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Anti-vaccers, climate change deniers, and anti-GMO activists are all the same

Posted on 31 May 2017 by Guest Author

I imagine that quite a few people were upset by the title for this post, so let me explain what I mean, and please hear me out before you sharpen your pitchforks. The arguments used by all three of these groups, and indeed by science deniers more generally, are all fundamentally the same. In other words, the underlying logical structure is identical for the arguments used in support of all three of these positions. Thus, it is logically inconsistent to criticize one of these positions while embracing another.

You see, what I have observed over the past few years of blogging is that very few people like to think of themselves as “anti-science” or as a “science denier.” Those people certainly exist, and I do encounter them, but most of the people who visit my blog/page claim to love science…at least until it disagrees with their ideology. This puts them in a difficult position, because when a scientific result conflicts with their beliefs, they have to find some excuse or justification for why they don’t accept the results of science on that particular topic, and what I see over and over again is that everyone falls back on exactly the same excuses, regardless of what anti-science position they are trying to defend. For example, on several occasions, I have seen people criticize anti-vaccers for appealing to the authority of a few fringe “experts.” Then, a few threads later, I see those same people appealing to the authority of a few fringe experts on topics like climate change and GMOs. Similarly, I see people ridicule climate change deniers for thinking that all climatologists have been bought off, but when the topic shifts to GMOs, suddenly those same people start claiming that Monsanto has bought off all of the world’s genetic engineers/food scientists. Do you see what I am getting it? You can’t criticize someone for using a particular line of reasoning, then turn around and use that same line of reasoning to support your own particular form of science denial. That’s not logically consistent, and it’s not how science operates. Science is a method. It either works or it doesn’t, and you can’t cherry-pick when to accept it.

I suspect that people are becoming more upset with me, rather than less upset, so if you are currently unhappy with me, then I want you to stop and carefully think about this before you read any further. I’m not attacking you, I’m not even ridiculing you, but I am trying to help you think rationally and consistently. If you truly love science, rather than simply liking it when it agrees with your preconceptions, then you should hear me out. You should take a good look at the arguments and examples that I am going to present, and you should make sure that you are actually being rational and logically consistent. I also want to clarify that I don’t think people who believe these views are unintelligent or even consciously denying science. As I’ve previously discussed, I used to be a creationist and a climate change denier, so I know first-hand just how easy it is for ideology to cloud your judgement and make you think that you are being rational, when you are actually just denying reality.

anti-vaccers anti-vaxxers all the same science denial cliamte change global warming GMOs

It’s not about the evidence

Before I go any further, I need to make it explicitly clear that none of these positions exist because of any actual scientific evidence supporting them. In every case, they are soundly defeated by a veritable mountain of consistent scientific results. On GMOs, for example, over 1,700 studies have been conducted, and they failed to find any evidence that GMOs are worse than traditional crops for either human health or the environment, and in some cases, they are better (Nicolia et al. 2013; also see Sanvido et al. 2006Snell et al. 2012Van Eenennaam and Young. 2014, and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine report 2016). This is, of course, also the conclusion that nearly 300 scientific organizations reached after reviewing the data.

Climate change is the same story. Because of carbon isotopes, we know that we have greatly increased the COin the atmosphere (Bohm et al. 2002Ghosh and Brand 2003Wei et al. 2009), and thanks to satellite measurements, we know that our CO2 is increasing the amount of heat energy that the earth’s atmosphere traps (Harries et al. 2001Griggs and Harries 2007). Further, studies of past climate clearly show that CO2 is a major driver of climate change (Lorius et al. 1990Tripati et al. 2009Shakun et al. 2012), and we have carefully studied the sun, volcanic emissions, Milankovitch cycles, etc. and none of them can explain the current warming, but including our greenhouse gasses in the analyses does explain the warming (Stott et al. 2001Meehl, et al. 2004Allen et al. 2006Wild et al. 2007Lockwood and Frohlich 20072008Lean and Rind 2008Foster and Rahmstorf 2011Imbers et al. 2014). Indeed, literally thousands of studies have all converged on the conclusion that we are causing the planet to warm, and peer-reviewed studies to the contrary are virtually non-existent (but see the next major point below). As a result, this is another topic that enjoys an extremely strong consensus among actual experts.

Similarly, vaccines have been studied thousands of times and have been shown to be extremely safe and effective. Indeed, they are the most well-studied treatment in medical history, and you can find trials that looked at pretty much whatever particular adverse event you are interested in. There are, for example, numerous studies that failed to find any evidence that vaccines cause autism, including a meta-analysis with over 1.2 million children (Taylor et al. 2014). There are studies showing that vaccines don’t cause SIDs (Hoffman et al. 1987Griffin et al. 1988Mitchell et al. 1995Fleming et al. 2001Vennemann et al. 2007a; Vennemann et al. 2007b), studies showing that they don’t cause asthma or allergies (Schmitz et al. 2011Grabenhenrich et al. 2014), studies showing that the flu vaccine doesn’t increase fetal or infant deaths (Mak et al. 2008Pasternak et al. 2012aPasternak et al. 2012bFell et al. 2012Haberg et al. 2013), etc. (you can find a non-exhaustive  list of a bunch of other safety trials here).

Image via The Credible Hulk

My point here is simple: all of these topics have been extremely well studied, and they are as close to settled as science ever comes. Anyone who holds one of these positions is denying a massive body of evidence, which is why I am comfortable with calling them science deniers. This also creates the dilemma that I will focus the rest of the post on. Namely, most of the people who hold these positions don’t want to be considered science deniers, so they have to come up with some excuse for rejecting science, and interestingly, they all seem to have converged on the same excuses.

Note: Inevitably on these topics, when faced with thousands of studies, people start shifting the goal posts and going down ever narrowing side-tangents, but the reality is that these topics are so well studied, that even if you want to go down a ridiculously specific side topic, in the majority of cases, there are still studies on that. So, before you comment with something to the effect of, “but what about…” or “the real issue is…” check and make sure that it hasn’t been studied, because odds are that it has.

  Cherry-picking small, poorly conducted studies

In an attempt to counter these mountains of evidence, many people rely on cherry-picking a handful of studies that appear to support their position, but this is problematic for a number of reasons. First, these topics have been studied so many times, that it is almost inevitable that there will be a handful of studies that reached a false conclusion just by chance (even if the studies were conducted flawlessly). This is a simple by-product of the statistical tests that we use (details here). Further, it is blatantly obvious that not all studies are equal. Bad research does sometimes get published. So, whenever you approach a scientific topic, you always have to look for a consensus among studies, rather than just cherry-picking the ones that agree with. This is why systematic reviews and meta-analyses (like the ones that I cited earlier) are so useful. They condense the results of many papers into a single work so that you can see the overarching trends, rather than being deceived by the statistical outliers.

