GMO Food

GMO Opponents Are Immoral, Argues Purdue University President Mitch Daniels

It's past time to tell your anti-GMO friends, family and neighbors they are helping to kill poor people.

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GoldenRiceIRRI
International Rice Research Institute

Mitch Daniels is right: It's past time to tell your anti-GMO friends, family and neighbors they are helping to kill poor people.

Today in a Washington Post op-ed, the former Indiana governor and current president of Purdue University cogently argues, "Avoiding GMOs isn't just anti-science. It's immoral." Daniels observes:

Of the several claims of "anti-science" that clutter our national debates these days, none can be more flagrantly clear than the campaign against modern agricultural technology, most specifically the use of molecular techniques to create genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Here, there are no credibly conflicting studies, no arguments about the validity of computer models, no disruption of an ecosystem nor any adverse human health or even digestive problems, after 5 billion acres have been cultivated cumulatively and trillions of meals consumed.

And yet a concerted, deep-pockets campaign, as relentless as it is baseless, has persuaded a high percentage of Americans and Europeans to avoid GMO products, and to pay premium prices for "non-GMO" or "organic" foods that may in some cases be less safe and less nutritious.

Daniels properly excoriates academic scientists, regulators, along with food and agricultural companies for their cowardly reticence in challenging "an aggressive, often self-interested anti-GMO lobby that is indifferent to the facts and quick with ad hominem attacks."

So what should be done? Daniels asserts:

It's time to move the argument to a new plane. For the rich and well-fed to deny Africans, Asians or South Americans the benefits of modern technology is not merely anti-scientific. It's cruel, it's heartless, it's inhumane — and it ought to be confronted on moral grounds that ordinary citizens, including those who have been conned into preferring non-GMO Cheerios, can understand.

Travel to Africa with any of Purdue University's three recent World Food Prize winners, and you won't find the conversation dominated by anti-GMO protesters. There, where more than half of the coming population increase will occur, consumers and farmers alike are eager to share in the life-saving and life-enhancing advances that modern science alone can bring. Efforts to persuade them otherwise, or simply block their access to the next round of breakthroughs, are worse than anti-scientific. They're immoral.

The Journal of Markets and Morality asked me two years ago to debate statistician Nassim Taleb on the question "Do GMOs [genetically modified organisms] present cause for moral concern?" The editor of the journal explained, "The goal of this controversy is to assist our readership (economists, political scientists, theologians, moral philosophers, ethicists) in developing a more informed understanding of the issues at stake in the current state of the GMO debate, addressing concerns of fact, morality, and policy."

In my initial essay, I detailed the strong scientific consensus is that current versions of genetically enhanced crops are safe for people and the natural environment. In addition, I pointed out that modern biotech crops could play a big role in helping to increase the availability of healthful food to the poor around the world. I concluded, "Fallacious arguments against developing and growing modern biotech crops is cause for great moral concern."

Taleb was invited to participate because he and some colleagues had put together a mish-mash of a paper filled with statistical mystifications and handwaving to argue the modern crop biotechnology could lead to the extinction of the human race.

After reading my essay Taleb withdrew from the debate and, for good measure, called me an "idiot."

I am not alone in arguing that opposition to modern biotech crops is immoral. Last year, 100 Nobel Laureates signed an open letter demanding that Greenpeace and other activists groups stop killing and blinding poor children in developing countries. Specifically, the laureates urged, "Greenpeace to cease and desist in its campaign against Golden Rice specifically, and crops and foods improved through biotechnology in general."

Golden rice is genetically enhanced to produce beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency in poor countries results in hundreds of thousands of deaths and cases of blindness annually. It was created by a non-profit consortium of researchers and is being developed by the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. Thugs associated with Greenpeace attacked and destroyed golden rice research plots at IRRI back in 2013.

In their letter, the Nobel laureates pointed out that "scientific and regulatory agencies around the world have repeatedly and consistently found crops and foods improved through biotechnology to be as safe as, if not safer than those derived from any other method of production.

"There has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption. Their environmental impacts have been shown repeatedly to be less damaging to the environment, and a boon to global biodiversity."

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  1. We’ve got ourselves a good old-fashioned Al Gore moment going on, with record low real temperatures of 37 degrees below zero in Minnesota (that’s really fucking cold, even by Minnesota standards) and five feet of snow in Erie, Pennsylvania (that’s a lot of fucking snow in one snowstorm, even in the prime “lake effect” areas of the Great Lakes).

    How’s that “global warming” working out for you?

