Gm Food good

Q&A – The Lowdown on GMOs with a Scientist

Last year, as those who’ve read the first edition of my book will know, I was anti-GMO. Why? Well, I thought I had the evidence on my ‘side’. But I can now honestly say it was because I had no idea what I was talking about. (Need further proof I’m an idiot?) My knowledge of the subject was inadequate; much of that knowledge I got from biased sources; and I’m sure there was some social conformity bias somewhere in there. (I’m sure there were many more biases; but honestly, listing my own biases is depressing. I’d rather much do it to others. That’s where the fun is at!) I’ve just released a 2nd edition of my book, Random Rationality, and that stance has been rectified.

In the meantime, I’ve delved into some of the literature and involved myself in a debate with friends on the nature of GMO on the safety issue. In doing that, I also reached out to Dr. Kevin Folta last week (his profile and academic history here, and check out his highly informative blog here) to confirm what I had learned, and find out why GMO’s are so misunderstood. Dr. Folta is a plant geneticist who works at the University of Florida. He’s a scientist who specializes in plant molecular biology and he was kind enough to share his thoughts with me on his area of expertise. Our exchange is below, you’ll find it brief, but extremely informative. I’ve bolded some of his statements, those that I consider important.

The Lowdown on GMOs with a Scientist

Fourat (Me) – What is the main thing (or is it general) about GMO’s that the public routinely confuse, or get wrong, when discussing and debating their impact?

Kevin Folta –  There are so many misconceptions. The first is a fundamental one, that being that there is a debate at all.  There is no debate among scientists in the discipline of plant molecular biology and crop science. Sure you can find someone here and there that disagrees, but there is no active debate in the literature driven by data. There are no hard reproducible data that indicate that transgenics are dangerous or more potentially dangerous than traditionally bred plant products.

If I had to nail down the most annoying misconceptions they would include that all scientists are just dupes of big multinational ag companies. Anyone that presents the consensus of scientific interpretation of the literature is immediately discounted as some corporate pawn. There’s nothing further from the truth. Most of us are hanging on by a thread in the days of dwinding federal, state and local support for research. The attacks on the credibility of good scientists hurts our chances to stay in academic labs and consider the cushy salaries and job security with the big ag corporate monstrosities we chose not to work for when we took jobs working for the public good. That’s pretty sad.

There is this allegation that we hide data or don’t publish work that is inconsistent with corporate desires. They need to get one thing straight. We’re not in the public sector because we are excited about listening to some corporate mandates. No thanks.  We’re here for scientific freedom and to discover the exceptions to the rules and define new paradigms.

If my lab had a slight hint that GMOs were dangerous, I’d do my best to repeat that study, get a collaborator to repeat it independently, and then publish the data on the covers of Science, Nature and every news outlet that would take it. It would rock the world. Showing that 70-some percent of our food was poisonous? That would be a HUGE story — we’re talking Nobel Prize and free Amy’s Organic Pot Pies for life! Finding the rule breakers is what we’re in it for, but to break rules takes massive, rigorous data. So far, we don’t even have a good thread of evidence to start with.

The other huge misconception is that you can “prove something is safe”. Nothing can be proven safe. We can only test a hypothesis and show no evidence of harm. You can’t test all variables — nobody could. We can ask if there is a plausible mechanism for harm. If there is, we can test it. If there isn’t, we can do broad survey studies. A scientist can search for evidence of harm — a scientist can never prove something is safe.

2 –  In what ways might GMO’s be most beneficial to our biosphere, and why might organic’s not be as good as to get us there?

Kevin Folta – There is no doubt that transgenic plants can be designed to limit pest damage with lower pesticide applications. That is well documented by the National Academies of Science, the best unbiased brains in our nation. Most data is for cotton and maize, and show substantial reductions (like 60%). Transgenic potatoes were amazingly successful in Romania until they joined the EU and had to go back to insecticide-intensive agriculture.  Even glyphosate resistance traits, for all of their drawbacks in creating new resistant weeds, replace toxic alternatives.

Conventional farming takes fuel, labor, fungicides, pesticides, nematicides and many other inputs. Water and fertilizer are in there too.  There are genes out there in the literature that address most of these issues. Scientists in academic labs discover these genes and define their function in lab-based GMOs that never are used outside the lab. The regulatory hoops are too difficult and expensive. Only the big companies can play in that space. Even little companies like Okanagan Specialty Fruits have to deal with the nonsense from those that hate the technology. Opposition to the science keeps the big guys in business, because nobody else can compete.

Who loses? The farmer, the consumer, the environment, the academic scientist and most of all the people around the world that don’t get enough food and nutrition. Who gains? Big ag.

3 – What do you consider the most important aspect of differentiating the good from the bad when it comes to considering science? i.e., what is the first thing you look for after reading a study

Kevin Folta – In the short-term I consider the system studied.  Was it an animal system or cells in a dish? Most of the anti-GMO work is done on cells, especially cell lines that sound scary (like ovary, testis or fetal cells) but have little relevance to the complexities of animal systems. If done in animals, was the experiment properly controlled? Do the researchers SHOW the controls (like they conveniently omitted from Seralini’s 2012 rat-cancer work in Figure 3). Many studies that look good compare a GMO to an unrelated plant type. It is just not a valid comparison. Plants produce toxins and allergens, so you need to test the same exact plant without the added gene. If they do the rest of this properly then they need to run sufficient numbers and use good, common statistics. If they do all of this the work is publishable after peer review and should go into a decent journal, not some low-impact journal that publishes incomplete work or work that oversteps the data.

A lot of junk escapes peer review. Reviewers and editors are overstressed and overburdened these days. We do the work as service for the field. Occasionally a paper slips by in a lower-impact journal. You’ll find most of the anti-GMO papers there.

Another important attribute of good work is demonstrating a mechanism. For instance, just don’t tell me that you found some evidence of GMO harming cells. Tell me how. How does it happen? If the phenomenon is real the mechanism should be dissected out in a year’s time.  Omics tools are incredibly sensitive and we can detect small differences in gene expression and metabolic profiles. If GMO harm was real, the authors would define that mechanism, then collect their Nobel Prize and Amy’s Pot Pies.

The ultimate test is reproducibility. You’ll see that the best “evidence” for harm from GMOs comes from obscure journals, aging references that were published and heavily refuted by the scientific community (Puztasi, Seralini, etc), and work that was never repeated by outside labs. These are flash-in-the-pan works that never are expanded beyond the seminal study. The best sign of real science, good science, in an edgy area is that it grows. You see more scientists pile on, more research, more funding and bigger ideas. Models expand, mechanisms grow.

That just does not happen in the anti-GMO literature. The same authors publish a paper and then it goes on the anti-GMO websites and gains attention — while it dies in the scientific literature with no follow-up.

4 – Is there any split in the scientific community as to the safety of GMOs? If so, where does the split lay?

Kevin Folta – There are splits in the scientific community like there are splits for climate change and evolution. You have scientists like NIH Director Francis Collins that support creationist leanings. You have a small set of meteorologists and atmosphere scientists that claim that climate change is not real. There’s always room for a dissenting opinion out there, but they usually don’t have good evidence, just belief.

The same is true in biology and plant science.  There are a few out there that let philosophy rule over evidence, but they are not at the edge of research. In the circles I work with there is consensus about the safety and efficacy of the technology. Even those that study organic and other low-input production systems support biotech as a way to do their jobs even better. That’s a strange relationship many don’t expect. You’ll not see anti-GMO writing from too many tenure-track scientists at leading universities.

There is confusion on this. The Union of Concerned Scientists is frequently used as evidence that scientists are against this technology. When you read who they are and what they do, they are activists. They don’t do research or publish in the area of biotech. There are also others that claim to be experts or exploit some tenuous university affiliation to gain credibility. They should be looked at as deceitful, but they are accepted and believed with great credibility. People like Mercola, Smith and others sure sound like they know what they are talking about but they are not experts. Even Benbrook, a guy with a great career and a wonderful CV, goes off the deep end on the topic.

Readers need to apply all of the filters we discussed here today.  What the data really say, who did the work, and if it was reproduced independently are the most important criteria in separating reality from fiction in the GMO topic.

If you stand for scientific integrity, and going where the facts take you, then please share this Q&A so it may reach a wider audience. Almost every factoid from the Anti-GMO crowd has been thoroughly refuted, debunked, and repudiated by the scientific community. Millions of lives depend on the future of our food production, that means they depend on scientific experimentation and information untainted by ideology. The science is settled, and has been for some time. And as Dr. Folta above, and others, have elucidated, the intense opposition to the GMO technology has only intensified Monsanto’s grip upon the market. Facebook it, tweet it, re-blog it, or Google Plus it. Give my blog credit, don’t give it credit; I don’t really care. Good science matters more than pageviews (though pageviews are still nice), and more scientists like Dr. Folta should have their voices heard instead of the fear-based, fake-facts groups out there shouting from the rooftops who don’t know the first thing about genomics, evolution, or reality. (If you enjoyed this article, you may enjoy my last one on science in general, read it here.)

Ready. Set. Share!

[UPDATE: Part 2 and 3 in this series; Lowdown on GMOs with a Family Farmer and Lowdown on GMOs with a Biotech Firm can be found here and here.]


      1. Hey I’m a little late on the topic, but I’ve often found myself questioning the anti GMO crowd, mostly because it just seems like there is so much mis information. I personally worry about the ecological affects of GMOs over long spans of time, and honestly they just kinda of weird me out. I was wondering if you’ve ever read anything about the farmer suicides in India?? Apparently from what I’ve read cotton farmers in India were sold by Monsanto on “miracle” seeds that then did not work the way they were supposed to causing major crop losses, just curios what your take is on it. To me it does seem like there is not really enough research on either side studying the affects of something like GMOs has to span over many decades in my opinion to truly understand the affects they may or may not have. I have the utmost respect for science and scientist but they have been wrong about many things in the past (deeming things safe that latter are determined not safe at all). I agree that the validity of the anti GMO is highly questionable, but as a farmer, and as someone who is out in the environment all the time I just have a hard time believing that there are no unforeseen consequences to the eco system when you genetically alter a plant to have pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides built in them. I think we need to be very careful! Just my 2 cents!

  1. Thanks for posting! I hate that people think their is a conspiracy between big ag businesses and farmers/ scientists/etc… so crazy!

    1. You’re welcome. Thanks for your comment. Yes, that conspiracy theory is maddening. No one is holding a gun to farmers heads telling them to use GMO seed. They choose to do so. The obvious is staring them in the face!

  2. Thanks so much, Kevin for all of your work on science-based out reach. People deserve to know the science on this. And thank you, Fourat, for helping to get Kevin out to a wider audience!

    Kevin has also been a contributor at a blog that I help run:
    I invite everyone to take up additional conversation about GMOs there, including in the Forum where any one can post any question.

    1. You’re welcome Anastasia. I just looked through biofortified, and it looks great. Discussion on such subjects is truly important. It is just unfortunate that discussion involves one side ignoring empirical reality while the other deals with it. As more and more of our modern life becomes subsumed by science, those who don’t understand it are increasingly lashing out (a natural human impulse by the way) and refusing to participate in the debate. (I used to.) Good thing we have scientists who do the intelligent debating between themselves and have already come to consensus.

      Thanks for your comment. Are you by any chance a bio-scientist? I’d be interested to know how you come into this sphere. We all have our stories, and they are usually interesting. Getting to know each other always helps with the animosity, and scientists need to take advantage of this now more than ever. The clowns on the ‘other side’ are well-known (if not honest or knowledgable), which is why people trust them. Scientists, on the other hand, usually aren’t so people don’t trust them. Read my friend’s statement below (he really is my friend offline); Kevin Folta is just a random scientist, therefore don’t trust him. But so is Mercola and Dr. Oz (they are random, not scientists), but they exude personality through the tv and webpage that convinces people to trust them. We need to cultivate that aspect (well, not me, I’m not a scientist, but I guess it wouldn’t hurt).:)

      We need a Carl Sagan of GMOs.