Additionally, you need to critically examine a study before you accept it. Ask yourself questions like, did it have a large sample size? Was it controlled properly? Did it use a robust design? Did it use the appropriate statistical tests? Was it published in a reputable journal? etc. These are really important questions, and they are questions that anti-vaccers, climate change deniers, and GMO opponents rarely ask. Indeed, these positions are famous for citing truly horrible studies. Just in the past few weeks, for example, anti-vax websites were singing the praises of a “new” study that claimed to show that vaccinates were harmful, but in reality, the study was not set up correctly, it did not use the correct analyses, and it was so terrible that it was quickly retracted (details here). Further, that is far from a one-off event. Sherri Tenpenny (one of the leaders of the anti-vaccine movement) created an online “library” that exists for the express purpose of cherry-picking anti-vaccine studies for you, that way you can just see the studies that agree with you, without having to be bothered with the mountain of high quality studies that disagree with you (details here). Indeed, she makes no attempt to hide the fact that her site exists to help you find information that confirms your biases rather than trying to figure out what is true. For example, one of her pages advertising her site says (the weird capitalization was in the original),

“Convinced that Vaccines are Unsafe but Need Scientific Proof? You need information that gives you ‘The Other Side of the Story.’”

Similarly, on the topic of autism, anti-vaccers eagerly share lists of 100+ papers that supposedly show that vaccines cause autism, but as I explained at length here, many of those papers aren’t on autism or aren’t on vaccines, and the ones that are on topic all used small samples sizes and weak designs that can’t establish causation. In contrast, there are several large cross-section and cohort studies and even a meta-analysis with over 1.2 million children, all of which consistently failed to find any evidence that vaccines cause autism.

Click here to read the rest from Logic of Science

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 55:

  1. The difference between climate-denial and GMO-denial isn't the Science, its the 'Agency'.  Decades of climate denial by Americans and who pays for it?  Some subsistence farmer in India or reef fisherman in the South Pacific.  And they'll pay, in many cases, by dying.  But if you choose to eat organic free-range daisies, that's your problem, and yours alone (vaccines fall somewhere in-between).  GMO is not a Science, it's a technology.  New technologies are often shunned, and sometimes not without reason.  Nobody bought the first automobiles, or dared step foot in the first airplanes.  But I think GMO has a huge future.  Eventually, I think it'll allow people to grow food without pesticides or other chemical applications: it'll be safer than traditionally grown food.  Maybe that's already true.  But I really don't blame people for shunning GMO food.  They pay more, but they also call attention to the fact that when it comes to food, variety is the spice of life.

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  2. There are aspects to the GMO issue that aren't addressed by science.  One is the matter of ownership and for whose benefit the technology is deployed.   Another is choice.  Once deployed non-GMO is no longer a choice that is available to the consumer.   There is a case to be made for GMO technology, but it is a lot like nuclear energy, there is a much higher risk to the society when it is allowed to be done for profit.   Neither of these things is "science".     Like Fracking it can be done safely.  Who controls it?   If the corporations and the profit motive control, then the nation and the society are at risk.     Not scientific arguments at all.     

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  3. The author is presenting a false equivalency. People have ample reason to doubt studies carried out or funded (no matter how remote the connection) by Monsanto or big Pharma, just as there is ample cause to doubt climate change impact studies by Exon or the IEA. Climate change science is "open source": the model is sharing all available data and knowledge and peer review. The model pursued by bigPharma and Monsanto is proprietary and closed: Instead of sharing the available data and knowledge, their model is to guard their secrets and to exploit patents and knowledge as long as possible. The temptation to insert false data/interpretation is much greater in view of the stakes. Knowledge here advances via proprietary investments, not through sharing.

    Software, science, and universities show us that "open source" is the better model: Advances are quicker, quality is higher, and the benefits go to humanity, not just a few owners.

    Certainly with respect to what is a healthy diet the science in not settled, and controversy and parochial proprietary industry interests prevail. There is more than enough reason to have doubts as to the quality of many studies, for instance, about the efficacy and long-term implications of using SSRI's (big Pharma) or statins or ritalin, or a host of other issues, medical and health related. Orthodoxies are still regularly being overturned.

    Having doubts about GMO food is not science denial: One can readily acknowledge that GMO seeds produce crops, and that the crops are not toxic or possess commercial advantages, and still have doubts about the wisdom of interference in very complex ecologies. The science is far from complete. Climate change denialistas, on the other hand, literally doubt the physics of CO² and the temperature measurements.

    There is every reason to think that GMO crops reduce resiliency, increase the demand for pesticides and fertilizer, and impoverish the soil. There are enough parties with expertise who argue that long-term sustainability implies moving away from industrial agriculture towards more ecologically balanced approaches.

    Mankind has introduced hundreds of thousands of new compounds to the environment. Few of these have been given a clean bill of health, and even fewer have been studied exhaustively for long term impacts. Recent history is rife with stories about compounds which turned out to have negative effects that only came to light in often not very subtle ways after the public had been assured that all is well.

    There is every reason to doubt our complete understanding of the interaction between certain compounds or food stuffs with human subects that each have their individual biome and flora and unique immune system. Of course, denying that starvation/malnutrition is related to the food stuffs ingested would be unreasonable.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] "People have ample reason to doubt studies"

    People are welcome to doubt evidence, but they are not welcome to deny it.  Om threads of this nature, the rules of evidence and this venue's Comments Policy still apply.  At least as far as "big Pharma" is concerned, published studies are still published studies, subject to replication by others, should they be inclined to spend their research dollars to do so.

    If you have specifics to cite, then support them with links to such credible evidence.  Otherwise, much of your comment falls under the Sloganeering section of the Comments Policy (i.e., "The science is far from complete").

    Note that this applies equally to all participants on this thread.

  4. I don't know who wrote this but just about everything they have said about people who oppose the unrestricted use of GMOs is wrong. One just has to look at climate change deniers and GMO apologists to see that they are cut from the same cloth and are often the same people e.g. Matt Ridley, Dennis Avery et al.

    To claim that there are no papers showing deleterious health effects from eating GMOs is just a blatant lie. There are a number of papers showing exactly that. However, the GMO apologists come out in force using ad hominem comments and lies to discredit the scientists producing those reports. One can start off by reading up on the treatment of Arpad Pusztai at the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen Scotland to find the anti-science virulence aimed at a respected scientist whose results showed negative health effects.

    Skeptical Science deserves better than the nonsense written by that anonymous poster. GMO apologists are exactly the same as AGW deniers and use the same tactics.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] "There are a number of papers showing exactly that"

    Feel free to cite them, then.  Otherwise, please comport and construct your comments in accordance with this venue's Comments Policy and subject matter relevant to the OP of this thread.

    "GMO apologists come out in force using ad hominem comments"

    All participants in this venue are subject to this venue's Comments Policy.  yes, even members of the author team.

  5. "Anti-vaccers, climate change deniers, and anti-GMO activists are all the same"

    hence the joke

    a climate change denier, Agenda 21 conspiracy theorist, Anti Vaxxer and 911 twoofer walk into a bar

    he orders a drink !!!!

    the technical term is "crank magnatism" - it has a wiki page

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  6. Well said in the main. I have often observed anti science people using the same range of logically flawed arguments. It's poor quality scepticism, known as sophistry,  as opposed to a more penetrating and healthy, rational scepticism. At the risk of stating the obvious, we do need some healthy and logical scepticism.

    Certainly the case for agw climate change and the safety of vaccines is well supported by the weight of evidence. The remaining scepticism is more denialism, and completey illogical.

    However I do have some lingering doubts about gmo crops and whether testing on safety is adequate, and also testing on yeilds etc. When testing is done by industry, they do cheat at times, possibly due to pressures of keeping companies profitable. In comparison scientists employed by government agencies are in my view less likely to be under cost pressures to find certain results.

