This morning's New York Times contains an article titled How I Got Converted to G.M.O. Food. The article goes on to highlight the statement "We can't deny the science: Biotech is safe." I, on the other hand, have a different opinion, and I thought it worth mentioning here since this is a blog about healthy eating.
So, let's talk about the science. Interestingly, Nicholas Kristof in the same edition of The New York Times writes in his column today that statistically speaking, the average person in the United States has one testicle and one ovary. Think about that for a second. Do you know anybody who has both one testicle and one ovary and no less or more of either? I didn't think so. I don't either. The average male has two testicles and the average female has two ovaries. But in a population of both males and females that works out to one of each for each person.
Why mention that? Well, while Kristof was writing about something else entirely, it brings up the point about how easy it is to distort what science really says. It's easy to make a scientific or statistical statement to convince people of an argument, as that example shows. And on subjects more foreign to us than our genitalia, we may not see how easily we're being manipulated.
Of course, I'm not saying that the writer of the New York Times piece on GMOs is trying to manipulate us in any way. But I will just point out that the last two sentences of his article are very clear in stating, "We need this technology. We must not let the green movement stand in its way." Is there any doubt where that writer stands or on whose side is he aligned? Or on what he wants us to believe?
While reading the article I was mostly interested in what he had to say about GMOs and our health. There were other arguments that he had focused on as well around poverty and crop yield, which I won't go into.
One of the author's points was that there was a consensus among scientists regarding GMO foods. And in fact, the author states that the consensus is equivalent to the consensus around climate change, and therefore, it didn't make sense to him to accept one consensus and reject the other. I would agree with that kind of logic if the playing fields were otherwise level. However, I believe that what we may be looking at here is similar to the one testicle and one ovary trickery.
That is, in climate change, I believe the science is much more extensive and complete. But in the case of genetically modified foods, I think it's anything but complete. How do I know this? Well, Dr. Thomas Campbell, MD mentions in his book The Campbell Plan that in a 2009 Scientific American editorial, it was stated that when someone buys a genetically modified seed, they are bound by an agreement with the maker of the seed to not use it in any independent research.
Whoa! Wait a minute. If I buy GMO seed, what that is saying is that I can't use it for any research! And that's a legal agreement that is made and upholdable in a court of law? Well, what that says to me is that any scientific research that is done on GMO seeds all has to be done by or under the approval of the company that made the seed. And we all know who that company is, right?
So, it seems deceptive to me to base our understanding of the current health benefits and concerns of GMO products on the science since the science appears to be one-sided at this point. Of course, a consensus of scientists will agree that there is no scientific evidence against GMOs. Scientists base their opinions on peer-reviewed research that is published in scientific journals, and if there is no independent peer-reviewed research published, then scientists have nothing to base any other opinion on.
So, let's not be fooled by arguments like the one that says the average person has one testicle and one ovary. Let's look beyond that and realize that we don't know right now what the impacts on our health are from genetically modified foods. At least that's my opinion. From what I have read, the research is not being independently performed. And given how long it can take adverse health conditions to arise, and given the difficulties of nutritional science anyway, I don't believe the research into the health effects of specific genetically modified foods is necessarily even possible at this point.
So, for me anyway, and those I care about, I prefer to stay away from GMO foods until they can be sufficiently and independently shown to not be a health hazard to us. And from what I understand, that research has not been done.