Will Biden 'Listen to the Science' on GMOs?

The USDA under the Trump administration streamlined some outdated and scientifically unwarranted regulations of modern biotech crops.


"Listen to the science" was an oft-heard riposte in political debates about how the government should respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. While Donald Trump's administration failed on that front, it did "listen to the science" last May, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) streamlined some of its outdated and scientifically unwarranted regulations of modern biotech crops. Will President Joe Biden stay the course?

This is not a niche issue. Since the 1980s, biotech crop varieties have been engineered with new genetic traits that enable them to resist diseases, insect pests, and herbicides. Today, 94 percent of all soybeans, 83 percent of corn, and 95 percent of sugar beets grown in the U.S. are biotech varieties.

At the dawn of genetic engineering, the USDA contorted its regulations to assert a right to review new biotech crops before they could be offered to farmers. For 30 years, the department individually evaluated each new bioengineered (B.E.) crop variety, even though the department had determined numerous times that the same genetic traits in previously approved varieties were safe for consumers and the environment.

In May 2020, the USDA issued its final Sustainable, Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient (SECURE) rule. Under SECURE, an engineered crop variety is exempt from regulation if it contains only minor genetic changes of the sort that would endow a plant with a trait that could have been achieved through traditional breeding. Previously, plant breeders had to ask USDA regulators to evaluate the risk of every new biotech crop they sought to commercialize. Now the department exempts new varieties to which plant breeders have simply added genes that achieve the same biochemical result (e.g., insect resistance) that has already been deemed safe.

Under the new rules, plant breeders are no longer required to submit their products to the USDA to determine whether they qualify for an exemption. As the preamble to the rule notes, this change reduces "the regulatory burden for developers of organisms that are unlikely to pose plant pest risks" and "provides a clear, predictable, and efficient regulatory pathway for innovators" to develop improved biotech plants. Should developers have a question about whether their crop varieties are exempt from the regulation, they can still contact the department for a consultation.

Anti-biotech groups immediately decried the modernized rules. "Under the newly released regulations, the overwhelming majority of genetically engineered (GE) plant trials would not have to be reported to USDA, or have their risks analyzed before being allowed to go to market," declared a press release from the Center for Food Safety. "The USDA's shameful decision to gut essential safety regulations for genetically engineered organisms puts more power in the hands of corporate agribusiness and removes all transparency," asserted Friends of the Earth spokesperson Dana Perls.

What particularly upsets the activists is that many newly exempt varieties will not be subject to National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standards (NBFDS) requirements. As the USDA noted in 2018, when it issued the labeling regulations, "the NBFDS is not expected to have any benefits to human health or the environment….Nothing in the disclosure requirements set out in this final rule conveys information about the health, safety, or environmental attributes of B.E. food as compared to non-B.E. counterparts." But the activists know that some consumers mistakenly view those labels as warnings and thus tend to avoid foods made using ingredients from modern biotech crops.

Will the Biden administration listen to the science regarding biotech crops? One possibly good omen is the nomination of biotech-friendly Obama administration Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to his former post.

"While public skepticism around the safety of GMOs is significant," Vilsack noted in a 2017 op-ed for The Hill, "the overwhelming evidence demonstrates that these crops have not been linked to a single health risk in the more than two decades they've been in our marketplace." He added that "embracing innovative farming technologies and practices like seed improvement through genetic modification puts us on the path toward a more food-secure and environmentally stable future."

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  3. GMOs are one of the great hates of environmentalist Left. So the answer is probably "no".

    1. What good is evangelical religion if you can't use it to justify a crusade?

      1. ^THIS..

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        "the overwhelming evidence demonstrates that Climate Change has not been linked to a single health risk in the more than two Centuries"

        .... but the tyrannical authoritative 'policy' has actually resulted in massive inequalities, economic barriers to food and shelter and a slew of oppression.

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  4. I'm sure Biden will listen to the science, the same way he's listening to the science on the safety of re-opening the schools. Or how quickly and easily we can transition from fossil fuels to solar and wind power. Or what a stimulant effect on the economy raising the minimum wage has. Or how there's absolutely no biological differences between all 57 genders. Biden fucking loves science!