    The so called independent testing of gmo crops appears to be minimal, or not as independent as often claimed from what I have read. I'm not saying it's an evil conspiracy or corrupted, but we better be really sure we get gmo's right, because a hidden problem could affect billions of people, and it will be hard to go back to traditional crops. Testing needs to be 'extremely' independent and rigorous.

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  7. I would have to agree here with the commenters objecting to a parallel with anti-GMO activism.

    Genetic Engineering technology is a tool. Like all tools, it can be put to good use or bad. In the case of medicine more often than not good use. But in agriculture, more often than not bad use. I would like to see better use of the tech. Sadly though we generally don't see it, partly because of the plutocrasy.

    That's the big difference between the two. The big money is on Climate Denial and GMOs. Often the same money too, as by far the majority of plant GMOs were designed for use in fossil fuel guzzling industrialized AG models of production.

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  8. I object to GMO's not because of the Science but because of the ridiclious nature of IP and Patent law.   I don't see how that's the same as vax and climate denial ?

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  9. Seems like we hit a raw nerve in including GMO opposition in this group. People seem to completely miss the point, and resort to motivated reasoning to insist 'skepticism' about GMOs is not the same. Well it is EXACTLY the same for several reasons nicely illustrated in the above comments:

    #2 bjchip: "There are aspects to the GMO issue that aren't addressed by science. One is the matter of ownership and for whose benefit the technology is deployed."

    this is not unique to GE crops; almost all seeds purchased by farmers are patented and licensed.

    "Once deployed non-GMO is no longer a choice that is available to the consumer."

    how?!? it's not like these plants will take over the world; agricultural varieties fare notoriously poorly without the extra care from farmers. They will not turn into weeds just because they have a few pest resistant genes inserted.

    #3 JWRebel: “People have ample reason to doubt studies carried out or funded (no matter how remote the connection) by Monsanto or big Pharma, just as there is ample cause to doubt climate change impact studies by Exon or the IEA. . Climate change science is "open source": the model is sharing all available data and knowledge and peer review. The model pursued by bigPharma and Monsanto is proprietary and closed: Instead of sharing the available data and knowledge, their model is to guard their secrets and to exploit patents and knowledge as long as possible.”

    wait, either we can see the studies published in order to doubt them, or they are closed and hidden and we don’t have anything to critique

    “with respect to what is a healthy diet the science in not settled”

    that is irrelevant, as the GE foods are not different to other varieties. Unless you believe inserting a single gene that codes for glyphosate tolerance somehow affects the whole genome?

    “doubts about the wisdom of interference in very complex ecologies”

    how can most GE crops interfere with ecology though, especially in ways that other varieties don’t? Golden Rice or drought resistant crops will not have any impact on environment.

    “GMO crops reduce resiliency, increase the demand for pesticides and fertilizer, and impoverish the soil”

    now you’re clutching at straws. Define this ‘resilience’, and of what? GE crops actually tend to reduce pesticide and fertilised use, and don’t have a more detrimental effect on soil than other crops.

    #4 “people who oppose the unrestricted use of GMOs is wrong.”

     GE crops are literally the most regulated food industry out there. If traditionally bred crops were subjected to this level of testing probably a good proportion wouldn’t make the cut.

    “To claim that there are no papers showing deleterious health effects from eating GMOs is just a blatant lie”

    every single one of those has turned out to be flawed at best, and literally fraudulent at worst


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  10. I also question the inclusion of anti-GMO activists as a category. While I am a supporter of the development of GMO items, like the many varieties of wheat that Canadian researchers developed through interbreeding, I am skeptical of profit and popularity motivated GMO development.

    If the developer/maker of a GMO crop had to be the owner of every farm it was grown on, and be responsible to ensure the GMO crop did not contaminate any adjacent owner land (with very steep penalties if cntamination occurred), and suffer any lack of actual economic merit (rather than just pocket the profit from the seeds and the chemicals it is designed to work with), then there may be less reason to be skeptical of GMO development.

    Organic crop growers can be disqualified from that desired classification if their crop is "potentially" contaminated by a GMO. Yet the laws of Free Trade have been globally abused to penalize a farmer whose field has been contaminated, claiming the farmer stole the legally protected GMO item.

    Actually, it is probably necessary to deem GMO development to be a public service, not allowed to be owned by any entity or nation (not allowed to be pursued for profit). There would still be concerns about the true safety of the Globally collectively Government funded University researched and developed items interacting with "all of nature", something that is virtually impossible to test in advance of releasing it (similar to the way it is not possible to test run a global anti-warming system).

    Humans really need to stop playing around with artificial creations and focus on getting better at understanding the real world that exists (and try to re-establish aspects of the environment and robust diversity of living things that human artificial industrial over-development in the wrong directions has unintentionally compromised or eliminated), and collectively figure out the diversity of regionally specific ways humans can best sustainably be a part of this amazing planet.

    Technological developments may create perceptions of prosperity and opportunity. But their development have failed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (a developed better understanding that has significant merit as the basis for determining what is acceptable and what needs to be discouraged, though it can still be improved). It is time to accept that "freer pursuit of popularity and profitability will develop sustainable good things making the future better" is flawed economic thinking.

    Global GDP and other measures of wealth have grown faster than global population. And there is more than enough food produced for the entire current population to eat a nutritious adequate diet. Yet many people still suffer a horrible brief existence. And the ability of pursuers of profit to create new artificial GMO foods will not change that. The required change is unlikely to occur if profitability and popularity remain as the basis for justifying an action (a related example of the problem of profitability and popularity is that plastic debris in the oceans would never be cleaned up unless someone can make a profit from doing the clean-up. Popularity has limited the clean up to locations where it bothers wealthy people.).

    The games humans play need to change into ones that robustly support the disruptive changes required to bring about the Sustainable Development Goals. Concurrent action is required on all of them in every part of the planet, including actions on climate change and the elimination of poverty, even if actions contrary to those goals are temporarily regionally profitable or if pursuing the goals is regionally temporarily unpopular.

    Popularity and profitability clearly need to be kept from damaging or interfering with humanity's advance to a better future. And pursuers of popularity and profitability any way they can get away with clearly cannot be relied on to make that happen. Unhelpful influence has to be separated from leadership (leadership is about deciding what to encourage and what to discourage, in business and government).

    This climate science issue exposes the requirement for disruptive change that makes real science and constantly improved understanding Win everywhere, the sooner the better.

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  11. I wondered how long it would take for a GMO apologist to show up. He just shows that GMO apologists act in the same way as AGW deniers. They can't provide any evidence but use ad hominem comments and use of the F word fraud and fraudulent. I wish they would actually show how Arpad Pusztai's work is fraudulent. He was a well-respected scientist and was chosen with two other groups to set up safety protocols for GMO organisms by the UK Government.
    Some of the anti-science tactics of the GMO shills and apologists can be found here:


    There is plenty of evidence of fraud in the testing of chemicals and pesticides, all paid for by the companies producing the tested products. Check out the history of Industrial Bio-Test Laboratories and Craven Laboratories whose pricipals were sent to jail for fraud. To compare respected scientsts with those criminals just shows how low the GMO apologists will go.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB]  Inflammatory rhetoric snipped.  Please comport and construct all comments in accordance with this venue's Comments Policy.

    Also, please link citations as I have done for you; thanks!

  12. I am against GMOs and all for taking climate action. Am I reproaching climate change deniers for using arguments that I use against GMOs ? I don't think so.

