Whaddya Know, GMKnow Responds

It happened. It actually happened. The proudly anti-GMO group, GMKnow, responded to the question I posed to them two days ago. If you’ve read my last post, then you’ll know the story so far. If not, read it here (and the twitter conversation here). The summary, if you don’t care to, is this: I asked them why mutagenetic radiation breeding, which blasts seeds coated in Ethyl methanesulfonate (EMS), sodium azide (SA), N-nitroso-N-methylurea (NMU) with X-RAYS, Gamma Rays, and fast neutrons inducing thousands of random double-strand chromosomal breaks, safer than GM seeds. The reason I asked is because a multitude of mutagenic seeds today are sold as organic food. Yet, the fierce furore over GMOs is inversely correlated to the silence over the radiation breeding of crops. GM crops tend to have 1-4 added genes, while organic mutagenic-created crops have had their genomes essentially scrambled resulting in changes to hundreds, if not thousands, of genes. It’s truly bizarre. I asked GMKnow three separate times for an answer over Twitter, which they deflected each time, instead, bringing up childish, illogical tropes about “GMO-biotech Ag science” and ad hominens such as “Sir Pesticide.” 

After my post was shared across Facebook and Twitter (I am assuming it found its way over to them), they finally decided to respond. If you tuned into Part one of this charade, I would hope you have not been holding your breath for a logical answer, because one I did not get. Let’s go through them and distill the stupid.

How much nonsense can you fit in 140 characters? Apparently, a lot. Let’s start with the claim that food with 1000s of natural changes is natural. Aside from the tautologous nature of the claim (natural changes are natural), which is not at all what mutagenesis is. They cannot even get this right, and people believe their truth-claims on GMOs? Where in nature, I wonder, would one find a seed coated in EMS, SA, or NMU, and then have it blasted with sufficient, and sustained quantities of gamma ray and X-ray radiation? There is nothing natural about the process. Then, they go off on a tangent on commercial profits, annuity licensing and, the horror, selling chemicals. I think I’ll go on a tangent too.

Here is their Twitter byline: Fostering awareness via industry commentary, spiced with a healthy organic & 100% rotationally grazed ethos. I wonder, then, why don’t they have a problem with organic farmers selling their wares? Organic food is, on average, twice as expensive as conventional. Could this not be made into a talking point? Of course it can be, but they are ideologically aligned with the organic philosophy against GMOs, so such inconvenient facts are dismissed or never considered. “Okay,” you say, “on a per-capita basis, organic food costs more due to economies of scale, but conventional produce, on the whole, generates more money.” Wrong! Globally, organic sales totaled $63 billion in 2012 ($31.5 billion in the US alone). And what was the global market value of biotech crops in 2012? $14.84 billion; less than a quarter the value of organic crops. There goes the total profit claim! How’s this for a compromise: when organic farmers start giving away their hard-earned produce free then you can start complaining about corporations selling their property. Deal? Anyway, I’m going overboard, so back to my reply to this unexpectedly stupid answer:

Pretty self-explanatory. The natural claim is fallacious, otherwise known as the Appeal to Nature fallacy. Their response was predictably hilarious. It truly is, as Bullet-Tooth Tony said in the movie Snatch, that you should “never underestimate the predictability of stupidity.

Yes, because going from “natural changes are natural” (remember: they are defending mutagenic organic crops are safer than GM crops, and why  those GM crops with 1-4 added genes do need to be labeled/baned) to “natural bad things need are labelled,” which is not a contradiction at all! In other words: unnatural GMOs need labels; natural chemicals need labels; unnatural mutagenic organic crops are natural and safe!

