Science educator Kevin Folta recently published a blog post about the anti-GMO trolls that dog him in every online forum.
Other distinguished academics have been harassed and publicly disparaged because their research includes the tools of biotechology (genetic engineering). Some scientists fly under the radar, keeping mum about their research in hopes of avoiding the antis furor.
My own sister was stunned to hear about the threats and intimidation Ive experienced as a writer criticizing and scrutinizing the anti-GMO movement, the friendships that have been strained by my stance, the vitriol that has been spewed against me.
All that over GMOs? she asked in bewilderment.
Yes, it is rather astonishing for people who are not in the trenches to discover the intensity that surrounds a plant breeding method especially one that has been in use for nearly three decades, with a solid safety record.
The general public remains largely unaware of the ugliness, the cult-like operations, the slick propaganda, the near-religious fervor of the anti-GMO movement.
Why? Primarily because mainstream media outlets continue to treat anti-GMO activists like credible advocates for environmental and public health, rather than the well-funded bullies they are.
Their actions are rarely called to account; their funding sources are never scrutinized.Indeed, theyre typically not assigned any culpability at all for the contentious and largely manufactured debate around GMOs.
A case in point is the recent Washington Post article: Forget GMOs. The next big battle is over genetically edited foods. Reporter Caitlin Dewey lays all the blame for the unqualified public relations disaster, the public backlash, the consumerskepticism, the global public outcry [that] has prevented seeds from winning government approval on industry. Or more specifically:
Since the late 90s, when Monsanto botched the introduction of genetically modified crops in Europe, consumers have treated the term GMO as if it were a dirty word.
Dewey makes absolutely no mention of how Jeremy Rifkin, Greenpeace, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network and other individuals and groups have carefully, deliberately and relentlessly waged a fear-mongering campaign intended to sow public distrust of the technology.
[Read GLP profiles on Greenpeace, the Center for Food Safety, and Pesticide Action Network.]
An anti-GMO billboard produced by Center for Food Safety.
This campaign has included the production of slick propaganda in the form of videos, supposedly independent journalism produced by paid sympathizers, advertisements and a steady stream of social media memes and messages.
It has employed despicable bullying and intimidation tactics designed to silence academics, stifle research and scare prospective biotech students, college presidents and politicians.
It has used lawsuits and the threat of litigation, clandestine and undisclosed lobbying activities, and lies about health and environmental impacts to push anti-GMO legislation.
It even coined the now ubiquitous term GMOs as a disparaging phrase.
The public backlash against GMOs didnt occur organically and spontaneously. It was fomented and fed by activists who were motivated by political ideology and/or financial gain, with wealthy philanthropists, anonymous donors and some elements of the organic food industry footing the bill.
Ive written extensively about this, as has author Mark Lynas, a former anti who switched sides, as I did. The fear-based anti-GMO narrative has been picked up around the world not because it has any basis in reality, but because its been systematically pounded into the heads of people who dont understand science.
As Mark recently noted in the new documentary Food Evolution: Its easier to scare people than reassure them.
To which I would add, especially when groups and activists can make so much money and wield so much influence through fear-mongering.
Ive documented the money flow that fueled the growth of the anti-GMO movement in Hawaii and the political power gained at least temporarily by the politicians who embraced its fear-based, fact-challenged mantra.
Groups like Center for Food Safety, Earthjustice and Pesticide Action Network use conflict as a business model, stirring up fears around GMOs and pesticides to attract followers and solicit donations. The organic industry also has benefitted financially from all the lies spread about crop biotech. Not to mention the Non-GMO Project, which makes money certifying that products like salt, which have never been genetically engineered, are indeed GMO-free.
[Read the GLPs profile on the Non-GMO Project.]
As the Risk-Monger blogger noted in a Facebook post:
The global market for certified organic food is 110 billion USD; the GMO seed market is worth 40 billion USD (source: vFluence). It is indeed a David v Goliath situation, but who is the David and who is the Goliath?
Despite Caitlin Deweys assertion that industrys rollout was an epic fail, agribusiness companies actually did a very good job of communicating the new technology to their customers farmers. And farmers, especially in the US, have responded in a big way, overwhelmingly adopting genetically engineered crops that offer pest protection and/or herbicide tolerance traits.
Industry didnt realize consumers would care or that activists would launch a global fear-mongering campaign to derail the technology by making consumers worry about made up stuff until it was too late.