    I don’t think that all genetic scientists in the world are bought off by Monsanto, however I am convinced that studies funded by Monsanto are not neutral. Studies funded by industries never are, this has become clear from numerous examples from the past.

    A similar argument in the climate debate is not that climate scientists have been bought off, but that climate change deniers have been bought off by the fossil fuel industry. After all, who would buy off thousands of climate scientists to come up with a false global warming story, and where would the money come from ? There is a renewables industry now but there was scarcely one 20 years ago, so they wouldn’t have the money to pay for a “big scam” like that. The fossil fuel industry, on the other hand is the biggest in the world, worth about 5 trillion dollars. Denialist think thanks have been proven to be sponsored by fossil fuel companies.

    My main objection against GMOs is: agriculture is the most decentralized industry on earth. Anyone with a couple of seeds can grow food, and that fact is the best protection against famine. Corporations like Monsanto want to monopolize this industry, and they do that by pushing patented seeds on the market. In the end every farmer would have to pay Monsanto, year after year, just for the right to sow a crop.

    Once GMOs are widespread, nothing can prevent cross-breeding. Natural crops will get genetically contaminated, and this process is irreversible. Eventually farmers won’t even have the choice anymore to grow natural crops. So giving some farmers the freedom to use GMOs is taking the freedom of others away to use uncontaminated seeds.

    Am I using invalid arguments ?

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB]  Sloganeering snipped.  Please revue this venue's Comments Policy.  Thanks!

  13. @bvangerven and others,

    Yes, you are using invalid arguments. What most people seem to not know is that new varieties made through conventional breeding techniques are usually protected by IPR, too. In fact, the so-called PVRs (plant variety rights) are often of longer(!) duration than the protection of GMOs, which can only be patented. Contamination of "natural crops" by these new varieties will also take place.

    In other words, the objections to GMOs offered here are actually not objections to GMOs.

    Finally, to the best of my knowledge GMOs have to be tested for safety, whereas those new plant varieties produced through conventional breeding do not (maybe there are some countries where it is required? Anyone know?). That is, the potential toxicity of GMOs may very well apply to, and maybe to an even larger extent, to those non-GMO new varieties, but we don't know, because they need not be tested for safety!

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  14. Okay, explain this:  I've been drinking cheap beer for 50 years.  Walk into any store today and the cheapest beer is mostly coors, busch, miller, etc.  About three years ago, I started noticing that when I drink cheap beer, I suffer from anal wetness.  That's right! I dirty my pants with liquified feces.   Not a lot, maybe a teaspoon, but enough to keep me out of the public until I have a shower.   I never had this problem before (I'm 74), so I talk to my guy friends about it and viola! They (most of them) have the same problem with cheap beer.  We all laugh about it and most of us have stopped buying cheap beer although sometimes you try a new cheap beer on the premise that maybe it won't make you defecate in your pants, but some do, some don't.  Then a couple of us science types delve into what the cheap beer companies are using for their brew and what do we discover?  Cheap beer is cheap because it containes GMO grains!!! and it has been being made with GMO grains for about the last three years!!!  Can you imagine?  No Sh--!   GMO beer is cheaper to make so its cheaper to buy.  So if GMO are "safe" for whom?  If GMO beer makes my underwear "distasteful" what else is it doing to my body?  Nobody knows.  And "Nobody" includes the scientists that are telling us that GMOs are "safe".

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Your entire comment devolves to an argument from your personal incredulity.  Please read this venue's Comments Policy and construct future comments to comply with it.  Thanks!

  15. swampfoxh... Surely you grasp that your personal experience cannot possibly be validated. You're coming to sweeping conclusions based on one data point: You.

    It would require a full study involving 100's, and preferably 1000's, of subjects over many years to see if there was any validity to your claim.

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  16. From a scientific standpoint, there is little in GMO food that causes me alarm.  If one identifies a problem, like vitamin A deficiency in the far East, and solves it with a GMO rice that makes extra carotine?  Problem solved, hurray!  In a similar vein, if I had a dollar for everyone I've encountered who says nuclear power is "unsafe", I'd have hundreds of dollars for sure.  Yet in order to talk safety, you have to have some idea what the real risks are.  The actual damage caused by TMI-2, Chernobyl, and Fukushima combined, pales in comparison to the carnage of the Bophal, India Union Carbide accident that killed 10,000 people.  Yet people need their chemicals ...

    In a sense, to me anyway, climate science differs from other things people choose to fear.  The Deniers actively reject that there are any risks at all.  Where in other forms of science rejection, people blow all things out of proportion, the anti-AGW folk seem intent on keeping the science all bottled up.

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  17. Need to add a column for Creationists.

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  18. Marco@13,

    I agree. It is the pursuit of limited personal benefit by the people developing a new plant, GMO or Otherwise, that is the problem. And no amount of safety testing will test and expose what actually happens when the new plant is "Freed into the complexity of the entire envirionment", especially if the developer and hoped to be beneficiary is trusted to do the testing and reporting.

    And once some amount of benefit is being obtained by some people from the "New thing that is being done", evidence that it is harmful often fails to change "their" minds about what they try to benefit from.

    The same thing can be seen in the actions of poeple who like to benefit from burning fossil fuels. Many people deliberately resist accepting new evidence and better understanding because it is contrary to their established personal interest (even if, perhaps especially if, it can be understood that they have over-developed perceptions of prosperity and opportunity away from, or detrimental to, a sustainable better future for humanity).

    It is true that some "purist, anti-new things" over-react to new developments. But the massive previous history of the future difficulty curtailing profitable and profitable "New Developments", or attempting to undo the damage done by development (especially over-development), in the wrong or damaging direction, would mean many of those "purists" are simply being cautious (truly conservative) about what potentially less considerate people (people who prefer to believe whatever they want and do as they please) may try to get away with personally benefiting from.

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  19. In my comment@18 I meant to say: "...the future difficulty curtailing profitable and popular "New Developments"..."

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  20. @knaugle the UN estimates 4000 deaths from Chernobyl ("Chernobyl: the true scale of the accident". WHO. WHO/IAEA/UNDP) so it seems to be in the same league as Bhopol. Chernobyl and Fukushima also caused created evaculation zones covering hundreds of square miles shich are still not safely inhabitable.  We can argue whether these disasters were  worse or better than Bhopal, but they certainly don't make the case for nuclear power being safe.

    As for GMOs, they are neither inherently safe or dangerous.  (if you splice genes coding for puffer fish toxin into a tomato, I don't think anyone would say it is safe.)  More relevantly, GMO crops modified to be tolerant of herbicides may be safe, but the heavy applications of herbicide that inevitably follow may not be.  I am also leary about these modifications giving huge corporations undue influence over our food supply.  Making rice with vitamin A is fine.  As with many technologies, it is what you do with it that matters.

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  21. #9 gingcko 

    this is not unique to GE crops; almost all seeds purchased by farmers are patented and licensed.

    Maybe...  but they aren't for sterile plants, and the farmers here make a substantial effort to keep seed costs down ...  but the point is not about the purchasing, it is about who benefits from taking a risk when deploying a new species.   The risk is public, the profits are private.

    (( I have doubts about that last one... some of the points are variable depending on the reason for working with GE  and there are some good reasons to work with GE - "roundup-ready" is not among them))

    how?!? it's not like these plants will take over the world; agricultural varieties fare notoriously poorly without the extra care from farmers


    The nature of the crops means that "isolating" the various genes is not as simple as not planting them next year.   The likelihood of being able to grow real "non-GMO" corn in a country where adjacent fields are using it, is small.  Not the willingness, the ability.

