Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Huge GMO turkey for Thanksgiving dinner

I try to present facts and logic and solutions rather than just opinions.

Contact me If your facts and logic are convincing, I'll change my mind !

Safe for consumption ?
Should GMOs in food be labeled ?
Are GMOs a net gain or loss for consumers ?
Safe in other ways ?
Types of regulation
Farm economics
Agricultural corporations and politics

Safe for consumption ?

  1. Each GMO has to be evaluated separately; it is wrong to say "all GMOs are good" or "all GMOs are bad".

    From Steven Novella's "The GMO Controversy":
    ... it is difficult to talk about GMOs as if they are one thing, and when someone does they are likely speaking from an ideological position. Rather, each individual GMO needs to be assessed on its own risks and merits.

    Alison Edwards's "All GM Foods Are Not Created Equal"

  2. I've yet to see any clear evidence that any GMO is unsafe.

    From Wikipedia's "Genetically modified food":
    There is broad scientific consensus that food on the market derived from GM crops pose no greater risk than conventional food. No reports of ill effects from eating GM food have been documented in the human population.

    From Science's "Standing Up for GMOs":
    ... Introduced into commercial production over 17 years ago, GM crops have had an exemplary safety record. And precisely because they benefit farmers, the environment, and consumers, GM crops have been adopted faster than any other agricultural advance in the history of humanity.

    New technologies often evoke rumors of hazard. These generally fade with time when, as in this case, no real hazards emerge. But the anti-GMO fever still burns brightly, fanned by electronic gossip and well-organized fear-mongering that profits some individuals and organizations. ...

    From Mark Bittman's "Leave 'Organic' Out of It":
    By themselves and in their current primitive form, G.M.O.s are probably harmless; the technology itself is not even a little bit nervous making. (Neither we nor plants would be possible without "foreign DNA" in our cells.) ...

    ... the technology itself has not been found to be harmful, and we should recognize the possibility that the underlying science could well be useful ...

    From Steven Novella's "The GMO Controversy" 2/2014:
    ... the safety of GMO food has been researched. The bottom line is that the research shows that existing GMOs are safe for human consumption and as animal feed.


    Critics claim there has not been enough testing. It is easy, however, to simply ask for more testing and make that seem as if it is the rational position. This is the same strategy used by antivaccinationists - no testing is ever enough, and the precautionary principle is endlessly invoked. Critics also have their studies to cherry pick, like the infamous Seralini study (now retracted).

    It seems that we have as much of a consensus on the safety of current GMOs according to systematic reviews and expert panels as we do on the safety of vaccines, and perhaps even higher confidence intervals than the consensus that the planet is warming.

    It can also be pointed out that plants that are produced through hybridization, which can chaotically mix in hundreds of genes, and plants resulting from mutagenic breeding do not require the same safety testing currently required of GMOs.

    Skeptical Raptor's "Review of 10 years of GMO research - no significant dangers"
    Skeptical Raptor's "The solid GMO scientific consensus"
    GLP's "International science organizations on crop biotech safety"
    (Discussion of this in Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast 428.)
    Brooke Borel's "Core Truths: 10 Common GMO Claims Debunked"
    Andrew Pollack's "Genetically Engineered Crops Are Safe, Analysis Finds"

    I'm not sure critics even say how they think GMOs could be unsafe. When you eat food, the food's DNA doesn't change the DNA in cells in your body. If you walk past a farm field, you can't somehow inhale DNA from the crop and have it get into your DNA. GMO foods contain the same molecules and amino acids and lipids and starches etc that other foods contain (Kevin M. Folta's "GMO Labeling: I'll Agree When ..."). Mostly they contain the same genes as other foods do, too, just maybe in slightly different combinations.

    From Skeptoid's "GMO Facts and Fiction":
    When you eat food, your body does not incorporate the genes of what you eat into your own DNA. That's incredibly irrelevant to how the digestive system works. Genes that get digested are broken down into their constituent amino acids by your digestive system. For those that pass through your tract without being digested, no mechanism exists for some type of complex gene-splicing to take place that would overtake your body.

    From KUHF's "Engines of Our Ingenuity 2687: What Lives Within Us" (MP3):
    Nine of ten cells in the human body are microbial, not identifiable as human. In the human gut alone, as many as 1000 species bring to the body 100 times as many genes as our own DNA carries. Each of us is a community of living organisms, an ecosystem existing in a concerted life together. Genetically, we are vastly outnumbered by our own microbiome, a term that describes the genetic makeup of our commensals.

    By the way, conventional food is not risk-free:
    Problems with our food supply:
    Maybe GMOs shouldn't be a high-priority concern.

  3. Animals and humans in USA have been consuming GMOs for decades, with no demonstrated harm.

    From Dan Charles's "Top Five Myths Of Genetically Modified Seeds, Busted":
    "... a lot of the organic corn that's fed to organically raised chickens or pigs, does contain some level of GMOs."

    My response to "Lack of evidence of harm doesn't prove them harmless. There are simply no independent long-term studies.":
    Probably nothing in our food supply (or non-food products) has been "proven harmless". I doubt there have been a lot of "independent long-term studies" of foods, either. Maybe studies of some food-ingredients or food-metabolytes, such as sugar or fats or lipids.

    And many common foods/drinks have suspect things in them. For example, from Tobacco Truth's "Carcinogens in Coffee and Smokeless Tobacco: Truths & Half-Truths":

    A leading expert in carcinogenesis, Bruce Ames, authored a scientific manuscript in 2000 reporting that 21 known carcinogens are found in coffee. Roasted coffee contains thousands of chemicals in addition to addictive caffeine. Some of these agents have been shown in laboratory experiments to cause cancer. Professor Ames also reported that humans consume carcinogens every day in foods and beverages that are considered "safe"; the carcinogens are present in such minuscule quantities that they play no significant role in the development of human cancer. He wrote:

    "Naturally occurring pesticides that are rodent carcinogens are ubiquitous in fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices. Cooking foods produces about 2000 milligrams per person per day of burnt material that contains many rodent carcinogens and many mutagens ... In a single cup of coffee, the natural chemicals that are known rodent carcinogens are about equal in weight to a year's worth of synthetic pesticide residues that are rodent carcinogens, even though only 3% of the natural chemicals in roasted coffee have been adequately tested for carcinogenicity."

    Here are some of the cancer-causing agents in coffee: Acetaldehyde, benzaldehyde, benzene, benzofuran, benzo(a)pyrene, caffeic acid, catechol, 1,2,5,6-dibenzanthracene, ethanol, ethylbenzene, formaldehyde, furan, furfural, hydrogen peroxide, hydroquinone, isoprene, limonene, 4-methylcatechol, styrene, toluene, xylene. And there are still about a thousand chemicals that haven't been tested.

