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.
@fouratj food with 1000s of natural changes is natural. GMOs changed for commercial profit, annuity licensing & selling chemicals
— GM Know (@GMKnowBoulder) April 29, 2014
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.“
@fouratj Funny. Mercury, arsenic and other toxins are labeled. GMOs are not.
— GM Know (@GMKnowBoulder) April 30, 2014
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:
@fouratj GMO molecular breeder splices multi-species DNA (mutant) otherwise impossible in nature, engineered for Pesticide delivery/tolerant
— GM Know (@GMKnowBoulder) April 29, 2014
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…
@GMKnowBoulder Are you saying the gene that codes for herbicide tolerance is not made up of A, T, C, G? I can makeup facts too!
— Fourat Janabi (@fouratj) April 30, 2014
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!
— GM Know (@GMKnowBoulder) April 30, 2014
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.]