    For a country like NZ - going to GMO is a one-way-street.   We would not be able to un-release anything once it is planted in the wild.   It may be useful for heat-tolerance and drought tolerance in the future... but to allow it to be done for profit?   

    The attitudes and abuses of the in this respect, and the willingness to deal with GMO as a means of breeding roundup-ready superweeds is not something to just ignore.

    It may be true that the GE crop doesn't make the weeds adapt any more quickly, but the additional herbicides definitely do... and the profits are in the sale of the herbicides

    ... which aren't good for human consumption. 

    Much of the difficulty comes from this herbicide-friendly, not disease-resistant approach to the GM that is done. 

    The point I make and insist on, is that this is a tool, and it is not a tool that can simply be handed over to any corporation to be used to "make money".   That is a lot of my resistance to GMO, and it isn't a total rejection of  GMO.    

    The point that I am making is that the science isn't the issue, the politics of profit are the issue.   

    There are damned few absolutes in science.   The abuse of the commons as a result of the pursuit of profit is however, absolutely predictable human  behaviour.   

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  22. swampfoxh  -  this sounds like an excuse for us to all sit around drinking beer.   I have to like it :-) 

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  23. Marco @13

     "Contamination of "natural crops" by these new varieties (of natural crops) will also take place."

    Yes of course you are right, but this is not really the issue. People should have a choice between gmo crops and crops developed through traditional breeding. At least this is what the consumer is asking for. There is a big difference between traditional breeding and gmos, in terms of gmos produce radical changes immediately and involve delivery mechanisms in how new genes are spliced in.

    "Finally, to the best of my knowledge GMOs have to be tested for safety, whereas those new plant varieties produced through conventional breeding do not"

    Yes but there are reasons for this. Traditional breeding has been used for decades, in fact centuries and at a time when safety testing was not feasible, but with the passage of time no evidence has emerged of significant safety concerns. In effect the system has been proven to be safe by the passage of time. In comparison gmo's are a new system of crop development, so in our hopefully enlightened age should be safety tested before it is widely implimented.

    I'm not saying gmo's are suspect and should be banned. In fact the science obviously has potential. I am saying I'm they need to be rigorously tested and the testing by industry itself has a track record of at least some problems, as they are driven by financial circumstances to cut corners. There is also some independent testing of gmo's, but when you read about this there's evidence of conflicts of interest etc. It needs to be much better,as the stakes are high with gmo crops, obviously if something goes wrong it will affect huge numbers of people. Yes I know you are splicing genes and this is claimed to be inherently safe as it simply mimics a natural process, but there is the question of the delivery mechanism etc.

    We also have other concerns about Monsanto having the characteristics of a monopoly, and the ability to dominate the market and make farmers very dependent on it's seeds. This has been documented many times so no need to go into details, other than to say it is  self evidently a concerning issue.

    These are not illogical or unreasonable criticisms of gmo crops. Nobody is alleging a conspiracy, or cherry picking unusual studies that support their view, or quoting fake experts etc. Most of the comments made criticising gmo crops above are perfectly reasonable and deserve meticulous and utterly proven responses.

    I just think the gmo issue is huge. It may have a great future, but we need to be very careful.

    I read some of the articles on recent meta studies on safety and crop yields and performance. Gmo's dont radically increase yields or profits etc. The gains are certianly significant, but often rather modest.  This has to be weighed against concerns about these crops. All I ask is do this very carefully and transparently, and with studies free of industry bias, and of serious depth.

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  24. To all commentators - Keep this on topic.

    The topic concerns abuse of science, poor logic, and a variety of techniques used to bolster anti-science positions by various groups.  Discussions about use or otherwise of these faults by groups is on topic.

    However this is not place for discussion of pros and cons of GMO, vaccines or anything else. Only for the types of arguments that might used to support those positions.

    Thank you for your consideration of the moderators.

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  25. More anti science people:


    More information: E. D. Perry et al. Genetically engineered crops and pesticide use in U.S. maize and soybeans, Science Advances (2016).

    DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600850 Journal reference: Science Advances search and more info website Provided by: University of Virginia


    However, the adoption of genetically modified soybeans correlated with a negative impact on the environment as increased herbicide use also increased contamination of local ecosystems.

    Reminds me of DDT.   You remember DDt.   Perfectly safe until we discovered that it wasn't, so for 30 years we sprayed -— well everywhere.   And it must be safe since people were not dropping like flies. 

    And we have to consider Europe and such anti science countries as France and Germany who ban GMO's

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Fixed links. Please learn to create links yourself using the link tool in the comments editor.

  26. Scaddenp @24, yes fair enough to a point. However I would think everyone who has participated in this discussion, would at least agree 'some' of the criticisms of gmo crops fall into the logical fallacy group of arguments discussed in the article. It's hard to say much more about these logical fallacies, as the article covered them so well.

    But the article also went on at length creating a detailed case that the science overwhelmingly supported gmo crops. At no stage did the article concede there might be some genuine criticisms of the science, and / or it's application or the economics or question of  consumer choice. This probably gets people riled up. Maybe if the article had  conceded that not all criticisms related to gmo crops were invalid, it would have diffused things and kept discussion more on track.

    I'm semi retired and take an interest reading about all sorts of scientific, economic, political and social debates and controversies and conspiracy "theories". I always have since very young. It's some sort of fatal attraction. I always have a close look at the detail on both sides of debates as much as one can, and I have concluded that the "mainstream" consensus position is true on most things, or mosly true, including climate science, vaccines, 911, flouride, etc,  but the gmo issue stands out to me as unresolved, or slightly suspicious in several respects. I thought this immediately on reading the article, and several people made the points that were already in my mind. If so many educated people have similar concerns, it does say something.

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  27. I think you are wrong to lump people against GMOs in with anti-vaxxers and climate change deniers. Here's why. 

    I am very anti-GMO because GMO crops require so much more herbicide and pesticide use, because pests and weed so quickly become resistant to chemicals (Roundup-ready crops as an example - and yes, I realize Roundup-ready corps are not the only GMO crops out there). 

    So in my mind, GMO = vast overuse of chemicals, many of which we know are neurotoxins or otherwise very unhealthy. Recently, for example, the EPA approved a chemical, chlorpyrifos, that had been slated to be banned under the previous administration, and some farm workers got very sick. There are countless stories from Argentina where people exposed to very high levels of glyphosate because they live near GMO soy fields are getting very sick. 

    So, be careful. Some of us are very against GMOs not necessarily because they are modified, but rather because of how they are modified (e.g. crops that have pesticides built-in) or because of the tremendous amount of chemicals used on the crops. 

    It is very clear that chemicals are at least partly responsible for the decline in bee and butterfly populations, and it is also very clear that large tracts of mono-agriculture, which GMO crops are used in (especially corn, wheat, and soy), are incredibly bad for our environment. "Big ag" is responsible for a big chunk of CO2 emissions.

    So if you talk more to people who are anti-GMO you may find that there are many reasons beyond what you might expect as to why we are anti-GMO, some of which you may even agree with.

    0 1
    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Please provide citations for your claims.

