Science, politics clash over GMOs
Science, politics clash over GMOs
Science isn’t perfect, but studying the universe and reaching conclusions based on facts, observation and experiments is one of our best tools for fighting ignorance.
To its credit, science usually seems to get things right in the long run.
If we let it.
Unfortunately, factions in the political arena too often attempt to bend science to their collective will.
For instance, there is a strong scientific consensus that human activity has caused global warming, which has serious long-term consequences for the planet. Liberals scoff when skeptics question whether climate change is real and respond with something akin to, “It’s the science, stupid.”
That’s fair enough, but if they’re going to cite science when the facts line up to support their viewpoints, it seems only reasonable that they be obligated to do the same when the research trends in the opposite direction on other issues.
In that light, it’s understandable why some scientists, in a recent New York Times article, expressed frustration with their traditional liberal allies over the issue of genetically modified food.
The best research to date has found that such food isn’t harmful to people and that genetically modified crops have saved millions from starving in third-world nations. That, however, hasn’t stopped those who oppose GMOs from using scare tactics and horror stories, and pegging any scientist who says GMOs are safe as being a shill for food manufacturers.
In rejecting the science that says GMOs are not harmful, supporters of GMO labeling are guilty of the same things for which they criticize those who reject scientific evidence of climate change. It’s the old, “don’t confuse me with facts, I’ve already made up my mind,” approach that permeates so much of politics today.
That debate has been ringing in Massachusetts for the past several months, and now the Massachusetts House is scheduled to consider a bill this week that would require any food sold in the state that contains a generically modified element – and that’s about 75 percent of them – to carry a GMO label.
The recommendation coming out of committee is to kill the labeling bill. Those in the majority believe it would be too expensive, unenforceable and would unfairly attach a stigma to any product that carried the GMO label.
Proponents of labeling say, in effect, that the public has a right to know if GMO poisons are in their food. We’d agree with that, perhaps, if there was some actual scientific proof that GMOs are harmful.
Instead, the labeling argument rests on the assumption that genetically modified food may be harmful and consumers, therefore, should be warned off from buying any product that is so modified.
The problem is, “may” is far too weak a standard for making such sweeping public policy decisions.
We don’t trust industrial food giants like Monsanto not to maximize profit at the expense of public safety, and we don’t particularly trust the Food and Drug Administration to properly regulate the food supply, either, located as it is at the nexus of science and politics.
Clearly, the issue of genetic engineering – especially to our food supply – is one that warrants ongoing scrutiny, but dismissing the technology out of hand, and out of ignorance, is shortsighted when it has the potential to do so much good in an underfed world.