GMO Foods and Climate Change

I generally like equal-opportunity ignorance bashing, so this article comparing the far-Left’s rejection of Genetically modified foods with the far-Rights rejection of climate change science caught my eye:

I used to think that nothing rivaled the misinformation spewed by climate change skeptics and spinmeisters.

Then I started paying attention to how anti-GMO campaigners have distorted the science on genetically modified foods. You might be surprised at how successful they’ve been and who has helped them pull it off.

I’ve found that fears are stoked by prominent environmental groups, supposed food-safety watchdogs, and influential food columnists; that dodgy science is laundered by well-respected scholars and propaganda is treated credulously by legendary journalists; and that progressive media outlets, which often decry the scurrilous rhetoric that warps the climate debate, serve up a comparable agitprop when it comes to GMOs.

In short, I’ve learned that the emotionally charged, politicized discourse on GMOs is mired in the kind of fever swamps that have polluted climate science beyond recognition

The fact is no one is immune from a little bit of motivated reasoning, and both climate-change deniers and GMO food activists are generally strongly motivated to find science that comes out their way (which is no way to conduct science).

On the climate-change front, the science that says “The Earth is getting warmer and humans are causing it” is pretty much iron-clad at this point. What’s NOT iron-clad is the economics behind increased regulation – it’s certainly still up for debate whether a billion dollars of regulation will get you more than a billion dollars of saved damages in climate change. That’s the discussion that we need to be having, but extremists on both sides have muddied the waters so much that it’s essentially impossible (there’s a middle ground between “We’re all going to die” and “Everything’s fine, nothing to see here.”)

Equally, on the GMO food front, the science is pretty much in that there’s nothing per se dangerous about GM foods – we’ve been doing it for a long time now with no real evidence to suggest a systematic problem with GM. More to the point, they’ve probably saved billions of lives worldwide by bringing food costs down* and yields up. There’s of course some risks associated with the practice, so the proper debate is what kind of screening and regulation is required.

In short, I’ve learned that the emotionally charged, politicized discourse on GMOs is mired in the kind of fever swamps that have polluted climate science beyond recognition. When skeptics claim that global warming isn’t happening AT ALL, it induces the supporters of the science to “circle the wagons” and try to make equally absolutely claims in opposition. Ditto with GM foods – the claim that “Franken-foods are the next Silent Spring” just drives the rational people into the “Nothing to see here” camp.

*: I know that food prices have risen over the last few years, but I stand by the claim because (1) that has in large part been driven by increased demand from up and coming nations like China and from the increased use of biofuels and (2) The prices are down from what they would have been using conventional crop techniques.


About thinklikeafox

I'm a Naval Officer living in Southern California. I hope to be attending law school in the next year or two, and I started writing this blog out of a desire to improve my writing and critical thinking skills after a couple years outside of academia.
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