GMO Food

Excellent New York Times Article on the Success of the Anti-GMO Campaign in Hawaii

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KillerTomatoes
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

The front page of the Sunday New York Times featured a long article, "A Lonely Quest for Facts on Genetically Modified Crops," details what happens when scientific issues are decided by votes. The article follows the political and intellectual travails of Hawaii County (a.k.a. Big Island) council member Greggor Ilagan as he tried to navigate through the massive amounts of disinformation being deployed in a campaign to ban modern biotech crop varieties from the island. (Back in October, I reported on the nonsensical anti-GMO crusade in Hawaii in my article, "In Search of Frankencorn in Hawaii.")

Times reporter Amy Harmon does an superb job of telling the story of how council member Ilagan sorted through the claims of activists and the counterclaims of scientists in reaching his lonely decision to vote against the ban. Here are some excerpts:

But with the G.M.O. bill, [Ilagan] often despaired of assembling the information he needed to definitively decide. Every time he answered one question, it seemed, new ones arose. Popular opinion masqueraded convincingly as science, and the science itself was hard to grasp. People who spoke as experts lacked credentials, and G.M.O. critics discounted those with credentials as being pawns of biotechnology companies….

Scientists, who have come to rely on liberals in political battles over stem-cell research, climate change and the teaching of evolution, have been dismayed to find themselves at odds with their traditional allies on this issue. Some compare the hostility to G.M.O.s to the rejection of climate-change science, except with liberal opponents instead of conservative ones….

"Just as many on the political right discount the broad scientific consensus that human activities contribute to global warming, many progressive advocacy groups disregard, reject or ignore the decades of scientific studies demonstrating the safety and wide-reaching benefits" of genetically engineered crops, Pamela Ronald, a professor of plant pathology at the University of California, Davis, wrote on the blog of the nonprofit Biology Fortified….

Sensitive to the accusation that her bill [to ban GMOs] was antiscience, [council member] Ms. Wille had circulated material to support it. But in almost every case, Mr. Ilagan and his staff found evidence that seemed to undermine the claims.

A report, in an obscure Russian journal, about hamsters that lost the ability to reproduce after three generations as a result of a diet of genetically modified soybeans had been contradicted by many other studies and deemed bogus by mainstream scientists.

Mr. Ilagan discounted the correlations between the rise in childhood allergies and the consumption of G.M.O.s, cited by Ms. Wille and others, after reading of the common mistake of confusing correlation for causation. (One graph, illustrating the weakness of conclusions based on correlation, charted the lock-step rise in organic food sales and autism diagnoses.)

In October, the county council voted for the ban 6 to 3 and the bill was signed by the mayor on December 5. The whole Times article is well worth your attention. Read and it weep.

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  1. Given the emotional, rather than scientific, basis for GMO fears, I could just as easily and correctly suggest that ingesting GMO foods might lead to superpowers.

    1. But does Iron Man have any kids? See. They’re right. Don’t believe that Hollywood propaganda in ‘The Incredibles’, they’re all as sterile as mules.

    2. Which ones?

      *takes out notepad*

      1. Depends on which GMO foods you eat. For instance, General Mills should’ve increased the number of GMO elements in Cheerios (rather than removing them all) and changed their advertising to “Genetically enhanced for your consuming pleasure. Prolonged consumption of Cheerios+ may result in invulnerability and/or the ability to fly.”

        1. *starts looking out 2nd story window and stretches arms*

          1. Look, if there’s one thing I want my son to learn from an early age it is this: If you can fly like Superman, you can take off from the ground. No need to gain any altitude by other means.

        2. Eating a bowl of General Mills cereal each night and programming computers has made me invisible to women.

          1. Eating a bowl of General Mills cereal each night and programming computers has made me invisible to women.

            This, right here, is why I come to HnR.

            Bravo.

