Science report card: Examining Bernie Sanders views on GMOs, alternative medicine

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Photo by Phil Roeder/Flickr

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

“For those of us who believe in science, you simply cannot ignore what the scientific community is saying almost unanimously.”

That tweet from presidential candidate Bernie Sanders could have made me #FeelTheBern.

. . . .

But Sanders isn’t as pro-science as that tweet suggests. While his position on the existence of climate change is certainly in line with most climate scientists, his agricultural and climate change policies, as well as his views on alternative medicine, aren’t really informed by science. . . Sanders is as erratic in his belief in science as everyone else and, yes, that includes progressives. Progressives love to cast themselves as the smarter, more forward-thinking, science-minded wing of the electorate, but they’re as inconsistent in their regard for science as the so-called “anti-science” right.

. . . .

. . . . He wants to increase agricultural production from small farms . . . While small farms are obviously a part of the agricultural landscape, an agricultural policy focused primarily on local farming is neither sustainable nor realistic given the demands of our massive and diverse country. Moreover, there are real benefits to science-based and high-tech crop and farming solutions, but Sanders and many other progressives refuse to consider them. . . .

When it comes to the safety of biotechnology and transgenic crops, Sanders rejects scientific consensus completely. He supports labeling GMO foods. . .and continues to validate fears about GMOs . . . Even though the scientific consensus on GMO safety is equivalent to the consensus on climate change, Sanders and many other progressives have no problem ignoring it.

. . . .

. . . [P]rogressives and Sanders supporters need to confront regressive anti-science thinking in the progressive movement. Anti-GMO and anti-nuclear policies aren’t forward thinking, evidence-based policy solutions.

Read full, original post: Bernie Sanders Isn’t Pro-Science (and Neither Are Most Progressives)

  • First Officer

    Will somebody give us a definition of what is a small farm? The maximium size, and why would 4 small mutually bordering farms in a square suddenly be evil if the fences were removed between them?

    • agscienceliterate

      Maybe he means small farms that are “organic.” For this reason, among others, he does not have my vote.

      • Alan David

        single issue voter over here^^^

        Basically the bane of American politics.

        • ThatSkepticGuy

          There’s hundreds of other reasons not to vote for him, namely that his ideas about economics and politics are just as bunk as his scientific ones.

    • hyperzombie

      The more fences you have the less “Monsanto Fumes” will get on your farm…Just a guess.

  • Larkin Curtis Hannah

    I am extremely disappointed in Sanders’ stand on GMO labeling. I was going to support him, but now I send money to Clinton. Sanders is no different than Trump in exploiting people’s anger and fears.

    • Diana Pena

      You’re gonna fund a shill like Hillary?

      • Larkin Curtis Hannah

        Not perfect but my best choice.

    • Cait W

      I agree with you, but please don’t say Bernie is no different from Trump. He is the senator for Vermont, and, having lived there for a year, I can tell from experience just how big the anti-GMO movement is there. Vermont is largely a state of white, rich, liberals who, for the most part, can afford organic produce without a second thought and might have difficulty relating to the kind of poverty I’ve seen living the rest of my life in Michigan.

      Bernie’s position on GMOS, like his positions on guns, is affected by the people he represents, and, as such he comes into this argument from a biased background. That doesn’t excuse him rejecting science, but (and here’s where I finally get to my point), it still doesn’t put him anywhere near the racist, sexist, bigoted, dangerous demagogue that Trump is.

      Bernie is wrong here. Trump is wrong or lying on nearly everything he says. And I believe that, if we approach Bernie calmly and rationally, he will listen to us, or at least give us time- especially if he wins and winds up representing all Americans, not just Vermonters. Trump will never do any such thing. I, too, take this as a point against him (and thus towards Hillary), but taking arguments to extremes is part of the reason for this horrifying mess we’re facing this election.

      • agscienceliterate

        Hillary supports science behind biotech.
        The only way that Bernie is similar to Trump is that both of them have support from voters who believe they are disenfranchised by a “corrupt” system, and rather than participate in democracy, they only see themselves voting against what they believe is “corrupt corporate” interests. I do not agree, but I understand this argument. Bernie, with one wave of his hand, says unequivocally he is against fracking, and for labeling. He knows squat about either one. So far, he has not shown that he accepts science, except in one area, and that is only in the area of climate change. Not good enuf, ole Bern.

      • Larkin Curtis Hannah

        Hi Cait,
        I don’t think we have any fundamental differences. I would choose Sanders over the Donald in a heart beat. I was only pointing out that they both exploit the fear and anger of their followers. I should have mentioned that they both like to play the “blame game” similar to the game the organic industry plays with Monsanto. This approach has traction in all three instances.
        I truly believe Sanders is just appealing to his group. I would hope he relies on science if he makes it to the white house.
        Personally I am as appalled by labeling foods as I am by labeling water fountains. Food labeling is just another step towards demonizing GMO foods. I find this whole movement based simply on trying to increase the market share of organic foods and I find it morally reprehensible. Bernie not only goes along with it but apparently has bought it hook line and sinker. In the end, foods, like people, should be judged on their intrinsic merit and not their genetic origin.