The flow starts to become a bit confusing, because at certain points, I answer a tweet with multiple tweets, and they do too. Here is one of those tweets to which he/she answered with a second tweet:

I love it when anti’s move into species territory, because it shows a lack understanding of biology. Species is a man-made distinction that we use for convenience. They (species) diverge as a result of population radiations and no longer sexually co-mingle, thereafter evolving separately. Eventually, due to diverging recombination hotspots, among a host of other factors, they can no longer inter-breed. However, there is no specific boundary to which you can point to and say: that former-ape is now a human, because no offspring ever born was a different species than its parents. This is significant because while humans can no longer produce offspring with chimps, much of our biology is similar, which makes xenotransplantation possible. This is also true with other animal species, and is why diabetics, before e.coli bacteria was genetically engineered to excrete human insulin, used insulin harvested from pigs. In other words, there is a commonality between many species, and, in many cases, we carry identical genes from long-lost ancestors. Nature re-uses the same genes over and over again. After all, every living thing on this planet is made from the same four base chemicals: Adenine, Thymine, Cytosine, and Guamine. If, instead, GMKnow were protesting the insertion of the genetic code of aliens, I might agree with them, however, here on Earth, we’re all one big, happy family:

Their response to my above tweet was the coup d’etat of stupidity. I’ll let you read it yourself first:

Umm…ok. Wow, I guess…

No response to that one, unfortunately. I am sure it would’ve been good. But they did come up with another doozy:

As is clear, when they come up against a brick-wall, instead of admitting they don’t have an answer or are wrong, they simply deflect. Either they call being pro-GMO a religion, refer to the evidence-based as manipulated by “GMO-biotech Ag science“, and whitewash an entire industry as “snivelling biotech consumer subterfuge.” I countered by asking for evidence, any evidence, aside from “ad hominins, fallacies and deflections.” Their response, hilariously, was the non-labelling of GM food. Seriously!

They even used a hashtag! After calling them out on the fact that is not an empirical reason, I asked them for any kind of “cause-effect mechanism, new allergen discovered, something, anything at all.” Of course, they didn’t (because they can’t), though I have to give them credit for not linking to Seralini’s rat-cancer story or Carman’s pig-inflammation story. What they did instead was to deflect (shock and awe!) and ask for one example of an ethically irresponsible human peer-reviewed study. The ethics of human trials go something like this: it needs to have a potential benefit (which normal GMOs don’t have since they are functionally equivalent), and the difficulty of identifying cause-and-effect in such a study would be impossible, anyway, so why bother. So, there’s that. Then, for some reason, they answered again with the following doozy: “doesn’t exist. Enjoy your GMO vegan bacon.” Are they saying that no other evidence exists? Sure seems like it, then, for whatever reason, they bring up GMO vegan bacon. Umm, what?

From there, the conversation pretty much ended. I called them out on their contradiction and received a predictable response signalling again, the end of their argumentative arsenal: “Blow, blow, blow your writer GMO science horn.” How hard can it be to get coherent answers based in evidence or some kind of logical system? I responded that “at least I’m coherent. One tweet, natural = good. I mention mercury, u say its labelled for a reason, showing natural can be bad.” To which they responded: “Coherent advocating GMO orthodoxy? How nice for you.” Unfortunately, they did not get the irony inherent in that response: The currently approved GM crops on the market are safe, and the evidence for that position numbers almost 2,000 studies, while the evidence for the inverse position is two horrible studies, one of which was retracted, which leaves just one. Beyond that, however, they have no shortage of logical fallacies, non-sequiturs, and made-up nonsense. If there is an orthodoxy here, it is smack-dab in the middle of the anti-GMO position.

I can’t help but feel that the anti-GMO movement is the last gasp of the postmodernist movement. I wonder what the GMO landscape will look like in ten-years, and, if society accepts them, what will today’s anti-brigade do? Will they try to blend in, or wear their ignorance proudly as a postmodernist would do? Thoughts?

[UPDATED: 30th April to reflect additional tweets and edited for errors.]

