Saletan’s Slate on target expose of GMO fear mongering overstates corporate influence

| July 20, 2015
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

The title of William Saletan’s July 15 j’accuse in Slate, “Unhealthy Fixation” is spot on, but the subtitle really nails it: “The war against genetically modified organisms is full of fearmongering, errors, and fraud. Labeling them will not make you safer.” Longer than most blog posts, it’s well worth reading, as it lays out in meticulous and measured prose, with abundant citations, the panoply of shifting arguments and reversals that demonstrate to all who have eyes to see the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the campaign spearheaded by Greenpeace against recombinant DNA techniques applied to improving agriculture. He does, however, elide the difficulty of overcoming this populist fear mongering.

But Saletan does, I think, make one error. His concluding paragraph reads:

That’s what genetic engineering can do for health and for our planet. The reason it hasn’t is that we’ve been stuck in a stupid, wasteful fight over GMOs. On one side is an army of quacks and pseudo-environmentalists waging a leftist war on science. On the other side are corporate cowards who would rather stick to profitable weed-killing than invest in products that might offend a suspicious public. The only way to end this fight is to educate ourselves and make it clear to everyone—European governments, trend-setting grocers, fad-hopping restaurant chains, research universities, and biotechnology investors—that we’re ready, as voters and consumers, to embrace nutritious, environmentally friendly food, no matter where it got its genes. We want our GMOs. Now, show us what you can do.

This gets it about 98 percent right. But the assertion about “corporate cowards” is more than a little off target. This debate has devolved into a populist shouting match that is hard to overcome, and which inevitably slows the pace of innovation.

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I infer that Saletan is suggesting the “corporate cowards” work for biotech companies. But the folks at all these companies have day jobs. Those day jobs involve adding value to seeds which they then sell to farmers. Which they must sell to farmers. If the farmers don’t buy the seeds, the game is off, and the company goes bust.

Biotech company folks who ignore the wingnuts who offer nothing but shrieking hatred and the lies Saletan documents are not being cowards; they are fulfilling their fiduciary duties to their shareholders and putting their own customers—the farmers—first.

So I’m not sure how much cowardice is involved.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Finally… Slate Tells the Full Truth About the Anti-GMO Campaign

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