          2. The bigger the bowl, the better the power works.

  2. I read the first page, and it looked pretty good, but for some reason I refuse to click through ten page articles.

  3. I rarely associate the words Excellent and the New York Times.

  4. The GMO bullshit is just the same as the organic bullshit. If there was any concrete evidence that GMOs were harmful (or, in the case of organics, that they are healthier), its detractors would be shouting that from the rooftops nonstop. The fact that they have to obfuscate everything tells you exactly what you need to know.

    Once again, these people are animists. “GMO” is now one of their totems and it represents supernatural evil that must be opposed and blocked at every turn.

    1. What is funny is that the scientists are shocked that liberals have turned on them. The scientists actually believe that liberals sided with them on evolution or stem cells out of a commitment to truth rather than because taking that side helped liberals attack their enemies.

      Maybe this will be a lesson to them that liberals are depraved and will believe or say anything to promote their moronic politics, but I doubt it.

      1. You forget that most scientists are liberal.

      2. They just didn’t realize that, since people can make money off of GMO crops, many liberals are automatically against it.

    2. organic is a hipster term for “more expensive.” My wife grew up in the rural South, a whole lotta farm-to-table veggies and a chicken killed earlier in the day. Loses her mind when the ‘organic’ label consistently carries a 20% premium if not more. Just like recycled.

      1. Plus, organic fruits and veg aren’t necessarily better than fertilized and pesticized fruits and veg that come straight off my or some other local’s garden. For example, I like the old-style tomatoes that you can’t play baseball with. But I don’t think the new machine harvestable ones are polluting my precious bodily fluids.

    3. The GMO bullshit is just the same as the organic bullshit.

      And the same as climate change – in that both GMO and “climate change” are evil and unnatural because man is creating GMO products and interacting with the climate. Because as we know – original sin for leftists today is man himself as any interaction between man and nature only has one outcome – nature is worse off.

      Peak oil, peak food, peak water, plastic bags, climate change, GMO, etc, etc, etc – it’s all about original sin and based completely on religious ideas of faith and goodness.

  5. Scientists, who have come to rely on liberals in political battles over stem-cell research, climate change and the teaching of evolution, have been dismayed to find themselves at odds with their traditional allies on this issue.

    This is a ludicrous argument. Just what I’d expect from the times.

    Liberals have made up total lies about fracking, ignore biology so that they can claim there’s no differences between the men and women of a sexually dimorphic species, and seriously believe there is something good and noble about ‘organic’ food.

    The anti-vaccination movement started entirely on the left and they are more than willing to ignore any historical event provided it does not fit their narrative.

    This isn’t even considering the fact that the least scientific courses in any university are the most leftwing. I challenge anyone to look at the orgy of confirmation bias, misinformation, and outright bigotry that makes up the average gender or racial studies class and tell me those people are interested in science.

    1. Oh, they also cherry pick data about things like gun control too. Try to argue with a prog about gun control, and they’ll invariably compare us only to Europe or Japan. That way, by picking out two of the least violent places on the planet, they can claim that the problem is guns.

      If you actually go and study the murder rate relative to guns in every country though, you find absolutely no correlation between guns and murders. This has been found in study after study, including studies conducted by Harvard and the CDC, and yet this information is ignored because it doesn’t fit the left-wing narrative.

      You know, just like scientists do!

    2. This is a ludicrous argument. Just what I’d expect from the times.

      It’s a factor of the TEAMs. They are just completely incapable of thinking outside their binary partisan blinders, and are completely married to the idiotic left-right narrative. So one TEAM is supposed to be the “science” TEAM, and that’s supposed to be TEAM BLUE. They grow confused when anything doesn’t fit this extremely simple narrative.

    3. But they believe in evolution. That makes them the Party of Science.

  6. Luddites be Luddites.

    1. Yup. If you live in fear of the world, everything new is a threat.

  7. Prolonged consumption of Cheerios+ may result in invulnerability and/or the ability to fly.”

    Flying invulnerable children?

    No thanks.

    1. Exactly–now parents must eat Cheerios as well!

  8. I’m laughing at the notion that the science of climate change is anything but a repetition of Lysankoism at this point.