17 comments

    1. Agreed, a horrible qualifier. Humans are natural, therefore , everything we do is good, ergo, nuclear weapons = good. It’s such horrible reasoning, I can’t believe people use it. I’ll be updating this post soon. I missed a golden tweet of theirs that boggles even the nonsense above, and they tweeted some more since, calling themselves scientists, ha!

  1. You hit the nail on the head. The opposition to GMOs is about profiteering and propaganda. In developed markets big (bigger than biotech) business profits from food fears that drive people to higher-priced, artificially pumped up value organic and “natural” products – as shown in a recent report by Academics Review http://goo.gl/t7f6J5. These big businesses go beyond organic ($35b sales in US) to the supplements & alternative health ($90+b sales in US) and extended natural lifestyles green product areas – all combined $290b in the U.S. alone which profit by creating fear about conventionally produced foods and modern technologies.
    More insidious are the political players in developing markets (both far left and far right) who use attacks on GMOs and conventional food production to foment food fears and delay agricultural productivity development that would reduce food insecurity, improve health and local economics. They do this because insecurities in those areas create political instabilities desired by these extremists and out-of-power political groups. These politically and ideologically extreme groups get much of their fuel from developed market NGOs who are funded by the above noted business interests who use them to help create the fears that drive their product sales.
    Both the profiteering and propaganda attacks on biotechnology and other productivity technologies in food production are very short term exploitation by special interest groups that have serious long-term negative implications for society and our environment.

    1. I completely agree, especially with your closing statement. That is the most infuriating part about the whole situation. The organicker’s lash out at business lobbies for whatever reason (they have a 1001), yet, in the process, emulate them to the extreme!

  2. I’m afraid I don’t share your optimism. If you want to know what the GMO landscape will look like in ten-years, you need only look at what the DDT landscape looks like today with millions of people still dying from mosquito-borne illnesses that could be easily and safely prevented with DDT, if only these same activists had not succeeded in banning it back in 1972.

    1. I’m cautiously optimistic for the simple reason that the anti-gmo and organic advocates are overstating the case prophezing doom and gloom. When it doesn’t materialize, the public may well reject their BS and ignore the labels, if any, and I believe in the meantime, scientific communication will improve. Time will tell.

      1. Rachel Carson’s case prophesizing doom and gloom from DDT never materialized. Her book was published in 1962, and 10 years later, with no evidence whatsoever of any of the bird deaths or soaring cancer rates she had predicted, the activists achieved a global ban on this wonderful technology.

      1. You are welcome. It wasn’t just spelling, however. A judicious sprinkling of Latin can be impressive, but if you don’t know how to use it, stick with English. The word you may have wanted is “anthropomorphism.” Also, you probably shouldn’t use French when talking about stupidity. If their comment to you was ” the coup d’etat of stupidity,” they have overthrown the state of stupidity, which does not reflect well on you in this context. This diminishes your credibility and may lead to ad hominem criticism of causes you support.

        Ok, I am going to leave you bleeding from this coup de main attack for now because I found your tone a bit snarky and self-congratulatory. I will return later, however, to administer the coup de grâce and put you out of your misery. I will come as a coup de foudre, stay long enough to enjoy a coupe de glace with GMKnow, then drive off in my coupe de ville.

        1. Thanks… I guess. I didn’t mean it to sound so snarky, but it’s hard to make it sound any other way contending against such illogical tropes, deflections, and nonsense.

          1. Yes, it can be hard not to sound snarky. Being right when the other person is wrong is just soooo delicious. I always just ask myself what Jesus would do, then do the opposite.

            1. It is delicious. Loved the concluding sentence. I wonder though, are you still suspicious of GMOs? I ask because you no longer lambast me for my GMO screeds…

              1. Well, by now you know you are wrong and are just coasting with your momentum. There’s no point in rubbing it in as it just makes it harder for you to stop and shift course.

              2. Haha, OK! You know it wouldn’t take much to convince me. Just need some bona fide evidence. Momentum is nothing, I’ll change quickly

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