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    2. "Or how quickly and easily we can transition from fossil fuels to solar and wind power."

      Which would be never and impossible. The only path to zero carbon energy at grid scale is nuclear.

    3. Or how there’s absolutely no biological differences between all 57 genders.

      It's 72.4 genders, you transphobe bigot!

      1. You joke, but a few years ago some locale published the statistics on how many people (individuals, not couples) got married and the final number was odd not even. I believe it was because a woman married herself.

        1. Paging KillAllRednecks for an anti-LDS screed on plural marriages.

  5. Yep. If someone supports their point with "But Science!!", ask them how they feel about GMO food and watch them walk back, circle around, and try to change the subject.

  6. Does soylent green count?

    1. The administration has been bidin' it's time on THAT issue! It will need to appoint a blue-ribbon "study group" (committee), which will "study" the issue for a LOOOOONG time, drawing heft fees all the way along!

      So you can expect Biden to stay soylent on the matter for now!

      Perhaps Biden be stayin' soylent about it, till we ALL be soylent green! But at least we'll be GREEN! (Even though the whole things eats me up!)

      1. Well said.

  7. For a science reporter, this blog post is weak sauce. Pfffft.

    For the last year, this ignoramus has had the temerity to lecture readership about 'the science'. Bailey, do readership a favor and stick to political science. Leave the STEM science to the big boys, will ya? Pathetic POS.

    1. Bigots like you are the reason my father calls me a "faggot" for dating a pre-op trans-woman. Her feeling, experience, and gender are valid regardless of her present physical state.

      1. So, you're into pre-she-males?

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  10. If Ronald Bailey truly followed the science, he would reveal that (according to CDC's data and estimate) 128.3 Million Americans (i.e. 38.5%) have already been infected with covid, and are immune from contracting or transmitting the virus.

    Three weeks ago, the CDC estimated (but Reason still hasn’t informed readers) that a mean of 4.6 times more Americans have been infected with covid (than have tested positive for covid), and that CDC was 95% certain that between 4.0 and 5.4 times more Americans have been infected (than have tested positive).

    Since CDC now claims that 27.898 million Americans have tested positive for covid, 128.3 million Americans have become infected.

    1. Why should be bother when you spam every other thread with ten pages of numbers that nobody reads? Flag, flag, refresh.

      1. I'll continue doing so until Reason writes an article (or ten) exposing these basic facts of viral immunology, which are proving true as more covid data and evidence are revealed.

        Unfortunately, Big Pharma, Big Tech and Big Government Democrats want the public to believe that only vaccines can confer immunity from covid, and than only vaccines can create herd immunity.

        They are trying to erase a century of knowledge about virus epidemics, pandemics and viral immunology.

        1. Maybe I'm missing something, but I though Ron had done exactly that.

          1. Everything sarcasmic posts indicates he/she is "missing something".

            1. Virtue signaling to the girls I see. Is this the part where you call me a child molesting drunkard on welfare?

    2. Since just 47 cases of reinfection with covid have been known to occur worldwide (out of 107 million covid cases), and since just 5 cases of reinfection have been known to occur in the US (out of 27.9 million covid cases), the evidence indicates that >99.99 of people infected with covid in the past year remain immune.

      In addition to the 38.5% of Americans who are immune (due to past infection), the CDC claims that an additional 10% of Americans have received vaccines, and are also now immune.

      So it appears that about 45% of Americans (i.e. 150 million) are now immune. But the since CDC has unethically and deceitfully refused to inform Americans that past covid infection confers immunity, and since CDC has unscientifically recommended giving vaccines to those who are already immune, about 10 million high risk senior citizens and people with comorbidities have not yet received vaccines.

      The left wing news media and Big Tech (who demonized Trump's advisor Scott Atlas for truthfully informing Americans about natural herd immunity) also refuse to admit this critically important scientific evidence about covid.

      An NBC article revealing that just 47 cases of covid reinfections have occurred worldwide (and 5 in the US) was deceitfully titled and written to make gullible readers believe that reinfection with covid was very common.