    1. When the temperature goes up, it’s due to global warming. When the temperature goes down, it’s due to global warming. The science is settled!

      1. Close.

        When the temps and such fit the end-of-the-world scenario, then it is a climate event.

        When it they do not then it is just weather, and everyone knows that weather is meaningless in context of climate.

        1. Just for the record; everyone except me.

    2. Those things are a sign of exactly nothing, as I’m sure you’re aware.

      1. Don’t worry, he’ll make fun of leftists for doing the exact same thing when temperatures are higher than average.

    3. This may be the most dated humor you’ve shared yet.

        1. You spelled “Block” wrong.

    4. Dumb Simple Mikey. Global warming predicts colder temperature swings in the continental US, because higher global temperatures weaken the polar vortex, making it easier for cold polar air masses to reach South during the winter.

      1. They didn’t “predict” that effect until it started happening (like so many other “predictions” of climate change asserters). Just like the “predictions” of intensified hurricanes only appeared in the record hurricane seasons of the mid-2000s, then went dormant for a decade before reappearing during the record hurricane season this year.

        Supposedly the linkage is with sea ice decline but that has not been proven.

        1. Yeah, assholes like the guy you just responded to used to say that eventually we’d never see snow again. Then mother nature made them look like the stupid schmucks that they are, and they completely changed their bullshit story 180 degrees to the exact opposite.

          1. Simple Mikey still doesn’t realize when he’s being baited. Sad!

        2. Maybe you are right. Weather is very complicated. How cold a winter will be depends on the strength of the polar jet stream, which depends on the La Nina/El Nino cycle, the North Atlantic Oscillation, Siberian snowpack, among many other factors.

          Which is why I made fun of Mikey. You can’t say something dumb like “it’s colder than usual, therefore global warming is not happening.” We, who have some understanding of complex systems, such as a market economy, should be skeptical of such simplistic conclusions. Making such silly statements gives the other side moral satisfaction, because they can dismiss you as an idiot.

          1. You can’t say something dumb like “it’s colder than usual, therefore global warming is not happening.”

            Agreed, except the other side started it by claiming that unusually warm winters and hot summers proved global warming was happening. So the “dumb” thing he’s saying is actually a counterpoint to the “dumb” thing they were saying.

    5. It’s the end of December, moran.

    6. Read an article TODAY predicting a “mini ice age” beginning in 2021. Seems the sun’s output is cyclical, and indications are that we’re about to enter a “down” cycle. It’s expected to last ~30 years or so – long enough that hopefully Algore will be able to live out his life freezing his nuts off and being laughed at before he dies.

      So basically, looks like we have 30 years to try to sort out “climate change”.

    7. Start earning $90/hourly for working online from your home for few hours each day… Get regular payment on a weekly basis… All you need is a computer, internet connection and a litte free time…
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  2. Fighting back – I like it.

    Let’s hope the good college president didn’t just sign his own pink slip. I mean, now that he’s literally worse than Hitler.

    1. Hitler WAS famous for advocating technologies that saved the lives of a billion brown people. Or am i thinking of someone else?

      1. No, that was Hitler. That’s what Spencer told me at least.

      2. Well, Hitler was a vegetarian, and wanted to ban smoking.

      3. If it weren’t for Hitler, we probably wouldn’t have radar, nuclear power, cryptography, microwave ovens, or Sunny D.

        1. Wait, I can blame Sunny D on Hilter?

  3. “There has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption. Their environmental impacts have been shown repeatedly to be less damaging to the environment, and a boon to global biodiversity.”

    He could as correctly be talking about cannabis.

    1. Smoking chronic chronically leads to chronic lung issues. This is not dissimilar to alcohol’s effect on the liver. Neither substance should be prohibited, but let’s not ignore the fact that the stuff has issues.

      1. Inhalation of too much water leads to a rapid unpleasant death. Be careful out there.

        1. Even DRINKING too much water can kill you.

          Think not? Let’s see you suck down 5 gallons in an hour.

      2. References? Have not seen chronic lung issues in cannabis smokers. Anyway, edibles avoid any such problems.

  4. I’m sick of this non-GMO and organic nonsense taking over my local supermarket. I remember when “gourmet” (i.e. “expensive”) meant better and/or fresher ingredients. Now it means “woke”. Well, I refuse to pay extra for smug.

    1. Woke cows do make for pretty tasty steaks.

    2. “Well, I refuse to pay extra for smug.”

      Dude I gotta borrow that. That is probably the best explanation in this entire debate.