        Curt

      • Cal

        i don’t agree with you on a couple of things you have expressed. first, while anyone starts to notice things after a year living in one place, i don’t appreciate you generalizing the majority of vermonters as rich and liberal. michigan and vermont are different states, with different productions. agriculture is one of the most important industries that drives vermont. we are a farming state and we are a small state. you are right about anti-GMO being a movement here, but it’s because food is important to vermonters, not because we “can afford organic produce without a second thought” believe me, i give it plenty of thoughts. i’m not going to say anything concrete about michigan because i have not been there before and only know census bureau statistics, but i will say that there is poverty in vermont, too. i’m not trying to take away from what michigan has, which i can imagine is probably more pronounced due to the population and the fact that it is more industrialized than vermont, but i’d just like you to know that we’re not all “rich” and we’re not all liberals. do you ever see the “take back vermont” signs when you’re driving around? we have a fair share of republicans, too and i’m honestly surprised you haven’t met them.

        i so agree with you that bernie has to represent all americans. i just don’t think that siding with gmos is the right way to do that. organic food is more expensive because gmos are on the market but the majority of gmo products do not scream sustainability. for example, farmers of monsanto crops cannot save the seeds of their best crops for the next season and have to buy more seeds from monsanto every year. i just find a huge flaw in the sustainability of that. organic crops can be produced with pesticides but the difference between gmo crops and organic crops is that the pesticides from organic crops don’t contain any synthetic chemicals, while companies like monsanto are noted to have harmful impacts on the environment around them due to their herbicides/pesticides. it’s difficult for me to trust that monsanto will be able to feed america, especially since some of their chemicals have been linked to the dying honey bee population. and now they’re going to make possibly even more dangerous chemicals to combat weeds and other insects, while also stimulating honey bee health? messing with crops is one thing, but when your chemicals start to effect the fragile environment of honey bees and other insects, it will not end well for anyone. yeah, bugs effect crop production rates but we shouldn’t put toxins out there to kill them. i mean, these chemicals that are meant to kill bugs and weeds are put on the crops that you eat. doesn’t that worry you a little? they are still investigating the longterm effects of agent orange which for me is a big red flag. i’m not against science; i know science has taught us better than to undeniably believe one thing. monsanto’s gmos haven’t been around that long and agent orange was dumped on vietnam nearly fifty years ago, yet they’re still studying its’ effects.

        i don’t belive bernie’s wrong here. i don’t see anything wrong with labeling gmos. people deserve to know. if there’s nothing wrong with gmos and they’re perfectly safe, that’s great. but to not tell people what’s in their food, and to sue our small state of vermont for requiring it, is one of the shittiest things a company can do.

        my problem with monsanto is their chemicals and ethics; then i wind up wondering if their chemicals are as risky as their ethics…how can i trust that these gmos have truly been tested?

        in conclusion, it’s much easier to grow your own food.

        • agscienceliterate

          Wrong. Any farmer that buys seeds on a contract, and not just from Monsanto, cannot save those seeds. Seeds have been patented since 1930, including organic. And wrong again — farmers don’t “have” to buy seeds from any particular company, and buy different types all the time. And wrong again about organic “natural” pesticides being better for the environment. And no, you do not have the right to force labels that are misleading and pro-organic industry driven, on my food. You don’t require labeling for other processes, like mutagenesis (including organic ruby red grapefruit).
          I think you are wise to grow your own food, if you are leery of the established science behind the safety of GE foods. And you definitely should stick to non-GMO certified and organic, given your perspectives.

        • ThatSkepticGuy

          An awful lot of typing that justice amounts to the same old lies.

      • ThatSkepticGuy

        “still doesn’t put him anywhere near the racist, sexist, bigoted, dangerous demagogue that Trump is.”

        No, his totalitarian socialist demagoguery does that, as does the sickening rhetoric with which he incites his supporters to violence, and then blames the targets for their actions.

    • Quinton Beaudry

      You normally elect compulsive liars and criminals ? No wonder you support garbage like this, you can’t think for yourself; and lack the ability to do research. The facts evade you in more topics then one by the sounds of it. There is nothing wrong with labeling GMO’s if you have an actual product, they are just worried their products will fall off the shelves. There is a reason why a lot of countries are banning them. People have a right to know what is in their food. Cretin like you are dangerous!

      • Larkin Curtis Hannah

        Interesting comments. Sorry you are having a bad day. If you want to give me specifics I would be happy to discuss them with you.

      • agscienceliterate

        Why label a process? You support labeling another gene process, mutagenesis? Or just GE? You do not have a right to force irrelevant and misleading labels onto my food. Bullies like you are dangerous.

    • cheatara

      You had me till you said there is no difference between sanders and trump…that’s a huge, factually incorrect, jump there.

