Friday, January 29, 2016

What John claims about GMOs

On Facebook a person from the USA, we will call him John, had claimed that there are many problems with GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) specifically referring to those in foods we consume. John claimed a variety of things opposing GM foods. These included:
1. "GMOs are unsafe. A rat study showed that they cause cancer."
2. "GMOs are banned in most other countries."
3. "All the pro-GMO studies are paid for by Monsanto."
4. " I have breakfast at a local restaurant several times a week with about 2 dozen farmers. Many have moved to Monsanto's seeds cause they have no other choice"

I will tackle each of these points and provide information as to why these positions are in error or flawed.

First, John mentions the infamous Seralini study to suggest as proof of the danger of GMOs. The first problem to note is that even if this turned out to be true, it would not mean that GMOs are unsafe. It would only mean that this particular one would be. GMOs are varied and all utilize different aspects and methodology. You can think of GMOs as tools. If you found a screwdriver unsafe, it wouldn't mean all screwdrivers are unsafe and most definitely it would not mean all tools are unsafe.

The Seralini study is concerned with the possible toxicity of Roundup herbicide and Roundup ready corn. The original 2012 study was retracted ( )due to various criticisms such as, but not limited to: Small sample size; ethics (letting the animals with tumours exist in such a state for an extended period of time); and the particular kind of rat used is naturally prone to tumours. The retracted study has since been republished by a predatory, not noteworthy and not respected journal( amid much criticismagain( to say, using this study to suggest safety concerns of GMOs is highly problematic.

The next claim is that GMOs are banned in most countries. Before I provide proof thatthis is not exactly true, I'd like to point out a flaw in this type of thinking (which I will liken to an appeal to popularity logical fallacy ).  As we know, governments don't always act in a rational manner. Thusit can be reasoned that, if something is banned, it does notnecessarily relate to whether it is safe or not. What truly mattersis the scientific evidence of safety and the utilization of thescientific method (which includes peer review) as the gold standard.

So do most countries ban GMOs? In a word, no. Of course it's a little more complex then that. Some countries, yes, do ban outright. But many may allow consumption and imports but do not allow domestic cultivation. Some just require labeling of products containing traces of GMOs. Some only require labeling for foods that are directly consumed, but not for cattle that consume GMOs. You can see from this map ( that many countries do allow for the consumption of GMOs.

Thirdly, John claims that all pro-GMO studies are paid for by Monsanto. This is quite easy to debunk as Monsanto is not the only biotech company producing GMOs.  Other companies include DuPont, Bayer, BASF, Pioneer, Syngenta, Dowand and many more. The assumption that only Monsanto would pay for research is ludicrous. Even going further, it can be shown here ( and also here ( ) totaling over 2000 studies showing no harm to humans or animals.More than half of those studies, it should be noted, are alsoindependent studies.

Lastly John claims that he talks every week to 24 farmers in his township in which they claim they have no choice but to use Monsanto seeds. Now I can't directly debunk this with facts as no evidence was presented by John of the supposed claims of the farmers. So to handle this, I'll take a logical/rational approach. First off, if it's true they have no choice but to use Monsanto seeds, that doesn't mean they are bullied to do so. It could just be a choice of words to relay the notion that they have no choice in regards to better crops but again, without evidence I am just making a huge assumption here. Either way it'shard to draw a conclusion and that leaves me with doubt.

A more stronger case against the claims of John in regards to the farmers claims is that 24 farmers from one area are by no means representative of 2.11 million farms across the USA and the 70 million hectares of those growing GM crops (2014 report  Just like the Seralini study mentioned above, it is too small a sample size. Also this is an anecdote of an anecdote. I am sure lots of information is missing, exaggerated or even completely changed.Without evidence though, we can only point out the flaws with the lack of information.

So in conclusion,John's claims about these particular problems with GMOs are clearly in error or inaccurate. The links I provided and the sound reasoning are more than enough to prove that. It is my opinion that John may be a victim of his own confirmation bias. He probably will only listen to positions that support his and will dismiss and forget evidence to the contrary. The evidence presented shows that GMOs are studied well and are GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by the scientific community.

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