  9. Typical comments =

    1 –
    …”from the choice of words to the imagery of the tightly ponytailed activist to the sketchy video call on Skype from Arizona, this feels like a rather tendentious article. I have a feeling that the true story is a lot more complex then what feels like a very one sided account of what went down”

    ‘Feeeeeeeeeel-ings….. nothing more than….. FEEEEEEEEEEEEL,ings….”

    2 –

    “There’s no way to scientifically prove that bigfoot does not exist. Wherever you look, bigfoot could always be in the place you didn’t look”

    Add “Reductio ad ignorantium” to the pile of feely-good-feelings, and you have the fundamental underpinnings of the anti-GMO case wrapped in a bow.

    Oh, I suppose you could add a VERY COMMON #3 =

    “But they ban it in EUROPE! And everything is more enlightened and shit over there…!

    paraphrased.

    1. from the choice of words to the imagery of the tightly ponytailed activist to the sketchy video call on Skype from Arizona, this feels like a rather tendentious article. I have a feeling that the true story is a lot more complex then what feels like a very one sided account of what went down

      That’s because your side has no evidence.

    2. In fairness, this:

      “There’s no way to scientifically prove that bigfoot does not exist. Wherever you look, bigfoot could always be in the place you didn’t look”

      is clearly a joke. And a damn good one.

      1. I am afraid not.

        The “logic” here applied by your cookie-cutter progressive is that “Science is Good for SOME THINGS!” = identifying clear cause-effect relations. However, science cannot conclusively prove ‘negatives’ – that some connection “does not” exist.

        in context, the whole comment =

        “Ted Flunderson
        San Francisco

        The concern that a thinking person [READ: LIBERAL] should have about GMOs is about the economic effects of agcorps getting intellectual property rights over the most suitable foods for people to eat, leading to moncultures that will much later in the future reduce food supply when the market has been cornered and the monopolies raise the price to levels that the developing world cannot afford. This is a political issue which science cannot address.

        There’s no way to scientifically prove that bigfoot does not exist. Wherever you look, bigfoot could always be in the place you didn’t look. Science is good at proving that something exists (like climate change) but cannot prove that something does not exist (GMO harm).

        Personally I trust the scientists whose consensus is that eating GMO foods won’t damage my health more than non-GMO foods. But that doesn’t mean they have proven anything. And it doesn’t mean there aren’t good reasons to avoid GMO.”

        Reductio Ad Ignorantiam. Science does not matter because you cant ever prove GMO *isn’t* making children retarded.

        1. The concern that a thinking person [READ: LIBERAL] should have about GMOs is about the economic effects of agcorps getting intellectual property rights over the most suitable foods for people to eat, leading to moncultures that will much later in the future reduce food supply when the market has been cornered and the monopolies raise the price to levels that the developing world cannot afford.

          What a thinking person should be worried about is a type of monopoly that is fundamentally impossible.

          A thinking person.

        2. The concern that a thinking person [READ: LIBERAL] should have..

          if the underlying premise is faulty, doesn’t that gum up the rest of the argument?

        3. There’s no way to scientifically prove that bigfoot does not exist. Wherever you look, bigfoot could always be in the place you didn’t look. Science is good at proving that something exists (like climate change) but cannot prove that something does not exist (GMO harm).

          Prove that you can’t fly. Just because you can’t fly by flapping your arms, doesn’t mean that you can’t fly.

          I can prove it by conclusively throwing you out that window.

      2. It’s true, though. I don’t feel like wading into that pit of stupid vipers, so I don’t know if he thought it was supporting a GMO ban. If he did, he’s…not so good at science.

  10. This is going to be Epic. Posted on FB with caption: “The science is settled, how long will anti-GMOs continue to be denialists?”

    I know at least 3 liberal friends who will not be able to ignore the troll bait.

    1. +1 hooded robe and a stake for burning GMO deniers.

    2. Phase 3: Ridicule.

    3. I know at least 3 liberal friends who will not be able to ignore the troll bait.

      Why, in Zod’s name, would you want to do that to yourself?

