The mainstream media has blatantly propagandized biotech’s favorite product – GMOs. At least according to Belinda Martineau, Ph.D., who wrote to the magazine complaining about their shoddy journalistic stance.
One key article presented by the New Yorker not only misrepresents how GMO crops are created, but also fails to mention any of the risks of genetically engineered crops. Even the FDA has admitted there are “unexpected” changes that can occur as a result of utilizing the techniques which biotech likes to rely upon. Propagandized media promotes the same biotech bias as usual – that traditional cross-breeding of crops is the same as biotech augmentation – when it is not similar by any stretch of the imagination.
To set the record straight – hybridization of crops has been used since the 1930s. It utilizes methods to take one desirable trait from one plant and mix it with another – so I can see how this could be confused with biotechnology. Hybridization; however, is where the pollen from one plant is used to fertilize another related or similarly related plant species.
Genetic engineering, as it is currently practiced, translates to the artificial insertion of one or a few genes into the DNA of the recipient organism. This is fundamentally different from what happens in conventional breeding.
Firstly, the insertion may occur in the middle of a gene and thereby disrupt the genetic code of the recipient organism. The gene inserted is also very likely to disturb the action of neighboring genes, and finally, the inserted gene will produce a new protein that may often be alien to the recipient organism. This is where rogue proteins start to occur, changing the long-term viability of the ‘new’ organism, thereby causing toxins or allergens to occur that are not good for human or animal consumption.
In a study from the University of Arizona, for example, the widely used strategy of endowing crops with redundant toxins to fend off pests has been accused of being severely flawed. Pests are evolving resistance much faster than predicted and this requires an ever-increasing amount of herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides to grow GMO crops.
Commercialized GE crops exhibit these “unexpected” changes or “unintended” risks all the time. See these articles to note outcomes that biotech scientists likely never intended:
- Crop Genetic Engineering is a Mutagenic Process – BiotechSalon
- Crop Genetic Engineering, Warts and All – PBG Works
The recent uber-fail of StarLink™ corn can stand as an example.
These and other reasons, including the fact that Specter tries to devalue Vandana Shiva’s (a true champion for organic and non-GMO foods) opinion throughout his article is suspect. It is also likely why Martineau decided to write the magazine.
“Consequently, in my opinion, Specter’s piece contributes to the “hyper-propagandizing” of GE products that one of his interviewees, Dr. Deepak Pental, mentioned was a mistake made by the promoters of this new biotechnology.
I wrote a letter to The New Yorker expressing my disappointment, a drastically shortened version of which was published in the Sept. 15, 2014 issue of the magazine. My entire, original letter (containing quotes, and reference to The New Yorker pages that contain them) follows.
As a former genetic engineer who carried out safety studies submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) to gain commercial approval of the world’s first G.E. whole food, the Flavr Savr™ tomato (in 1994 not 1996 as implied in the article), I know firsthand of the kinds of risks this technology presents…and so does the F.D.A. which has admitted that “unexpected” and “unintended” changes can occur in G.E. crops. [Commercialized examples of unexpected, unintended changes include one Bt corn variety (Bt176) that posed a 100 times greater risk of harming Monarch butterfly larvae than other Bt corn and another (StarLink™) that contained a Bt protein that behaved like a human allergen in multiple tests conducted in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency.]
For the most part, long term studies to identify any such unexpected, unintended changes in G.E. crops have not been conducted but a few that have been suggest we should proceed more cautiously with this technology.
On the other hand, long term animal studies as well as human clinical trials have been carried out for G.E. insulin (mentioned in the article, p57) and all other commercially available G.E. drugs for humans in the United States. Those drugs are also labeled; patients know they are products of genetic engineering. Patients can therefore make informed decisions regarding any potential risks, risks they are likely more willing to take than a non-patient would be.
When it comes to groceries, people—healthy or not—can’t make the same informed decisions about G.E. foods, at least not in the United States; and most Americans, in poll after poll, indicate they want that opportunity. After all, it’s one thing to need a G.E. medicine, another to wear G.E. cotton, and still another to feed your G.E. yellow corn or G.E. soybean meal to your animals; it’s quite another when you are feeding yourself and your family and the foods in questions haven’t gone through rigorous, long term testing.
I agree with Mr. Specter that we will need many approaches to farming in order to “feed the world” (p57) but, to make informed decisions about the available approaches, we’ll also need more scientifically accurate and thorough descriptions of them than was provided for genetic engineering in his article. Otherwise, “Seeds of Doubt” could be classified as simply more “advertis[ing]” (p49) or “hyper-propagandizing [of] G.M. products” (p56) and that is not what I, for one, expect from The New Yorker.
Belinda Martineau, Ph.D.”
I feel like she wrote this article straight from my own head, don’t you? I’m glad she and others are standing up to the GMO lies being sold to the public in glossy magazines and ‘scientific’ studies funded solely by biotech companies. Vigilance is key.