Is Big Organic guilty of ‘Merchants of Doubt’ behavior?

| | December 1, 2015

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis.

Is Exxon Mobil’s behavior any different than that of the organics industry, which continues to fund research and advocacy to cast doubt on the overwhelming scientific consensus that genetic modification of food causes no harm to human health? Is that not Merchants of Doubt behavior by a business interest to protect its profits? I recently posed that question to Naomi Oreskes, co-author of the book Merchants of Doubt. She acknowledged, hesitantly, that it might be.

What about the researchers and academics who publish papers, invoking the credibility of their expertise and the “peer-reviewed academic literature,” that dishonestly cherry pick and twist the evidence, and flat out lie, specifically to cast doubt on the consensus about the human safety of GMOs? . . . Here’s one recent example, by the widely (and rightly) respected Dr. Sheldon Krimsky [claiming that the consensus on GMO safety is illusory.]

Or how about the overtly dishonest manipulation of the evidence about the human safety of GM foods by Greenpeace and other GM opponents, who investigations have shown are clearly and knowingly fudging the facts to advance their values-based agenda. See William Saletan’s investigation of this in Slate.

In a society that enshrines free speech as a basic right, the answer of how and when to sanction such behavior, without going too far, is not as simple as it might first seem. Investigations into such behavior should tread carefully. And they should target anyone who engages in it, not just the big, bad companies we all love to hate.

Related article:  Viewpoint: Mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods deserves a warning label of its own

Read full, original post: Big Tobacco, Big Oil, and Greenpeace. All Merchants of Doubt That Harm People and the Planet.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Click the link above to read the full, original article.

14 thoughts on “Is Big Organic guilty of ‘Merchants of Doubt’ behavior?”

    • Lets say you were a dairy farmer with Holstein cattle. And the Guernsey cattle dairy farmers organized a campaign to spread fear and unfounded allegations about milk from Holstein cows. This fear campaign included spreading lies about health impacts of Holstein milk and pressing for legislation to separate & label your milk. While this label may not explicitly state harm, it certainly could be used as a target to further spread unfounded fear about your milk.

      Don’t you think you’d see some harm in that?

      • For sure.
        But that seems so very common these days. I would say that’s a lot of what advertising is. Just lies and emotional manipulation to get you to buy one thing over another (or, more preferable, over buying nothing).

        Worse I think would be if the Guernsey cattle people gave money to the mayor in exchange for something that gave them an unfair advantage over the Holstein dairy farmers. But somehow that is considered “fair”.

        • I don’t think that’s the same as “marketing”. It’s one thing to puff up your own product. It’s another entirely to propagate lies about your competition and push for legislation that has the potential to unfairly stigmatize them.

          • GM just is.
            Judgements about it one way or another are all false.
            Science is above all that right?

            What about all those who decry sugary drinks? Governments and health organizations actually petition against drinking them.

          • I said that it has the “potential” to stigmatize. I understand that at the individual consumer level a consumer can decide whether or not that label means anything more than just factual information.

            But the point I was making is that by having this label, you now have a target for your competition to further spread misinformation & fear… not about a technology in general… but about YOUR product because it contains that technology.

            Do you really think that there aren’t organizations just waiting to do this? If so I’d submit that you’re being naive.

            But the point is… and I think you’d agree.. that the potential is there. So, if you’re a person who sells Holstein milk (in our example) why would you want to take that risk? Wouldn’t you rather make that decision for yourself?

          • I 100% agree there are organizations, companies, or whoever that will use this information to their benefit. That’s the nature of business wouldn’t you say? Since when does anyone expect honesty and ethical behavior from a business anymore?
            There is nowhere I can see where these sorts of things are more than just lip service. “Greed is good”, right?

            If anyone did want to change things, GMO labels wouldn’t be anywhere near the top of the list as far as where to start.

            But I think policy should be “above” the lies, deceit, emotions and manipulation. That would be to give factual information as requested (in my opinion). That’s what science is, factual data and information.

          • Greed is due to a feeling of lack. It’s a sickness. Even a sickness can bring you “good things” such as appreciation for health next time you have it, compassion from someone who cares for you or to help you realize that you are a temporary being and that all things must cease to exist.

            The feeling that you need something will never be satiated by accumulation of things or experiences. At it’s extreme, it causes much suffering in the world.
            It only can be overcome through realization that you are complete and lack nothing.
            Differentiated of course from the desire for basic human needs like air to breath and water to drink.

          • You could easily say that a drive to achieve more is also greed. But the point is…regardless of what you call it, it can result in good things happening just like it can result in bad.

          • “You could easily say that a drive to achieve more is also greed.”
            Definitely true.

            The difference may be in the intention behind the drive. If the intention is to fill a need, you may find your life is a never ending treadmill.
            If the intention is to better yourself, you will ultimately reach the same conclusion as that of all major religions and all “great” people in history. There is nothing you need beyond some very basic things.

            I would argue that actions which arise from a solid foundation of peace, joy and compassion will create more “positive” results for yourself, your family and the world. This solid foundation is the realization that you are perfect as you are. If you choose to look, you will see that you have been given so much for free and that the gifts in your life greatly outnumber any sort of needs you think you have.

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