  3. Great stuff, Fourat. I’ve been following Dr. Folta for a while now and we’ve chatted a time or two online. If anyone has questions about the application side of biotech feel free to ask a farmer like myself. I enjoy discussing my farm with non-farmers. We use biotech on our farm, although not exclusively. Check out my blog at

    1. Thanks Brian. Mind if I ask you a few questions as a follow-up to this post? (Using the same format.) Would be nice to hear from an actual farmer. This whole debate seems to almost assume that farmers have guns against their head being forced to use GMO seeds. I’d like to do what little I can to dispel that.

      1. That sounds like a plan. I see you liked my “Occupy” post which was intended to dispel such myths. That post was written early last year and is the most popular thing I’ve written to date. I was able to get it put up on CNN’s Eatocracy earlier this year and that version received several hundred comments. Some were so far off the wall they were comical, but the fact that such comments were being made is of note. Shoot me some questions and I’ll do my best to answer!

    1. (For some reason, wordpress tagged you as spam.) Thanks Bernie! I had a random browse on your site and loved it. It seems we are a lot like – contrarian progressives. (Well, I like to think I am.) Looking forward to reading more of your posts. And may the evidence be with you. (Yes, I’m a star wars nerd :))

    1. Thank you. Very little is organic these days. The majority of our ‘organic’ food today is a result of a process called mutagenesis in the early 20th century. Even before that, we hand-selected the favourable traits in our plants therefore upending natural selection. Plants haven’t evolved naturally for 12,000 years. All we are doing now is the same thing without the process of trial and error. (We can select what we want and what we don’t.) Most anti-GMO activists have no knowledge whatsoever of evolution, so they think what we are doing now is ‘unnatural.’ I’m going to write a future post being much more comprehensive. Thanks for your comment.:)

  4. Fourat: Are GMOs bad for people?
    Random Pro-GMO Scientist: Nope.
    Fourat: Well that settles it then! I’m all for GMOs!

    Seriously Fourat? I expect more critical thinking from you. This guy does not address organic farming practices (he pretty much ignored your question about it, if you didn’t notice, and talked about conventional methods instead), he does not address the environmental impacts, and he does not address the motivation/benefit behind creating GMOs in the first place. GMOs are primarily researched by 5 companies: Monsanto, DOW, ConAgra, DuPont, and another one I can’t think of at the moment. What do all of these companies have in common? They are chemical companies (NOT food companies as some may believe). They began GMO research so they could sell more pesticide and fertilizer, plain and simple. Monsanto even has gone so far as to create a GMO seed that self-terminates every single season, meaning farmers have no choice but to ante up every single year. There is absolutely zero reason to do this other than to exploit as much profit as possible. GMO food certainly isn’t more nutritious, if it was perhaps I’d find a reason to eat it. So where is the benefit? The ability to spray more pesticides on it? As far as the safe-for-human-consumption argument, perhaps the jury is still out on that, but common sense and history has told us not to fuck with nature. I could give many examples, but look what cigarettes did for us. In the 50s, sure there was no scientific evidence that cigarettes were harmful, even Doctors recommended them. But a lack of scientific evidence does not mean safe for consumption, and the same goes here. Why do I want to have GMOs forced into my food supply without knowing they are safe? The burden of proof lies with big-Ag and the scientific community as far as I’m concerned since they’re the ones pushing this agenda. Until then I’ll have my organic, non-GMO fruits and veggies thank you very much.

    1. Well, Dr. Folta might be a random to you, not to scientists or science. He has a hefty background in plant molecular biology, and 70 papers to his name.

      GMOs have been shown (using real science) to use much less insecticides. (Worldwide, 152 million kgs of pesticide use have not been used thanks to GMO seeds.)

      Motivation/benefit of GMO companies? Yes he did discuss this. The furore to GMOs have only made Monsanto’s monopoly for them. As he said, there are genes sitting in public labs all around the country that will help us reduce (even more so) pesticide exposure, use less water, get more nutrients, but because of the backlash and regulatory burden, they just sit there and only Monsanto and DuPont gets to play in the game inventing whatever seeds they want for profit while the scientists who invented their seeds for public benefit and owned by the public no less, can’t deploy them. (I guess you didn’t read this part.) Let me repeat it again. Monsanto loves the Anti-GMO movement! They get free monopoly and laugh all the way to the bank as a result. If I was Monsanto, I’d love the anti-GMO movement too.

      The benefits of GMO food are we can grow more food in more varied environments using less input. (This will become increasingly important with climate change. America might remain ok to use organic farming. I guarantee you Africa won’t. They are reliant on food aid now. Think outside your 1st world box.) And that has been the case for the most part (not in every single case, of course). They may not be more nutritious as yet, but one day they will be, but right now, they are cheaper. I doubt the billion starving people around the world will recoil when we offer them GMO food. “Oh no thanks, we only eat organic.” In fact, GMO activists have successfully stopped deployment of GMO food in famines as in Zambia where people died as a result, and they are continually successful in blocking Golden Rice (which would save 1-2 million people per year)

      Terminator seeds – myth. They dont exist. Monsanto enforces the no reusing of seeds through the courts and patent system (which needs to be severely overhauled). The terminator seed has never existed in the wild – ever.

      What happened to the 50s is of no concern to 2013 and the good science we’re doing now. To use the past to justify actions in the present is like looking at a walking baby and say “sorry, you’re first few steps were mired in falls and bruises. So for the rest of your life, I’m going to point to those bruises as proof you still can’t walk yet.” Yet the baby kept on walking, then running and jumping without bothering to listen. As does science. The EU invested $425 million, 25 years, involved 500 independent commercial-free labs, covering 130 projects, and came to the conclusion that crop modification by molecular methods are safe. As Dr. Folta said, most evidence for ‘harm’ of GMO are not done in reputable science journals. Therefore, we should be wary of calling them science. There is plenty of scientific evidence that show they do no harm. Hundreds of studies in fact, in reputable science journals that actually do peer-review. Most people have blinders on that don’t allow them to see it.

      They already provided the burden of proof. If you don’t want it, don’t eat it. No one is forcing you to. If we removed the roadblocks from the gene arena, we would get a flood of competitors competing against Monsanto and DuPont bringing them down by a thousand tiny cuts. (This is still happening anyway, but it is much slower because the cost-of-entry is high. Craig Venter is doing the best work on this. He wants to increase yield by 50-100 times over today’s farms.) Instead, we’ve insulated them against the competition. Just because I am for GMO, does not make me for Monsanto as you allude too.

    2. Brandon, Folta here. Glad to address your thoughts. I did miss the point on organic and didn’t realize it until I read the article. What’s wrong with organic farming practices? In general, nothing. I’m a huge fan of low-input agriculture and I personally think that GMO crops made specifically for organic cultivation would be a huge plus for the environment and for the consumer. However, the regs around organic are truly arbitrary and don’t allow science and reason to dictate decisions. The other really funny hypocrisy with organics is that they use bt, but say its poison when used in GMOs. While they say that GM foods destroy biodiversity etc, they also fail to realize that few of the crops they grow are from here and also displace natural populations. The big issue to me is that organic cultivation costs more. It’s great for people that can afford it. To make food that can meet the challenges of today’s environments (changing weather, new pests, new pathogens, etc) we need the agility of introducing a gene or two fast, rather than by conventional breeding.

      I’d urge you to reach out and contact me for further discussion. So many of your points are the tired old fear capsules promoted by activists to scare you. So many logical fallacies.

      One in particular is “history has told us not to fuck with nature”. Humans have been doing that for thousands of years. Every food you eat has been genetically modified by breeding and selection for thousands of years. Humans did it– not nature. Nature is nasty and trying to kill you. Science saves you.

      Is that a natural computer you are using, like the ones found in the woods? Nope. The “natural” lovers/technology haters sure use it when it is convenient for them. Let’s think outside your box and consider how good technology could help others, especially those that need it most. Best wishes.

      1. Do you deny that GMO’s alter the DNA of the subject crop, which show INCREASED vulnerability to environmental stress such as drought? And do you also deny that the DNA in question is able to survive the digestive processes of both animals and humans, thereby presenting the question of vulnerability to other environmental stresses peculiar to their type? These same studies also show rise in infant mortality and sterilization…do you not see that as risk, threat, or harm? Are these studies simply discounted because they’re not well-funded within the US borders and under the scrutiny of the FDA and USDA? Are these entities not also heavily influenced by corporate dollars? Is not the former president of Monsanto himself now the appointed head of the FDA? Is this all news to you and your lab rats or are you knowing of these things? Please tell.

        1. Meeri, Folta here. You’ve been influenced by the rantings of non-scientists. Tell me two things. First, do you want to learn the science or have you made up your mind? It matters, because it is a waste of time to try to teach the unteachable. Your comments smack of someone that has read too much Jeffrey Smith and not enough science.

          I can tell if you answer a few questions.

          What do you mean by “alter DNA”? Tell me about the alterations, the copy numbers, the changes that occur in the genome. Next, explain how this is (or is not) different from the action of transposons and other DNA elements?

          How does the DNA from one added gene differ in digestion from the DNA from any other food DNA, or the DNA from billions of bacteria you swallow every day?

          What are the “environmental stresses”? Do you have comparisons with isogenic lines?

          Can you please provide a mechanism linking transgenic food to infant mortality and sterilization beyond a correlation?

          You mean to tell me that every scientist in the world is in collusion with corporations to hide the truth, except for a few labs that can’t seem to get their “blockbuster” work in a decent journal? Hmm.

          What I can tell you is that you are quite insulting and condescending. As a scientist I feel bad for people like you that discount what I know and my expertise, yet believe a guy trying to sell you a book by scaring you. I’d love to help you understand, but I fear that you are so jaded and consumed by belief that science may not sway you. Send me a note at I’d be glad to discuss further if you are wiling to learn.

      2. Hello Folta. Question regarding your statement: “One in particular is “history has told us not to fuck with nature”. Humans have been doing that for thousands of years. Every food you eat has been genetically modified by breeding and selection for thousands of years.”
        Is there though not a fairly major difference between Engineering (lab: horizontal inheritance) and Vertical Inheritance (parent genes)?
        It has always been my biggest question. We have not “engineered” plants for thousands of years: I can’t seem to find a lab in 20AD? Yes, plant varieties change every second, passing information through and altering genes, and I have altered dozens by selective breeding, but what I am interested in knowing is:
        Are the engineered genes stable once inserted? Is there any chance of movement?
        Are those genes “turned on” 24/7?
        I spent a few years at UBC and visited labs in CA speaking with scientists who, by the way, were awesome and very helpful! Loved it! Real time working people on the front lines have no desire to get into the banter of Pro or Anti: they just do their work and are very genuine.
        Since I have you, the scientist, in front of me, I would appreciate those questions answered.

    3. “GMO food certainly isn’t more nutritious,” did you research that or just assume?

      “common sense and history has told us not to fuck with nature” Well, taking a seed and planting it in a field is fucking with nature. It is our nature to change things and drawing a line and saying one change is unnatural and another isn’t is just naive.

      That said, there may be risks with GMO . The only way you could have confidence it was ok would be if the people promoting and developing it didn’t make money from it. AS it is, if/when a problem is found, we’ll be the last to know.

  5. My concern with GMO’s wasn’t mentioned in the article. My understanding is that it takes our bodies a long time to learn how to process a hybrid or modification to a plant and that is causing digestive problems like gluten intolerance. I would like to know what the scientists are saying about how our bodies process the modified foods; I think that will take more than a few years to research.

    1. Hi Vinaewinn, I’m unfamiliar with any research that says so (though I haven’t read everything, who has?), but I highly doubt it. Most GMO’s have only a handful of genes changed, such as golden rice which has only 2 genes transferred from the rice leaf to the endosperm. Your body would never notice the difference.

      DNA mutations occur about 3 times per billion base pairs in any birthing event. (Passing cosmic rays also induce mutations.) So in every spoonful of rice, bowlful of pasta, or cup of quinoa, there will be many genetic mutations already. There is very little, if any, difference between the random mutations and the induced mutations. In the former, we cannot control what changes, in the latter, we make tiny changes for it to slightly benefit us. The most common being conferring insect resistance so we spray the crop with less chemicals.