    While this is a scary list, health officials are not calling for a ban on coffee. They know that epidemiologic studies show that coffee, while not absolutely harmless, is quite safe to consume.

    User comment and another user responding on Prof Kevin Folta's "Ask Me Anything about Transgenic (GMO) Crops!":
    What would you say to people who suggest that longer-term, harder-to-measure effects might be happening without us picking up on them simply because there is no easy way to test for them?

    This is the kind of negative health effect that resulted from things like asbestos back in the day that we only managed to address years later, so you could understand why it might be in focus for people who may be a bit skeptical about the long-term impacts of short-term successful technologies.


    Be specific: do you mean BT found in BT corn? BT is an organic substance used to control caterpillars and used by pretty much all organic farmers. We know the effect: zero.

    What about golden rice -- vitamin A added to keep children from going blind. Only health benefits from vitamin A.

    The real question: how many people in 3rd world countries who starve from crop failures or children going blind from vitamin A deficiency are you willing to sacrifice for multi-decade studies on BT and vitamin A? There are people in the real world that GMO crops can save right now and the anti-GMO groups are stopping that from happening.

    From Prof Kevin Folta's "Ask Me Anything about Transgenic (GMO) Crops!":
    > Are there really enough long-term
    > studies that prove GMO's are safe to
    > eat? Is it even possible to design
    > and perform such a study?

    First, "short term" studies are excellent predictors in the appropriate models. If you feed mice something funky for 90 days, they show the effects in the first week. You can see changes in blood chemistry, weight gain, so many metrics.

    On top of that, many "long term" studies (90 days to 2 years) have been done and show no effects of GM food on animals (good or bad). New work to be published soon shows that pigs, chickens and cows fed exclusively GM for years have no differences than before GM. It is a study from about 1986 to current times.

    You can never prove anything safe. However, there is no evidence of harm. That's the best science can do!

    From Prof Kevin Folta's "Ask Me Anything about Transgenic (GMO) Crops!":
    > Is there a real risk of horizontal gene
    > transfer from genetically modified foods
    > to the bacteria in our microbiome
    > or even our own cells and tissues?

    Certainly there always is a possibility, as many bacterial species use such mechanism for survival. However, it is extremely unlikely to happen and be of consequence. We eat billions of different genes every day, and if there's an EPSPS or BT gene in there from a transgenic plant --- it is a drop in the ocean.

    Plus these days microbiomes are a great area of research. If something showed up from any crop, GM or conventional, you'd hear about it!

    Jon Entine's "The Debate About GMO Safety Is Over, Thanks To A New Trillion-Meal Study"

  4. There's no reason to think cross-breeding is any better or safer than GM technology, for creating new foods.

    Cross-breeding is hit-or-miss experimentation, just mixing two large groups of genes together and seeing what comes out, again and again. GM technology is much more controlled and targeted.

    "Cross-species" movement of genes: there's nothing magical or weird about "crossing the species barrier". If two types of organism are different species, that just means they can't interbreed; they probably already share many or most genes. And lots of cross-species gene transfer takes place naturally (Wikipedia's "Horizontal gene transfer").

    From Marc Brazeau's "What the Haters Got Wrong About Neil deGrasse Tyson's Comments on GMOs":
    Re: "I don't want to eat a tomato that has fish DNA. Breeding in a laboratory is not the same as breeding that happens in nature over hundreds of years."

    ... tomatoes and fish share around 60% of their DNA already, so it's too late to avoid that mashup. Nature already put the chocolate in the peanut butter and the peanut butter in the chocolate. The question is, why would one more gene out of thousands be the deal breaker? Would you eat grapes with human DNA? Too late. Humans share around 25% of our DNA with grapes. We share 50% of our DNA with a banana. It doesn't matter where the DNA comes from, it's just the basic building blocks. It matters what it does.

    While sentiment also stems from a lack of understanding of genetics, there are also some naive assumptions about breeding not considered genetic engineering. I've written before about just how specific and technically sophisticated contemporary plant breeding has become. Traditional breeders are going after traits which are just as specific as the traits sought by breeders using genetic engineering. This is something that few people are aware of. Nor do they realize just how sophisticated current methods are. ["Marker-assisted breeding", "radiation mutagenesis breeding"] ... today almost no breeding happens that doesn't involve a laboratory and it's been a long time since it resembled anything that happens in nature. But that was Tyson's point. Even the breeding that we did 10,000 years ago wouldn't have happened in nature. The crops we've bred would not have happened in 'nature' and they wouldn't survive in 'nature' if we turned them loose. ...

    From Prof Kevin Folta's "Ask Me Anything about Transgenic (GMO) Crops!":
    > Do you see modern genome manipulation
    > techniques as inherently more risky
    > than traditional methods based on
    > mutations and natural selection?
    > Some people seem very concerned about
    > GMO crops, what are the biggest real
    > risks and how are they different from
    > those of traditionally developed crops?

    Quite to the opposite. ... check out my table. Traditional breeding, mutation breeding, generation of polyploids, whatever ... these are all ways to incorporate genetic variation into new plant lines. Until very recently this was a random and wild process. As breeding has matured, it has become more precise.

    GM gives us the opportunity to install a single gene (or genes) of known function. We can follow it, analyze its expression and protein products. We can analyze its effects on metabolites with great precision.

    In terms of risk, I'd be much more concerned about mobile DNA elements in the genome than I would be by a T-DNA insert. Nowadays every transgenic plant even remotely targeted for commercialization is completely sequenced and analyzed. None of the companies or institutions making them want any surprises and certainly don't want to make a dangerous product.

    They don't do this ever with traditional breeding.

    More from Prof Kevin Folta's "Ask Me Anything about Transgenic (GMO) Crops!":
    > It seems like many stories are written
    > that denounce GMOs as some stepping stone
    > to a cancerous plague. Can you elaborate
    > more on the testing that goes on with a
    > new plant ... configuration? Before it's
    > brought out of the lab and into the field
    > for large-scale testing?

    This sentiment comes from those who don't understand the biology. Addition of herbicide resistance is as benign as swapping out your Mopar oil filter for a Napa Gold one. It is simply a different component that does the same job. Basically, the additions are really minor, and study after study have shown that they have few collateral effects (I'm surprised how few).

    Testing is pretty amazing these days. It is all done early in the selection process, and I learned last week that at some point every plant is sequenced to identify the best one to take to commercialization. They know where the gene is inserted, what the neighborhood looks like, etc. On top of that our ability to measure gene expression, proteins and metabolites has never been more sensitive or cheap.

    This means that any product has been elaborately examined even before it goes into testing to satisfy FDA, EPA and USDA. Those tests are quite extensive and examine allergenicity, toxicity, invasiveness and other ag qualities. Takes millions of dollars and many years.