    3. “I’m sick of this non-GMO and organic nonsense taking over my local supermarket. ”

      It’s got me re-thinking this whole free market thing.

      1. I have to assume he and I shop at different supermarkets, there’s but a tiny, tiny section reserved for “non-GMO and organic nonsense” – at no point do I feel like my choices are being hindered.

        They actually increase my choices and the more people who buy that dumb, over-marketed “organic” or “non-GMO” shit, the more fresh GMO produce I have to choose from. Hooray, Free Market!

        1. ” at no point do I feel like my choices are being hindered”

          When you get to be old like the rest of us, you’ll become bitter and resentful too.

      2. “It’s got me re-thinking this whole free market thing.”

        I doubt you “think” anything at all, let alone rethink it, scum-bag.

  5. Uh, is your link broken?

    1. No, the article is definitely posted inside the guts of reason.com. Do you not have an admin password?

      1. Inside The Guts Of Reason is a feature that is only available to print subscribers.

  6. It’s past time to tell your … friends, family and neighbors they are helping to kill poor people.

    Already do. Thanks for the moral support though Mr. Bailey.

    1. I don’t even talk to them Fascists, anyway!

  7. After reading my essay Taleb withdrew from the debate and, for good measure, called me an “idiot.”

    Means you’re a badass, Ron.

    1. Yeah Man, Ron is Badass… Amen, Bro or Bro-ess!!!

      Ron, will you be the father of my GMO babies?

    2. I’m sure I’m mangling Churchill’s original, but something like “You have enemies? Good! It means you’ve stood up for something!”

      1. Seems to me that we are making SOME sort of slow but semi-vaguely-reasonable progress on GMO food plants. GMO food ANIMALS on the other hand, are so glacially slow in getting approved, that researchers are just flat-out throwing in the towel, and quitting. Research “enviro-pig”, for example. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enviropig … Would have been good for the environment, but over-regulation (literally) killed the pigs.

        Meanwhile, with the advent of CRISPR-CAS9, some brave researchers will put more such projects into the pipeline.

        Along those lines, in China and other parts of the Far East, they like to eat dogs. And when they are deep-fried, they like them crisply fried. If we “GMO” the dogs for better “mouth feel” along those lines, I would recommend a catchy brand name?
        ?
        ?
        ?
        “Crisper Canines!”

        1. For those who’d rather eat “little tiger” instead of dog, please see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8zEfYbsrr0 … “Cat in the Kettle at the Peking Moon”.

          1. Little Boy Blue and the Man in the Moon
            Will we eat a kitty, I don’t know, Nguyen,
            But I know we’ll have a good time then

      2. Generally it’s a good rule of thumb to assume any quote attributed to Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, or Albert Einstein was actually said by someone else. That one appears to be from Victor Hugo (#8 on this list).

        1. In general you can always check https://quoteinvestigator.com/ if you want to track things down. The author is an (internet) friend and an authoritative source for this kind of stuff. He doesn’t seem to have this one listed, under Churchill or elsewhere.

          1. “The Internet is great, but it sure contains a bunch of fake quotes.”

            /George Washington

  8. I don’t think that will have the desired effect, since my friends, neighbors, and family enjoy killing people.

  9. I am not sure how may “organic food” eaters actually support bans on GMO food in Africa. Or they may be vague on the details. Better not to start right out with the “you hate poor black kids” accusation, that sounds too prog-like. Gradually insert the enlightenment, in doses they can handle, and all but the most fanatical ought to be brought around.

  10. Not in to banning anything but Bailey thinks I’m immoral because I want to know what I’m buying? I’m somehow immoral because I think that the burden of labeling is on those selling something new, that has never existed before AND THEY DON’T WANT ME TO EVEN KNOW WHAT I’M BUYING? He calls anyone who wants to know what is in the package “anti-science” but I’m not against anything except this forced acceptance of any new food innovation that comes along which we are supposed to just accept on trust. To hell with him! And to hell with Reason for giving him a platform to shill for Monsanto. I have supported this magazine since the early 80s and I don’t find anything remotely libertarian about the position that we should all just shut up and accept what is offered and let our betters make the decisions for us, or be slandered and ridiculed by advocates of—–Liberty? To hell with that!

    1. BTW, do you also want to know if it was packed by left-handed people? YOU CAN ALREADY FIND OUT WHAT YOU’RE BUYING, SO KEEP YOUR RED HERRING TO YOURSELF!
      And buzz off, luddite.