    [PS] I put warnings on claims that need cites. And please avoid irony by ensuring your citations/evidence are not on the referenced table. As has been stated, this is not place for a GMO or vaccine argument, but you could show that anti-GMO arguments do not conform the science denier list of the article. Further offtopic posts will be deleted.

  28. Perhaps the problem commenters have with GMOs is the fact that they form a subsystem of a larger system.  One does not have this with climate science.  Studies of the planetary climate must perforce take into account the fact that it is a system in itself.  Similarly, vaccines have been studied from the point of view of their effect on complete populations.

    GMOs, by comparison, are part of a wider system that includes different farming methods, different crops (GMO and non-GMO), different economic conditions, different nutritional requirements, different local climatic conditions, and so on and so on.  (This is all off the top of my head.  I'm sure somebody else can do much better.)

    The essence of the problem is that the complete farming system might be better or it might be worse with a GMO subsystem.  I have no idea if there are studies of complete farming systems with and without GMOs.  Perhaps this concern has already been put to rest.  If not, however, then this might be the cause of the general disquiet over GMOs.

    However, the foregoing does not affect the general thrust of the article.  There are many topics that have been studied to death by scientists, who have produced mountains of evidence to back their consensus conclusions regarding these topics — and you still get people who reject the evidence for purely ideological reasons.

    What occurs to me is that there must be a correlation between the author's list of fallacious arguments and the FLICC acronym from Denial 101x.  Has anyone considered a comparison of the two?

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  29. There are generally two major objections to GMOs;

    1: 'They are dangerous and untested and will kill us all!'

    2: 'Large corporations are attempting to use GMOs to build agricultural, drug, and even human genetics monopolies which could be economically and culturally devastating.'

    The first is nonsense of the same sort as anti-vax and global warming denial. The second is quite valid.

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  30. Nigelj, your argument that "In effect the system has been proven to be safe by the passage of time." regarding traditional breeding vs GMOs is invalid. For example, in the 1960s a potato was made by traditional breeding techniques (the Lenape), with plenty of good properties for making potato chips. Unfortunately, it was literally much more poisonous than other potatoes. All potatoes contain solanine, but this one had amounts at least 4 times higher, and made several people ill.

    There is a more unclear story from New Zealand about 15 years ago with zucchinis, where some were possibly so much inbred that they produced very high levels of cucurbitacin, yet another toxin (and a similar potential issue in the 1980s in the US and Australia). This was not discovered until people got sick.

    Also, I need to repeat that you cannot use the "but Monsanto behaves bad!" as an argument against GMOs. Monsanto, like all the other large ag businesses, also uses traditional breeding techniques. Ban GMOs, and you still have the exact same 'problem': large companies that hold the rights to the seeds of those plants that farmers really, really want, because they give higher yields for lower prices, and a product with more desirable properties - with the one challenge that you have to buy new seeds every year, because hybrids usually don't work very well anymore when going to the next generation. From an IPR point of view it really does not matter whether you are dealing with a patent for a GMO, or the plant variety (or breeding) rights of a new hybrid - although the latter actually last longer.

    We thus end up with a completely different argument, where "GMO" can be replaced by literally anything: the fear of large corporations possibly controlling certain aspects of our life. 


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  31. Macro @30 I live in NZ and don't recall the zucchini scare, but ok I accept some traditional crops have had problems. However what bothers me more is this: We know that this occasionally happens with traditional breeding, but we do have a good picture going back decades to get a feel for the scale of things. And people were ill, they didn’t die.

    Genetic engineering is a whole new frontier, a new system. Because of this I just really hope the testing is really good. There doesn't seem to be that much good quality genuinely independent testing. And ok maybe the same applies to traditional crops.

    I read a fair amount, and there seems some quite good credible material critical of ge at various levels, more so than anti vaccine material etc.

    I'm not calling for gmo's to be banned globally, America can do as it wishes. But they are very strictly controlled in NZ. You can trial them but its not easy. Frankly we are likely to make more money as a nation with organic foods. Once gmos become widespread in NZ there will be cross contamination so organic options become limited. But I admit I'm driven here by my own commercial views on what may work for my country as much as the safety issue or other issues.

    Yes I do hear what you are saying any corporation can become a monopoly, whether gmos crops or traditional crops. All monopolies tend to be problems not just monsanto, but right now they are certainly a problem.

    I also thought the need to buy new gmo seeds was that they were deliberately designed to self terminate. This might be commercial, but it’s an alarming, questionable sort of thing.

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  32. Why the image about nuclear power? As far as I know, there is nothing anti-science in opposing nuclear power. Even Angela Merkel (herself a nuclear scientist) after Fukushima did a policy of nuclear phaseout.

    As for GMOs, I know too little about them to have a settled opinion. The only thing I could say is that given the huge genetic diversity of genetical technologies, there may be some good (even excellent) GMO crops (like crops with vitamins and better nutritional values) but others that, like in every technology known to humankind, could go wrong. If there are some crops that produce toxins to kill parasites, could that not be that as bad as pesticides if mismanaged?

    I will not lump together all those things. I would make the following classification:

    1. outright denialism (like the so-called AGW "skeptics", creationists, flat-earthers, etc.)
    2. Alarmists (like the ones that exaggerate side effects of vaccines, so scared about them that become blind to the much bigger threat of infectious diseases). GMO opposition, if not based on evidence, fits also here.

    Of course there is a mixing of both groups, as both deny inconvenient facts, or invoke "conspiracy theories".

    But as someone said before, one group deny a whole set of reality (climate change, evolution, age of the universe, etc.), the other exaggerate in a hyperbolic manner some possible problems in some specific areas (minimal side effects for vaccines, mismanegement of some GMOs, etc)

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] How about providing a cite for your belief that Angela Merkel is Nuclear scientist? Quantum chemistry seems a bit of a stretch to put it mildly. In fact, it rather strongly suggests you are victim of someone pushing misinformation to attack nuclear power but prove me wrong.

  33. green tortoise @32, Angela Merkel's publication record includes nothing on nuclear physics, nor anything directly related.  Her scientific career was not at any nuclear facility.  She was, however, Minister for the Environment and Nuclear Safety from 1994 to 1998.  There is no reason to think her response to Fukushima was anything other than political.

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  34. My apologies for the mistake about Angela Merkel scientific career. I saw some months ago a documentary about the life of Merkel (that was not about nuclear power, but about her in general), that cited her career at quantum physics.

    If I have made some research, I would have found that she later specialiced in chemistry rather than nuclear physics. 

    As for nuclear power, I would comment the following:

    Nuclear power shares with fossil fuels its non-renewable nature, and there are 3 well known issues with nuclear energy:

    1) Safety from extreme events (like Chernobyl or Fukushima)
    2) Nuclear waste
    3) Military use

    Those are well known and will not go further discussing them. They can be resolved with more research , regulation and technology development.

    Some years ago I believed nuclear power could provide a possible alternative to fossil fuels, given strong technological and regulatory improvements.

    However then I found that there is a fourth, more subtle and serious issue with nuclear power (or any non-renewable fuel, for that matter):

    Thermal power plants liberate heat, also known as "waste heat". Today waste heat is just a tiny % of global radiative forcing (so it is a marginal contributor to global warming), but with exponential energy consumption growth it can outpace in a few centuries the greenhouse warming.

    Any source of energy that adds heat to a planet has the same problem, even solar power if not collected in the Earth surface but instead collected in space and then re-radiated to the Earth surface.