      Even worse, two nights ago on Fox News, Anthony Fauci was asked by Bret Baier what percentage of people who have been infected with covid are now immune, to which Fauci falsely answered “we don’t know”, and then began talking about expanding vaccine distribution.

      Fauci is lying again, as he knows that previously virus infections virtually always result in immunity. But Fauci and his friends at Big Pharma, Big Medicine and Big Tech want to give all Americans vaccines.

      1. States with the highest covid case rates, and with CDC’s estimated mean infection rate (i.e. 4.6 times the case rate) and CDC’s estimated 95% range for infection rate, are:

        Case Rate – State — Estimated Mean Infection Rate (95% Range )
        12.9% – North Dakota — 59.2% (51.5% – 69.5%)
        12.4% – South Dakota — 56.9% (49.5% – 66.8%)
        11.3% – Rhode Island — 51.8% (45.1% – 60.9%
        11.1% – Utah — 51.1% (44.4% – 60.0%)
        10.9% – Tennessee — 50.4% (43.8% – 59.1)
        10.8% – Arizona — 49.8% (43.3% – 58.4%)
        10.3% – Wisconsin — 47.6% (41.4% – 55.8%)
        10.3% – Iowa — 47.6% (41.4% – 55.8%)
        10.3% – Oklahoma — 47.2% (41.0% – 55.4%)
        10.2% – Arkansas — 47.1% (40.9% – 55.2%)
        10.0% – Nebraska — 46.2% (40.2% – 54.2%)

        Since herd immunity occurs when/after two thirds of the population (of a community, county or state) have been infected, a dozen states are very close to achieving herd immunity since an additional 10% of Americans have received vaccines, which also confers immunity.

        So why hasn't Ronald Bailey, Jacob Sullum or others at Reason who have some understanding of science even reveal or discuss this very important information about herd immunity?

        1. To see which counties have or are now achieving herd immunity, just go to

          and look at all of the purple counties (as even the lighter shaded purple counties are very close to achieving herd immunity).

          1. To see how natural herd immunity occurs, look at graphs showing new covid cases plummet during the past 2 - 3 months at:

            States with the most significant declines in new covid cases are:
            North Dakota -98.6%
            Wyoming -93.0%
            South Dakota -92.1%
            Minnesota -89.3%
            Nebraska -88.5%
            Wisconsin -88.1%
            Iowa -87.7%
            Kansas -87.7%
            Michigan -87.3%
            New Mexico -86.1%
            Montana – 84.0%
            Illinois -82.1%
            Ohio -79.0%
            California -78.2%
            Tennessee -78.1%
            Colorado -78.0%
            Alaska -77.9%
            Nevada -76.1%
            Indiana -75.7%
            Utah -75.0%

            1. Unfortunately for science, truth and public health, left wing media propagandists and Big Tech companies (whose chief goal in the past four years was to demonize and remove Trump from office) have repeatedly lied about natural herd immunity (claiming it would result in millions of deaths).

              A simple Google search for "Scott Atlas herd immunity" reveals 100+ articles, op/eds, editorials, press releases, etc. trashing Scott Atlas (and lying about natural herd immunity) for merely mentioning the words "natural herd immunity".

              And yet, everything Scott Atlas said about natural herd immunity (and the unscientific lockdowns) was correct, and has proven correct as time go on (and as natural herd immunity takes place in thousands of communities, hundreds of counties and more than a dozen states.

              So why hasn't Bailey (or anyone else at Reason) exposed these facts?

              1. Although the evidence clearly indicates that more than 99.99% of Americans who were infected with covid remain immune (i.e. as only 5 out of 27,800,000 have been reinfected), CDC continues to commit public health malpractice by:

                – refusing to inform people that past infection confers immunity,

                – urging/allowing previously infected (and now immune) people to get vaccines before high risk senior citizens, sick people and other adults,

                – requiring covid recoverers (and vaccine recipients) to wear masks, remain socially distant from others, and comply with all other covid related lockdowns, crowd limits and mandates.

                1. An excellent example of left wing lies about covid and herd immunity, and their attempt to smear Scott Atlas and Trump is at:
                  Can We Finally Stop Talking About “Natural” COVID-19 Herd Immunity? Please?

