Will COVID End the Anti-GMO Movement?

By Alex Berezow, PhD — Nov 17, 2020
Opposition to the use of biotechnology to enhance agriculture was always based on junk science. But now these anti-GMO activists look downright silly as cutting-edge biomedical science rescues us from COVID.
Credit: Dejuliot / Wikipedia

We were pro-GMO before the term "GMO" was even invented. That's because the acronym "GMO" is not used by scientists, but is instead a colloquialism employed by the media, activists, and the general public.

What are popularly referred to as GMOs are properly called transgenic organisms. The term "transgenic" derives from transgene, which is a gene taken from one species and artificially placed into another. For example, a gene that causes a certain species of jellyfish to glow green can be extracted and placed into the genome of another animal, like a fish, which then also glows green. (Then, entrepreneurs sell these glowing fish to your kids!)

There's nothing inherently right or wrong with transgenics. Like all technologies, it depends on what the inventor plans to do. So far, all such endeavors have been noble, none more so than "Golden Rice," a transgenic variety that produces a precursor of vitamin A that could help prevent blindness and death due to vitamin A deficiency in poor countries.

However, for reasons that we'll never fully understand, the anti-GMO movement had been growing ever stronger over the years. But, if the reliably anti-GMO organization U.S. Right to Know is indicative of anything, anti-biotech activists have little to ramble about these days. Instead of obsessing over the alleged evils of Monsanto/Bayer, USRTK has spent much more time focusing on the coronavirus. The scientific consensus is that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, jumped from animals to humans. Yet, USRTK is pushing the debunked conspiracy theory that the virus was made in China because it serves their "GMOs are bad" narrative. And they're suing the National Institutes of Health (NIH) because... well, why not?

USRTK takes money and its marching orders from the Organic Consumers Association, a group that promotes 9/11 trutherism, chemtrails, FEMA's secret plan to implement martial law, pesticides causing school shootings, and (of course) anti-vaccine propaganda. So the organization's position on the coronavirus makes sense if you believe that Elvis is still alive, residing somewhere inside that giant face on Mars.

Will COVID End the Anti-GMO Movement?

Like all conspiracy theorists, anti-GMOrons just won't go away. But now it appears that they have been marginalized thanks to companies like Pfizer and Moderna, which are using biotechnology to help rescue us from the COVID pandemic. Both companies are using RNA (which has been genetically edited or modified in some way) as the key ingredient in their coronavirus vaccines. The recent news that their vaccines are 90% and 95% effective, respectively, means that biotechnology is a savior of humanity rather than a horseman of the Apocalypse. This is obviously bad news for people who make a living by telling people that science is scary.

Americans love to hate Big Business, particularly Big Pharma and Big Ag. But when we need them to rescue us, we run to them for help. They usually deliver. Let's hope the new vaccines are so successful that they are able to end not only the coronavirus but anti-GMO ideology, as well -- in other words, wiping out two viruses at once.

Alex Berezow, PhD

Former Vice President of Scientific Communications

Dr. Alex Berezow is a PhD microbiologist, science writer, and public speaker who specializes in the debunking of junk science for the American Council on Science and Health. He is also a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors and a featured speaker for The Insight Bureau. Formerly, he was the founding editor of RealClearScience.

Recent articles by this author: