In an interview with HuffPost last month, the Science Guy revealed how Monsanto changed his mind about GMOs. In so doing, he showed within a few minutes of conversation the shallowness in his scientific understanding of the issues involved.
“We are able to feed 7.2 billion people, which a century and a half ago you could barely feed 1 and a half billion people and [it's] largely because of the success of modern farming."
There are so many things wrong with this. In the first place, what’s Bill’s data base for assuming that a century and a half ago, the world could hardly feed itself? Zero, to the best of my knowledge. To the contrary, folk over most of the world fed themselves as well as or probably better than now until European colonialism screwed up their economies.
In the second place, who exactly is meant by the "we" and the "you" here? Am I alone in seeing gross arrogance in this remark? Not "The world is able to feed itself" or "The world as a whole is able to feed 7.2 billion", but “WE” are able to feed the world, the way “we” want to feed it. Naturally, the last thing we want is for the world to feed itself, because people in the rest of the world are so stupid and ignorant they wouldn’t have a clue how to feed themselves unless we "advanced nations" kindly either showed them how or did it for them. Bill probably doesn’t realize that’s what he’s saying. But it is.
In the third place, pretty well everyone who’s seriously studied the world economy is agreed that shortage of food is not and seldom if ever has been the problem. Shortage of money, shortage of infrastructure, exploitative governments, these are the kinds of factor that make for shortage of food. Not to mention the use of vast areas of land for cattle, the use of vast quantities of food fed to cattle, the use of agricultural products to produce ethanol, and on and on. If you don’t do something about these kinds of thing, you can improve agriculture as much as you want and you will still get hunger and wider malnutrition in a large part of the world. It’s inexcusable for a supposedly primo science communicator not to know all of this.
“GMO crops put the herbicides and pesticide inside the plant, rather than spraying it on them and having it run down into streams.”
Come on, Bill! This is a real “Duh!” moment. How COULD you get a functional herbicide inside a plant? How would it work, would the plant go out and fight other plants? Surely even Monsanto didn’t try to pass off this whopper? Of course, what really happens is probably the worst aspect of genetic engineering. The whole point of making Roundup-resistant plants is so that you CAN “spray it on them”, just as much as it takes—the weeds wilt and wither, but your crop still stands tall. Because the herbicide not only still “runs down into streams”--with the aid of the adjuvants (themselves untested, btw) that are added to all pesticides, it spreads all over and is thoroughly absorbed by every part of the plant, so eventually by you and your nearest and dearest.
And what effect might this have? Don’t go there, Bill, it’s more than your career’s worth. If any serious science communicator starts to even look at the accumulating scientific evidence that chemicals in general and herbicides in particular may be responsible for the otherwise inexplicable rise in chronic degenerative diseases that has pushed America down to forty-somethingth place in world longevity rankings, those nice people at Monsanto who were so generous with their time and trouble will demonize that communicator, will hound and harass him (or her) and try to discredit her (or him) in any way they can.
Your choice, Science Guys in general. You can save your jobs while you go on betraying the public you are supposed, like the police, to serve and protect. Or you can do the right thing, which is to alert that same public to the risks that are being imposed on them in the name of corporate greed. Of course, if enough of you did this, there would be too many of you to demonize.
It’s the old problem of the mice belling the cat. Who’s on first? Who will dare?