How I answered MoveOn.org’s request to know why I unsubscribed to their email newsletters

ImageForgive me, father, for I have sinned. It’s been about a year since my last post. In that time, I’ve become quite active in trying to dispel some of the many myths surrounding the topic of Genetically Modified Organizations (GMO’s), and it’s in the spirit of that new focus that I have decided to unsubscribe from MoveOn.org’s email newsletters after they introduced a dishonest initiative to undermine GMO’s.

The petition linked to above makes several factually incorrect statements and also uses manipulative language. For instance, note the use of the word “pervasive” when describing GMO’s. “Pervasive” has obvious negative connotations, negative connotations not at all justified by the evidence. Then the petition claims the GMO’s are “largely untested, possibly harmful for humans to eat.” Every GMO currently on the market has been safety tested. Granted, since not all GMO’s are created equal, some are perhaps better tested than others, but the vague statement that GMO’s in general are “largely untested” pretty much falls into the “pants on fire” category. And of course “possibly harmful” is a nice bit of legalese that really doesn’t say anything. Anything within reason is possible; one could just as easily claim GMO’s will possibly turn you into a dragon. I’m not saying it will, but I’m just not ruling it out. But of course any reader, particularly one who knows nothing about the science and already trusts MoveOn.org’s judgment, this is sufficient to poison the well and persuade that person that GMO’s are bad. MoveOn’s evidence? They don’t provide any.

Now what’s the real harm in a labeling campaign anyway? Should consumers not be informed what’s in their food? On the surface, it’s of course a reasonable-sounding argument. The problem is there’s already so much propaganda falsely implicating GMO’s for all many of unproven ailments and labels further give people an impression that the label exists to warn them of harm. This is an old tactic. Once the labels are there, the new argument made by anti-GMO ideologues will be, “If GMO’s are so safe, why did the government put warning labels on them?” This is called the Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire Fallacy.

So when asked for a reason why, I responded thusly:

MoveOn’s campaign against GMOs is fundamentally anti-science, every bit as anti-science as Right-Wing campaigns denying the human-effects of climate change and the teaching of evolution.

To quote Pamela Ronald’s excellent recent article in MIT Technology Review:

“If Vermont had honestly assessed genetically engineered crops, the bill would have indicated that there is not a single credible report of dangerous health effects from GMOs and that there is no science-based reason to single out the resulting foods for mandatory labeling. It would have mentioned that the technology has been used safely in food and medicine for 30 years. It would have stated that farmers’ use of GMO crops has reduced by a factor of 10 the amount of insecticides sprayed on corn over the last 15 years, reduced food costs, decreased carbon dioxide emissions, and enhanced biological diversity.” 

Make no mistake. Efforts to add warning labels to GM foods that have shown no indication of harm is every bit as corporate-driven as any efforts by the Koch Brothers or Big Oil, etc. Those most benefiting from it are parties marketing so-called “organic” foods, a product that, contrary to the hype, offers no health or environmental advantage over the alternative. 

MoveOn’s efforts in this arena are not only wrong-headed; they fly in the face of all the available evidence, stifle human progress, increase food costs for everyone, does immense harm to third-world populations, and denies the consensus of virtually all relevant reputable international science organizations, who universally agree that the process of genetic engineering is no more risky to human health than conventional approaches to genetic modification (http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2013/08/27/glp-infographic-international-science-organizations-on-crop-biotechnology-safety/#.U6CqifldWTO).

Some useful links:
ftp://ftp.cordis.europa.eu/pub/fp7/kbbe/docs/a-decade-of-eu-funded-gmo-research_en.pdf
http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2013/10/08/with-2000-global-studies-confirming-safety-gm-foods-among-most-analyzed-subject-in-science/#.UlTteYZOPTo
http://www.biofortified.org/2013/10/20-points-of-broad-scientific-consensus-on-ge-crops/
http://dangeroustalk.net/a-team/GMO

 

Oh, and I also created a petition on MoveOn’s website to MoveOn Executive Director Anna Galland.

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5 Responses to How I answered MoveOn.org’s request to know why I unsubscribed to their email newsletters

  1. cherryteresa says:

    Glad you told them. I respond similarly when Greenpeace aggressively solicits me when I walk by Trader Joe’s here in Hollywood.

  2. Raiden says:

    “GMOs are mostly untested” is a vague statement, but not without merit. Multinationals (the usual, Monsanto, Bayer, DuPont et. al.) are constantly lobbying to put products on the market before testing has actually happened.

    Your argument against labelling, meanwhile, is a non-sequitur:

    “Now what’s the real harm in a labeling campaign anyway? Should consumers not be informed what’s in their food? On the surface, it’s of course a reasonable-sounding argument.”

    And your counter argument seems to be (I mean, it is all you talk about in your counter argument): “Because it would make Monsanto et. al. lose money, and Organic producers gain money, and Organic Producers would profit (so they have vested interests in labelling).”

    Wow, way to go.

    But what the hell does that have to do with the consumers, who are the ones who are going to read the labels?

    You seem to say, the reason they don’t have a right to see the label on food, is because company B wants it and company A doesn’t.

    The conclusion has nothing to do with the premise – it’s a non-sequitur.

    • mjr256 says:

      On the contrary, as I elaborate on in a different article (http://skepacabra.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/whats-so-bad-about-labels/), my actual counterargument is that experts universally agree there is no added benefit to such labeling campaigns because there’s no increased risk to transgenic foods. And THEN, given that central fact, the question of who actually benefits from such campaigns is worth discussion.

      And I actually don’t even understand where you got your Company A vs. Company B analogy from what I wrote. That’s not my position at all. And while I know some companies like Starbucks aren’t catering to the demands of GMO critics, I can’t name a single company that’s actively fighting against GMO labeling. No, it’s the scientific communicators and educators most familiar with the safety research who are the onces most actively opposing labels, while those on the other side are largely industry, celebrities, and unqualified health bloggers.

      So I agree that your version of what I’m saying is a totally ridiculous non-sequitur.

  3. Raiden says:

    Also, it’s an interesting fantasy where handing exclusive control of a commodity over to a handful of multinational corporations will cause prices to *decrease*.

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