    From /u/Helassaid on reddit:
    Let's start with the basics of genetic lineage. You're aware of the central dogma of life? DNA exists as the base genetic code, which is transcribed into RNA to prepare the code for function, and the RNA is translated into protein, to carry out that function. This is generally how all life works, with the rare exception being reverse transcriptase retroviruses, but whether or not we consider them life is still up for vigorous debate.

    When plants or animals reproduce, they create specialized cells called gametes which carry half of their overall genetic material, which exists in duplicate. Sometimes plants can screw this up and end up with a whole bunch of extra duplicate genetic material (polyploidy), such as potatoes, but that's not necessarily important here. What is important is something in the process of producing gametes (meiosis) something called crossing over happens, in the prophase segment called diakinesis. Duplicated chromosomes are called sister chromatids, and during diakinesis, non-sister chromatids can overlap and exchange genetic material, frequently across genes and even in between the 3 nucleotide code for amino acids (we'll talk about this more in a second). The process is otherwise completely random. These new modified sister chromatids split when the cell splits to make gametes, and now each new gamete has a different genetic code from the others, and from its parent. These gametes are released, fertilize their respective counterparts, and a new organism can grow with this new genetic material.

    This is a rough detail of how descent with modification works from a genetic standpoint. Why did I explain all of this? Because this is the natural process, and it is random and chaotic. It's also a form of genetic modification, albeit the accepted "organic" form, which can result in a lot of unintended outcomes. This is how Penn State made a great potato for frying into chips that also poisons you, but also how Karen Gillan got her sexy red hair. When crossing over occurs, it can interrupt genes, shift the whole gene down into a new sequence of amino acids, or create non-functional genes. Since every 3 nucleotides codes for an amino acid in the RNA building protein, throwing in one or two nucleotides into that code drastically changes the protein, frequently making it non-functional. Splicing half a gene into another would also drastically change the protein output of that gene. Again, this is random and chaotic.

    There is no order to crossing over, and we only see successful organisms reproducing because they have the most stable genetic code that produces the most useful proteins in the most efficient manner. We don't see the deleterious mutants because they don't survive, and we don't see massive shifts in DNA because it would make the organism unfit. This is the whole problem with using natural methods of breeding that DNA insertion GMO is trying to solve, and actually has solved, despite concerns.

    GMO injects just one gene, or a handful of genes, directly into the DNA of the target organism. For example, Cry1ab is injected into corn and provides it with resistance to insects. That's all that gene does. It codes for one specific protein, that does one specific job: kill beetles that would ruin the corn. Rather than attempting to bombard the corn with radiation, or selectively breed it for hundreds of generations to attempt to get the same effect, researchers took the gene from a bacterium, sequenced it, studied its protein's effects on beetles, studied its protein's effects on high order mammals and eventually humans, and then spliced it into the corn to produce just that one specific protein.

    That's all modern laboratory GMO does. There is no smoke or mirrors, just a steep learning curve of genetics. This is a very basic glossing over, but essentially that's how it works. There's nothing nefarious going on here - it's using accepted laboratory techniques refined through research to produce a desired outcome in a more timely and targeted manner. We can discuss the political implications later, but the science itself is sound, and nobody is out there producing mind-control frankencorn.

    Brad Plumer's "'Traditional crop breeding' isn't nearly as traditional as you think"
    Nathanael Johnson's "It's practically impossible to define 'GMOs'"
    Jack Kaskey's "Mutant Crops Drive BASF Sales Where Monsanto Denied: Commodities"
    Prof Kevin Folta's "More Frankenfood Paradox!"

  5. As of September 2014, EU has authorized 49 GMOs for use or animal or human consumption, according to Wikipedia's "Regulation of genetically modified organisms in the European Union".

From Martin Kaste's "So What Happens If The Movement To Label GMOs Succeeds?":
... Americans have been eating GMO foods since 1996, without strange side effects. Critics say GMOs haven't been tested enough, but the verdict of mainstream science is that they're safe to eat. ...

Even Michael Pollan agrees on that front. "I haven't seen any evidence that's persuaded me that there's any danger to health," says the food journalist, who's become a kind of hero for the organic and local-food movements. He doesn't like GMOs, and he's quick to add that he thinks they need more testing. ...

Most of the animal meat we eat is no longer "natural". Chickens have been bred to grow 6-7 times as fast as they did before. Dairy cows have been bred to give 10x as much milk as before. Turkeys have been bred to be so top-heavy that they can't mate naturally any more.

A Hippie's Defense of GMOs
George Dvorksy's "What if natural products came with a list of ingredients?"
Shot of Science's "We're all made of chemicals"
Yvette d'Entremont's "The Bullsh*t Hypocrisy of 'All-Natural' Foods"
David Tribe's "600+ published safety assessments"
Is GM food safe ?

Should GMOs in food be labeled ?

Label the food and let consumers decide for themselves whether they want to consume GMOs.

But in Europe, labeling has not led to choice, it has led to keeping GMOs out of the market: Scientific American's "Labels for GMO Foods Are a Bad Idea" (although that article contains some misinformation, such as "The U.S. FDA has tested all the GMOs on the market ...").

From Wikipedia's "Genetically modified food controversies":
"Experience with mandatory labeling in the European Union, Japan, and New Zealand has not resulted in consumer choice. Rather, retailers have eliminated GM products from their shelves due to perceived consumer aversion to GM products."

From Martin Kaste's "So What Happens If The Movement To Label GMOs Succeeds?":
In the U.S., something on the order of 70 percent of our food already contains at least some GMO ingredients, so the GMO label would suddenly become ubiquitous on most grocery shelves. How would consumers react?

The foes of genetic engineering hope America's experience will mirror Europe's. GMO food is legal, there, but it has to be labeled, and marketers are wary of consumer backlash. So GMO foods are rare.

But America isn't Europe. For one thing, Americans have been eating GMO foods since 1996, without strange side effects. Critics say GMOs haven't been tested enough, but the verdict of mainstream science is that they're safe to eat.


And one other thing to keep in mind is that the U.S. already has a de facto "Non-GMO" label: organic. Organic foods may not contain any genetically modified organisms. It may turn out that the consumers who would avoid GMO labels have already taken their business to Whole Foods.


Given the prevalence of GMO ingredients in American food, some manufacturers may skip the cost of keeping things segregated, and simply slap a GMO label on everything. That option may become especially attractive if it turns out consumers aren't put off by the label. ...

... think about all the other things that come with scary labels - things you end up buying anyway.

From Steven Novella's "Should There Be Mandatory GMO Labeling?":
Mandatory GMO labeling is actually misinforming the public. It perpetuates a false dichotomy, a misunderstanding of agriculture, and conflates different crops that have nothing to do with each other. The public will falsely believe that "GMO" means "evil pesticides", even when they mean "vitamin A added", or something similar.