    2. Vinaewinn, keep in mind that all plants are loaded with compounds that are biologically active. Allergens and all kinds of toxic metabolites are present all the time. Wheat is not even transgenic (GMO) but people have issues with it. The issues with digestion are not due to transgenes. That’s just not true. We know exactly what each gene installed does and there is no way that they can effect human health. On a lot of websites you’ll see stuff about bt and rupturing stomachs, etc. That’s sort of what happens in insects, but they have a specific chemistry and processes that allow it to work that way. It can’t happen in humans. Contact me anytime if you have questions, I’m always glad to answer them.

      1. Eh, something I’m trying to encourage those types of defenders that don’t approve comments on their own site — maybe get them a little more focused as well.

        I will put a link to the charity in the sidebar, audience comments page, as well as keep mentioning it while the discussion remains active.

        If you think of a way to improve this concept, please don’t hesitate to suggest something.

  6. so hang on here… interview ONE person (who most people have not even heard of) and suddenly this is the answer? Your 1st question is responded by saying “there is no debate” and then by the 4th question its “there are splits in the scientific community like there are splits for climate change and evolution”….I would not call that very logical/consistent thinking…..Your source may be famous/well known/respected some day but he is hardly a leading authority for goodness sake! Ever heard of David Suzuki? Google him and his thoughts on the subject….here’s a link to save you time:

    meanwhile here is the Dr Folta lauded by this article:

    Take your pick on which is more grounded in science

    1. It’s funny that you and others take umbrage at the fact this is one interview with a scientist heavily involved with the transgenics means of modification, who along with the greater scientific community (not just because he said so, and also scientific institutions around the world such as the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society, European Food and Safety Authority, Food Standards Australia New Zealand) disavow the notion that they are dangerous, and you are shocked that he has an (informed) opinion different from yours?

      Should I interview 10,000 scientists and put them all in this blog post? A million word post. I’m sure a lot of people will read that. More to the point, would it convince you? (I doubt it.) There is an ungodly amount of good science done that shows that transgenics aren’t dangerous. Are they perfect? No, nobody ever said so. It is the cry of the uninformed that they be perfect, yet neither are organics perfect, though nobody protests against them. (For all the misinformation about GMOs, there is an equal amount of misinformation about Organics.) I’m not going to wach your video, I’ve seen enough GMO documentaries to know that most of them are propaganda and/or misleading and/or fear-based, though I read the article and found it quite good, though the writer had a slight twinge in her voice that, it seemed to me, tried to lead the reader away subtly from what he was saying, but that’s her article and her opinion.

      He never changed his response by the way. In Q1, he said there is no debate with hard, reproducible data, though there are a few with disagree. In Q4, he says there are some who put philosophy before science (the same thing in a different context), and the split is small as it is in other scientific communities, i.e., some few meteorologists and climate scientists deny climate-change, some few religious scientists support creationist learnings, and some few biologists deny GMO’s are safe. In all 3 cases, they are in the minority and have no data to back up their opinion (or if they do, selective data or misleading data). You’re trying to find holes where they are none. Scientists are people like the rest of us, sometimes they put their biases before the science, this only makes them human. This is why scientific consensus is important, to ensure the data has been interpreted correctly (and the consensus lays not where you think, especially if you get your information from activists).

      Last thing I’d like to point out. Again, you take umbrage at one scientist (in this case) having a different opinion than yours. Than you post a documentary from one scientist? Who is in the minority no less, and somehow that nullifies a different scientists opinion? I’m sorry, that’s laughable. Opinions don’t count. Data and experiment does. And the fact of the matter is there are hundreds of studies that show transgenics are safe, and very few that don’t. The scientific consensus lies on the safe side, Dr. Folta aligns himself there with the data, while Mr. Suzuki (who I don’t know much at all, so im assuming you are presenting an accurate representation of his views) apparently, according to you, does not. The leading authority is the data, not who you pick it to be. There are no authorities in science. Dr. Folta isn’t an authority, he is an informed scientist, and the data point us to the conclusion that transgenic are as safe as any other food. (Data from hundreds of labs, hundreds of studies, and thousands of scientists whose job it is to prove each other wrong.) As Dr. Folta said, if GMOs really were dangerous, then the scientists who found that out would get a Nobel Prize ($1,500,000). That’s a pretty good incentive for scientists. The fact it hasn’t been done yet tells you something, if your open-minded enough to see it.

      If you wish to continue this discussion, I’m more than happy to, regards.

    2. Jules, Folta here. There is no debate among scientists. There is not. Let’s get that straight. When I say hat there are splits, we’re talking a few whack jobs or people that have limited training or immense agendas. Those exist in academia.

      Hardly a leading authority? I’ve edited two more books on plant genomics and breeding than David Suzuki has, and written many more articles. I read the stuff, I know the subject. If you have a specific question where you think I’m wrong, let’s talk evidence. I’m happy to do that. I’m wrong all the time.

      However, I’m not wrong because Jeffery Smith says so or because you don’t like the science I recognize. Your condescension is also uninteresting. Put away the internet balls. Evidence wins. Bring it.

  7. you seem to get quite tetchy with anyone one who posts a disagreement with your blog….and you get insulting….that is a bit of a tell tale sign in and of itself…and it does not say a lot about your ability to debate intelligently, and thereby discredits that your position is one that is well thought out…..May I please request that you respond with the “open mindedness” that you are impugning.

    To respond to some of your comments:

    If you want to be seen as being informed, then yes you should have based your blog on more than one (hardly credible) person – otherwise its lazy and frankly, irresponsible . The fact that you don’t even want to watch a scientific DOCUMENTARY (or indeed that you have not already seen it!) – which is not propaganda as you suggest, but science based, is also lazy. You are not even backing up with a theory on what Dr Suzuki has to gain by doing this….(whereas whatshisname stands to lose his job, funding from the bio tech industry he supports etc etc). You have not even heard of Dr Suzuki….! (I bet whatshisname has heard of him)…..

    I won’t go into the statement about organics not being perfect….(to use your word), as it is a pretty fundamental question regarding the question of perfection and does not match the “colour” of the word when used in the context of GMOs….lets leave that one alone….

    You state that scientists which do not support GMO “are in the minority and have no data to back up their opinion (or if they do, selective data or misleading data)”. That is a pretty broad brush statement from someone who is unable to even discuss some of the main issues of concern….(your questions were not very probing or put by someone who really has an informed opinion about GMOs). Your stated anti GMO position therefore also becomes less than credible – you are not Mark Lynas after all and look at the ridicule he opened himself up to.

    I referenced from ONE scientist to match your post discussing this HUGE topic with one scientist – Sure I could launch a whole pile of references, but I am not the one who put forward such an unconvincing argument in the first place. To be frank when this was forwarded to me I was hoping to read something intelligent, probing, researched, credible, convincing…the first few sentences were enough to prove I was not going to find it here….

    The scientist I am referencing is BY FAR more credible than the one you are referencing – I posted a video which you won’t even watch(!) narrated by someone you have not even heard of(!). Despite not even watching the video (says a lot about your open mindedness), not even having heard of Dr Suzuki, you deign to critique it as “opinion” not “data and experiment”….and then proceed to insult my desire to share this information with you as “laughable”….. you than imply that he chooses not to align himself with data….which you do from an uninformed position (which you criticize in others)…..

    You end by supporting your position by stating words to the effect that only a Noble prize will prove that those scientists concerned about GMO are right – really? really?

    1. If I give off that impression, it’s because I’m passionate. If that put you off, I’m sorry.

      So you laid out a few statements there. Let’s address them:

      I said that that documentary is propaganda? No, what I said were others in a similar vein were filled with propaganda and misinformation. Therefore, I prefer not to waste my time with documentaries and try to read the science from scientists instead of having it put through a filter, no matter how good the intentions. Yes, I am ignorant about Dr. Suzuki, but I made no claims about him. I never said he misrepresented anything, though given what (I think) I know, I am led to the conclusion it is an opinion; of course, it’s probably an informed opinion but that doesn’t make it automatically right, regardless of his credentials. You can find any scientist from any field to disagree with anything. One persons words on the matter mean very little. Dr. Folta’s don’t mean that much, he’s presenting the opinion of the data he has worked with and studied. Most of the people in his field likewise support such a view. It is the consensus which is why I feature him. Nothing in that article you posted about him is negative (except the tone of the interviewer, at least to me). There are still scientists who disagree on climate-change, evolution, on the big bang, so no matter how informed they are, it doesn’t make them right. And Einstein, the greatest mind of the 20th century couldn’t bring himself to accept the conclusions of Quantum Mechanics (and he laid the foundation for it, as well as having the experimental proof in front of his face).

      Dr. Suzuki retired in 2001. How do we know he kept up with developments in the field? Where does he get his information from? Does he keep in touch with prior colleagues and scientists? Or does he continue to receive updates from other sources? The field of molecular biology has undergone a sea-change in the last ten years. The fields of genetics are outpacing Moore’s Law (doubling every year). There is literally more than a thousand-fold difference between our quantitative information then when he was part of the field, and now, so for all we know, he hasn’t been able to keep up. I said such scientists with such an opinion are in the minority, but this is not my opinion, It is the opinion of scientists who actually work in the field and look at the data. As mentioned, some of the most heavyweight and prestigious scientific organizations in the world have weighed in, assessed all the data, and came to the conclusion they were no more dangerous than any other type of crop. It is how it is used, and I don’t even like Monsanto by the way, but organic agriculture wouldn’t help us double our food supply in 40 years using less land and less water. (What is a prestigious scientific organization if not hundreds, or thousands of scientists.)

      You say you have a reference of studies? Post them. Or, beforehand, read what other scientists have to say on the studies in question. Here is a list of at least 40 studies that show no effects. []. The EU has done its own research and came to the same conclusion, as have many others.

      As for Dr. Folta losing his bio-tech funding. He is already on record as not receiving any. As for him losing his job. He works in a university and his salary is paid by the state. He can’t get fired for doing in effect what is his job, namely science and going where the evidence takes him.

      The reference to the Nobel Prize is to the effect that there is a very large incentive for a scientist or group of scientists to conduct studies that show that the majority of our food is dangerous. Whichever scientist did that would become an overnight celebrity, and an instant millionaire with book deals and speaking gigs etc. The nobel prize wouldn’t just show they were right, they would get worldwide attention on an unbelievable scale. The Nobel Prize honors the most important discoveries in science. What could be more important than a dangerous food supply that billions eat from? In science, the incentives are to prove other scientists wrong. That’s how you make your name, that’s what gets a scientist tenure, and funding; not towing the line — in this case, GMOs are safe. If I was a scientist, and GMOs really were bad. I’d do the science, get the data, get it peer-reviewed, and release it everywhere. The Nobel Prize would bring huge attention to the cause, but journals such as Nature and Science would jump on it immediately to get it featured and out there in the world. (This is Folta’s example from above.) They want to be on the edge, and to have the first comprehensive peer-reviewed study that conclusively shows 70% of the food supply really is dangerous would be a huge boon to them, their image, as well as bringing in a ton of money. This hasn’t been done. Even though it would be only a hop, skip, and a jump away from doing the science. (All they have to do is submit it, since, apparently, it’s already ‘settled.’ So why haven’t they?) It wouldn’t be very difficult to get featured in at least one big-name journal, and this arguably would be the biggest story so far of the 21st century. All the incentives are there, but you must make it through the peer-review gauntlet which wouldn’t be very difficult if it was good, sound science.

      And as Dr. Folta alluded to, (and in the comments also where he responded), many of the GMO studies that show harm are comparing apples to oranges.

      I hope my ‘tetchiness’ didn’t shine through, I do get a wee bit passionate and carried away talking science (you should hear what my girlfriend says:) )


      [UPDATE] I changed ‘would’ to ‘wouldn’t’ – that was an error that I didn’t catch before I posted the comment.

