current political climate, the calls for unity in the pro-GMO movement are counterproductive and detrimental. There will not be unity, nay there SHOULD NOT be unity.

So what does this mean, for Freethought Day and its theme— “discover reason”? As skeptics, as freethinkers, as people who value what we call “reason,” I urge you to remember that no issue that we’re passionate about, be it GMOs, vaccines, or atheism, should require us to walk in lockstep, especially around issues of scientific significance. Remember that, while the scientific method may be the way we interact with the world, the scientific method is wielded by people, what drives those people are values, and that the people with the power to wield science on a broad scale control that conversation.

Note:  This post is adapted from a talk I gave in front of the capitol building in Sacramento at California Freethought Day 2018. Video of the speech is available here.

Kavin Senapathy

Written by Kavin Senapathy

Kavin Senapathy is the co-founder of international pro-science, pro-biotech movement March Against Myths, and co-author of The Fear Babe: Shattering Vani Hari’s Glass House, a book discussing popular food misconceptions and why they proliferate in the face of mountains of evidence against them. She has a passion for refuting myths popular in the wild internet west, with topics including genomics, health, food, and biotechnology. A regular contributor to Forbes, SELF Magazine, and Grounded Parents, Kavin’s work has also appeared in Slate and other outlets.

16 comments

  1. Thank you for your thoughtful post. I appreciate your struggle with OCD tendencies with child safety, and striving for a balanced, educated future. I too have struggled to evolve an educated existential understanding in my approach to GMO technology (and to GE as well). GE seems to me to have good potential for helping form our food future with scientific integrity, if VERY carefully done. Currently, my take on it, is that GMO (being about 85% based on RR technology) is strongly contributing to GE/public misperception. My concerns about the toxicologic potential status and trends about mechanisms of harm from glyphosate and associated RR are increasing as I learn more. Perhaps my understanding will change with future scientific research evolving, but currently my trend is toward more serious concern. I look forward to dialogue with you and others to help clarify these concerns going forward into an even better food safety paradigm for the future of the grandchildren of our grandchildren, who we borrow this world from.

  2. Beautifully written Kavin! I was in the Non-GMO camp for a bit, and I was initially introduced to it as well as Organic ideas through the spiritual community. Before that, I was very much in the science and skeptic camp until I experienced some spiritual awakenings, so I swung into their camp for a bit.
    But after getting back in touch with my former self I started seeing the holes in these ideologies: the black-and-white thinking towards science, what GMO actually meant, the lack of peer-reviewed science that wasn’t funded by the Organic industry, and especially the demonization about GMOs (some people I know even simply called GMOs “poison”). The biggest straw for me was when I started hearing the conspiracy theories about vaccines causing autism, something long debunked, and noticing how people who tended to believe in one theory also believed in others.
    This sense of “being woke” in the spiritual community at this point I find quite a but ironic. Let me add I don’t want to lump every person in the spiritual community as lacking critical thinking or scientific understanding of complex issues. I consider myself an individual who’s been on both sides and sees the ongoing flaws. But I do notice a trend with more individuals in the community thinking based on belief, subjective truth over objective truth.
    I love that you wrote this because there’s extremes on both sides of the coin. Science in it’s own way can become an ideology in and of itself. It’s surely been more helpful in shaping our current modern day society, so that’s not to say I place science equivalent with something like spirituality. Not at all. But the demonization on each side doesn’t solve the problem. I absolutely agree with you there’s far deeper systemic problems, and these things like the GMO and Vaccine “debate” are a symptom but not the root. If science and critical thinking was actively promoted and taught in schools, would we still have these issues? If mental health issues didn’t continue to rise every year, would we have as many people turning to peer groups which are emotionally fulfilling but have little basis in reality? It’s very important questions.
    Thanks again for this post. I thoroughly enjoyed it. 😀

  3. This is a great article that doesn’t address what Kavin is apologizing for.
    Kavin truly has skills as a writer and I certainly enjoyed 90% of this article. However, This article doesn’t a dress its stated goal. What boundaries were crossed? Why is standing side by side with a trump voter such a terrible thing, if you agree GMOs are worth fighting for? Where has the progmo movement played a role in harming our own cause?
    We can’t reflect and change if we don’t know the answer to these questions.
    The only thing I can surmise from this is that Kavin has not been happy with the divide that was perpetuated by a stronger pro gmo movement. Why would you expect these people to give up their ideology and come to the center if you play nice? That’s not how people change their minds. I don’t see there being any other way. If you have a weak pro GMO movement then it just gets crushed, if you have a strong movement then there’s a stronger divide with the opposition.
    I will stand with a Trump supporter on GMOs. Them voting for Trump doesn’t change the fact that bio engineering is a perfect solution for people and the environment in many cases. If anything standing with them on gmos gives me a better opportunity to influence them on their voting record.
    You mention briefly that you paired with people from the organic side. What fruits have that brought? The only example I know of is in underminding Kevin folta with this across the aisle collaboration. I don’t know the details but that’s how it is, fresh in my head.
    None of this is mentioning the clear tension between glp and biofortified or the individual egos that have taken the wheel at times. Some of that tension has left us on the outside scratching our heads and wondering why these disagreements were handled so poorly.
    Here’s to the New Year, 2019, giving us better communication and understanding of each other. And here’s to Kavin producing more perspectives for us to enjoy.