From Mark Bittman's "Leave 'Organic' Out of It":
I'm in favor of transparency - I want to know what's in my food - and labeling G.M.O.'s may well be the thin end of the wedge. But that G.M.O.'s are in the forefront of the battle for transparency is perhaps unfortunate, since they play on irrational fears and are far less worrisome than the intensive and virtually unregulated use of antibiotics and agricultural chemicals.

See also: "Purchasing habits: probably not as expected" section of GMO Compass's "An overview of European consumer polls on attitudes to GMOs".

Labeling the GMOs in a product certainly is allowed today. What's debated is whether such labeling should be mandatory.

I wonder about the practicality of anything but vague, blanket "may contain GMOs" or "GMO-free" labels. If we try to specify exactly which ingredients contain exactly what type of GMO, will the labels get huge ? Shouldn't we do the same kind of labeling for the processing steps in "normal" food ("exposed to pesticide X to kill insects", "processed with chemical Y to strip off the skin of fruit Z") ? Would we label each ingredient ("grown near a highway that exposed it to exhaust fumes", "harvested early after an early frost") ? We have a similar problem with "organic" in the USA: the label is too vague, govt has allowed loopholes, there are multiple types of organic practices. And manufacturers who need flexibility in their production line (using whichever ingredient is cheapest each week) often just lump every possibility into a label: "may contain any or all of A, B, C, D, E, F". Some advocates say we should label for whether deforestation was involved, were sustainable practices used, were workers and animals treated appropriately, how much water was used, how much fertilizer used and run-off in production of the food (or each ingredient ?). I guess at some point the label will be replaced by a bar-code or QR code that refers to a huge web-page about every ingredient and processing step involved in the food production.

From various people on reddit:
I'll stop being against GMO labeling when they start labeling every other possible thing that has no relevance to nutrition or safety of a product.

How about mandatory labeling on any product that was handled by people of a certain ethnicity and/or sexual orientation? Not because it affects the product itself, but because people want to know! ... isn't that enough?


I demand that my milk is labeled, clearly indicating the color of the cow it's coming from. Is it a white cow, or a brown cow? More information is always better!

From someone on reddit:
I think all meat-based products sold at all supermarkets should contain a label to let me know if there is any human flesh mixed in with the various meat products. I am very much against cannibalism and do not wish to accidentally consume any human-flesh. If the meat product isn't labelled as being "human flesh free", then I am forced to assume that all of it must be contaminated with human-flesh. Heck, that it is 100% human flesh.

There is no logical reason for the supermarket and the animal farm producers to not place a large label guaranteeing that there is no human flesh on any and all of the meat-based products. Therefore they must be doing something very wrong.

Sure, some people might say that placing such labels on all products would needlessly scare the sh*t out of more than 98% of the population, but hey ... I think it needs to happen regardless of any consequences. After all, my personal reassurance that I won't accidentally purchase and consume human flesh is way more important to me than any minor drawbacks this plan may hold for the entire national food system.

I'd like a label on my food to tell me if anyone involved in growing or processing it is gay. I have a right to know !

Katherine Mangu-Ward's "80 Percent of Americans Want to Label Food That Contains DNA"

From someone on reddit:
And then of course the laundry list of things we don't label which do have some (if slight) validity: whether / which fertilizer was used, whether / which pesticide(s) were used, what the actual variety is, whether it was harvested by machine or by hand ...

From /u/Decapentaplegia on reddit:
People are free to purchase food with the optional label "GMO-free" if they have ideological reasons to avoid GE cultivars. This is how it works for kosher, halal, and organic: consumers with specialty demands get to pay the costs associated with satisfying those demands.

Mandatory labels need to have justification. Ingredients are labeled for medical reasons: allergies, sensitivities like lactose intolerance, conditions like coeliac disease or phenylketonuria. Nutritional content is also labeled with health in mind. Country of origin is also often mandatory for tax reasons - but that's fairly easy to do because those products come from a different supply chain.

There is no justifiable reason to label GE crops as such, because that label does not provide any meaningful information. GE crops do not pose any unique or elevated risks.

GMO labels really don't tell the consumer anything:
  • A variety of GE corn will be more similar to its parent non-GE corn, than that non-GE corn will be to another variety of non-GE corn. GE soy doesn't resemble GE papaya at all, so why would they share a label?

  • Many GE endproducts are chemically indistinguishable from non-GE (soybean oil, beet sugar, HFCS), so labeling them implies there will be testing which is simply not possible.

  • Most of the modifications made are for the benefit of farmers, not consumers - you don't currently know if the non-GE produce you buy is of a strain with higher lignin content, or selectively-bred resistance to a herbicide, or grows better in droughts.

  • We don't label other developmental techniques - we happily chow down on grapefruits which were developed by radiation mutagenesis (which is a USDA organic approved technique, along with chemical mutagenesis, hybridization, somatic cell fusion, and grafting).

  • Currently, GE and non-GE crops are intermingled at several stages of distribution. You'd have to vastly increase the number of silos, threshers, trucks, and grain elevators - drastically increasing emissions - if you want to institute mandatory labeling.

Instituting mandatory GMO labels:
  • would cost untold millions of dollars (need to overhaul food distribution network)

  • would drastically increase emissions related to distribution

  • contravenes legal precedent (ideological labels - kosher, halal, organic - are optional)

  • stigmatize perfectly healthy food, hurting the impoverished

  • is redundant when GMO-free certification already exists

Please have a look at this checklist of changes required to institute labeling.

Here are some quotes about labeling from anti-GMO advocates about why they want labeling.

Consumers do not have a right to know every characteristic about the food they eat. That would be cumbersome: people could demand labels based on the race or sexual orientation of the farmer who harvested their produce. People could also demand labels depicting the brand of tractor or grain elevator used. People might rightfully demand to know the associated carbon emissions, wage of the workers, or pesticides used. But mandatory labels are more complicated than ink.

Here is a great review of labeling, and here's another more technical one.

From /u/chadcf on reddit:
Generally people oppose GMOs for various reasons. Commonly these reasons are because they think glyphosate is poison, seed patents are evil, monsanto illuminati, whatever. But nobody wants to label the thing they are worried about, they just want a blanket GMO label.

For example, if someone thinks glyphosate is dangerous, why wouldn't they want a glyphosate label instead of a GMO label? A GMO label doesn't tell you whether glyphosate was used. If they're worried about seed patents, why not a label that tell you if the seeds were patented or not? A GMO label doesn't tell you that.

A GMO label tells these people NOTHING about what they claim to actually want to know, yet they still want that label. Why? I really don't get it. They claim to have specific concerns, many of which apply to GMO and non GMO crops, and could be labeled explicitly, but at the end of the day they just want a label that gives them basically zero information about how the food they are eating was developed, tested and grown.