      1. “Future historians may well look back upon our time and write, not about how many pounds of pesticide we did or didn’t apply, but by how willing we are to sacrifice our children and future generations for this massive genetic engineering experiment that is based on flawed science and failed promises just to benefit the bottom line of a commercial enterprise.” ~ Dr. Don M. Huber, Emeritus Professor of Plant Pathology, Purdue University

        1. That’s his opinion. Nothing more. He is an anti-GM activist that has not published a paper related to the topic.

      2. May I submit to you that American academia is simply not willing take up the cause and do the research you suggest due to loss of revenue (ie: corporate contributions)? Don’t tell us that threat does not certainly exist.

    2. You completely discount the fact that this hypothesis has been tested and has INDEED shown harm. Watch How do you claim to be expert on the subject GMO’s and yet have not watched this documentary that has been voted internationally as 2012’s ‘most transformational documentary’? And why do you suppose GMO’s are routinely banned in other countries? Also, I found it suspect that the good professor disenfranchises himself completely (and adamantly, which is always a red flag) from corporate interest when everybody knows that Monsanto and other corps are hugely invested in public sector research (via tax-deductible contributions of the highest proportions to offset their ridiculous profits). This is especially applicable in college labs where these prof’s jobs are particularly dependent of this funding which can be pulled immediately if evidence “showing harm” is found to exist or is likely to be made public. The scientists might show up for work one day and their lab has been dissembled and under lock and key. The whole tone of this convo is somewhat insulting to the truly curious, in that it is quite contrary to the exchange of pure data such as that presented by the Your informant’s argument is purely statements…no evidence. Where are the studies (or links) to show that GM foods are even tested? His PhD is in molecular biology and he’s edited 2 books on genetics. Employed by University of Fla. He’s deeply invested in this stuff. Probably served in research and development of GMO’s in the first place and probably funded by Monsanto. I just don’t trust these guys. They’re all in bed together and with the FDA as well. Nope. Not buying it at all.

    3. Well Jules, I guess I’ll just admit defeat. Your bottomless boner for Dr. Suzuki has sucked the blood from your brain. Clearly you know more than I do on the subject. Arguing with an idiot only generates one thing… two idiots. Best wishes.

  8. “Future historians may well look back upon our time and write, not about how many pounds of pesticide we did or didn’t apply, but by how willing we are to sacrifice our children and future generations for this massive genetic engineering experiment that is based on flawed science and failed promises just to benefit the bottom line of a commercial enterprise.” ~ Dr. Don M. Huber, Emeritus Professor of Plant Pathology, Purdue University

  9. To fully accept all GE technologies (for food) as “good” is fundamentally as ridiculous as saying it is all “bad”. Some questions I can’t escape are: What about the increase in birth defects and cancer in Argentinians who live near Roundup Ready soy farms? What about the marked increase of deadly food allergies in children? What about the Indian farmer suicides after their GMO crops fail? What about the massive bee and butterfly die off? What about the general health of Americans, the country that eats the most GM processed food? That is my short list, and all of these problems implicate GMOs at some level. If you want to call me an ignorant luddite, that’s fine. I gladly accept that title and am proud to stand by my concerns about GMOs and will not blindly say they are all “good” and have nothing to do with the aforementioned issues. There was a time we blindly accepted tobacco use too because the “science” said it was fine. I agree there are some anti-GMO wackos out there… but not everyone who questions the technology is a wacko.

  10. One more for you: Nowadays, nearly three-fourths of genetically-manipulated plants harvested worldwide originate from Monsanto labs. Monsanto is a U.S.-based corporate group which calls dismal inventions such as DDT, PCB and Agent Orange its own. And we all know how benign these toxins have proven to be. This should serve as a clear warning the GM is not sufficiently understood to be considered safe.

    1. Please: If I’m wrong, please show the evidence…not mere statements of rebuttal. You said yourself that science cannot. You can only test to show harm. Must we wait another generation for the evidence to become clear while it seems to exist in other countries at this present time? Why discredit those who are raising a red flag based on Monsanto’s former performances? Why discourage those who question?

    2. Wow, there’s a logical fallacy if I’ve ever heard one. I knew someone named Meeri once when I was in second grade. Her German was awful, but a good square dancer. So you are a good square dancer? Verstehen Sie?

  11. The biotech firms control the debate in this country with their university grants and patent control. Speak out and Monsanto may send a team to discuss your job with your dean. Here’s some more great articles you might read before you form an opinion:

    Do Seed Companies Control GM Crop Research?

    Genetic Engineering and the GMO Industry: Corporate Hijacking of Food and Agriculture

    Do you have the personal or professional integrity to share these links with your readers? Hmmm…

    1. Also, please don’t miss this internationally acclaimed documentary at which won the title ‘Most transformational Documentary’ and explains this topic in comprehensive layman’s terms. It is well worth the time to watch and the $2.99 it will cost you to download. I come from a commercial agricultural background and this documentary represents their interests, as well.

      1. Hi Meeri, thanks for your numerous comments. As for this movie you recommend, it has been roundly criticized, mostly by scientists. He made 65 scientific claims in the movie, and a group of scientists started a website to analyse and compare all 65 claims against peer-reviewed science. The film didn’t fare well. Whether it won awards or not is of little matter (unless those awards were by scientists who are the only ones who could critically evaluate it). Each claim on the website has comprehensive and functional links to the studies in question, including many misconceptions. Oftentimes, they refer to the same study the film does, but the director (an activist, not a scientist) gets it wrong either because he doesn’t know the science, or confirmation bias.


        1. Interesting that you would mention, “confirmation bias” and then reference Academics Review run by Bruce Chassy who received money from Monsanto and other biotech companies for conducting seminars. Academics Review has been called out for making “untruthful” claims for example they claimed the American Dietetic Association has confirmed the safety of genetically engineered foods, even though the American Dietetic Association (which changed their name to Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) put out a press release in response to the, “untruthful” claims made by websites such as Academics Review, stating that they do not have an opinion on genetically engineered food.

          Ethan A. Bergman, the president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics even said, “In addition to being untruthful, the statement attributed to the Academy may give voters a false impression of registered dietitians and the Academy.”

          Here is my reference for the claim made by Academics Review about the American Dietetic Association who anyone who actually follows nutrition would know has changed their name. Try to find references of anyone who has not received money from biotech companies and has not been caught making, “untruthful” claims.

          1. Hi Meeri,

            So we can make 2 assumptions. He lied, or he made a mistake. Given his status as an academic, his distinguished 40 year career in the public sector, I would like to think he made a mistake. Out of 65 claims, with each claim having multiple sources, he gets one wrong. Does that mean we throw out the baby with the bathwater?

            If you answer yes, then you forfeit the right to talk about anything ever, as do we all. Such dirt will exist on your side of the debate (far more so with Jeffrey Smith who isn’t even a scientist and misrepresented many claims in his film), as well as every side on every debate. The evidence will speak for itself, and the people most qualified to read that evidence will give us their interpretations for it, and we will move forward one way or the other. There is no need for ad hominiens, especially when you don’t know whether it was malicious or unintentional.

            For all the statements that funding comes from biotech companies, almost everyone and the entire organic industry on the GMO front is financially staked to their side, so using your own logic, I summarily dismiss everything any of them have ever said. Joe Mercola, Dr. Oz, Jerry Smith, Seralini and co, and anyone else, well, I’m sure we can find dirt on them too. After all, no one has ever lived a perfect life free of sin.

    2. Well Meeri, sweet of you to indict an entire class of educators. What evidence do you have that we are all full of shit? Yes I’m mad. You believe that we are all paid off and lie because we need,, well.. I don’t know what. 99% of us never see a dime from big ag and our records are all public. Total transparency. Plus, I didn’t train myself for 13 years of school after high school to make up bullshit results to make some company happy. That’s insane. I’m really disappointed with people like you and the damage you do. You help destroy the credibility of hard-working public scientists. Don’t forget, a lot of us work in sustainable systems and organic cultivation too. By saying that we’re all bought off, I guess the $30 billion organic food industry probably buys researchers too?

      I’ll tell you what. Look at the parking lot and my building here on campus any Saturday or Sunday afternoon. You’ll see rickety mid-sized cars full of coffee cups and lights on in the buildings. We’re here seven days a week working to keep afloat. Your lack of decency hurts those of us that are working for you. Think about that.

      I’m done addressing your thoughts.

  12. Q1: Folta claims, “There is no debate among scientists in the discipline of plant molecular biology and crop science.” So there is no debate amongst the people who get paid to genetically engineer plants as if they would debate their paychecks. However most scientists who do not have a financial or professional conflict of interest have a, “moderately negative attitude to GM crops”. “Scientists in factor 1 had a moderately negative attitude to GM crops and emphasised the uncertainty and ignorance involved, while scientists in factor 2 had a positive attitude to GM crops and emphasised that GM crops are useful and do not represent any unique risks compared to conventional crops. Funding had a significant effect on the perspective held by the scientists in this study. No ecologists were associated with factor 2, while all the scientists employed in the GM-industry were associated with this factor. The strong effects of training and funding might justify certain institutional changes concerning how we organise science and how we make public decisions when new technologies are to be evaluated.” This same, “moderately negative attitude to GM crops” can be seen in this UN report by over 400 scientists from various fields. Next Folta claims,”There are no hard reproducible data that indicate that transgenics are dangerous or more potentially dangerous than traditionally bred plant products. ” There is evidence that the techniques used to genetically engineer the currently consumed GE food crops are more dangerous than selective breeding, etc. For example the British Medical Association states, “there should be a ban on the use of antibiotic resistance marker genes in GM food, as the risk to human health from antibiotic resistance developing in micro-organisms is one of the major public health threats that will be faced in the 21st Century” this is of course makes a GE crop, “more potentially dangerous” than a selectively bred crop and there are numerous other examples. Next Folta states,”If I had to nail down the most annoying misconceptions they would include that all scientists are just dupes of big multinational ag companies. Anyone that presents the consensus of scientific interpretation of the literature is immediately discounted as some corporate pawn. ” Well I think we already established that scientists who do not have a professional or financial conflict of interest often have a, “moderately negative attitude to GM crops” so I don’t know what consensus Folta is talking about. Folta next states, “There is this allegation that we hide data or don’t publish work that is inconsistent with corporate desires.”. The peer reviewed evidence suggests, “it was found that the existence of either financial or professional conflict of interest was associated to study outcomes that cast genetically modified products in a favorable light (p = 0.005).” Folta states, “We’re not in the public sector because we are excited about listening to some corporate mandates.”. One needs to look no further than Folta’s funding which comes from places like HHMI where the president Robert Tijan is the founder of a biotech company. While Folta may not get his funding directly from corporations if he published something negative about biotechnology Mr. Tijan may not be pleased and cut off Folta’s funding. So besides Folta’s professional conflict of interest he also appears to have a financial conflict of interest as well. Folta then states, “A scientist can search for evidence of harm — a scientist can never prove something is safe.” Well scientists have searched and found evidence of potential harm such as in this meta analysis of health studies, “Animal toxicity studies with certain GM foods have shown that they may toxically affect several organs and systems.””The results of most studies with GM foods indicate that they may cause some common toxic effects such as hepatic, pancreatic, renal, or reproductive effects and may alter the hematological, biochemical, and immunologic parameters.””use of recombinant GH or its expression in animals should be re-examined since it has been shown that it increases IGF-1 which may promote cancer.” However since Folta admits that GE foods cannot be proven safe he should also be in favor of labeling GE foods to aid the scientific process required to search for evidence of harm. It is rather difficult to find harm from consuming GE foods if you cannot even easily identify the ingredients in a product as being GE.

    1. OK No GMO, where we go. I can tell by your username that you are likely open to an honest and unbiased discussion. I’ll answer your points in order.

      1. I’ve never been paid to make a transgenic plant for commercialization. 99.99% of us haven’t. Who is paying us? I’d love to know because I’ve yet to receive the check. That’s all a figment of your imagination.