Reporters are slowly beginning to acknowledge that public fears around GMOs are not rooted in scientific fact. But they still havent gotten around to telling their readers who planted and fertilized those fears.
By failing to out the activists and disclose their outsized influence on the GMO debate, they allow the fear-mongerers, demagogues and opportunists to continue their work without scrutiny or accountability.
And thats a real shame, both in terms of honest reporting and the lost potential of agricultural biotech.
A version of this article appeared at Joan Conrows website as Credit where credit is due and has been republished here with permission from the author.
Joan Conrow is a longtime Hawaii journalist and blogger who has written extensively about agricultural, environmental and political issues. Follow her on Twitter@joanconrow
- Bitcoin Price Forecast and Analysis – September 19, 2017 - September 20th, 2017
- Litecoin Price Forecast and Analysis – September 19, 2017 - September 20th, 2017
- Ripple Price Forecast and Analysis – September 19, 2017 - September 20th, 2017
- Ripple Price Forecast and Analysis – September 18, 2017 - September 20th, 2017
- Litecoin Price Forecast and Analysis – September 18, 2017 - September 20th, 2017
- Ethereum Price Forecast and Analysis – September 18, 2017 - September 20th, 2017
- This Cryptocurrency Could Be the Next Bitcoin - September 20th, 2017
- Ripple Price Forecast and Analysis – September 15, 2017 - September 20th, 2017
- Ethereum Price Forecast and Analysis – September 15, 2017 - September 20th, 2017
- Ethereum Price Forecast and Analysis – September 19, 2017 - September 20th, 2017
- genetic engineering | Definition, Process, & Uses ... - August 24th, 2017
- Genetic Engineering Advantages & Disadvantages - Biology ... - August 24th, 2017
- Genetic engineering - Wikipedia - August 22nd, 2017
- genetic engineering | Definition, Process, & Uses ... - August 22nd, 2017
- Genetic Engineering: What is Genetic Engineering? - August 21st, 2017
- genetic engineering | Definition, Process, & Uses ... - August 21st, 2017
- Gene therapy - Wikipedia - August 21st, 2017
- Genetic Engineering Advantages & Disadvantages - Biology ... - August 21st, 2017
- Genetic engineering - Biology-Online Dictionary - August 21st, 2017
- History of genetic engineering - Wikipedia - August 21st, 2017
- ADRIAN Kibbler wonders whether genetic engineering may be used in the future to prevent illness - Ludlow Advertiser - August 21st, 2017
- ADRIAN Kibbler wonders whether genetic engineering may be used in the future to prevent illness - Ludlow Advertiser - August 19th, 2017
- Listening for the Public Voice - Slate Magazine - August 16th, 2017
- The Impossible Burger wouldn't be possible without genetic engineering - Grist - August 12th, 2017
- Genetically Engineering Pigs to Grow Organs for People - The Atlantic - August 11th, 2017
- When genetic engineering is the environmentally friendly choice - GreenBiz - August 10th, 2017
- Gene Editing Might Mean My Brother Would've Never Existed - TIME - August 10th, 2017
- It's Time to Stop Asking Whether Human Genetic Engineering Should Happen and Start Planning to Manage it Safely - HuffPost - August 10th, 2017
- Global: Engineering the Future of Our Food - STRATFOR - August 10th, 2017
- Genetic Engineering with Strict Guidelines? Ha! - Discovery Institute - August 9th, 2017
- When genetic engineering is the environmentally friendly choice - Genetic Literacy Project - August 7th, 2017
- The Call-In: Genetic Engineering - NPR - August 6th, 2017
- Experts Call on US to Start Funding Scientists to Genetically Engineer Human Embryos - Gizmodo - August 5th, 2017
- What is genetic engineering? | Facts | yourgenome.org - August 4th, 2017
- Genetic Engineering with 'Strict Guidelines?' Ha! - National Review - August 4th, 2017
- A Blueprint for Genetically Engineering a Super Coral - Smithsonian - August 4th, 2017
- Don't fear the rise of superbabies. Worry about who will own genetic engineering technology. - Chicago Tribune - August 3rd, 2017
- We Need to Talk About Genetic Engineering | commentary - Commentary Magazine - August 1st, 2017
