This appeared yesterday. And, as my readers know, a specialty of this blog is rushing to protect and defend Damsels in Distress (see posts on Food Babe) who are cruelly and unfairly attacked by the Monsantoite Dragon. So here’s to you, Celeb Moms—you’re not anti-science, and here’s why you’re right and they’re wrong. Keep up the good fight! And here’s my answer to the “Science” Moms’ letter (my comments in italic):
Scientist and Advocate Moms to Celeb Moms: Weigh GMO Food with Facts Not Fear
Kavin Senapathy—August 19, 2015. Biofortified.
Dear Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ginnifer Goodwin, Sarah Gilbert, Jillian Michaels, Jordana Brewster, and other celebrity moms speaking out against the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act:
We are scientists, science communicators, and farmers. We come from varying educational backgrounds, work in different careers, live across the country, and are of different ethnicities. Like you, we are moms.
As parents, we can all agree that our greatest fear is harm to our children. President Obama said after the Sandy Hook school shooting, “Someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around. With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves (our child) is suddenly exposed to the world.”
We know your statements come from love and concern for your children, because ours do, too. We feel that it is our responsibility to clarify misconceptions about genetically engineered or genetically modified organisms, often called GMOs. We want to provide insight into why we feed our families food containing ingredients derived from GMOs and explain why we oppose mandatory GMO labeling.
Celeb Moms, you’re now supposed to feel all warm and fuzzy, thinking, “Oh, these nice ‘Science’ Moms, they’re just like you and me—let’s hear what they’ve got to say”. But you and I both know that you’re just being groomed for a very dodgy sales pitch.
Plant breeding and genetic engineering
Scientists use many methods to create new plant varieties. A plant’s taste and color, drought and pest resistance are encoded in genes in the plant’s DNA. Traditionally, new plant varieties are created by cross-pollinating plants with desired characteristics. But in the same way that we cannot choose only our best traits to give to our children, a plant breeder cannot choose which traits are in the resulting plants. It’s left to chance.
See, the pitch has opened with something harmless and platitudinous, just like the door-to-door salesman who starts with a string of stuff to which you have to say “Yes”.
In radiation mutagenesis, plants are bombarded with radiation in hopes that a desirable trait will result from random breaks in the plant’s DNA. This method has been used for decades and has led to may new plant varieties that we enjoy, including varieties of wheat, peppermint, and grapefruit. These plants are eligible for the USDA’s organic label and are not considered GMOs. Other plant breeding tools include chemical mutagenesis, cell fusion, and chromosome doubling.
Now they go on to try and confuse you with irrelevant issues. Stick to the point, “Science” Moms!
Genetic engineering is simply another plant breeding tool. It results in a targeted genetic change or adds one or a few carefully chosen genes to a plant. The technology may sound scary, but genes actually transfer naturally between species.
Whoa! Just any species? Not on your life—at least one of the two species has to be some kind of microbe. Not so for genetic engineering—you can potentially put any gene from any species into any other species. Not the same thing at all. So this, like so much else in GMO propaganda, is a half-truth?
Q: What’s the other half of a half-truth? A: A half-lie, of course!
Genetic engineering has been used for decades to make life-saving medicines including insulin. Hundreds of studies show that the process used to create GMOs, and the GM products currently on the market are safe, and scientific bodies around the world agree.
Oh yeah? You mean like the World Health Organization? Or the Endocrine Society, America’s oldest scientific organization with its 17.000 members? If you want to know what Science Says, what better source than Nature, one of the world’s top two scientific journals? “Researchers, farmers, activists and GM seed companies all stridently promote their views, but the scientific data are often inconclusive or contradictory. Complicated truths have long been obscured by the fierce rhetoric.”
The genetically engineered plants used today allow farmers to apply fewer insecticides and less toxic herbicides.
Less toxic than what--cyanide?
Some are disease resistant and drought tolerant. Apples and potatoes that are just now entering the market will reduce food waste due to brown spots and bruises. Scientists have developed additional beneficial traits that haven’t reached the market due to unfounded fears and a burdensome regulatory system. Examples include citrus greening resistant oranges that could save the US citrus industry, and blight resistant chestnut trees that could repopulate the great chestnut forests of the US and provide habitat and food for wildlife.