      2. Your next point about “moderately negative” is not true. My university has 150 plant scientists. I don’t think you could find ONE that had anything less than a ‘moderately positive’ view. I understand the survey results you present, but surveys have no affect on the safety or efficacy of the technology. Let’s avoid what people think… let’s talk about what we KNOW.

      3. Next Folta claims,”There are no hard reproducible data “. I’m sorry, but you don’t have any evidence that what you have posted is remotely true. Yes, it is someone’s opinion. There are no data to support that point.

      4. ”If I had to nail down”… Again, you are reading biased materials. These are my colleagues, people in my department, my university, my nation and planet. They do not hold a “moderately negative” view.

      5. “existence of financial or professional conflict”– this makes me so mad. You are saying that all of us academic, public scientists, with no ties to big ag (other than we’d make 3x the money if we worked for them), are liars and bend the truth to appease some company? Why? What do we get from them? Nothing! Our reputations are our gold, and any scientist that obfuscates the peer-review process or publishes false data is DOA. Bank on it.

      6. “One needs to look no further than Folta’s funding which comes from places like HHMI…” Okay, what did I get from HHMI? AN AWARD!!!! I received an award for excellence in undergraduate research mentoring, something none of us do because we’re too busy trying to keep afloat because half-informed people like you are trying to tear us down. Give me a break. Dr. Tijan never gave me a dime and I have no research projects funded by HHMI. The award had a cash amount that went to the lab to train students– maybe $5,000. That’s enough to fund one intern and it was one time, years ago.

      Over and out. You are making up crazy talk and I need to read what I respond to before I do it. Sometimes trying to teach the unteachable is just not worth the time.

  13. I would also like to add that no scientist will ever convince me that eating beef from pent up cows fed GM corn and shot up with anti-biotics is anywhere near as healthy as eating beef from a cow that roamed freely and ate what cows are supposed to eat – grass.

    1. comprehensive documentary covers all the issues and is well worth the time to watch and the $2.99 it will cost you to download. Was internationally recognized as 2012’s ‘Most Transformational Documentary’. Shares interviews with scientists, agribusiness…more.

    2. Hi sleuth,

      No one, well not me, is trying to convince anyone to eat factory farm animals, or that they should only eat GMO food. GMO is a tool we can use to improve yields, make cheaper food, and grow more food in hostile environments such as sub-saharan africa and areas of the world with flooding. There have been between 1 and 3 trillion GM meals served, and we are still here, so we are doing ok. That being said, I do not take the stand that just because it is GM, it must be positive. Or that GM is the only tool in the toolkit. There are empirical methods of finding out what works best and what doesn’t. And there are certain threats that loom that should inspire us to look at every option in that toolkit. Such as the need to double food production by 2050 using less land than we use now (currently 38% of the worlds land surface), using less water (currently agriculture uses 90% of sustainable water use). We won’t, and cant, do this using organics alone. We appropriated nature’s techniques to plant the first crops 12,000 years ago. We are now appropriating a deeper technique (genes) to do the same thing again. It is a continuation of the same process, lineally connected. We are using nature’s genes and putting them in places where evolution didn’t to serve our needs. We did this before using organic methods of production, except that process is blind, and can only use slow trial and error.

      Are there problems with biotech firms controlling the market? Restricting diversity? Yes, there is, and to me, that is deeply disturbing, but this debate, and the way it is framed ensures that the big biotech companies have a stranglehold on the market. Politicians grab the fervor of the public and channel it into regulations (and in some cases, overregulations) on the GMO market. But Monsanto and DuPont can afford to circumnavigate it. The startups that would end their hegemony cannot, and many biotech starts started by scientists using genes discovered by publicly paid scientists never make it to market, thereby only increasing their marketshare. There is a reason that farmers all around the world are using GMO seeds (no one is forcing them), it is because they are beneficial (at least to themselves); but they become reliant on them to continue their practises and have no option because the competition has been removed from the market by the public and politicians. This must change. I am pro-GMO, I am not pro-Monsanto or DuPont. I want there to be competition in the market so the people can choose the safest and best, instead of having to rely on a Monsanto. That won’t happen until the public attitude change. Thanks for your comment, regards.

  14. Fourat, Thanks for your measured response – its is appreciated. It is only in communicating clearly, with an interest in listening and without threatening language that we have any chance of understanding opposing views. I am glad that you referenced Einstein. His was a truly brilliant mind who understood that you cannot always think about solutions to problems in the same way. More on that later.
    I appreciate your efforts to address the comments in my response. I don’t wish to get into an argument about the validity of the argument Dr Suzuki posits in the documentary, but I will say this: I have not heard a single argument from the pro GMO side that refutes head on, any of his concerns or the fundamental arguments he presents at a molecular level and issues related to genetics….and let me tell you I have have been reading a lot on this….
    I have tried to link to your reference but cannot get onto it. I would note however that it is by agbioworld (!!!) – do you suppose that they might be HEAVILY biased? I checked out their site – they are so heavily biased that they are not an objective source of information.

    Re your comments on the stance in Europe and other parts of the world, I would say – respectfully – that I must staunchly disagree with your statement that “The EU has done its own research and came to the same conclusion, as have many others” . There is HUGE opposition to this issue and the European papers are emphatically NOT as supportive of GMOs as many GMO promoters will have you think. I have read a number of these papers referenced by a certain pro GMO evangelist and I can tell you he is cherry picking among SERIOUS language advising a precautionary approach. An often quoted paper is the one below:
    This paper is NOT pro GMO. I have read it and can reference numerous points throughout the document – here is just one: It admits on p228 that the work was done in LABS which is different from uncontrolled environments; it states that ” A global risk analysis of the technological innovation in agriculture should include these aspects.” – How do you expect this type of analysis to be carried out effectively ?

    There are so many directions in which the flaws of the GMO argument can be picked apart….the unknown side effects of transgenetic mutation; making edible plants poisonous (is this a good idea, REALLY?); creating super bugs; making poor farmers dependent on rich multi nationals; proven data which should statistically heavier pesticide use; EPA reports and data on glyphosate at dangerous levels in drinking water; the introduction of diacamba (remember agent Orange?), etc etc etc….

    Back to Einstein and feeding the world….agribusiness depends on monoculture and related pest management – and has convinced itself that GMO is the only way to solve world hunger that is NOT the only way to feed the world, do yourself a favour and check this TED talk out on desertification….we will never find a solution if we keep looking in the wrong direction:

  15. To Kevin Folta – “Nature is nasty and trying to kill you. Science saves you.”

    Wait – Really? Wow. Is that your ‘scientific’ explanation of nature and science? So, when humans went through the process of evolution and grew to become the most intelligent and dominate species on the planet, that was somehow obviously not by ‘nasty’ old nature (which is trying to kill us) – that was some different entity that caused that? Some other force is responsible for the evolution of the human race?
    Obviously, since common sense tells us that Nature is what got the human race to where it is today, can you please explain to me, when, exactly, it turned on us and is now “nasty and trying to kill us”? I’m kinda confused.
    Now, I’m no scientist and I don’t have a Phd, but it seems to me that (at the most basic level) I need air, water, sunlight and food to live. Wait, you mean all the things ‘nasty’ Nature seems to provide in abundance and for free? Yes.

    Yea, you know Kevin, you’ve convinced me. Nature IS trying to kill me. I’ll just BUY everything I need from disgustingly greedy corporations who (under the guise of science) try to convince me to purchase worthless and dangerous products and who’s ultimate goal is to ‘own’ one of life’s most essential elements and then sell a defective version of it back to me at an astronomical price. That’s much smarter. Thank goodness I have ‘Science” to “save me”. Thank you Dr. Folta, you’ve really opened my eyes. Btw, next time I’m at the store getting my GMO food, I’ll just pick up some trans-fats and cigarettes too. I’m pretty sure ‘science’ has convinced the world those items are perfectly safe too. Thanks again!

    1. Jen, we evolved by accident. Evolution is purposeless and has no direction. We are a cosmic accident. But still, let us be thankful, and therefore assume everything else nature does is good for us. So what are those things? Well, the natural human lifespan is 25 years old (that means you would probably be dead if you were born in a pre-civilized society- you also might be a slave), your wisdom teeth will cause you unfathomable pain, 70% of children will die before 5 (so who knows, maybe you might have died first), food was scarce, every winter was unpredictable (and some god’s wrath), and our intelligence; that thing which makes us awesome, terrified people because they could actually ask questions such as “what is that big ball of lightning trying to kill me for?” (Of course, they called it an angry God and they felt they had to give it human sacrifices until it went away.) Without antibiotics, simple cuts could kill you. Clean water almost always had bacteria and dangerous diseases in it killing many people. (The tech to clean water is only 200 years old.) Without plentiful food, we have resorted (and will resort again) to violence and stealing and a more darwinian life of survival of the fittest. We are living in the most peaceful time in human history now as such (See Steven Pinker’s TED Talk The Myth of Violence) because food is in abundance, and we are living longer than ever, so I don’t buy the least healthiest generation mantra. Without language (a technology), we still might fighting and killing and enslaving each other (in-group vs out-group). And without agriculture (a technology) we’d be hunter-gathering still, not knowing where our food comes from.

      Nature produced us, but she is still cruel, because she doesn’t care about you (or know about you). She made you by accident, but she’s trying to kill you on purpose. Go live in the African bush or Siberian forest for a week. If it feels like everything is conspiring against you, it’s because it is.

      And Folta is not saying to eat Monsanto foods. In many of his other interviews, he is says to separate the science and the company. There are many good researchers and entrepreneurs out there who have been unable to compete in the space because anti-gmo activists have successfully created Monsanto’s monopoly for them. The more people rail against Monsanto, the more money Monsanto makes. It’s basic economics and regulations. If I was Monsanto, I’d encourage the anti-gmo activists. (Companies do this all the time by the way, they lobby their government for increased regulations knowing they can afford to decipher them with a legion of lawyers, but cash-strapped competitors and start ups wont be unable to compete or find it that much more difficult. In Monsanto’s case, the public did it for them. I find that ironic and depressing.)

    2. Jen, Folta here, you certainly are a snarky one. As we’ve seen throughout this thread, those incapable of civil, evidence-based discussions retreat to pointed remarks and picking apart phrases, dusted with insulting tone.

      My point is this. Humans have evolved despite incredible insults by nature. Disease, famine, etc… all natural. Nature does beat us and always will. You will die from something someday, and I hope that science helps push that date back well beyond your “natural” years. I think you get my point.

      If you read above, I’ve never said one thing pro-corporation. In fact, I want to compete against them. Unfortunately nice folks like you keep me from being able to do that. Take care, and always glad to answer your questions.

      1. Dr Folta, Yes I am snarky about this subject, absolutely! And I wish more people were as well. As I do believe I am capable of civil discussion on this topic and certainly I can post all the links you want to numerous anti-gmo studies and research and I could show all the evidence in the world, but we’ve all read them already. What’s the point of posting it all here (yet again)? I know what your side claims about gmos and I know what the other side claims. We ALL do – so, honestly I’m kinda tired of being told we ‘non-scientists’ simply have no idea what we are talking about or that we just don’t understand the process. I don’t need to repeat or reference every anti-gmo study out there before I can speak intelligently on the subject. Those of us on the anti-gmo side wouldn’t be taking the time to get involved in this discussion if we weren’t already rather familiar with the subject.

        I retreat to ‘pointed remarks and picking apart phrases” (which in not entirely true – I didn’t pick apart any of your phrases, I quoted you exactly) because I think most of what you say is total BS and I’m apologizing in advance for my insulting tone this time😉

        You say you don’t work for the big corporations, and instead want to compete against them. So, it’s my understanding that you want to make a business in the GMO/biotech industry. And, I am assuming you also want to make a profit in that business?

        So, can you please tell me again how that makes your GMO research fair and unbiased?

        1. Dr Folta, you may not be pushing Monsanto’s agenda, but you certainly seem to be pushing your own and that, in and of itself, is enough to make me circumspect of your research.
          If you truly feel this amazing new technology is really going to save humanity and redesign how we grow food in the future, why not just give the technology away for free for the betterment of mankind?