                  While Rand Paul, Thomas Massie and Scott Atlas have told the truth about covid and natural herd immunity, why haven't any of the so-called libertarians at Reason?

  11. Science must be judged by the politics of those who promote it.

  12. It would be kind of interesting to see what kind of overlap there is between those who are opposed to GMO crop varieties due to health concerns and those who are in favor of lab-grown meat.

    1. or those opposed to GMO's but are for forced covid Vaccine which is a form of GMO. the overlap is large and not understandable if a person hates one they should hate both.

  13. Well, Vilsack is not exactly a raging communist environmentalist. So while there may be new regulations, they will likely be still relatively business-friendly and not onerous.

    1. "business friendly", like Obama stealing ranchers land..
      "business friendly", like wheel loaders that burn themselves to the ground.
      "business friendly", like being FORCED to pay for needed work at a price that makes the whole business go under.
      "business friendly", adding 2 full weeks of gov paper work and paying gov-benefits on the needed help.
      "business friendly", like a 90% tax rate?
      "business friendly", like a $1M certification process flushing out all smaller businesses and creating a monopoly of only 1-Big one.
      ....................... the list is endless .........................

      No worries.... Democratic Gov-Gods will be everyone's "savior" by "pumping" money (i.e. others labors) around COVERING-UP their own SCREW-UPS until there's nothing of VALUE left in the USA worth STEALING.

      1. Bernie's State of the Union address, "Gov-Bread lines are Great because everyone gets some Gov-Bread and no one has to *earn* it with those unfair capitalistic monopolies of nature's rewards and consequences."

        Cheer, cheer, cheer

        One non-idiot raises his hand, "If no one is working where is the Bread coming from?"

        Security! Security! Censor that man!

    2. The reason Vilsack supports GMO plants is because he's from Iowa, where most of the corn has been GMO for many decades.

      1. ...As-if; having an excellent food production is Bad because????? Progress of anything but tyrannical authoritarian government is bad?

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  15. Ironically (or not), Bailey failed to mention that virtually all anti GMO organizations and activists throughout the world are far left wingers (i.e. those who hated Trump, campaigned for Bernie, and then for Biden/Harris).

    If Bailey truly supported GMOs, he wouldn't have trashed Trump for the past four years, and instead would have delineated how far left wingers (i.e. Greens) have been lobbying to ban GMO plants for many decades in Europe (and for at least two decades in the US).

    1. If Bailey truly supported GMOs, he wouldn’t have trashed Trump for the past four years...

      Give it a rest for fuck's sake. This "Reason can't complain because they were mean to Trump boo hoo" shit is so fucking tiresome.

      1. Trump was the most effective single term president in US history, and was the most libertarian president since Cal Coolidge.

        Left wingers hated (and still hate) Trump because he was so effective in increasing the stock market, employment, wages and peace in the middle east, while reducing federal regulations, taxes, racial inequality and incarcerations (that were imposed by Biden).

        1. What does that have to do with anything? Reason isn't leftist. It's libertarian. So they were critical of Trump when he did un-libertarian shit like go after immigrants and start a trade war. They also gave him plenty of credit for bringing troops home and cutting regulation. What do you expect Reason to do? Praise politicians when they go against libertarian principles in order to appease simple minds that believe being critical of their team equals cheering for the other team?

  16. Will Biden 'Listen to the Science' on GMOs?

    No, because when they talk about following "The Science" it has nothing to do with using the scientific method to formulate, test, and verify or discard hypotheses to explain various observed natural phenomenon.

    1. People who use the words "believe" and "science" in the same sentence are irrecoverably stupid about at least one of those concepts.

    2. Science is now determined by committee. It has literally become politics.

      1. No, science is still science. Doesn't matter what the Democrats say, policy is not "science".

        Now policy can be informed by science, but science itself does not suggest policy. For example, it's probably a good idea that the people running the USDA have some knowledge of biology and agronomic science. But the thought that science is policy leads to such absurdities as Lysenkoism. Otherwise known as policy driven "science" run amok.