- Understanding the basics of Genetically-Modified Organisms - NIGERIAN TRIBUNE (press release) (blog) - August 1st, 2017
- Can genetic modification turn annual crops into perennials? - Genetic Literacy Project - August 1st, 2017
- Genetic engineering creates an unnaturally blue flower - Engadget - July 31st, 2017
- 'True blue' chrysanthemum flowers produced with genetic ... - Nature - Nature.com - July 31st, 2017
- When genetic engineering is the environmentally friendly choice - Ensia - July 29th, 2017
- Should genetic engineering be used as a tool for conservation? - chinadialogue - July 29th, 2017
- Scientists Give a Chrysanthemum the Blues - New York Times - July 29th, 2017
- Human Genetic Engineering Begins! | National Review - National Review - July 27th, 2017
- True Blue Chrysanthemum Flowers Produced with Genetic Engineering - Scientific American - July 27th, 2017
- Pancreas in a Dish Tells Story of How Metastatic Cells Turn Back Time - Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (press release) - July 27th, 2017
- 'True blue' chrysanthemum flowers produced with genetic engineering - Nature.com - July 26th, 2017
- Ghana mulling genetic engineering to combat armyworm crop damage - Genetic Literacy Project - July 26th, 2017
- Genetically Engineering Nature Will Be Way More Complicated Than We Thought - Gizmodo - July 21st, 2017
- Should Genetic Engineering Be Used as a Tool for Conservation? - Yale Environment 360 - July 21st, 2017
- DARPA funds $65 million for safer genetic engineering and technology to fight bioterrorism - Next Big Future - July 21st, 2017
- A Super-algae to Save our Seas - Laboratory Equipment - July 21st, 2017
- McCaskey grad writes new book on CRISPR and genome engineering - LancasterOnline - July 20th, 2017
- Chris R. Badman - Lincoln Journal Star - July 20th, 2017
- China unveils technology to create SUPER-HUMANS via hyper-muscular test-tube dogs - Express.co.uk - July 18th, 2017
- 32 genetic engineering incidents since 2011 revealed in regulator's ... - The Canberra Times - July 17th, 2017
- Genetically Modified Rice Stacked With Antioxidants - Asian Scientist Magazine - July 17th, 2017
- This Is Why Investors Will Need to Learn a New Acronym: CRISPR - Madison.com - July 17th, 2017
- China unveils gene technology to create SUPERHUMANS with hyper-muscular test-tube dogs - Express.co.uk - July 16th, 2017
- Boston author turns real life into Hollywood-ready stories - Boston Herald - July 16th, 2017
- FDA Panel Recommends Approval for Gene-Altering Leukemia Treatment - New York Times - July 14th, 2017
- I poured out my hot sauce - The Telegraph - July 14th, 2017
- Genetically engineered salmon is coming to America - The Week Magazine - July 12th, 2017
- Are Pink Pineapples Safe to Eat? - Observer - July 12th, 2017
- Can Genetic Engineering Put an End to Diamondback Moth Plague ... - Growing Produce - July 11th, 2017
- Writing the human genome - The Biological SCENE - July 10th, 2017
- Stanford's Final Exams Pose Question About the Ethics of Genetic Engineering - Futurism - July 10th, 2017
- America's First Free-Roaming Genetically Engineered Insects Are ... - Gizmodo - July 8th, 2017
- Genetically modified food is too advanced for its out-of-date regulations - The Hill (blog) - July 8th, 2017
- New Molecular Scalpel Acts as GPS to Improve Genetic Editing - Bioscience Technology - July 7th, 2017
- Stop GM mustard release as it will harm farmers: scientists to PM - Livemint - July 6th, 2017
- IARPA seeks tech to ID bioengineered life forms - FCW.com (blog) - July 5th, 2017
- 'Woolly' Breathes New Life Into A Scientific Saga - NPR - July 5th, 2017
- The race to revive woolly mammoths using ancient DNA - CBS News - July 2nd, 2017
- Scientific finding paves way for rice genetic engineering to develop efficient water storage - InterAksyon - June 30th, 2017
- Biotechnology confusion: Differences among GMOs, gene editing and genetic engineering - Genetic Literacy Project - June 29th, 2017
- Avoiding CRISPR-Mediated Gene-DriveEvolved Resistance in Mosquitoes - Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (blog) - June 29th, 2017
- Genetic engineering tool generates antioxidant-rich purple rice - Phys.Org - June 27th, 2017