    It's just a radiative balance calculation, heat warms a planet, no matter if it comes from the greehouse effect or from direct heating. The only sure check to planetary warming in the very long term (i.e centuries to millenia) is to limit energy use. 

    Energy use could be limited either by regulation or by turning to heat-neutral energy sources, like Earth-based solar, wind, small-to-medium hydroelectric, advanced biofuels, etc.

    If I am going off topic, please feel free to re-direct me to a more appropiate thread.

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    Moderator Response:

    [TD] (I'm sorry, I accidentally clicked a button to send you a reminder about the comments policy. Thank you for being conscious of it and mentioning it without prodding!) What I meant to do was simply point you to the post about waste heat being trivial.

  35. The post about waste heat says:

    "The contribution of waste heat to the global climate is 0.028 W/m2. In contrast, the contribution from human greenhouse gases is 2.9 W/m2. Greenhouse warming is adding about 100 times more heat to our climate than waste heat."

    I never disputed that. What I am saying is that such situation may change in the long-term future. I will continue that discussion in the Waste heat thread.

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  36. There is a real danger here that by associating silly, illogical sorts of criticisms with specific issues, that we label anyone who has any criticism of climate science, vaccines or nuclear power zealots or ideologues, even when they are asking perceptive questions. Maybe the article could have been worded just a little more sensitively or just noted that there is nothing wrong with fact based or evidence based criticism (even if it turns out to ultimately be wrong).

    The  article  was completely right in the main though, in terms of listing the various logical fallacies, and its fair to say there seems to be a group who see almost any new science as deeply suspicious and come up with the same fallacy arguments.

    I don't have a fundamnetal objection to nuclear power. If you dont have coal or oil, then you have to use what options you can find. France appears to be in that category, or was in the past, although I stand to be corrected. Or did they not want to rely on imported coal from germany?

    But I wouldn't want nuclear power in my country. We have numerous other energy options, an accident would decimate our economy as it could contaminate agricultural crop exports, and we are hugely reliant on those. We also get a lot of earthquakes almost everywhere. The issue comes down to benefits versus risks and costs and every country will be different. Not all criticisms of certain issues are foolish criticisms.

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  37. nigelj: the problem with traditional breeding techniques that involve production of hybrids is that these usually have very different results when going to next generations. That means farmers usually decide to buy new seeds every year, to make sure they have the same consistent quality. Moreover, most companies selling such hybrids require buyers to sign a contract that says they cannot reuse the seeds.

    GMO seeds are not sterile at all - although introduction of a sterility gene has been proposed as a way to prevent them from germinating 'in the wild', but the general public didn't want this at all. Perhaps somewhat ironically, Monsanto's acquisition of a company has helped stop the commercialization of the so-called terminator genes.

    Regarding the zucchini scare, just google "zucchini New Zealand toxic".

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Can I remind commentators again, that discussions of pro/cons of GMO is offtopic. Discussion of whether sources relied on by anti-GMO activists conform to the article characteristics of deniers are on-topic. I would note that the "NZ toxic zucchini" seems to more confirm the article rather than refute it.

  38. Science is a method to construct knowledge.

    This depends on open information on all levels:
    political context, funding, research goals, open data, reproduceability, ..

    For climate science, most of the research is done at universities
    and state controlled space organisations. As long as they are 
    sufficiently funded and can work independently, it's ok.
    If government defunds (like Trump) or opens the door to
    "research" by the fossil industry (advisers to EPA), it's not 
    science and is at least suspicious, if not void.

    The same holds true for any other scientific domain:
    do I trust Exxon on climate change? No: there is a conflict
    of interest, which intrinsically makes anything void they say on climate.
    Do I trust Monsanto? No: it's product development and marketing.
    Do I trust a medical company on statements about it's products? No.


    See also:

    ".. Unfortunately, it is impossible to verify that genetically modified crops perform as advertised. That is because agritech companies have given themselves veto power over the work of independent researchers.

    To purchase genetically modified seeds, a customer must sign an agreement that limits what can be done with them. .."


    ".. Systematic reviews are very, very onerous. In 2003, by coincidence, two were published, both looking specifically at the question we’re interested in. They took all the studies ever published that looked at whether industry funding is associated with pro-industry results. Each took a slightly different approach to finding research papers, and both found that industry-funded trials were, overall, about four times more likely to report positive results. A further review in 2007 looked at the new studies that had been published in the four years after these two earlier reviews: it found twenty more pieces of work, and all but two showed that industry sponsored trials were more likely to report flattering results. .."



    Science has got a big blow by allowing anonymous donations via PACs:
    Heartland produces a "study": we can't tell who paid for it.
    If in doubt, it should be ignored: undisclosed funding is not science:
    undisclosed funding usually is hiding conflicts of interest;
    which are intrinsically not science, be it consciously or unconsciously.

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  39. Marco @37 thanks for the comments, and there is some sense in what you say. I dont want to get offside with you as we share concerns about climate change.

    But what you say  sounds reassuring, until I read the comments by Jonas, who is quoting Scientific American, as opposed to some dubious anti-ge website. It proves my previous point, the gmo issue is still getting criticism that is sometimes quite compelling and reasonable. I could also list a lot of links from reputable science publications but time doesnt permit.

    Monsanto still goes as far as it possibly can to get farmers to buy new seeds evey year, whether they need to or not. They sure play hardball.

    I just wonder if you looked at the full costs and benefits of ge, at the widest scale, you might not find much advantage to ge. We may never know, as it seems people are determined not to find out. 

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  40. I think it can be said that Ginko trees have existed on planet earth for an incredibly long time, even making in through the Cretaceous Extinction, the Eocene Thermal Maximum, a few dozen ice ages, etc.   Does this mean that Ginko genetics are pretty well adapted to the viccitudes of global climate?  What does adapted really mean?  Does it have anything to do with complementary-cooperative-competitive biodiversity?  If an organism arose on the planet, absent interference by humans, would it be because it was adapted to the environment in which it found itself?   If a GMO is not a "natural organism" does it still have a place in the environment ?  Is a GMO an alien organism?  Do we chance mixing alien organisms with the planet's biodiversity and hope for the best or are we playing with an unquenchable fire?  It seems to me that the proofs of anthropogenic climate change are pretty well settled and the research on vaccines takes us pretty close to accepted proofs, but is the "science" about GMO's of the same caliber?

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  41. #20The UN estimates of 4,000 deaths from Chernobyl are over the next 50 years AND are possibly on the high side.  Bophal, the 10,000 deaths were in the course of an hour, and they definitely are not comparable.  Also, advances in radiation health physics have if anything, led to a reduction in the dangers posed by accute and certainly low level radiation.  However, face it.  We don't store low level RAM in our garage, we fear it, and it's illegal for that matter.  But I would not be surprised if most of us have glyphosate, carbaryl, and malathion in the garage.  That was my point, and I think you kind of proved it.

    Besides, I could with research get the NAME of every person killed at Bophal.  You would be hard pressed to identify any of the supposed 4,000 deaths at Chernobyl (beyond the ones killed that first month), because it is just a statistical estimate.

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  42. I hereby withdraw my donations and support from SkS.

    Monsato GMO "research" is Science Denial,
    and if Science Denial is promoted even here: .. good bye.
    There is plenty of good Climate Science Work here,
    but I do not accept industry lobbying and will not pay for
    and promote this site any more (I did it hundreds of times).