        1. If you don't support the policy then you oppose the science, or something.

  17. This is the problem with regulation/de-regulation by the executive. The next executive just changes it. Trump cleans up some regulation and Biden puts them back. It's no way to legislate. It leads to regime uncertainty and the public has no idea at any moment what is and is not legal.

    Our "strong man" system of government is stupid. The executive office may need to hammer out some fine details, but it's up to the legislature to pass the laws people are required to obey. We need a regulatory culture that does NOT depend on the executive interpreting broad regulations. If a detail is necessary, it should have been legislated. If a detail is unclear, that's the job of the courts. The executive should not be deciding on a day to day basis what is and is not legal.

    We are neck deep in European style regulation. It's the style that says "What is not expressly allowed is hereby forbidden." It's what causes tomato farmers to wonder if their tomato variety has been officially declared a "tomato". (Not making this up). In contrast, the traditional US regulatory style is "What is not expressly forbidden is allowed". It's the exact opposite. Americans should not need to ask permission to do something that is not illegal.

    The "strong man" system of government denies the US regulatory style. It demands that the strong man be in charge of all the niggling (can I say 'niggling'?) details. It's European, and we broke away from Europe over two centuries ago. Why the fuck do we insist on being France?

    The problem with a "strong man" like Trump is that he's not immortal. Eventually someone else is going to be president. This is beyond obvious. But people acted like he would always be in power. And so now it's Biden with all of the power people demanded Trump possess. Reversing Trump's executive orders and issuing his own.

    The problem is not Biden. The problem is that the presidency has too much fucking power. The problem is we have a European style regulatory system run by an executive when we should have an American style system where the executive does not decide what is or is not legal.

    The fault is both parties who have aggressively sought to increase the executive's power every time they had a chance. Just stop it. Political power is bad even if you're the one wielding it. Because eventually you will not be the one wielding it.

    1. Yep. It used to be "Screw you it's a free country." It has become "Who said you could do that?"

    2. ^Well Said - for once....

      But; I did find it humorous you practically quoted Trump and then proceeded to demonize him as the "strong man". That "strong man" who's E.O.'s were constantly de-regulatory in nature. TDS for the WIN! /s

      "the traditional US regulatory style is - What is not expressly forbidden is allowed."

  18. Is it a requirement to have a TDS moment in every article especially one that it has no point in the article since Covid has nothing to do with GMO's or is there something they are not telling us?

    1. "Is it a requirement to have a TDS moment" -- The gigantic mountains of evidence of this being 100% true is at 100%.

  19. While public skepticism around the safety of GMOs is significant," Vilsack noted in a 2017 op-ed for The Hill, "the overwhelming evidence demonstrates that these crops have not been linked to a single health risk in the more than two decades they've been in our marketplace.

    Well that's just crap. The GMO in question for most crops is for a tolerance to Roundup. The SOLE purpose of that GMO crop in the marketplace is so that the grower can drown the crop in Roundup. Some of that Roundup gets into the crop itself and is then processed and sold on into the food system.

    There is not much evidence beyond farm/landscape laborers themselves that enough Roundup is ingested/inhaled/etc to be poisonous/fatal directly to humans. And that shouldn't be a surprise because that was the one thing that was tested by Roundup before it was approved for market - is it directly poisonous to humans?

    That however is NOT the real problem for Roundup in the food supply. One of the targets for Roundup as a poison is - bacteria. Including gut bacteria. The effect of Roundup on that is and was known and accepted from the beginning. At that time, no one gave a shit about gut bacteria. If it all dies so what? If there is a difference between beneficial bacteria and harmful bacteria, who gives a fuck. They're bugs kind of.

    Except now people are beginning to understand that gut bacteria has a huge impact on everything from obesity to immune system functioning. Gut bacteria has evolved with humans over thousands of years - and is the main reason our foods ARE our foods.

    The hatred over even labeling something as GMO is nothing more than an attempt to keep people in ignorance. To ossify knowledge - so that it benefits a particular producer and market structure.

    1. Hell - even this article is missing WHAT GMO actually means in reality:

      Today, 94 percent of all soybeans, 83 percent of corn, and 95 percent of sugar beets grown in the U.S. are biotech varieties.