  4. There are lots of words here. Many of them are without substance. Some of the information is not correct. And though you seem to be proud of what you have accomplished, you apologize toward the close of your article for what you have created. I doubt your range of influence is that broad.
    The simple fact about the various processes called genetic engineering is this: those processes break the natural species barrier that limits the exchange of genetic material, such that tomatoes and fish do not mate and do not, therefore, exchange genetic material.
    In a laboratory, though, exactly that has been done, and the Flavr-Savr tomato that might have been was a disaster rather than a triumph.
    I won’t go on long. My sole point, my sole concern, is that if you are not writing the truth, you are serving neither your readers nor yourself. There is ample reason for people to know everything about what they’re putting in their bodies. I am confident that, in this case and so many others which involve a potentially disastrous tampering with nature, the truth will prevail, and nature will have her way, even over the holy grail of corporate profits and stock prices.

  5. Hi Ray, thanks for the comment! I agree that RR tech has taken a toll on public perception of GE. Re “GMO technology,” I hope that proponents can stop bringing up tech when it comes to GMO, because there’s so much more to it that just tech. Happy new year, and here’s to our kids and grandkids 🙂

  6. Thanks for the comment, Donald. I too am curious about what would happen if simple fact-checking (especially in the realm of the internet) were taught in schools.

  7. Hi Thomas. I’d argue that “GMOs” aren’t worth fighting for. GMO isn’t just GE, it’s GE + every single anxiety that people have about the food system. Not sure where I mentioned that I “paired with people from the organic side.”
    Happy new year!

  8. One thing we can agree on – the Flavr-Savr was a disaster, but not because of fish genes 🙂

  9. Hi Kavin,
    If I could scratch the “paired with organic folks” from the record, I would. I now understand I was very confused.
    However, if you could help me understand what you are apologizing for. I’m still confused about that. You are wearing a shirt that says I <3 GMO, so it's an odd reply that the word GMO has baggage.
    Are you regrouping in the movement? What would you like to see different?
    Cheers,
    Tom

  10. To be fair, “have conversations with so-called anti-GMO enemies” could be interpreted as “paired with people from the organic side.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that; there are organic farmers who would like to use GMO crops. Besides, all of my fellow commie-pinko leftist-progressive friends are anti-GMO, and I have conversations with them a lot.

  11. I have to agree that I didn’t quite figure out what you are apologizing for. I was surprised when I reached the end of the article because I thought it was still coming or that I missed “the joke.” I’m very pro-GMO with a very similar background in that I came into the whole organic/anti-GMO camp after having my first child. My return to science was driven by the woo that seemed to be common with people who were in that camp, forcing me to be more critical of my new ideas. Could you clarify a bit more on what is bad about supporting a cause that some people are more militant about.

  12. I am always reminded when people advise not to interfere with nature of how silly humans are. Nature isn’t here to give you life and health and all things good. Nature kills you in a heartbeat for the mistake of tasting something toxic to a human, but perfectly safe to an insect. A wild animal will kill you with ease for innocently wandering into its terriritory. Nature doesn’t have a “way.” It quite frankly doesn’t care about you one way or another.