Apparently there are no requirements that alcoholic beverages (beer etc) have to be labeled with nutritional information. No requirements that household cleaners and such have to be labeled with exact contents ?

Most vitamins we consume (as pills, or added to food such as vitamin D added to milk) are made synthetically. They're (gasp) not natural ! Dr. George Obikoya's "Natural Vitamins vs. Synthetic"

Suppose, in the interest of accuracy, we replaced all ingredient names with their (scary-sounding) molecular formulae ? Water became H2O, salt became NaCl, glucose became C6H12O6, caffeine became 1,3,7-Trimethylpurine-2,6-dione. I wonder how consumers would react ?

From various people on reddit":
Labels are cheap. The infrastructure needed to implement them isn't. When farmers are required to segregate their non-GMO food from the food that's going to have a warning label on it, this cost gets paid ultimately by the consumer.

Taking money out of the pockets of the (disproportionately minority) poor in order to satisfy the body-purity wants of rich white people does not lead to the optimally-regulated society.


"If they're safe, why won't you label them?"


"If they're safe, why do they have warning labels?"

It's all a PR trick by anti-GMO advocates.

"Why don't we have labels telling me what kind of tractor was used to plow the fields the carrots were grown in?" It doesn't tell me a damn thing about the nutritional value or safety of the food.


It's a bit like anti-Tuesday activists demanding special (mandatory) labeling on all foods picked or produced on a Tuesday, while ignoring the other days: it costs more and fails to add any meaningful information.


Labeling is an attempt to ban GM products, it is not to educate. Many anti-GMO activists state this explicitly.


Labeling laws (as stated so far) would cause serious logistical issues, because they would require completely separate handling and storage of different varietals, a chain of custody would be required from farmer to processing plant. A state passing such a law would be in effect legislating across state boundaries and be struck down under the commerce clause.


There is no good definition of what constitutes a GMO. Everything from artificial selection to transgentics are genetically modified in one sense and only activists seem to confuse Genetically Engineered with Genetically modified.


Most GM crops are animal feed or are processed to the point that there is nothing "GM" about the product. Maybe you can point to the "GM" part of a sugar molecule. How can such a thing be meaningfully labeled or enforced?


> People who are anti-GMO want to have labels
> printed onto foods describing and detailing
> all the GMO technologies that helped to create them.

But this isn't the label they are proposing. They are proposing essentially a Prop65 type label, with no details about which technology was used to create them, nor the specifics of genes involved. They have no intention of telling you that Bt was used to reduce pesticides.


Nobody is withholding information, it's all readily available with a bit of Googling or a call to the manufacturer. What we shouldn't be doing is making special rules for GMOs or catering to irrational fears because of consumer demands. The customer definitely is not always right.

Other types of labels aren't quite what they seem:
Beth Skwarecki's "Why Hormone-Free, Antibiotic-Free Eggs Aren't Worth the Extra Money"
Anders Kelto's "Farm Fresh? Natural? Eggs Not Always What They're Cracked Up To Be"
Reynard Loki's "Two-Thirds of All Shoppers Are Tricked by the Word 'Natural' at the Supermarket"
Peter Laufer's "Five myths about organic food"
Gene Baur's "If You Think the Organic Label Means Less Animal Suffering, You'd Be Wrong"
Eve Turow's "You Need to Know: What Do Natural, Local and Organic Mean?"
Christie Wilcox's "Mythbusting 101: Organic Farming > Conventional Agriculture"
Joanna Blythman's "Inside the food industry: the surprising truth about what you eat"
Jon Entine and XiaoZhi Lim's "Cheese: The GMO food die-hard GMO opponents love (and oppose a label for)"

Steven Novella's "Should There Be Mandatory GMO Labeling?"
Skeptoid's "The Effects of Mandated GMO Labeling"
Henry I. Miller's "GMO food labels are meaningless"
P. Byrne, D. Pendell, and G. Graff's "Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods"
Nathanael Johnson's "GMO labeling: Trick or treat?"
Julian Sanchez's "Responses to Popular Anti-GMO Rhetoric"
James E. McWilliams' "The Price of Your Right to Know"
Robbie Gonzalez' "80% Of Americans Support Mandatory Labels On Foods Containing DNA. DNA!"
Marc Brazeau's "A Principled Case Against Mandatory GMO Labels"
One thing that would happen: GMO labeling now and then
The Genetic Literacy Project's "Is Labeling Really About Our 'Right To Know' ?" (PDF)
Andrew Pollack's "Genetically Engineered Crops Are Safe, Analysis Finds" (also calls for labeling based on results, not method)

It seems to me that, in many cases, if you examined the resulting food, you couldn't even tell if it came from GMO or non-GMO plants. Basic molecules such as sugars or fats would be the same. Am I right ?

Are GMOs a net gain or loss for consumers ?

Possible benefits of GMOs:
  • Increased productivity (more food per acre, more food per amount of water or fertilizer, faster growing).

  • Tolerance to climate change (tolerance to drought, salt, new pests, new diseases, temperature extremes).

  • Reducing climate change (replacing meat animals with artificial meat, protein from algae, etc).

  • Better nutritional content (increased vitamins, increased protein, less carcinogens, etc).

    For example: Golden rice (increased vitamins), the "Innate" potato (less carcinogen when cooked at high temperature).

  • More appealing food (seedless, etc).

  • Decreased food waste (reduction of spoilage, change in ripening, increased storage life, etc).

    For example: the "Innate" potato (bruise-resistant).

  • Tolerance to pests (use less pesticide, or less-harmful pesticide, or more precisely-applied pesticide, less antibiotics, etc).

    For example: Bt crops (crop produces Bt itself, so don't have to spray Bt everywhere).

  • Tolerance to herbicides (use less herbicide, or less-harmful herbicide).

    For example: Roundup-Ready crops.

  • Resistance to diseases (viruses that are wiping out some crops).

    For example: GMO papaya in Hawaii.

    Serious diseases awaiting cures: citrus greening, citrus canker, Dutch Elm disease, fungi that attack bananas.

  • Fighting human diseases.

    For example: GMO mosquitoes (Lizette Alvarez's "A Mosquito Solution (More Mosquitoes) Raises Heat in Florida Keys").

Of course, some of these benefits may be obtained by non-GMO techniques, too.

Possible bad effects of GMOs:
  • Bad health effects.

  • Contamination (genes moving into other organisms).

  • Unforeseen genetic effects (crop suddenly vulnerable to some new disease).

As far as I can tell, we have no examples of any of these things actually happening. But every GMO is different; I'm sure some cases will happen eventually. As probably has happened with non-GMO stuff too.