      WHY? WHY are those specific crops 'biotech varieties'? Have we managed to produce a soybean that is both a dessert topping and a floor wax? A sugar beet that turns itself sugar AND pours itself into your coffee?

      Answer no - of course. In all three of those cases and a few more the genetic modification is - to tolerate Roundup! That's IT. There is no other 'biotech variety'. Nothing driven by the end-consumer of the food crop.

      Well hell. In that case - let's just fucking ignore that this entire story is about putting an herbicide into the food supply. What could possibly go wrong. It's science after all. And science is like mushrooms. It thrives in the dark - inside little black boxes full of shit tended by experts in lab coats.

      1. you are fucking stupid. search for bacillus thringiensis maize

    2. ....And out of some miracle, somehow, even after 6-Paragraphs of deadly blabber; People still live well into their 80's actually LONGER than they did when 'Round-up' didn't exist...

      Surely; If the Gov-Gods had practiced a little "Savior" mentality and banned Round-up from the earth those millions of people required in the fields to pull weeds in unconditioned weather and driving up the 'labor' required for EVERYONE to feed themselves would "Save" us all the curs-idy of getting an easier and cheaper lunch. No, no, no; F-That.. Starving people need to work HARDER for their Gov-Gods!

      1. Needless to say, despite your 'propaganda driven authoritarian' attempt -- YOU still get to choose for yourself to go organic or not.

      2. People still live well into their 80’s actually LONGER than they did when ‘Round-up’ didn’t exist…

        Roundup (glyphosate) was near irrelevant - see the difference in usage from 1992 to 2011 until GMO crops were introduced in the mid-1990's. As I fucking SAID - the SOLE purpose of those GMO crops is to be able to drown the fields in Roundup.

        And the fact is that it is younger people who are more likely to be affected by more recent changes in gut bacteria. But hey - at least its good to know that you and your ilk are - as always - just an ignorant whore

        1. But hey – at least its good to know that you and your ilk are – as always – just an ignorant whore .................

          When it comes to being dictated by tyrannical authoritarian Gov-God 'saviors' basing policy on left-wing conspiracy theories that have ZERO basis in the REAL world.

          As I said before; Go be organic --- You have EVERY right to be organic. No one is stopping you from being organic. So WHY are you pretending you have no choice?

          1. left-wing conspiracy theories that have ZERO basis in the REAL world.

            The shikimate pathway is not a left-wing conspiracy theory. Disrupting it is how Roundup works. On weeds and on gut bacteria. The fact that that pathway doesn't exist in humans is why Roundup is not directly toxic to humans. But is also the reason why humans cannot synthesize some amino acids - why we call them 'essential' because we have to EAT them directly or eat their precursor so our gut bacteria can process them. Why a disruption to our food supply - re that specific issue - can present a metabolic risk to humans.

            The FACT that you felt compelled to label this in political terms proves that you are not just an ignorant whore. You are stupid beyond belief. And Lysenkoist like pretty much all R's and the Paul/Mises crowd. I find it really surprising how quickly the stupid party has earned that label.

          2. Organic is not the same as avoiding glyphosate. Nor can any food producer in a large swathe of the country (from the Dakotas south to Texas and east to the Appalachians) avoid glyphosates because it is all around them now on farmland and in the irrigation water.

            That said - one of the reasons organic is expensive is because large parts of agricultural areas of the US are off-limits to 'organic' production. Which is irrelevant to me because my only issue is eating - cides on my plate.

            1. Only 20% of the Continental USA is cropland. The fact you have to concern yourself with speckles of something showing no direct link to shortness of life - only further demonstrates your obsession with a conspiracy theory.

              "Kiki? Kiki-kins? Who's smoking? I smell smoke. Is someone smoking within a six mile radius of where I'm standing? Stop them, Kiki, stop them!"

  20. please note, folks: not one of you has eaten food that was never genetically modified. we've been chemically and radiologically stressing seeds for at least a century to force mutations. the results are culled to eliminate the negative outcomes. the big difference these days is that now we can more specifically target an outcome by direct genetic engineering. trying to claim that we need to depend only on "unmodified food" is misleading, incorrect, and a waste of time.

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