  13. First of all, I’m with “Thomas T Baldwin;” I have no idea what you need to make amends for. You’re a very good writer, I’ve learned a lot from your Forbes stuff, and I {Heart} my “I {Heart} GMO” t-shirt.
    I disagree with some of your points, though, especially with this comment:
    I’d argue that “GMOs” aren’t worth fighting for. GMO isn’t just GE, it’s GE + every single anxiety that people have about the food system.”
    For me, GMOs are worth fighting for, because I am concerned with sustainable agriculture, and they could be a very good thing to use. If someone started a fear-mongering campaign against greenhouses, I would get an “I {Heart} Greenhouses” t-shirt too.
    And for me, GMO is not “GE + every single anxiety that people have about the food system.” For me, GMO is GE. All the anxieties are separate issues.
    Surely you have heard the idea that GMOs are used as a proxy war for other issues. For example, that Hirshberg fellow from Just Label It said “…consumers need to have the same rights held by citizens around the world, to choose whether or not to buy these foods and indirectly support this cycle of increased overall chemical usage.” By tying “GE” to “every single anxiety,” it sounds like you want to use GMOs as a proxy war too, for whatever struggles you have. I think that’s a bad idea.
    In addition to supporting GMOs, I have my other issues too; I am against promoting fear of food, and I am against the whole anti-science thing. But I don’t use GMOs as a proxy war. You say that “GMO is positioned, both by design and happenstance, as a spoke around which conversations about the food system spins.” No, GMO is not a spoke. GMOs could disappear, and my issues with food fearmongering and anti-science would continue unabated. GMOs serve as examples, but GMOs are not the issue. Not a spoke.
    GMO is not a social construct. If something has various issues surrounding it, that doesn’t add up to a social construct. Climate change is not a social construct, even if it comes with a whole bunch of issues. It sounds like your GMO social construct is constructed from how people think of GMOs when they are misinformed: Patents, terminator seeds, Roundup, farmer suicides, super weeds, and so on. When they find out that GMO is just a GE technique, there is nothing to construct a social construct from.
    So, about this:
    “Because GMO represents so much more than just genetic engineering, and because it can represent so much to different people, the polarization of arguing “against” GMOs and arguing “for” GMOs is really, on several levels, a conversation about any and all of those things.”
    Not for me. Whenever I get into a conversation about GMOs, the first thing I clarify is that GMO is not, as you say, “GE + every single anxiety that people have about the food system.” What I say is that GMO = GE, and GE is just a technique, and exists independently of whatever problems cause food system anxieties.
    It’s true that a discussion of GMO inevitably leads to a discussion of a variety of other things, such as dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, mass transit, shopping at thrift stores, and the efficacy of regulatory agencies. This is often productive in that it focuses attention AWAY from GMOs, and turns the attention to the real problems, and clarifies that GE is independent from those issues. In fact, the sooner we get “GMO” out of the discussion, the better. Actual social activists in India would love to focus on the real reasons for farmer suicides.
    I have problems with Big Ag; I’m from California, and we used to have the largest fresh-water lake west of the Mississippi. It’s now a gigantic cotton field, and, dammit, I want my lake back. My fellow left-progressive friends can try to run Tulare Lake around the GMO spoke, but it’s not a GMO issue. The issue is rampant consumerism, such as disposable clothes, which is why I shop at thrift stores.
    Our goal, therefore, is to stop talking about GMOs at all. They should be as controversial as sea slugs or dirt clods. To elevate the issue of GMOs to a social construct is counter-productive. Combining unrelated issues is nothing but trouble. If I can find common ground with a Trump supporter or a Bernie-bot in regards to GMOs, that’s a good thing. I’m too damn old to be a purist anymore. I’ve done the whole political circular firing squad thing, and it’s pointless.
    Anyway, if you wanted to supply some food for thought, good job!

  14. Hi there. Thanks for the thoughtful comment! I’m aware that a lot of people agree with your statement that, “for me, GMO is not “GE + every single anxiety that people have about the food system.” For me, GMO is GE. All the anxieties are separate issues.” That’s how I felt too. But the fact is, if you ask a groups of people about “GMO,” it raises way more than just GE. It’s too late to reel that in, the perception is out there and it’s true that there’s a multi-billion dollar industry that’s bloomed from it, and not by accident. Tackling this looming and massive scapegoat as just GE clearly isn’t making more than tiny headway. The two “sides” are talking past each other.

  15. Costco just announced that they will no longer sell Roundup BECAUSE IT CAUSES CANCER. You know that pesticide used on almost every GMO. Oh that is right, it no longer works so they had to make GMO for dicamba one of the worst of the worst and was responsible for a murder after a farmers entire orchard (so all the trees) were killed because of it. What come out during the Dewayne Johnson (janitor) verus Monsanto case in California was how much they lied and knew how it caused cancer decades ago. How many have died? For your information, you change a protein at all so it is no longer what our bodies evolved with, it causes an inflammatory reaction because our bodies know it is foreign. That is the #1 cause of disease. So you are basically contributing to disease and death with this post of yours. Feel free to email me if you have any more questions. Have interviewed top scientists in the country for over 8 years, where are your references?

  16. Hi Elaine, apologies for the delay in your comment posting. It got caught in our spam filter. Did you read this article? Do you have any comments on the content of this article? I don’t recall seeing you in our comments before so I’ve approved this off-topic comment, but I direct you to #10 in our comment policy – Stay On Topic https://biofortified.org/blog/comment-policy/ Comments are closed after 30 days but I do encourage you to consider on-topic comments on our more recent posts. Thanks!

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