Given world population trends and modern production methods, getting rid of GMOs may result in food shortages, higher food costs, use of more fossil-fuel-based pesticides and herbicides, loss of tools to fight some vitamin deficiencies (such as Golden rice).

In fact, consumers probably should be more worried about the chemicals and antibiotics associated with non-GMO food, than the DNA in GMO foods. Pesticides have a proven history of getting into human bodies; DNA from food doesn't. Fertilizer and antibiotic runoff have a proven history of damaging the environment. Changing to GMOs might reduce all of those problems.

Melinda Wenner Moyer's "Conventional fruits and vegetables are perfectly healthy for kids" (pesticides)

From MIT Technology Review's "Why We Will Need Genetically Modified Foods":
With the global population expected to reach more than nine billion by 2050, however, the world might soon be hungry for [GMO] varieties. Although agricultural productivity has improved dramatically over the past 50 years, economists fear that these improvements have begun to wane at a time when food demand, driven by the larger number of people and the growing appetites of wealthier populations, is expected to rise between 70 and 100 percent by midcentury. In particular, the rapid increases in rice and wheat yields that helped feed the world for decades are showing signs of slowing down, and production of cereals will need to more than double by 2050 to keep up. If the trend continues, production might be insufficient to meet demand unless we start using significantly more land, fertilizer, and water.

Climate change is likely to make the problem far worse, bringing higher temperatures and, in many regions, wetter conditions that spread infestations of disease and insects into new areas. Drought, damaging storms, and very hot days are already taking a toll on crop yields, and the frequency of these events is expected to increase sharply as the climate warms. For farmers, the effects of climate change can be simply put: the weather has become far more unpredictable, and extreme weather has become far more common.


One advantage of using genetic engineering to help crops adapt to these sudden changes is that new varieties can be created quickly. Creating a potato variety through conventional breeding, for example, takes at least 15 years; producing a genetically modified one takes less than six months. Genetic modification also allows plant breeders to make more precise changes and draw from a far greater variety of genes, gleaned from the plants' wild relatives or from different types of organisms. Plant scientists are careful to note that no magical gene can be inserted into a crop to make it drought tolerant or to increase its yield - even resistance to a disease typically requires multiple genetic changes. But many of them say genetic engineering is a versatile and essential technique.


... In the United States, 76 percent of the [corn] crop is genetically modified to resist insects, and 85 percent can tolerate being sprayed with a weed killer. ...


... in the case of several important crops, the negative effect of global warming is more strongly tied to the number of extremely hot days than to the rise in average temperatures over a season. If that's true, earlier research might have severely underestimated the impact of climate change by looking only at average temperatures.

From Marc Brazeau's "What the Haters Got Wrong About Neil deGrasse Tyson's Comments on GMOs":
The adoption of the Bt trait in corn and cotton has meant a massive reduction in the amount of soil-applied insecticides applied by conventional farmers.


By the way, lots of plant produce their own insecticides. The idea for Bt crops came from nature. In fact, 99.99% of pesticide 'residues' in your diet were produced by the plants themselves, naturally.

Re: 'drenching crops in toxic herbicides':

What we are talking about here is herbicide-resistant crops, most notably Monsanto's RoundUp Ready crops. These have been bred so that they don't die when the herbicide RoundUp (glyphosate) is applied to the fields to kill weeds. The reason that RoundUp was chosen is that it is much more effective than other herbicides while being relatively non-toxic and easy on the environment IN COMPARISON to other herbicides. In fact, for acute toxicity, RoundUp is less toxic to mammals than table salt or caffeine. Again, this has to do with 'mode of action'. The reason it is incredibly effective as an herbicide is also the reason it isn't a poison to mammals.

Glyphosate works by inhibiting photosynthesis. For critters that don't rely on photosynthesis, it is just another salt with the normal toxicity of salt (less than sodium chloride). If you are a plant that relies on photosynthesis for energy, it's literally 'lights out'.

So while use of glyphosate is up, use of other more problematic herbicides is down. It works so well that it allowed many farmers to adopt what is known as conservation tillage. Tillage is an important tool for controlling weeds. Prior to planting, the farmer tills the soil to interrupt weeds which would cause problems during the growing season. While this may seem like a good way of avoiding using herbicides, it releases lots of carbon into the atmosphere, uses plenty of tractor fuel and cause problems with erosion and soil structure. The judicious use of a low-environmental-impact herbicide like glyphosate is often the environmentally friendlier strategy.

From someone on reddit:
RR crops reduce herbicide use, promote the usage of no-till farming, and allow for the use of a minimally toxic herbicide (glyphosate) instead of its much more toxic predecessors. The LD50 of glyphosate is a staggering 5000 mg/kg. The surfactants are more toxic than the herbicide itself!

From someone on reddit:
Glyphosate made a whole slew of old-guard herbicides obsolete.

Dynap, Lasso, Prowl, Treflan, and others darn near disappeared overnight. When glyphosate appeared on the market it was extremely effective in all weather conditions, safe to spray/handle, and stable enough that any farmer could spray it without drift worries.

The adoption of no-till that became possible thanks to effective herbicides has conserved an unfathomable amount of topsoil. No more moldboard plowing, full tillage, row cultivating all summer, etc.

With BT stacked corn, granular insecticide use has disappeared. Before the 1980's there wasn't a corn planter sold in the U.S. without insecticide boxes. Now most manufacturers don't even have them as an option.

Steven Novella's "EU Report on Glyphosate"
Credible Hulk's "Glyphosate toxicity: Looking past the hyperbole, and sorting through the facts"
Julian Sanchez's "Responses to Popular Anti-GMO Rhetoric"

A series of comments on Prof Kevin Folta's "Ask Me Anything about Transgenic (GMO) Crops!":
Herbicide overuse is a long-term problem; farmers were already using herbicides before GMOs. The idea with granting resistance to specific herbicides is just to get farmers to switch from the really environmentally destructive herbicides over to milder ones like glyphosate. It's true that this isn't a panacea, but it's a Band-Aid on a pre-existing problem. We're going to have to deal with herbicide resistance (and fertilizer runoff, and monocultures' pathogen susceptibility, ...) with or without GMOs.


I think the trouble with using GMOs for glyphosate resistance is it gives a mentality of "now I can spray as much as I want with no consequences!"


I hear what you're saying, but I would suggest to talk to a farmer; they would never do that (well, good ones won't anyway). Chemical input costs are HUGE on modern farms, and the whole point of the Roundup-Ready crops is to lower the use of herbicides by allowing a single burn-down at the beginning of the season, and not spraying throughout the rest of the year.

Granted, some will go nuts with the stuff, but I highly recommend you visit a testing/training farm and hear what the actual best practices are. It works out to ~20 oz per acre [for GE corn]. That's about a pint-glass spread over 43560 square feet. It's really not that much.