      Seriously, man, LIVE.

      1. Because I have other friends who will jump in on the other side reflexively. Its fun to watch the monkeys fling shit because of something I set in motion.

  11. I thought that all of the enlightened and intelligent folk were on the left.

    Haven’t we been ‘genetically modifying’ crops for thousands of years, through domestication, fertilizing, and hybridization?

    I thought that science is good, and only mouth breathing teabaggers oppose progress through science?

    I’m confused. No, I’m not. Lefties will jump on any issue that they can whine about and play the victim. Being the victim of some new boogeyman is all they seem to enjoy. Well, that and trying to use the government to fulfill their desire to punish the latest boogeyman.

  12. this feels like a rather tendentious article. I have a feeling that the true story is a lot more complex then what feels like a very one sided account of what went down

    “This article is looking at the wrong side! That makes it onesided.”

  13. Here’s the problem:

    As soon as you frame it as a scientific debate, you’ve already lost.

    Because framing it as a scientific debate concedes the basic argument that cities in Hawaii should be allowed to ban GMO’s. Instead of stopping them there, which is where they need to be stopped, you’re fighting them on the really poor ground of “Sure, you should be allowed to ban stuff, but not THIS stuff, ’cause you don’t have enough proof!”

    Do you think proof doesn’t matter? If you managed to win the “scientific” debate, the left will just adapt and invoke the precautionary principle. Or will say, “Well, we as a society deserve some input into what economic activity we’re going to allow, based on our values.” Or they will say, “Well, some people want the choice to not consume GMO’s, and if GMO’s are planted anywhere, their DNA could drift to other crops, and you’re taking away the choice of people who have hysterical purity fears!”

    Don’t humor them by making it a scientific debate. What we really need is mass GMO terrorism – contaminate the entire food chain with GMO’s, so there’s nowhere for the purity freaks to hide. The only way to defeat a purity neurosis is to utterly defile the neurotic’s total environment. Or we have to destroy local, state and federal control over economic activity. Those are the only two choices.

      1. But A allows us to have a secret Bond villain lair and sharks with lasers on their heads…spraying GMO’s all over Europe.

        1. We still owe them one for dandelions in our yards, so…

    1. So that’s the debate equivalent of a kid stealing the oreos at snacktime by licking each of them? I don’t doubt it’s effective, but still.

      1. I think it’s more like the normalization of porn.

      2. But seriously, if I had the resources for that kind of campaign…I wouldn’t waste them on that campaign.

        I’d undertake something else much more nefarious.

  14. Haven’t we been ‘genetically modifying’ crops for thousands of years, through domestication, fertilizing, and hybridization?

    Those were farmers; hard working, stalwart populists of the prairie, not kkkorportions!

    1. I thought that they were knuckle dragging, mouth breathing, rednecks who were like totally ignorant because they didn’t even know what skinny jeans are.

    2. You call it corn, we call it maize. MAIZE stands for Modified Agriculture with which Indians Zapped Europeans.

  15. I have been a cook for most of my adult life. I just find it amusing that all the anti-GMO, “buy organic” types that I have met will chow down on a box of over processed Annies shells and cheese, yet turn their nose up when you tell them the organic fertilizers used to grow their organic produce are leaf mold, cow shit, urea, dried blood, bone meal, lime, and potash.

    1. Alternatively when they decide to grow their own food and wonder why they do not get a good yield off of heirloom seeds.

    2. Chicken shit is also excellent for nitrogen. Although you can’t let it accumulate as it often spontaneously burns in quantity due to the heat it produces while decomposing.

      1. chicken shit is god’s gift to gardening (if you can handle the idea of using chicken shit as a fertilizer). If you can use already composted chicken shit, you’re in business.

        I have 5 chickens, so using chicken shit as a fertilizer in my small sale garden is easy and cheap.

        1. I’m down with the chicken shit. =)

      2. I think you’ve just explained the cause of all the Western US wild fires over the last 40 years.

  16. Isn’t this really just a moot point anyway? I mean, isn’t global warming going to make kudzu rape the ecosphere to death?