          1. Hi Jen. I guess I just have a solid 25 year record as a public scientist, science communicator, award winning educator and generally good guy to fall back on. I never made a dime off of commercializing a product. Never was sponsored by Monsanto or other company to do biotech crops.

            You tell me that you don’t want to rewrite all of the references. That’s great. Give me your one absolutely most clearest 100% solid piece of evidence that GMOs are harmful. Just one. Let’s discuss it, figure by figure, result by result. I’d be really happy to do that with you. You can post it here or send it to me via email. Just one, but make it your best one.

            On your last note, I do agree, let’s give it away, especially to those that need it. That’s something all of us agree with. Well not all of us. The anti-GMO folks want to withhold the technology from developing countries that can use it. Google “golden rice” or “transgenic cassava”.

  16. OK Fourat….sorry – I am done….you need to walk your own (frightened, negative, crazy) path filled with fear and convinced that technology will save you…..good luck with that. The rest of us are having a GREAT time wallowing in the ABUNDANCE of Nature.

  17. Q2: Folta claims, “There is no doubt that transgenic plants can be designed to limit pest damage with lower pesticide applications.””Most data is for cotton and maize, and show substantial reductions (like 60%).”. Folta is conveniently avoiding the fact that Bt cotton and Bt maize are themselves classified as pesticides by the EPA and when we look at the overall pesticide use(and not just spray pesticides as Folta is doing) we see there is really no reduction. Folta next claims, “Even glyphosate resistance traits, for all of their drawbacks in creating new resistant weeds, replace toxic alternatives.”. I’m guessing that Folta has not looked at the pending USDA applications including 2, 4-D, Dicamba, Imadazolinone, Isoxaflutole , etc. tolerant GE crops. Folta states, “The regulatory hoops are too difficult and expensive. Only the big companies can play in that space.”. That is pretty strange since the University of Florida(where Folta’s lab is) has already had their GE crop X17-2 deregulated. So either Folta is claiming the University of Florida is a big company(they have worked with Monsanto on projects) or even the universities can and have had GE crops deregulated.

    Q3: Folta claims, “Do the researchers SHOW the controls (like they conveniently omitted from Seralini’s 2012 rat-cancer work in Figure 3).”. Either Folta has never looked at the Seralini study he is referencing or he is shouting in hopes that nobody will actually look at figure 3 to see that he is misinforming people. Anyone who looks at figure 3 will see several pictures with the letter, “C” at the end and as the caption below states, “In females, mammary tumors (J,J′,N adenocarcinoma and K,K′,L,L′,O,P fibroadenomas) and pituitary adenomas (R–T) are shown and compared to controls (C after the rat number).”. See for yourself. Folta goes on to claim, “Many studies that look good compare a GMO to an unrelated plant type. It is just not a valid comparison.” yet he provides no references. In fact many studies suggesting GE foods are safe did not use near-isolines or 3 gradually higher doses or many of the other accepted standards for proper study design. Funny how Folta doesn’t apply the same standards to the pro-gmo studies including the regulatory studies which are often poorly designed.

    Q4: Folta states, “Readers need to apply all of the filters we discussed here today. What the data really say, who did the work, and if it was reproduced independently are the most important criteria in separating reality from fiction in the GMO topic.”. Well, ” it should be noted that most of these studies have been conducted by biotechnology companies responsible for commercializing these GM plants.”
    and “it was found that the existence of either financial or professional conflict of interest was associated to study outcomes that cast genetically modified products in a favorable light (p = 0.005)”.
    Since nearly every regulatory study was conducted or contracted by the biotech company that created the GE seed Folta is saying that those GE crops shouldn’t have been deregulated until those results were independently reproduced. When Folta states, “They should be looked at as deceitful” I would assume he is talking about the huge majority of pro-gmo studies.

    1. Folta here again. Ugh. NoGMO. I’ll touch on a few of your points here, just for the casual reader. I can’t change you, but they need to see your errors.

      1. If you think that Bt is the same kind of ‘pesticide’ as neonictinoids or organophosphates then you don’t have a clue. Bt is a pesicide in function only. It is a naturally occurring peptide, used in organic cultivation no less. The use of Bt cuts pesticide use. PNAS/NRC 2010 book “Impact of GMO crops on sustainable ag in the USA” where figures 2-3 an 2-7 show the decrease in pesticides used on corn and cotton.

      2. I’m with you on 2,4-D, dicamba etc. I wish they didn’t have to go there. These are much worse than glyphosate. However, strategic low-doses will solve the problem, at least for awhile. There are other solutions coming too, like improved surfactants etc for glyphosate use.

      3. Wow you are a cherry picker. Yes, UF has deregulated a line of papaya. Maybe in your eyes we’re now a biotech company, but not any others. There are researchers here with licensing agreements with Monsanto and other companies. That’s because Big Ag will use the stuff we can’t commercialize because of the barriers I discuss.

      4. In the Seralini figure 3 panels J,K,L they do not show a control rat. This is a grotesque, cruel and frightening figure in the absence of a control. The others are single images without quantitative measurement. Glad it convinced you.

      5. A reference to the lack of isogenic controls… try work by Malatesta et al. Good work, wrong controls, results reported as GMO=bad. Not quite. I didn’t provide these refs because the response to the questions was fast and off the cuff. It’s tough to dot all the “i”s. The same rules apply for other work that finds no harm in GM. However, the rules are a bit different. When you show something is equivalent to controls you have a little more latitude. When you are showing that they are different you have to be quite careful.

      6. No. You are dead wrong in question 4. The vast majority of transgenic research is NOT paid for by biotech companies. Absolutely not.

      I tried to answer your questions honestly and without the anger that boils in me when my words are twisted and distorted and when I’m painted as a liar and corporate stooge. The only person here that twisted the truth is you. I’m glad to provide details to anyone that would like to discuss facets of this exchange or any parts of the article. Send an email anytime.

  18. I disagree with virtually everything in your response Foo. If Nature is ambivalent, she can’t be cruel by definition. The natural human lifespan is in no way only 25 years (do you need to look up the definition of ‘average’ life span?) and wisdom teeth did not cause unbearable pain when (before we became nutritionally depleted which causes the modern problem of too-narrow jaws) we had nice wide jaws with plenty of space for straight, white healthy teeth (all of them). Are you not aware of the work of Dr. Weston A Price, studying the teeth of indigenous tribes across the globe in the last century?
    Whether we evolved by accident or by design has absolutely no bearing on anything. We are still a product of Nature, it is our mother, it created us. It may be an uncaring mother, that does not mean it’s trying to kill us. When we live in harmony with nature, we prosper with abundance. When we try to go outside the natural order, it rails against us. It doesn’t take Phd’s or a genius to figure that out. The days of believing Nature is our enemy which must be tamed, destroyed and controlled by humans are long over. Hell, that was the belief from 2 centuries ago!! Time to get with the times and realize that a partnership with Nature, not us dominating it, is the path forward for humankind.

    Finally, your constant insistence to blame anti-gmo supporters for the stratospheric rise of Monsanto’s world-wide seed monopoly is absurd! Please, at least put the blame where it belongs (primarily with the US Gov). People want gmo regulations because quite frankly, no one wants to eat them. The very idea of it seems abhorrent to most people, (which says a lot right there). You may want to think all us non-gmo’ers are responsible for the evil creation of Monsanto, but that’s a grossly overly-simplistic explanation and I believe you are fairly misguided with this line of reasoning.

    And, finally, science has done nothing for slavery, the reduction of it world-wide (which is still fairly prevalent) or the prevention of it. In fact, the Science of Eugenics did the exact opposite, and encouraged exploitation of so-called ‘lesser’ races around the world. I’m not saying all science is bad, of course not – that would be entirely foolish. However, I am sick of hearing things like – ‘well, if you use a computer or watch a TV than you should obviously support GMO foods.’ I don’t see correlation’s like that at all. Some technology is good – like computers and some is terrible, like trans-fats. Each item stands on it’s own merits. Just because I support some scientific inventions, doesn’t mean I should blindly support them all. That seems like the height of foolishness. Besides, if Biotech companies think their product is so great, why did they sneak it into the food supply without public knowledge over 10 years ago?

    PS – learn the truth about the germ theory. Antibiotics, while somewhat helpful in life-threaten situations, are grossly over-rated, almost completely unnecessary and have proven in numerous studies to do more harm than good in the human body.

    I feel bad that you cannot see the huge fraud being perpetrated right in front of your eyes! These huge industries, (Big Ag, Big Pharm, Big, Medical…) I’m sorry to say, they absolutely do not have you, your health, your full belly, or scientific integrity at the top of their concerns. In fact, just the opposite! This isn’t real science my dear friend, this is pseudo-science created with the sole aim to separate us from our money. That’s it. Why don’t you focus that big smart brain of yours on something actually worthy of your time, attention and passion? This is just sadly misguided.

    1. “I feel bad that you cannot see the huge fraud being perpetrated right in front of your eyes! These huge industries, (Big Ag, Big Pharm, Big, Medical…) I’m sorry to say, they absolutely do not have you, your health, your full belly, or scientific integrity at the top of their concerns.” Well said Ms Barnaby!

  19. In response to swampwaffle’s first reply.

    1. You state, ” I’ve never been paid to make a transgenic plant for commercialization. 99.99% of us haven’t.”. Where did I say any such thing? Try quoting me instead of claiming I said something I have not. You either did not read my comment correctly or you are purposely making false accusations against me.

    2. You state, ” Your next point about “moderately negative” is not true. My university has 150 plant scientists. I don’t think you could find ONE that had anything less than a ‘moderately positive’ view.” Did you even read my comment or the survey? “So there is no debate amongst the people who get paid to genetically engineer plants as if they would debate their paychecks. ” Read the survey and try answering again. You state, ” I understand the survey results you present, but surveys have no affect on the safety or efficacy of the technology. Let’s avoid what people think… let’s talk about what we KNOW.” Are you being serious? First you bring up opinions and now that the opinions disagree with yours you don’t want to talk about opinions anymore how convenient.

    3. “This study not only reveals environmental contamination of synthetic plasmid vector-sourced blá drug resistance genes in Chinese rivers, but also suggests that synthetic plasmid vectors may represent a source of antibiotic resistance in humans.”

    5. You state, “Our reputations are our gold, and any scientist that obfuscates the peer-review process or publishes false data is DOA. Bank on it.”. However, “A pooled weighted average of 1.97% (N = 7, 95%CI: 0.86–4.45) of scientists admitted to have fabricated, falsified or modified data or results at least once –a serious form of misconduct by any standard– and up to 33.7% admitted other questionable research practices. In surveys asking about the behaviour of colleagues, admission rates were 14.12% (N = 12, 95% CI: 9.91–19.72) for falsification, and up to 72% for other questionable research practices.”
    Any evidence that a GE crop is harmful would likely cause researchers with a financial or professional conflict of interest to be concerned about their own research, future funding, etc. Any rational person would recognize that they are going to want to, “cast genetically modified products in a favorable light”.

    6. “The award had a cash amount that went to the lab to train students– maybe $5,000. That’s enough to fund one intern and it was one time, years ago.” So you received funds from HHMI like I said. I’m not your accountant it doesn’t matter how the money was used.