Gwen Pearson quoted in Annalee Newitz's "10 Scientific Ideas That Scientists Wish You Would Stop Misusing":
Things can be "synthetic" and manufactured, but safe. And sometimes better choices. If you are taking insulin, odds are it's from GMO bacteria. And it's saving lives.

Dan Charles' "Who Made That Flavor? Maybe A Genetically Altered Microbe"

Huge GMO turkey for Thanksgiving dinner

Safe in other ways ?

How do GMOs affect:
User comment on Prof Kevin Folta's "Ask Me Anything about Transgenic (GMO) Crops!":
I want to quickly address the farmer suicide myth. There is no evidence towards a causal relationship between the use of GM crops and suicide among Indian farmers. Activists who claim this, such as Vandana Shiva, are using emotional appeals to incite fear among the public - it's despicable.

Research consistently show that suicide rates among Indian farmers are impacted primarily by erratic rainful and other crop failures, as well as debt. The rate of suicide among Indian farmers has not increased since 2002, despite the use of GM crops increasing to adoption rates of over 90%. Other research shows that suicide rates among farmers in India are lower than many other demographics. Suicide is a huge issue in India, and it should be addressed - but using a common societal problem to slow the progress of technologies that could potentially lower suicide rates by increasing income and food access to at-risk people is shameful.
Ian Plewis's "Hard Evidence: does GM cotton lead to farmer suicide in India?"
IFPRI's "Bt Cotton and Farmer Suicides in India" (PDF)
Rubab Abid's "The myth of India's 'GM genocide'"
David Tribe's "600+ published safety assessments"
Marc Brazeau's "About those industry funded GMO studies ..."
Jon Entine's "What happens when 100 billion animals, over 18 years, eat GMOs?"

Types of regulation

Various countries or unions regulate GMOs in various ways:
  1. Cultivation: allowed or banned.
  2. Import or sale of food containing GMOs: allowed or banned.
  3. Labeling of food containing GMOs: label "contains GMOs", "GMO-free", or specify each GMO it contains.

Some people try to exaggerate claims, saying things such as "country X banned GMOs". Often when you check that claim, you find something like "country X has banned GMOs Y and Z, but not other GMOs". Or "country X in the EU has invoked a temporary, emergency ban of GMO Y while the overall EU approval of GMO Y is being appealed".

There are varying regulations inside some countries: Some states or counties in USA have bans, some states in Australia had bans but lifted them, some countries in EU have tried to ban certain GMOs, etc.

Some situations in specific countries: Examiner's "What countries have banned GMO crops?" 6/2011
Wikipedia's "Regulation of the release of genetically modified organisms"
Zhang Tao and Zhou Shudong's "The Economic and Social Impact of GMOs in China" (2003 ?)

Farm economics

Is it fair for farmers to have to buy new GMO seeds each year ? Is it fair to penalize them for GMO contamination into their fields ? Should they be entitled to damages if GMOs encroach into their non-GMO fields ?

These are legal, licensing and economic issues. They're not inherent in the technology of GMOs.

The Credible Hulk's "Genetically Engineered crops and seed saving myths"
EuropaBio's "Why do seeds have patents?"
The Genetic Literacy Project's "Patented seeds are not exclusively GMO - They are in the fields of organic farmers, too"
The Genetic Literacy Project's "Seed patent primer: Is the use of GMOs preventing farmers from reusing their seeds?"

From Franklin Veaux's answer to "Is Monsanto evil?""
A lot of folks don't like that farmers aren't allowed to save seeds from GMO crops. Well, farmers also can't save seeds from patented organic or conventional crops either. Or from hybrid crops (seeds from hybrid crops don't tend to breed the desired traits reliably). But I grew up in a farm town, and I've never met a farmer who wants to save seeds. It's bad for business. Seeds are one of the cheapest parts of running a farm. Farmers who save seeds have to dry, process, and store them. Farmers who buy seeds get a guarantee that the seeds will grow; if they don't, the seed company will pay them.

From author's comment on Prof Kevin Folta's "What is 'Genetically Modified'? and the Frankenfood Paradox":
> my main issue about GMO is the
> non-beneficial changes being made to
> DNA to make it more profitable. For
> example: deliberately sterile plants,
> plants that won't grow without enablers.

Deliberately sterile plants (and animals) have been traditionally bred for centuries with no complaint. There are no transgenic plants that are, or ever have been, grown to be sterile. That technology was from Delta Pine and was never deployed.

Non-beneficial changes? I think you'd find quite a number of farmers that would argue with that. They still can buy non-GM hybrids. Many choose transgenic because it works for them. Saves money, fuel, time, labor. More profitable, sure, but farmers deserve to profit now and then too.
Seedless grapes

From Franklin Veaux's answer to "Is Monsanto evil?""
People say that Monsanto is evil because they sue farmers for accidental contamination of their fields. I looked, but I couldn't find any court cases of this. I did find court cases where farmers denied stealing seeds and said it must be contamination, but in all those cases, a jury or the court found they were lying. (If someone inspects your field and 98% of the plants growing on it are a patented variety, that's not accidental contamination.)
Monsanto's "Why Does Monsanto Sue Farmers Who Save Seeds?"
Wikipedia's "Monsanto Canada Inc v Schmeiser"
Skeptics Stack Exchange's "Have farmers been sued because Monsanto seeds are blowing into their fields?"

GMOs have the potential to reduce or eliminate pesticide use, saving money for farmers and reducing health effects on farmers and farm workers.
Mark Lynas's "How I Got Converted to G.M.O. Food"

Patents on some GMOs are expiring, so farmers can now save seeds, buy off-brand, etc: Antonio Regalado's "As Patents Expire, Farmers Plant Generic GMOs". Does that suddenly make GMOs okay ?

Agricultural corporations and politics

Is Monsanto an evil corporation, bribing government officials to let Monsanto poison us ? Are US farm subsidies a bad policy ?

I have lots of problems with the agricultural policies in USA. But not all problems come from Monsanto, "banning" Monsanto probably would be illegal and wouldn't fix the problems, probably not everything Monsanto does is wrong or questionable (for example, they make plenty of non-agricultural products, too).

Apparently lots of the "Monsanto sued farmers for X" cases are misrepresented by the anti-GMO people. They haven't sued farmers for GMO seed "blowing into their fields"; they sued for people deliberately planting GMO seed in violation of license agreements.
(Discussion of this in Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast 429. Also a short summary in Marc Brazeau's "What the Haters Got Wrong About Neil deGrasse Tyson's Comments on GMOs".)

Some anti-GMO people think seeds or genes shouldn't be patentable, and so Monsanto is evil to defend their patents. Well, the govt and legal system say those things are patentable, so people who develop them can get rewarded for their work, because developing those technologies are good for society. If you disagree, try to get the law changed, don't claim Monsanto is doing something illegal or unethical by defending their patents.