      • Larkin Curtis Hannah

        I said Sanders is no different than Trump in exploiting people’s anger and fears. They have vast differences otherwise and I would choose Sanders over Trump in a heart beat

  • Travis Jarratt

    While I know he has unscientific stances on crucial issues, I still believe that his economic plan and healthcare plan are superior enough to warrant a vote.

    I also believe that he is reasonable enough to sit and listen to scientific evidence.

    • Larkin Curtis Hannah

      Let’s hope so.

    • Alan David

      He has differing stances on TWO issues. Are there only two crucial issues in the scientific world?

      • ThatSkepticGuy

        He’s anti-GMO, anti-fracking and wants to fund various alternative medicines with tax dollars.

        That’s three huge, bracketing issues.

    • ThatSkepticGuy

      His economic and healthcare policies are just as bunk. Look what he’s done with the VA.

  • Bill Murphy

    His anti-science views on GMOs and “alternative” medicines are nearly as disappointing as Barrack Obama’s former homophobia was. But like Obama, he’s an extremely bright guy, and like Obama, I expect him to ultimately change his views when he takes a closer look at the evidence.

    • Joey

      If he looks at the evidence. It is understandable why people would be skeptical of GMOs, given the history of what some big corporations have done to hide risk in other industries (lead, tobacco) even though the science is not on their side this time.

      • First Officer

        Like big corp. Wholefoods, etc, hiding big risk of all organic agricultural system. To wit not enough land and fixed nitrogen to feed us all.

      • ThatSkepticGuy

        Paranoid fear of Corporate Boogeymen is not an understandable justification for rejecting science.

  • Sven B.

    Sanders knows as much about science as he knows about economics.

    • agscienceliterate

      And foreign affairs. Meaning, zero.

      • Alan David

        Yes because more brute force in the Middle East and Arabian peninsula is EXACTLY the kind of foreign policy we need right?

        It worked so well under Bush and Obama.

        • ThatSkepticGuy

          Well, Bernie voted to continuously authorize and fund most of those wars.

    • Alan David

      So global warming isn’t real? Because Sanders believes human contribution to global warming is an epidemic. That’s scientific fact. He’s extremely pro-green, pro-renewable energy, etc.

      Stop generalizing like the cretin you are.

      • ThatSkepticGuy

        So, accepting AGW largely because of the government intervention and subsidies to sham “green” corporate cronies like Solyndra that goes with it excuse him from being wrong about 95% of everything else?

        Stop rationalizing like the cretin you are.

  • Joey

    My biggest concern about Sanders is when he says he supports NASA and science, but then followers it up with a “but”. In this case, the “but” is that he feels we need to spend money on other areas first, meaning he is an old school democrat who will cut NASA, and all the other government science projects in order to help pay for his social programs. While many of his social programs are noble, I personally don’t see the point of paying for college for everyone, if we are not creating a world where their college degrees will matter. Without NASA and science spending, we will not have that world.

    • First Officer

      I hear you but I think guaranteed education through the Associates degree level would be a very good idea. High school level doesn’t cut it in today’s high tech world.

  • Bill Pilacinski

    There’s a lot of speculation here. Do we actually have any evidence, as in official statements and/or positions, on Clinton’s views on GE labeling or safety of GE foods (an actual reference than can be substantiated would be nice)? I know that I was quite disappointed when Michelle Obama touted her organic garden at the White House during the first Obama term.

    • Larkin Curtis Hannah

      Hi Bill, I think I remember Clinton stating her support

      Hope all is well. Curt

  • Deeper

    Sanders is wrong on this issue, but I still support him because for me, the most important issue of all has been to get money out of politics.

    • ThatSkepticGuy

      So you’re voting for the guy who wants 75% income tax rates and whom bases his GMO stance on how much Ben & Jerry’s is donating to him.

  • Quinton Beaudry

    Even the UN and other big agencies like WHO are standing up and releasing details on their findings. GMO’s are not nutritious and they are indeed carcinogenic. This report card gets a Z- for lack of facts. I wish it was illegal to push false facts…. Enjoy your pesticides cretin.. Natural selection I guess….

    • Jason

      Where on earth is this coming from?? Sources, please? The WHO has said no such thing.

      • JP

        Yeah, I’d like to see sources on that. Methinks this person is confusing glyphosate for GMOs, the entire WHO for IARC and carcinogenic for “probably carcinogenic” for industrial applicators by the IARC’s rather interesting standards.

    • agscienceliterate

      IARC, not WHO. And same “probability” as sunlight and coffee. Your report card gets rejected altogether. You are a confused person, but that can be remedied, if you get over your attitude first. You flunk. As Trump would say, “You’re fired.”

    • Marty

      Watch out folks Tulip Saddiq & Rose Hamid are using trolls setting up bogus accounts and bashing Trump expose the trolls 42 so far.

  • Neoprogressive

    While I don’t have a problem with GMO technology, if people want to know if their food is derived from it, I have no particular qualms with that. It’s not as if Sanders is advocating banning GMO foods and it doesn’t seem to be a big focus for him. Cut him a little slack.