Oh, boo-hoo! Naughty old regulatory system! In fact it’s neither the regulatory system nor the fears of consumers that have delayed the introduction of greening-resistant oranges or bight-resistant chestnut. It’s the sheer difficulty of successfully engineering GMO crops. It just takes a long time to produce GMOs with highly specific traits like greening resistance or chestnut-blight resistance—unlike very general traits like herbicide resistance and insect resistance, which (unfortunately, as we’ll see shortly) were introduced much more quickly.
Genetic engineering has even greater potential to help farmers and families in other countries. Nutritionally enhanced plants like super cassava and golden rice can help get children the nutrients they need to grow up healthy and strong. Insect resistant eggplant and other pest or disease resistant plants can reduce the need for pesticides…
Again, a half-truth, so here’s what the half-lie is this time. “Pesticides” includes both herbicides and insecticides. It may be true that insect-resistance reduces the need for insecticides—the jury’s still out on that one, insecticide-resistant crops select for mutated insects that can still safely eat them, so while it was true at the beginning it may no longer be so. What is certain is that herbicide-resistant plants INCREASE the use of herbicides…not “maybe” or “just does” but MUST increase it. Before there were herbicide-resistant GMOs, you could only spray once, pre-emergence, otherwise you’d kill your crop. Now they spray three times while the crop is growing. And even that’s not the end of it. Bet you didn’t know this—even if they’re NOT growing GMO crops, they’ve begun spraying them with RoundUp just before they harvest them, KILLING THEM ON PURPOSE so they dry out fast and get to market sooner. And this is legal!
In other words, if you’re not eating organic, you’re probably eating poison every time you open a package of processed food.
…and help increase farmer incomes so they can send their children to school. We worry that anti GMO sentiments in the US could slow adoption of these plants in the places where they are most needed.
Seriously? We’re talking about independent countries. Anyone who thinks they wait with bated breath to see if there are any “anti GMO sentiments in the US” before they decide what to do about GMOs is delusional.
As moms, we endorse informative, relevant food labeling to protect consumers and help us nourish our bodies with varied, balanced, and healthy diets. For example, labeling for nut, milk, or egg residue is relevant. Severe allergic reactions are a real concern. Nutritional information of protein, fats, fiber, sugar, vitamins, and minerals are also relevant. This information empowers parents to prepare nutritionally balanced meals.
You say you have the “right to know what’s in our food”. Labeling whether a product contains ingredients derived from a GMO crop tells you nothing about what is “in” the food.
Not even a half-truth—a flat-out lie this time. If you eat GMO food, you have a roughly nine-out-of-ten chance of eating RoundUp. There’s no way they can deny this. Back them into a corner and they’ll claim that by the time your digestive processes have finished there’s so little RoundUp left that it couldn’t possibly hurt you (they’d like to claim that you get rid of it ALL but that’s so blatant a lie they daren’t risk it). Well, endocrinologists have proved that levels as low as one part per million (OR LESS!) can seriously affect hormones that are essential to your health, provoking many different chronic diseases ESPECIALLY IN YOUNG CHILDREN!
Genetic engineering is a breeding method, not a product. It isn’t an ingredient to scoop into a bowl. For example, sugar from GMO sugar beets is just sucrose, there is nothing “in” it. It is just like sugar from sugar cane.
“Pants on fire” AGAIN! If the beets were sprayed with RoundUp, it has RoundUp in it!
All food comes from organisms that have been genetically altered by humans, with the exception of a few wild plants and animals.
True, but they were produced by normal breeding methods, not by allowing them to be sprayed with poison.
The ancestors of bananas, carrots, and many other foods are almost unrecognizable. In the same way that information on whether a home was built using an old fashioned hammer or a modern nail gun does not inform you about the home’s safety or quality, knowing whether foods contain ingredients derived from GMOs does not tell you about safety or quality.
Dumb analogy, as you can see.
There are thousands of different varieties of corn grown across the US, yet we know all of them as “corn” regardless of the breeding techniques used in their development, and regardless of the many differences in DNA sequences between varieties. Each farmer chooses which variety to grow and which practices to use based on the environmental and economic conditions on their farm. The term “GMO” doesn’t reveal whether a plant variety is patented, what pesticides were used in its production…
Oh no? It tells you that there’s at least a 90% chance that it’s been sprayed with RoundUp or some equally poisonous herbicide.
…the size of the farm, or other details that many labeling advocates may find important. These production process details and many others are currently indicated though voluntary process-based labels such as certified-humane, kosher, halal or grass-fed. Organic and voluntary non-GMO labels, both of which exclude GMO ingredients, are very common and provide that choice and information to those who want it.