    1. What? Shit. Goats can handle kudzu right now.

      1. Do you have the proper permit for the kudzu chewing goat?

        1. I didn’t say my goats ate kudzu. *smokebomb*

  17. Reductio ad Ignorantiam

    “Joan
    Atlanta

    This is the essence of the problem with GMO’s. The future risks are still mostly unknown and unfathomable.”

    DONT LEAVE THE CAVE! YOU DONT KNOW WHATS OUT THERE!!

  18. Appeal to Magical Gaia!!

    “in her book “Harvest for Hope, a Guide to Mindful Eating,” Baroness Jane Van Goodall reports that when zoo animals are presented with food in two troughs, one containing genetically modified and one natural grains, the animals won’t touch the GM trough.””

    RAIN DANCE! BURN THE WITCH!!

    1. I highly doubt that’s true.

      1. There are animals that eat shit. Literally. I’m rather dubious they can even tell the difference between GMO and non-GMO foods.

      2. I highly doubt that’s true.

        Not just untrue, but an outright lie.

    2. Surely they have well-sourced and complete video of this up on the internet, no?

    3. So Michelle Obama is no better than a wild animal.

      1. “zoo animal”.

        Aren’t zoo animals essentially genetically modified animals since they’re born and raised in controlled environments?

  19. Forget GMO’s, whether they actually are any good or not = CAPITALISM IS THE PROBLEM!

    “Corporate food giants run by the ultra greedy fed by a market system that puts profits above all else seems to be the real challenge that needs to be overcome to feed the world.”

    BECAUSE SUBSISTENCE FARMING IS THE SOLUTION

    1. Corporate food giants run by the ultra greedy fed by a market system that puts profits above all else Control obsessed governments seems to be the real challenge that needs to be overcome to feed the world.

      fixed it for them.

    2. Better that billions starve than to allow profits in the process.

      I always wonder if these people ever really understand just how plain fucking evil they are?

    3. “CAPITALISM IS THE PROBLEM!”

      Exactly. Thats why leftists support global warming because it blames evil capitalists, and that why leftists are opposed to GMO food, because it is supported by evil capitalists.

  20. “Just as many on the political right discount the broad scientific consensus that human activities contribute to global warming, many progressive advocacy groups disregard, reject or ignore the decades of scientific studies demonstrating the safety and wide-reaching benefits” of genetically engineered crops,

    One of these is not like the other.

    A report, in an obscure Russian journal, about hamsters that lost the ability to reproduce after three generations as a result of a diet of genetically modified soybeans had been contradicted by many other studies and deemed bogus by mainstream scientists.

    Oh, do you mean like AGW-fueled “super storms?” More hurricanes? (even though we had fewer). Stronger hurricanes? (even though they never developed.) The endless apocalyptic predictions that *never* play out? How everything is the fault of global warming?

    So, maybe they are similar, in the depth of the hysterical bullshit you have to wade through to get to some objective conclusion.

    1. Yeah, the apocalyptic rhetoric of leftists over global warming is so ludicrous that very few legitimate scientists would agree with them.

      Al Gore’s claims about sea level rises are something like 12 times the IPCC worse case scenario. Somehow he gets to call himself pro-science, even though none of his Earth ending arguments are actually bought into by legitimate scientists.

      1. The most galling aspect of this is a leftist adherent of eco-apocalypse calling their political enemies “anti-science.”

        1. Please send Naomi Oreskes a postcard to that effect.

      2. The apoaolyptic rhetoric of leftists matches the apocalyptic rhetoric of their Democrat forebears: the Bible Thumpers.

  21. Hawaiian vegans are naturally terrified of the arrival of Shmoo and Jeep hopping genes from the mainland.

    It invites a GMO apocalypse, in which infected soybeans drive themselves over the brink of the volcano in hope of apotheosis as tofuburgers.

  22. My sister-in-law has bought this stuff completely. It’s sad how effective this misinformation is throughout Hawaii.

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