    2. “And to hell with Reason for giving him a platform to shill for Monsanto.”

      Bailey or Daniels?

      1. Oh, and we have the ignoramus truman showing up to spout nonsense.
        Tell us, oh slime-bag, how we should have people shot for treating the farm animals they own in a way that is not right in your opinion! That’s always good for a laugh.
        And I’m glad you brought up that piece of crap from another luddite slime-bag regarding “shilling”. Oh, how..
        pathetic.
        Fuck off, slaver.

    3. I think you may have missed his point…

      I’ve thought and felt for a Long Time that, if libertarians were ever to be successful in such “debates” we/they would have to figure out how to make OUR points into Moral Issues so the ‘other side’ would have just as hard a time refuting ’em.

      Same for free-market economics. “People Will Starve!” has much more power than ‘freedom of choice is better…’

      I put it into one of “my Laws” some years ago this way…

      Falk’s Forty-Seventh Laws:

      o “When one of the participants in an argument or discussion plays the “moral” card, it’s because they don’t have any facts, reason or logic to bring to their side of the argument.”

      The neat thing is to be aware of how the “discussion” changes when one side suddenly and unexpectedly labels the topic “really a moral question.” It means they know they just lost the argument, but in reality, if the other side rises to the bait, they just lost. Morality trumps logic, facts and reason all the time in a “discussion” or “debate.”

      o “You can always tell when the folks on one side of a ‘Discussion’ have run out of rational arguments for their side… They play the “For The Children” card or change the issue to one of ‘Fairness’ or ‘Morality’ or ‘Justice.’

      After that happens, further participation in the ‘Discussion’ is worthless.”

      See? http://www.plusaf.com/falk‘s-laws.htm#47th

      1. “o “When one of the participants in an argument or discussion plays the “moral” card, it’s because they don’t have any facts, reason or logic to bring to their side of the argument.””

        Did you have a point? or just some whining?
        Looks like whining to me.

  11. “And yet a concerted, deep-pockets campaign, as relentless as it is baseless, has persuaded a high percentage of Americans and Europeans to avoid GMO products, and to pay premium prices for “non-GMO” or “organic” foods that may in some cases be less safe and less nutritious.”

    There is a fundamental problem using words like “immoral” to describe people making qualitative choices that don’t violate anyone’s rights–just because your qualitative preferences are different from theirs.

    1. To be perfectly clear:

      Less safe = Quantitative Observation

      Less nutritious = Quantitative Observation

      It is the eternal hell of utilitarians to suffer an irrational universe where qualitative considerations are too confusing to be considered.

      . . . and yet, it’s the quantitative considerations that are subject to the qualitative. If more water is better when you’re dying of thirst and more water is worse when you’re being waterboarded, then more water isn’t always better. And everything is like that–even safety.

      If you have to tell me something about the qualitative considerations before we can tell whether more safety is better or worse, then, by golly, it’s the qualitative considerations that matter–at least as much as the quantitative.

      I used to work in a full lock down mental hospital. They’d bring these guys in, inject them with a sedative, wrestle them into a straight jacket, and throw them into a rubber room–they were so freakin’ safe. What could be better than that?

      That’s an extreme example, but it’s indicative of the larger principle: people value safety, nutrition, money, and everything else differently depending on various considerations, the most important of which are often qualitative considerations.

      To suggest that buyers of things like “organic” foods are irrational (or immoral) because their qualitative preferences are different from ours is the root of all sorts of evil–from the drug war, to . . . eh, you know the drill.

    2. They use repurposed shipping containers to build these “grow boxes” inside them. The watering, light conditions, etc. are all monitored remotely by their specialists at their headquarters. They claim to have reached price parity with outdoor farms. Groceries, restaurants, etc. can order one of these shipping containers and grow completely organic produce on site.

      The qualitative concerns people have about GMO foods and the preferences they have for “organic” aren’t necessarily irrational–certainly not for being qualitative in nature–and the fact that people are willing to pay a premium for their qualitative preferences isn’t evidence of stupid consumers at all. Over time, if these technologies can only cut land and water costs out of food production, then they’re likely to become increasingly competitive over time as inflation has a larger impact on traditionally farmed produce using more land and water.

      1. Wrong spot.

        Oh well.

      2. “Over time, if these technologies can only cut land and water costs out of food production, then they’re likely to become increasingly competitive over time as inflation has a larger impact on traditionally farmed produce using more land and water.”