  20. In response to swampwaffle’s second reply.

    1. You state, “Bt is a pesicide in function only. It is a naturally occurring peptide, used in organic cultivation no less.”. Are you trying to convince the readers that GE crops can never express a synthetic version of Cry proteins? Since you don’t understand the differences between Bt spray and Bt crops let me explain some for you. 52% of organic farmers never use “Botanical insecticides (e.g. pyrethrum, rotenone, ryania,sabadilla,quassia, neem…)” Only 9% use them frequently or regularly. “Bt is used by 45% of respondents either frequently or regularly or on occasion.” Also, “Preventive, cultural, mechanical and physical methods must be first choice for pest control, and conditions for use of a biological or botanical material must be documented in the organic system plan (NOP 2000).” In comparison Bt crops are supposed to express Cry proteins 100% of the time whether there is a pest or not and GM farmers do not have to use any NOP measures before using Bt crops. Bt spray is more degradable, “Bt is susceptible to degradation by sunlight. Most formulations persist on foliage less than a week following application.”
    Where as Cry in Bt crop pollen and plant debris degrades much slower, ”Cry1Ab proteins persist in maize leaves and can be measured in the water column even 6 mo after harvest.” “An alarming result is that nearly 8% of the produced toxin content remains on the area instubble after harvesting. Moreover, a significant part (still representing a toxin load of nearly 15treatments with DIPEL) of the toxin was found persist in the stubble after 11 months.”,%202003,%20Acad%20Hongr.pdf
    Some Cry levels have been significantly higher than Bt spray, “According to toxin quantity determined in the entire plant, the toxin levelproduced on the plantation area was calculated to be 1500-2000 times higher than the toxin dosagecorresponding to the registered application rate of the Bt-toxin-based biopesticide DIPEL. This meansthat the genetically modified corn plant represents a 1500-2000 times higher load on the environmentthan the registered non-biotechnological toxin application rates.”,%202003,%20Acad%20Hongr.pdf
    You state, ” figures 2-3 an 2-7 show the decrease in pesticides used on corn and cotton.” however that is, “Pounds of active ingredient of insecticide applied” as stated in figure 4. If you look at my statement, ” Folta is conveniently avoiding the fact that Bt cotton and Bt maize are themselves classified as pesticides by the EPA and when we look at the overall pesticide use(and not just spray pesticides as Folta is doing) we see there is really no reduction.”. Since the entire plant including the debris is considered a pesticide you would have to compare the weight of the applied insecticide as well as the weight of the Bt crops and your reference does no such thing.

    2. You state, “I’m with you on 2,4-D, dicamba etc.” well at least we agree on something.

    3. You state, ” Wow you are a cherry picker.” you may want to read some of your responses and apply that to yourself. Clearly other universities have been and are able to get GE crops deregulated as I assume you are aware.

    4. You state, “In the Seralini figure 3 panels J,K,L they do not show a control rat.”. Did you look at the pictures they did show or did you not understand what you were looking at? If you understood what you were looking at you wouldn’t be complaining.

    5. You said, “A reference to the lack of isogenic controls… try work by Malatesta et al.” Your claim was that, “Many studies that look good compare a GMO to an unrelated plant type.” but you only referenced a single set of researchers who conducted a few studies and clearly many pro-gmo studies have the same flaws.

    6. You state, “The vast majority of transgenic research is NOT paid for by biotech companies. Absolutely not.” Just making a claim is not evidence and my comment is not just about who funded the research but also who conducted the research as well which is exactly what you suggested I look at. You are twisting your own words and attempting to twist mine as well. I quoted you.

    1. I’m not going to waste my time with you. I can show in one shot that you are a blazing liar and not worthy of my response. Look at the full body rat pics in that Seralini article, panels J, K, L. They show this picture and THERE IS NO CONTROL. THERE IS NO ‘CONTROL’ RAT. NOT AT ALL. Sorry for yelling, but you are trying to deceive people here and it is really annoying. That picture is the FACE of anti-GMO. Google GMO and cancer and look under images. It is the FACE of anti-GMO and it is a lie. They don’t show the control. They do not show it, don’t say they do. They show three rats. Roundup. GMO, Roundup +GMO. They do NOT show an untreated control (that got equivalent tumors, but that would not be scary).

      You are a dangerous person. You sound like you know something, you can recite science that you don’t understand. I’m not getting into a pissing match with you.

      You get the last word. I get the last laugh.

  21. I’d like to thank all who have contributed to this great discussion. I have enjoyed reading it and have learned a lot. Thanks Mr. Fourat for the forum. Thanks Dr. Folta for the interview. These are the discussions we NEED to have as we catapult into the future. We are at a great precipice right now. Genetic engineering, synthetic biology, 3D printers, robotics – all among the emerging cutting edge technologies that are shepherding in a new age. We ‘sustainable’ types will not be able to stop it. It is like a kindergartner trying to hold back a train. Somehow we must find a way to coexist with it and do what we can to protect what we feel most needs protected. I just hope that 100 years from now, we aren’t faced with sterilization, no natural pollinators, monoculture wastelands, a toxic water supply and … ?

    1. You’re welcome Sleuth, thank you for your kind comments and words (when you reblogged it).

      I like what you had to say on the subject. To accept all as good is as bad as dismissing all as wrong. It’s very easy for people to project intended meanings onto others evoking different thoughts (as has been done a few times here, including by my friends). I am pro-organic, but don’t think organic can feed the world; I am pro-GMO but dislike Monsanto’s business practices; I trust the scientific method to keep scientists honest, but am aware not all scientists have the same view, but differ that the sciences of 50 or 100 years are irrelevant to now. (Many of them were only dressed up in the veneer of science anyway.)

      In the next 40 years, we have to double food production, and use less land, less chemicals, less water, and do them all simultaneously while contending with climate change and changing weather patterns, increasing droughts and floods. We can’t do that without science. People who can afford it will still get their organic food if that is what makes them happy (this is the free-market, not Stalin’s Russia; greed really isn’t as bad as people make it out to be — after all, living standards have risen most dramatically while in the free-market), while many of us well not fuss whether we eat conventional, gmos, or organic is of little relevance, but many more will not be able to afford it, so we must do what we can to make sure everyone has access to plentiful food. We can’t make choices for them, we must provide options, and the best way to do that is for everybody to do their own thing, discussing and debating along the way, and in free-market principles, they will do what they can, or must.

      I think the bleak future will not occur, provided we can move forward with technological progress. Let’s face it, when did we ever change a substantial portion of the human race by wit and reason alone? All we’ve ever done is create technologies that changed us against our will. Despite our increased intelligence, we are still primates that hate change and cling to the past. I don’t see how it can be any different in the future. We have to stop meat-eating which places an undue stress on the biosphere, but we’ll never convince enough people to stop eating meat, so let’s create IVM meat and make meat-eating not a problem. We have to stop driving fuel-guzzling cars, so instead of appealing to people’s humanity (which is what propels them to use it), lets support Tesla Motors (and others so they don’t get a monopoly) and make them better. This is, for the most part, how change occurs. I can’t see it happening any other way. Scientists have been shouting from the rooftops for 40 years no climate-change, yet very little action has been taken. (We all trust them don’t we? So why do so many dismiss biologists and geneticists as corporate pawns?)


      1. When it comes to climate change… Big Oil has done and is still doing their part to broadcast just enough doubt and confusion to stall action. I just saw Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson on Charlie Rose and he is STILL saying “we just aren’t sure” though, bless his heart, he acknowledges some culpability on the part of man for climate change. But this is why there is so much mistrust of big business! My takeaway from this whole discussion on your blog has been that all of the public fuss about GMOs IS actually helping Monsanto, DuPont and the like because they are the only ones who can slither around the regulatory obstacles. I can now see, thanks to this post and the resulting comments, that a small start-up biotech company with the best of intentions could very well get mired in red tape. I have thought for awhile now that it is big, greedy business that is making a mess of things, not science. On the other hand, I don’t pitch my tent in the “science will save the world” camp either. I guess you could call me a technology moderate.

        These are very big times we’re in, indeed.

        1. I agree completely with you. They can afford the regulatory burden, small start-ups cannot. I’m posing some questions now to a small biotech startup and asked that specific question. How is the monsanto backlash affecting them, if at all. Thanks for your comments, see you around.

  22. swampwaffle, you said, “I can show in one shot that you are a blazing liar and not worthy of my response.”. That is slander! You have no argument so you resort to false accusations. You state, “Look at the full body rat pics in that Seralini article, panels J, K, L.”. Why don’t you look at the control pic they do use and explain based on that pic why they would need to show whole body pic of 8787? Anyone who looks at the control pic could see that it would be redundant to show a whole body pic so you clearly do not understand what you are looking at. You said, “You are a dangerous person. You sound like you know something, you can recite science that you don’t understand.”. I assume you are talking about yourself considering your lack of understanding regarding what the control pic shows in figure 3. You admit that GE foods cannot be proven safe so you should also be in favor of labeling GE foods to aid the scientific process required to search for evidence of harm. It is rather difficult to find harm from consuming GE foods if you cannot even easily identify the ingredients in a product as being GE. You state “Readers need to apply all of the filters we discussed here today. What the data really say, who did the work, and if it was reproduced independently are the most important criteria in separating reality from fiction in the GMO topic.”.
    Since nearly every regulatory study was conducted or contracted by the biotech company that created the GE seed you are saying that those GE crops shouldn’t have been deregulated until those results were independently reproduced. Those are your words and they can and will be used against you.

  23. On a ‘level playing field ” this would be true ; ” The best sign of real science, good science, in an edgy area is that it grows. You see more scientists pile on, more research, more funding and bigger ideas. Models expand, mechanisms grow.” But we the people know Monsanto’s Treasonous Ownership of the U S Presidents Cabinet and Infiltration of the U S Supreme Court . We know who’s ‘research’ gets Funded and by who and We know what happens to Patriotic Whistle Blowers . If it’s Advertised — Boycott It !! None of your lies will blind the masses from the truth for ever .

  24. I am neither a scientist nor am I an activist. I am a woman (and not a young one at that) who has seen enough of this patriarchal bullshit streaming from academia and “scientists” for decades on what is and isn’t safe for people. The truth is that when anyone begins any kind of essay or article with the words which Kevin Folta uses in his very first response to your very first question:

    “The first is a fundamental one, that being that there is a debate at all. There is no debate among scientists…”

    You have just disqualified yourself as a logical human being and as a scientist.

    I have heard all of my life, from advertising, corporate PR machines, even my father and husband, what is TRUTH and reality and what isn’t. How dare you!!! You do not speak for the entire scientific community.

    There has been little to no transparent independent (which means university cannot be supported nor can research dollars come from biotech or big food in any way, shape or form) research on the safety of genetically engineered foods in the United States. The independent research conducted outside of the United States is quickly set upon as though by a pack of dogs on a single prey and ripped apart (though not scientifically — but by rhetoric just as I have seen in this blog post).

    DDT was known to be safe. Cigarette smoking during pregnancy was known to be safe. I could go on and on and on. The scientific community throughout most of the world is so influenced by big corporations that all of you have been castrated. You have no balls. You dare not even consider that genetically engineered crops might be harmful to the environment. You dare not even consider that genetically engineered foods might be harmful to humans. You have no authority on this topic when you begin with the words:

    “…there is no debate at all.”

    I can only find comfort in the knowledge that I truly believe in karma or justice or that there will be some kind of reckoning for all of you. In the meantime, this woman refuses to accept your condescending opinions as any kind of truth and most certainly not the final word on the subject.

  25. I think this was a very provocative piece. I will honestly admit that I didn’t read all of the previous comments (mostly because it got confusing to follow, and there was a lot of anger.

    However, I am not concerned with the health and other impacts that Monsanto et al. have on the world and on crops. I think some of our major food allergies and issues come from us living in a world that is much more santized than it used to be (modern toothpaste and deoderants only came about in the 1940s), we are exposed to a TON of particulates in the air we breathe, and the fact we eat a lot of processed crap.
    The facts that corn, wheat, and soybeans are put into just about everything (there is soy lectin in the gum I am chewing for Pete’s sake) doesn’t help matters.

    That being said, my biggest concern for agriculture and society as a whole is the fact that GMO’s and these large companies take away the diversity in our agriculture. (this is not true in vegetables and fruits) It is so “easy” to specialize in one or two crops, that farmers can plant them and be successful. This being said, Monsanto and other crop breeding programs continuously come out with new lines, however, these lines only keep the successful features (from recent past), and they also focus on the major crops. Nobody is working on quinoa, cassava, and staples that form a large proportion of what the world grows.

    This forces American agricultural techniques into places that may have had something better, or more diverse. Does that make them dangerous to consume? Probably not, I would rather consume Bt corn than starve to death… or work on a farm.