Mandatory labeling of foods with GMO ingredients will increase fear, and make foods more expensive for Americans families.
There’s no proof of that, and anyway any price increase this caused would be minimal—just ask all the European countries that already have mandatory labeling.
The “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act” recently passed in the House and is being discussed in the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. Anti-GMO activists, including Organic Consumers Association, Only Organic, GMO Free USA and more, have portrayed it as an attempt to hide what’s in our food, calling it the “Denying Americans the Right to Know” Act.
Which is exactly what it is, of course.
However, the text of the bill states that a GMO should be labeled if it is materially different from its non-GMO counterpart, while specifying that the mere fact of being GMO is not enough to be classified as materially different. The bill also registers all GMOs that are used in food production, establishes a national GMO food certification program to avoid a state-by-state patchwork of GMO definitions and creates national standards for labeling GMOs.
The whole aim of the DARK Act is to prevent the people of individual states, counties and cities from expressing their will—in other words, the DARK Act is a blow against democracy and states’ rights. Tell your senators to vote against it or you’ll never vote for them again!
Call to Action
Please, don’t co-opt motherhood and wield your fame to oppose beneficial technologies like genetic engineering. Certain celebrities have misled thousands of parents into thinking that vaccines are harmful, and we see the same pattern of misinformation repeating itself here. When GMOs are stigmatized, farmers and consumers aren’t able to benefit from much-needed advancements like plants with increased nutrients, or plants that can adapt to changing environmental stresses.
We, like millions of other Americans, line up to see your movies, and respect your occupation. Though our jobs differ, we share a common goal: to raise healthy, happy, successful kids.
Then you too, “Science” Moms, should wake up to the fact that you’re feeding your kids poisons—and STOP IT!
As moms we feel it is our responsibility to use the best available information to protect our children’s health, and to let the best science inform the choices we make for our families. We ask you to take the time to learn about how genetic engineering is being used by farmers, and the potential it has to help other moms raise healthy, happy, successful kids.
You have the opportunity to influence millions of people, so please use that influence responsibly, and ensure that your advocacy is supported by facts, not fear. Contact any or all of the undersigned, chat with farmers who grow biotech plants, or visit a college campus and talk with experts. We’re happy to discuss how this breeding method of genetic engineering could be used in harmony with many other approaches to help feed the world’s growing population, protect our environment, and preserve the Earth’s natural resources for all of our children.
And make whopping profits for Monsanto and the five other big seed-‘n’-pesticide corporations—that’s what this is really about.
- Kavin Senapathy: Freelance writer, science popularizer, co-founder of March Against Myths, mother of two (ages 4 and 2)
- Dr. Layla Katiraee: Scientist, writer at FrankenFoodFacts and Biology Fortified, and mother of a 3-year-old
- Dr. Anastasia Bodnar: Scientist, co-founder of the non-profit Biology Fortified, Inc., and mother of a 15-month-old
- Dr. Alison Bernstein: Scientist, writer, mother of two (ages 7 and 2), AKA “Mommy PhD”
- Julie Borlaug: Associate Director for external relations at the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, and Strategic Initiatives, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, and mother of a 6-year-old
- Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam: University researcher and animal biotechnology specialist, and mother of two (ages 15 and 17)
- Sarah Schultz: Nurse, wife of a farmer, writer at Nurse Loves Farmer, mother of two (ages 5 and 2)
- Sara, science communicator and blogger at It’s Momsense, mother of two (ages 5 and 7)
- Jenny Splitter: Writer at Grounded Parents, storyteller, mother of two (ages 11 and 4), Science Activist and food allergy parent
- Joni Kamiya: Biotech papaya farmer’s daughter, blogger at Hawaii Farmer’s Daughter. Mother of three (ages 7 months, 5, and 10)
- Jennie Schmidt, MS, RD – Farmer & Registered Dietitian, AKA “The Foodie Farmer” , mother of two (ages 15 and 17)
- Dr. Denneal Jamison-McClung: University biotechnology educator, program administrator and mother of an 11-year-old
- Krista Stauffer: Dairy farmer, writer, blogger at The Farmer’s Wifee, Founder of Ask the Farmers and mother of three (ages 8, 5, and 3).
Bottom line: It’s not the GMOs themselves that’s the problem, it’s the stuff they spray on the GMOs. And I’m sure you’ve noticed that the “Science” Moms don’t have word one to say about THAT.
Final Score: “Science” Moms 0. Celeb Moms 1.
GO, CELEB MOMS!!!