        You’re assuming there’s a demand for them in the market place. There isn’t. The manufacturers are even against putting the information on the label where potential customers can see it. People for whatever reason have conservative preferences in food. They want white rice, not yellow rice. I’ve lived in Asia a long long time and I’ve yet to hear of anyone going to their local shop and asking for yellow rice.

        1. “The manufacturers are even against putting the information on the label where potential customers can see it.”
          Cite missing, scum-bag.

          “People for whatever reason have conservative preferences in food. They want white rice, not yellow rice. I’ve lived in Asia a long long time and I’ve yet to hear of anyone going to their local shop and asking for yellow rice.”
          Cite missing, scum-bag.
          Fuck off, slaver

          1. Cites forthcoming. Keep reading.

            1. “Cites forthcoming. Keep reading.”

              Cites still missing, scum-bag.

  12. P.S. To the extent the labels “non-GMO” and or “organic” have become confusing, it is largely to the extent that these sorts of labels have been enforced and changed over time–by government.

    “Organic” once meamt, more or less, that the use of pesticide, herbicide, etc. was minimized or absent. The concern wasn’t only to avoid consuming products that might contain those chemicals. It was also people’s concerns about what those chemicals were doing to the water and the environment. That was before labeling became such a big issue. Basically, the big guys wanted in on the price premium people were willing to pay for “organic”, so government(s) watered down the label to mean that, what, some 75% of it has to be ultimately derived from organic sources now?

    My faith in the ability of the market to differentiate products sans government interference remains strong. It’s the government interference that was the problem.

    The point is that if people are paying a premium for nonsense branding, maybe it isn’t the fault of customers. Maybe it’s the fault of regulators, who let “organic” be put on things that might have suffered false advertising claims before the government set the standards–and maybe it’s the fault of those regulations for letting large food companies rent seek to make certification so expensive and difficult that small players offering real organic food are having a hard time getting past those market barriers.

    1. It doesn’t need to be added, around here, that market solutions are the best solutions to concerns about the environment, does it?

      If consumers are willing to pay a premium, of their own free will, because they care about something, then that’s the libertarian solution–whatever your concern.

      Here’s one market solution:

      “TerraFarms use no pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers?they don’t have to. This means they generate no toxic runoff, and the produce fits most definitions of organic food. They use 99-percent less water and obviously much less land than outdoor farms. Since the farms are indoors, they are not subject to the vagaries of weather, be it the extreme temperatures, storms, and droughts brought on by climate change or the more mundane conditions of heat, cold, or dryness that exist outside of LA.”

      —-Ars Technica

      https://tinyurl.com/y9tfhrmg

      1. “TerraFarms use no pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers…”

        Might be OK for poor people and those of us accustomed to a fast food diet. I don’t see people who have high demands for tasty vegetables having much interest in this. The author of this puff piece can’t or won’t tell just how tasteless these vegetables are.

        1. “The author of this puff piece can’t or won’t tell just how tasteless these vegetables are.”
          Cite missing, scum-bag.
          Fuck off, slaver.

  13. Hmm. Maybe the world would be better if their populations were limited?

    That is, if a lack of food limits the family size and population growth of the poor – might that not be a good thing?

    1. This is completely backwards. Prosperity is the best known limiter of family sizes. That’s why birthrates have dropped in pretty much all of the wealthy first-world nations.

      Extreme violence also limits family sizes, if you want to get all psychotic about it. Poverty is strongly correlated with increased family sizes, most likely because it’s a means of making sure there are people around to take care of you.

      1. “This is completely backwards. ”

        How do you account for the dramatic increase in the world’s population following the ‘green revolution?’

        1. “How do you account for the dramatic increase in the world’s population following the ‘green revolution?'”
          As a wonderful thing, scumbag.

    2. “That is, if a lack of food limits the family size and population growth of the poor – might that not be a good thing?”
      No.

  14. The genetic modification per se is not the problem, it is the modifications that are designed to resist pesticides and whose use results in far greater use – and consumption in the end product. There are also a few GMO’s who manufacture there own pesticides.

    1. “The genetic modification per se is not the problem, it is the modifications that are designed to resist pesticides and whose use results in far greater use – and consumption in the end product. There are also a few GMO’s who manufacture there own pesticides.”

      This is what’s known as an assertion masquerading as an argument; a statement by some dimbulb who thinks stating something is sufficient to argue that the point has been made.
      No, it hasn’t. There is nothing to suggest that use of pesticides is bad, except to luddites.
      And the last sentence is amusing; so what?
      Buzz off, luddite.

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