When critics of bio-tech or GMO foods get quoted in news articles or put out press releases hyping their claims I usually pass it by since I have to prioritize what I write about. Prior to writing about a subject I attempt to choose which news stories are the most provocative and what I think serious enough to warrant my covering them. However, Slate has an excellent article written by Will Saletan describing how anti-GMO groups adjust their allegations when the evidence changes.
For example, environmentalist groups opposed golden rice almost from the outset. The product is engineered to introduce beta carotene once consumed along with stop illnesses resulting form a lack of Vitamin A. Anti-GMO organizations complained that beta carotene levels in golden rice were too low. Once scientists increased their levels, they then said there was too much:
In 2001, Friends of the Earth had scoffed that Golden Rice would “do little to ameliorate VAD [vitamin A deficiency] because it produces so little beta-carotene.” By November 2004 the group had changed its tune. Crops that yielded beta carotene could “cause direct toxicity or abnormal embryonic development,” it asserted.
In fairness, the pro-GMO lobby has made some stupid assertions too. However, they are not as frequent nor as serious as the ones made by anti-GMO organizations. There is, I am sure, lots more that can be covered on this topic. But the groups opposed to GMOs are the ones playing with people’s lives since their opposition has resulted in deaths due to starvations.
I am sure there is much more that can be said on this subject and there are other methods that can be used to deliver the nutritional value GMO’s give to those who consume them. However, the most invaluable contribution that Saleton has made is that he has clearly outlined not only the contradictory claims of GMO opponents but also their changing logic when evidence refutes their clams or when scientists improve their products based on criticism. His piece demonstrates that activists don’t necessarily act on the facts, despite evidence that contradicts their notions in which many times the cause is more important than the proof.