I like Marion Nestle, although I do not always agree with her point of view. She writes a food blog entitled Food Politics, and in her current article, it seems that the emphasis here is on politics rather than food.
The blog is on the FDA’s new material to increase “public and professional understanding of GMOs,” Feed Your Mind. Her reporting begins with a bias as she describes the information as pro-GMO propaganda and continues with her first question: who paid for this?
Of course, the answer is our taxes as appropriated by Congress. But Dr. Nestle goes on to add this,
“How’s that for effective lobbying by the food biotechnology industry!”
But she provides no evidence that, in fact, this was written, ghost-written, or in any way influenced by the food biotechnology industry.
From Dr. Nestle,
“I started with the Discussion Guide for Health Educators. It has just a few questions and answers. For example:
Q. Are GMO’s safe to eat?
A. Yes…they are just as safe to eat as non-GMO foods.
Q. Is there a link between GMOs and cancer?
A. No. GMO crops are not changed in ways that would increase the risk of cancer for humans or animals.
I don’t think these answers are necessarily wrong. They just don’t tell the whole story.”
She then goes on to indicate areas not mentioned. But before looking at her concerns in this regard, note the content of the two questions and answers that are not “necessarily wrong.” Are GMOs safe to eat, and do they cause cancer – two valid but overstated health concerns.
Following the lead of my colleague Cameron English, I will allow Dr. Nestle to speak, and I will add an occasional comment in italics. Here are the issues not raised, presumably in discussing the safety of consuming GMO foods
- Consolidation in the biotechnology industry
- Corporate control of commodity agriculture While both are true, neither automatically results in less safe or cancer-causing foods. They reflect an economic trend we see in many fields outside of agriculture.
- Glyphosate, the herbicide used with GMOs and considered carcinogenic by international health agencies and US courts. Here we have a series of partial truths. Glyphosate is used in both GMO and non-GMO crops, as reported by OnlyOrganic.org.
“For many conventional farmers using glyphosate as a desiccant, or a drying agent, has become a common practice that until recently was not general public knowledge. Farmers figured out decades ago that using glyphosate as a pre-harvest desiccant would dry out the crop faster, enabling them to speed up the harvesting process. … but due to widespread testing of food products we have found out that glyphosate residue can be found on many non-GMO crops and products as well.”
The issue of glyphosate’s carcinogenicity has been discussed ad nauseum, and each side brings its own facts to the discussion. Here is a discussion of glyphosate carcinogenicity by FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center. It is not settled science.
- How GMO crops have taken over, driving out everyone else
- How pesticides used on GMO crops contaminate organic production Only when the farms are contiguous
- The ways GMO companies harass independent farmers by enforcing intellectual property rights
- How the Farm Bill subsidizes GMO corn and soybeans, causing them to be overproduced and corn to be used for ethanol. A bit of sophistry and wordplay here. The Farm Bill does indeed subsidize corn and soybeans, along with wheat, cotton, and rice. Cotton can be a GMO crop, but we infrequently eat cotton. There are no wheat or rice GMOs in production. We should be concerned about subsidies for corn and soybeans, and for that matter, sugar. But the government is subsidizing row crops, and that is frequently the only way a farm can turn a profit that they are GMO crops is not the point of the funding.
- Congress’s absurd Bioengineered labeling, widely ignored. I agree that the labeling is a bit of wordsmithing; perhaps bioengineered does not carry the baggage that GMOs do. But it does clarify that the food under discussion must contain “genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) techniques.” This means that sugar, 50% of which is made from GMO sugarbeets, is not bioengineered because the final product, sugar, contains no DNA at all.
- The consequent lack of transparency in the supermarket
Of all the objections Dr. Nestle raises over the GMO propaganda, only the glyphosate issue involves a health risk. And there is no definitive answer on that point, although if you ask the advocates on either side of the issue, it is settled science in their favor.
Somedays, when you write, you are up against a deadline, and you put out a piece that is not your best work. This bullet list article is not Dr. Nestle’s best. Backed by her eminence, putting it on the Internet gives this biased reporting a gravitas it does not deserve.