    Organic farms use “organic pesticides” in huge quantities, and require mechanical weeding (fossil fuel and soil damage). Local and biodynamic farming is awesome, but cannot occur everywhere. This encourages the climate change, which is why we need the new technology in the first place.

    That being said, if they used GMO’s first in a crop that could rapidly feed people worldwide, I don’t think they would have had such a horrible backlash.

  26. I’m coming late to this discussion, but it has been eye-opening, to say the least.

    I know Kevin Folta. He has been kind enough to help answer questions I’ve had about rDNA technology. Reading the article, and the comments, has been both exhilarating and depressing. The most insightful comments get downrated. The shrill and the obtuse get uprated. This shows there is going to be a long slog in the future, and people like Kevin are doing us all a tremendous service by hanging in there with the rebuttals.

    For the record: I’m a small CSA farmer in Maine who has experience working at an organic farm. In the last 4 years I’ve undergone a sea change in my thinking about “organics” and “GMOs.” While there is very little wrong with what organics is in practice, the lies they sling at “conventional” farmers, “chemicals,” and “GMOs” are disgraceful.

    1. Hi Mike,

      Thanks for the comment. It is indeed a somewhat depressing situation. Nobody is forcing anyone to eat GMO food, there are hundreds of studies that show that it is functionally equivalent to normal food, and if you really don’t want to get GMO food, then buy ‘Certified Organic’ which also means GMO-free. This is merely a repeat of the anti-nuke green movement of decades past, which is now partially responsible for climate change. I don’t think the anti-GMO movement will be successful in the long run, however in the short-term, there are already many millions dead to their successful actions against GMO foods in many parts of Africa and other poor regions.

      1. Fourat, I don’t see an email address at which to reach you. How can I drop you a line privately? My own email is “mikeb” “at” “foxhill” “dot” “com”.

  27. I am glad that a discourse is raging about GMOs. I come from a farming family and I really don’t see why there is so much self-righteous hatred of GMOs. It reminds me of the kind of hatred that the right-wing political parties of our era around the world have built up over the past few decades. Intense, emotional blackmailing and name-calling summarizes the heart of it. I don’t think GMOs solve everything, but they certainly contribute. Within the farming community, we don’t know anyone who has anything negative to say about GMOs. I’m confused as to what is the source of all this vitriol against GMOs. I read all the comments here and surely any rational person will see where the more sensible reasoning lies? I pray for the people commenting here to chill out and really look at all the data out there.

  28. Hoping to use a bit of your Folta Q and A in my “Conversation with a scientist” series? Would that be ok? I’ll link it back to you of course. It’s just so damn good!

  29. Thank you for the input regarding this issue of GMO, I am not a scientist but enjoy learning the facts when presented in the proper manner. You were clear as to point out a lot of the falsities regarding GMO’s came from activists and not scientist. Yes credibility is everything. You went on to mention environmental concerns that may or may not be happening such as global warming. Al Gore is a scientist as well, he has accumulated many facts regarding global warming and has provided us with the basis of the science behind his findings. I believe as a human being, we have much work to do, but with this said, if wait much longer to do something about the facts, we might be to late! I am a firm believer that when science proves without a doubt how something is dangerous for us all, we should leave all politics aside and concentrate our efforts where they will help us all the most.

  30. this article is a repeat of another so called interview. It contains nothing scientific, nothing compelling, and results in not even a thin veil to dispel the MYRIAD of problems with GMOs, and is frankly insulting to the intelligence of any reader….the author tells us he used to be anti GMO but he changed his mind – no compelling info or why we should value his credibility. Folta’s weak arguments in this article are reflective of his usual stance: he expects the reader to believe him without proving anything – he dicredits other scientist by just calling them deceitful without any proof of his accusation (!!); he admits Benbrook is the real deal and then discredits him (on what scientific basis??). And yet, shockingly he invites readers to share this non info….what is being shared – “believe me coz I say so?”….

    Nevertheless and although the issue of cross contamination and unregulated distribution etc has been brought up repeatedly, and we are told by Folta that this just doesn’t happen there are rigorous protocols etc, it would be interesting to hear an attempt at a positive spin on the recent Oregon story – uncontrolled lab escapes – Monsanto’s ADMISSION and commitment to co-operating (probably coz they don’t want someone else in on their action); the impact on the $8 BILLION export market (but wait let me predict some comments – look the article says that farmers are still strongly in favour (that makes it right see?); this wasn’t cross contamination (I am not saying it was); the FACT is that it is IMPOSSIBLE to CONTAIN, REGULATE, SEGREGATE these ego driven lab fabrications.

    1. Ah, I see you’re back, of course, only after the rare occurrence that something has gone wrong with GM plot, and of course, the reference comes from a media organization instead of a scientific organization, which, of course, plays up the false equivalence of the two opposing sides. It’s not even worth properly replying, especially with how “objective” you sound. It’s still quite clear you know very little of the real science, so it is quite frivolous of me to try.

  31. Thank you Dr. Folta for properly educating me on this subject. I knew very little about the objective data related to this GMO topic until I came across your writings. Finally, someone who actually knows what they’re talking about, and can actually back it up with legitimate unfiltered facts.

    As a fellow science educator I understand the difficulty in “discussing” any controversial issue with people who are already too identified with their beliefs. I admire your patience, kindness, and perseverance. Keep up the good fight, it is very much appreciated. Again, thank you!

    p.s. If you haven’t seen it already, you might find “The Debunking Handbook” by Cook and Lewandowski useful. The research paper it is based on is particularly enlightening. Cheers

  32. Fourat J – you response to my comment is an even LAMER response than I could have possibly imagined …. its like saying that the victims of Agent Orange are a rare occurence of something going wrong with Chemical warfare… but I guess it identifies the GREAT DIVIDE between people that respect and apply the precautionary principle and those that think oh well there’s a problem, never mind – you do realise that this kind of problem, which you so conveniently trivialsie (or even appear to disbelieve (!!!)) is not exactly fixable, which means its not just a little problem, right? You do realise that MONSANTO themselves have acknowledged and made a statement on this problem…?

    And since you are (again) assuming to know so much about what I know about the “real science”, pray do tell what your scientific background is and what makes you a better authority on the science? According to your own bio you’re a self claimed idiot….something I can actually agree with….

    1. A proper take on the study you posted on Glyphosate:

      “The paper is by two authors with dubious credentials and is such a mashup of pseudoscience and gibberish that actual scientists have been unable to make sense of it. As one of them also noted, the paper is published in a “low-tier pay-for-play journal.” (The type of pay-for-play journals that uncritically accept any study so long as you pay, and will ensure it passes “peer-review”. Great link Jules, I’m convinced now of my idiocy.)

      “Andrew Kniss, a University of Wyoming agronomist, wondered: “Why are they [Reuters] calling it a ‘study’? There was absolutely no data.” He added that the paper “carries as much scientific credibility as creationism.”” (So much for a study.)

      Here is the link the two quotes comes from. The study is routinely criticized as pseudoscience:

      As for your previous comment, it’s hardly worth talking further about it. I’m not a scientist, I’m passionate about science and get my science from scientists, many of them (the scientific consensus), not lone scientists with opinions unmatched by data.

      Here are two links to over 600 peer-reviewed studies that show GM food is safe. (Yes, peer-reviewed studies, every single one of them, and 1/4 of them conducted in independent labs.)

      The independent studies are listed here:

      I could go on and on with links from real journals such as Nature and Science, and statements by prestigious science organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences, The Royal Society etc., but I don’t think it’s worth the effort.

      Have a great day, enjoy your organic food, and avoid GM food if it so pleases you.


    1. I think it should be contained. While the odds of it getting into the wild (as opposed to a farmer’s field) are slim according to a few studies, it’s not something that should be chanced given the opportunity. While the evidence leads me to conclude it’s not dangerous in anyway, it should be removed, or sealed off, because it’s not approved for sale and for consumer confidence (or what little there is left of it anyway).

    1. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this discussion. This was the most profound sharing of ideas on this subject I have run across. This discussion should be condensed into a book. After reading all of the comments let me share a few observations.
      Moving forward there is in reality either tremendous benefit that humanity would gain from continuance of GMO or tremendous harm from its continuance. This seems to be the general feeling of both sides of this debate.
      In my thoughts the issue needs to addressed once and for all through determining if the continuance is good or bad for this generation as well as all future generations.
      My recommendation is getting to a worldwide agreement through weeks long meetings at the United Nations, national legislative bodies, etc. whether these plant forms are beneficial for living things or not. If they provide benefit, continue with their existence. If they harm living things then they should be eliminated.
      This issue is the most important issue on this Earth, I believe. The human race must resolve this issue squarely, honestly, fairly and with the greatest spiritual wisdom that is available on this Earth. All questions must be answered and all concerns must be addressed. This is not about who is right and who is wrong. This is about the health and well-being of all living things.
      It is time to end the playground fighting and resolve this in a way that guarantees that consequent decisions are in alignment with the health and well being of all living things on Earth.
      This has been a most enlightening discussion. Thank you once again to all who have shared their ideas. Please let us soon resolve this issue once and for all.

  33. Jules, Forat is no more than a paid blogger contracted by someone who is no doubt underwritten by Monsanto or other multinational. He is playing a game here of smoke and mirrors. Africa is right to reject this propaganda which is nothing more than a corporate land grab by private investors being courted by the G8. Forat has sold himself out entirely if he ever was on the non-GMO front. This has nothing at all to do with science. He is prostalizing for global corporate game heads as a freelance writer and I would wish for his readers to know that.

  34. The process of genetic engineering involves infecting the plant with a virus. When viruses infected rabbits a generation ago everyone stopped eating rabbits.

    Viruses are increasingly linked to tumours and in fact the latest viruises are chosen for their ability to form tumours.

    For this and thousands of other reasons GMO matter can never be called food in the sense that it will be good for us in the very long term.

  35. Paraguay is an example of how GMO crops have benefitted the large farmers and GMO suppliers and left the small farmers dispossessed of their land and unable to live decent lives.

    The notion that GMO will feed the poor is false here with previous low earners actually surviving until the introduction of GMO plants when they moved downwards to the poor class where GMO clearly put them there.

    When will the industry help the poor here? The only change here is more poor and less able to sustain decent lives.

  36. France this week have reintroduced the ability of farmers to grow MON810 maize where yields are clearly HIGHER and favour both industry and the farmer but the plant is now inedible to insects hence the higher yield and its ability to disrupt the gut system matches the increase in gut issues and bleeding disorders in both animals and humans.

    The gut bacteria essential to human health are sent into crisis.

  37. I have tried to approach the questions of GMO desirability in a rational and vaguely systematic manner in order to come to some conclusions useful to myself, particularly as I have been slightly involved in anti-GMO cappaining. I would hate to get things wrong…

    I have come to the conclusion that the pro-GMO arguments are not compelling, for many reasons:

    – The precautionary principle. There are some, or maybe many, unintended consequences, eg. creation of novel toxins/allegens (try proving all is safe – see above article on impossibility of proving safety); transmission to wild plants / cross pollination of non target crops (eg. Roundup resistance); undesirable traits irreversably contaminating conventional crops.

    – Lack or rigerous testing, eg. BT maize being tested inadequately on lab rats for tumour promotion, and these tests not being necessarily applicable to humans.

    – Bias and corruption, both intentional and subconcious in scientists (actually I would call GMO expermenters technologists instead), and in all financially interested parties (companies and government officials, etc.) with respect to safety and desirability issues.

    – Political implications of the control of food production (there are many).

    – ‘…there are a few out there who let philosophy rule over evidence’. Remember that science is only a subset of philosophy, and that science is always incomplete, and never will provide all the answers we need in deciding what to do as individuals or society. There are more issues than can be investigated scientifically, even things like ‘gut feeling’, informed democracy, desirability of ‘untainted’ nature and compassion for animals involved, are all worthy of regard.

    I could go on, but I’m tired. Universal dropping of all GMO research would be good, so we could all just go home and not have to worry about it….

  38. Thank you for this well written and accurate article! Is completely befuddles me how people can blindly follow propaganda when presented with valid and perfectly understandable evidence against it.

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