    Just an example:
    "The court documents included Monsanto’s internal emails and email traffic between the company and federal regulators. The records suggested that Monsanto had ghostwritten research that was later attributed to academics and indicated that a senior official at the Environmental Protection Agency had worked to quash a review of Roundup’s main ingredient, glyphosate, that was to have been conducted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services."

    Another example:
    « Monsanto papers » : la guerre du géant des pesticides contre la science


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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Monsanto => GMO. GMO != Monsanto.

    Constructive criticism of the article with evidence that anti-GMO sentiment is not based on the logic flaws outlined in the article is welcome. Better than throwing the toys out of the cot.

  43. @Moderator #34:

    From the market share point of view, Monsanto+4 = GMO: I cannot afford 5300$ or 2500$ to buy one of the commercial reports on market share, but from the introduction and scope you can see that 5 companies control the market and therefore the money which fund (
    and )

    If moreover, the results are protected by patents (see my links above in #38) and may not be researched without permission of the company, it's not science, it's product development. If  Monsanto tries to insert "independent" results as science, just as climate deniers do (« Le Monde » montre comment la puissante firme américaine a fait paraître des articles coécrits par ses employés et signés par des scientifiques pour contrer les informations dénonçant la toxicité du glyphosate., then the company itself is no not a credible source.

    Also, climate science will soon face the challenges that other high tech and high cost research face: those who pay determine what questions may be asked and may therefore be answered: science is not about unbounded curiosity and an abstract clean methodology, but deeply embedded into sociecty and highly susceptible to money supply, manipulation and abuse. The key question to ask is: is there a conflict of interest?

    See various articles on Trump cuts and inclusion of industry interests in the control sections of climate science (financing), e.g.

    So: Do I believe a Koch-funded climate-study? No! Do I believe a Monsanto-funded GMO-study? No! Do I ..   And in the future: do I believe a NASA climate study? It depends on how much influence Ebell and the like can put on NASA. There is no such thing as pure science: there only is science which is more subject to conflicts of interest and there is science that is less subject to conflicts of interest (be they societal (what science do we fund?), economic (are there effects on company benefit) and personal (are there effects on my carrer? See Le Monde on pharmaceuical research fraud by individuals: ).

    I decided to go on donating to SkS (because of it's precious climate work, which is needed in trump times). Still, I cannot go on sharing the material, because of posts like this one: a pitty: now it's only input for me (because I know I have to ignore posts like this one).

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  44. By that logic you should reject Berkely Earth because it received funding form a Koch Brothers foundation despite it confirming what independent research found. Or the research that found that vaccines do not cause autism that was funded by an anti-vax group. If we would go into medical research we then could throw out a lot of what we know (medical companies fund a lot of research to find potential treatments).

    Funding sources cannot tell you if found results are valid or not. It only means you need to check if the funding didn't influence or bias the researchers. If that's the case there would be issues in the paper itself that give you reason to dismiss it.

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  45. @#44

    >Funding sources cannot tell you if found results are valid or not

    Of course not. But they can tell me if I need to be extra suspicious.

    I don't need to be suspicious about Koch funding a study which has results  opposite to their interests.

    What I criticise about this post is to equal the situations of climate change, GMO research and medicine research: they are structurally not the same, and neither are critics suspicious of the consensus. Consensus is not a yes or no question and each of these domains has various subareas with varying conflicts of interest and vairous reasons for suspicion. Climate risk research in general has the least conflict of interests, because there is no such thing as a product "stable climate" and nobody has any interest in a destabilized climate. For medicine risk research in general, I have some trust, for GMO risk research, I have none (see links in #43 and #38). I am not the same as a climate denier.

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  46. PS (to #45): no product "stable climate" is wrong: wind turbines etc. But comparing the size of the conflicts of interest (possible financial loss) of renewables and fossil fuel industry and lobbying efforts is telling. Still, one should be suspicous of climate studies by those companies too. There is a structural difference between suspicion against conflicts of interest and conspiracy theory: suspicion against conflicts of interests is symmetric and open to change.

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  47. That's not what you said in the comment I was responding to:

    Do I believe a Koch-funded climate-study? No! Do I believe a Monsanto-funded GMO-study? No!

    But in your more nuanced response you still say:

    For medicine risk research in general, I have some trust, for GMO risk research, I have none

    That's still dismissing research without actually looking into it if the results are valid or not. Also linking to french articles isn't helpful for me or a lot of other folks on a website that uses English. I can't read French.


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  48. Your article starts with the premise that if one disagrees with an “official science” or consensual hypothesis, they are being fringe deniers. You then list nine different false assumptions made by some in the public and try to deconstruct them. With your permission, I will use your list to prove the opposite— their inherent worth to scientists. My rebuttal is not about climate change per se, but the arguments used to eliminate skeptical researchers.

    First, some quotes are in order: “All great truths begin as blasphemies,” Shaw. “Science advances one funeral at a time,” Planck. “First it is ridiculed, then it is violently opposed, third it is accepted as self evident,” Schopenhauer. Lastly, “When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces of the world are all in confederacy against him,” Swift.

    Next, a very minute list of great pioneering scientists, who were attacked, ridiculed and ostracized when their work went against consensual science; their “reward” follows. Mendel/Genetics--life in isolation. Semmelweis/Puerperal fever—death in asylum. Boltzmann/Statistical Thermodynamics—suicide. And of course, Copernicus, Galileo, and Darwin who were all shunned.

    I hope the above two paragraphs will lay to rest eight out of the nine positions of deniers, as any pioneer in groundbreaking work has had to resort to them.

    1) Ignore a large body of evidence. Check, if it is wrong.

    2) Cite small studies. Check, as his new findings are unknown. I purposely left out “low quality, cherry-picked,” since this is a prejudice.

    3) Conspiracy theories. Check, and not a delusion when funding is denied.

    4) Accuse opponents of being close-minded. Check, and the term “shills” is irrelevant.

    5) Rely on anecdotes and personal experience. Check, since by itself, exactly what is wrong with that?

    6) Cite non-conventional sources (blogs and videos). Check, not a mistake if they appear genuine and logical. This is called observation, and Newton used it in nature, as he did not have a laptop back then.

    7) Science has been wrong before. Check, see examples above. Your mention of Einstein versus Newton omits many real mistakes, including modern medicine.

    8) Just asking questions. Check, as pioneers are usually censured and stymied. The “Appeal to minority of fringe experts,” does not really apply, as a pioneer knows that it is impossible to be taken seriously when an observation turns science upside down.

    Otherwise your well-written article describes how true science is supposed to work, but you left out one essential detail—man gets in the way with his petty behavior.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] This topic is report from "The logic of science". It would be polite if Alan made his points over there and that is possibly the best place for discussions not directly on climate science.

  49. Alan @48 , your post is rather discursive.  Is there a cogent case (for something) that you wish to make?

    Because Semmelweis was correct (but initially scorned) . . . does that mean we should be more accepting & respectful of Flat-Earthers and their ideas?   No, Alan, your line of argument is illogical.   Especially so, since "science" in the 1600's , 1700's , and much of the 1800's , has been a very different kettle of fish to the very integrated science of modern times.

    What is the relevance of your fourth paragraph?

    Clarity, please, Alan.

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  50. Actually, Alan's post is primarily a good example of the "Science has been wrong before" argument.

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