alexandra_thorn: 2009, taken by Underwatercolor (Default)
[personal profile] alexandra_thorn
Pieces like this one really make me tear my hair. And that's even leaving aside the fact that it plays fast and loose with the definition of the word "debunked".
http://www.popsci.com/article/science/core-truths-10-common-gmo-claims-debunked?src=SOC&dom=fb

The fact that they contain facts does not make them good sources of information. The political slant here is obvious. Hint: anything that makes 9 positive-to-neutral comments about a piece of technology and 1 negative comment that comes with a "but don't worry it's not too bad" caveat is probably trying to sell you that piece of technology.

The list in this article does not include anything that I identify as factually incorrect. It also omits plenty of factual information that would give the reader a bit more pause about GM technology.

1) Well, yes, though some would argue that the precision that is highlighted is a big part of what makes GM technology more risky. Fast results mean less time to notice problems.

2) GM may be comparably dangerous to conventional, but an advantage of conventional is that if an unknown hazard of pesticide is discovered, that pesticide can be removed from the market. GM insertions are harder to remove.

3) Yes, it's true, GM seed is fertile. Which makes it even harder to successfully remove if problems are found. See #2.

4) Fine, it's a tool. It's also a very weak one. Which sounds more productive, trying to force our favorite crops into niches they didn't evolve for, or replacing them entirely with crops better suited to the environment? This is an uncomfortable idea to play with because it flies in the face of what we've come to expect from commodities in our culture, but we're looking at serious changes to the climate over the next century (and continuing in the ones that follow). Even if you optimistically assume that we're going to continue to be able to live basically the way we are right now, it's still to be expected that some aspects of our current cornucopia might need to change.

5) Information missing. It's well and good that the FDA *can* block products. How reliably *does* it? I actually have no idea about the answer to this question, but the fact that it wasn't addressed is worrying.

6) Fascinating. I have *never* heard anybody make this claim. Strawman? Possibly.

7) I don't mind what it says about Bt. The remarks on glyphosate are hopelessly rosey-glassed.
Consider the quote: "The second allows crops to tolerate the herbicide glyphosate so that farmers can spray entire fields more liberally yet kill only weeds. Glyphosate use has skyrocketed in the U.S. since these GMOs were introduced in 1996. But glyphosate is among the mildest herbicides available, with a toxicity 25 times less than caffeine. Its use has decreased reliance on more toxic alternatives, such as atrazine."
Oh, well if it's less toxic than *caffeine*, I'm sure it's safe, ecologically as well as from a human health standpoint. Conveniently it ignores the fact that all that use of glyphosate is producing superweeds that will promote the use of... more toxic alternatives... such as atrazine.

8) Conveniently neglects to mention that true integrated pest management requires *adaptive* management (e.g., watch an insect infestation to see whether it is likely to significantly impact yield, and *only* decide to spray if a) it will, and b) it isn't too late already). Bt is by its nature a one-size-fits-all solution (the exact opposite of IPM). Roundup-ready might fit into an IPM template if farmers were a bit more cautious about spraying. Which they aren't.

9) It's true that Bt doesn't harm monarchs. It's also true that spraying of glyposate is one of the big reasons why there is no longer milkweed in most big agricultural fields. Which... harms monarchs. Also, speaking of IPM, another big part of IPM is encouraging the growth of plants other than the crop plant that will harbor beneficial insects. This gets a little hard when you're applying an herbicide that is specifically designed to kill everything except your GM crop.

10) Wow, one of these bullet points actually acknowledges that there could be negative side effects of GM crops... except it seems to suffer from that rose-colored-glasses thing again... "As for a GMO infiltrating wild plants, the offspring's survival partly depends on whether the trait provides an adaptive edge. Genes that help wild plants survive might spread, whereas those that, say, boost vitamin A content might remain at low levels or fizzle out entirely." So... um... Where does that leave all those warm fuzzy things you said about Bt and Roundup-ready?

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alexandra_thorn: 2009, taken by Underwatercolor (Default)
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