From mem_somerville on reddit:
There are plenty of people ahead of Monsanto on the gene patent list, including the US government and the University of California system. Why aren't we hating them for this ? (and PS: Dupont/Pioneer is way ahead on just plant patents too)

This farmer patents his "pluots" and other products: link. He and his family work hard on improved fruits that have a lot of benefit for growers. I think they deserve reward for that.

From Scuderia on reddit:
Many non-GM crops have similar legal protections that prevent farmers from saving seeds. This usually is not a real problem for most farmers because the practice of saving seeds has died for many crops due to the rise of hybrid varieties.

From Julian Sanchez's "Responses to Popular Anti-GMO Rhetoric":
... almost every seed that farmers use is patented, including organic seeds. Almost all seeds used in large-scale farming production today are hybrids. The reason why seeds are patented is because replanting hybrid seeds creates inferior varieties, so farmers would much rather just buy new seeds for whichever crops they grow. And of course a corporation is going to patent their seed to protect their intellectual property, but this has been happening long before Monsanto came onto the scene.

From Neil deGrasse Tyson on Facebook:
In a free market capitalist society, which we have all "bought" into here in America, if somebody invents something that has market value, they ought to be able to make as much money as they can selling it, provided they do not infringe the rights of others. I see no reason why food should not be included in this concept.

From /r/Ashmedai's comment on Prof Kevin Folta's "Ask Me Anything about Transgenic (GMO) Crops!":
You should keep in mind that patents expire. 17 years from the day it's approved ... give or take due to blah blah blah ... every patented GMO Monsanto has becomes global community property. If you don't like their patented monopoly on their GMOs, be patient.

Lessley Anderson's "Why Does Everyone Hate Monsanto?"
Franklin Veaux's answer to "Is Monsanto evil?"
Keith Kloor's "Speak of the Devil: How did biotech giant Monsanto come to personify evil ?"
Manny Schewitz's "6 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Monsanto"

Some anti-GMO people think all big corporations are evil, or all industrial agriculture is evil, or globalization is evil, and try to use GMO fear or uncertainty to flog those agendas. But they are separate issues.

Perhaps other agricultural issues are important, too: monoculture, dependence on a few crop strains, depleted aquifers, fertilizer run-off, pesticide run-off, distortions from subsidies, fossil fuel consumption, animal welfare, worker welfare, contamination with e. coli or salmonella, etc. See "Problems with our food supply" section. Maybe GMOs shouldn't be a high-priority concern.

From Franklin Veaux's answer to "Is Monsanto evil?""
Was Monsanto (the chemical company) evil ? Certainly they were ruthless. A lot of things they're accused of, though, aren't necessarily true -- at least the way people say they are. For instance, the Agent Orange thing. Agent Orange wasn't invented by Monsanto. It was invented by the DoD. The primary manufacturer wasn't Monsanto. It was Dow Chemical. When Dow couldn't manufacture it fast enough, the government turned to overflow suppliers, including Hercules, the Diamond Shamrock Corporation, Uniroyal (the tire manufacturer), Thompson Chemical Company, and, yes, Monsanto (the chemical company). But strangely, only Monsanto gets blamed for it -- you never see folks boycotting Uniroyal tires over Agent Orange !
The US government compelled companies to manufacture Agent Orange, according to Dow.

From Julian Sanchez's "Responses to Popular Anti-GMO Rhetoric":
... Monsanto is not a massive company. They net about $15 billion annually. As far as corporations go they're about the same size as Whole Foods. So it is absolutely ridiculous to posit the notion that 0.02% of a $900 billion agriculture industry should be considered a monopoly.

The Logic Of Science's "Courts don't determine scientific facts"


From Wilhelm Klumper and Matin Qaim's "A Meta-Analysis of the Impacts of Genetically Modified Crops":
On average, GM technology adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68%. Yield gains and pesticide reductions are larger for insect-resistant crops than for herbicide-tolerant crops. Yield and profit gains are higher in developing countries than in developed countries.
Paul McDivitt's "Does GMO corn increase crop yields? 21 years of data confirm it does - and provides substantial health benefits"

200 years ago, people ate organic, and lived to the age of 'died in childbirth'

Monoculture / diversity:
From Monsanto scientist Fred Perlak on reddit 6/2015:
> homogeneous nature of GMOs risks catastrophe ?

Genetic diversity/biodiversity are important concepts in a sustainable agricultural environment. Monsanto markets worldwide over 500 different varieties of hybrid corn on an annual basis. These differ by maturity, disease tolerance, plant architecture, and other attributes, which are valued by the farmers for their specific locale.

Farmers have learned long ago, not to plant a single variety across their field. Many farmers will plant their own tests of not only Monsanto's material, but of other seed companies to compare performance. This is a very competitive field with very astute customers.

If you are a farmer in Central Illinois you probably have access to 50 or more varieties of corn that could fit your farming operation. They all may have the same biotech trait, but that represents significant diversity.

From someone on reddit:
Monoculture, pesticide use and resistances happen equally to conventionally enhanced crops, as well as "organic" farming. There are no large-scale farms that don't use chemicals, or that plant multiple crops in the same field at the same time.

Steve Savage's "Do GMO crops 'foster monocultures' ?"

Steven Novella's "The GMO Controversy"
The Straight Dope's "What's the latest on genetically modified foods?"
The Skeptic's Dictionary's "The Top Five anti-GMO Tropes"
Julian Sanchez's "Responses to Popular Anti-GMO Rhetoric"
Skeptoid's "GMO Facts and Fiction"
Beth Skwarecki's "The Biggest Concerns About GMO Food Aren't Really About GMOs"
Wikipedia's "Genetically modified food"
Wikipedia's "Genetically modified food controversies"
Brad Plumer's "Genetically Modified Foods"
Nathanael Johnson's "The genetically modified food debate: Where do we begin?"
Skeptical Raptor's "The bad science checklist of GMO opponents"
The Soap Box's "10 reasons why the Anti-GMO and the Anti-vaccination movement are a lot alike"
Ross Pomeroy's "Huge Hypocrisies of the Anti-GMO Movement"
Amy Harmon's "A Lonely Quest for Facts on Genetically Modified Crops"
Nathanael Johnson's "It's practically impossible to define 'GMOs'"
Dan Charles's "Top Five Myths Of Genetically Modified Seeds, Busted"
Stephan Neidenbach's "Five Questions For Anti-GMO Activists"
The Daily Beast's "Whole Foods: America's Temple of Pseudoscience"
Madeline Ostrander's "Can GMOs Help Feed a Hot and Hungry World?"
Laura Santhanam's "Study reveals wide gaps in opinion between scientists and general public"

Rachel Feltman's "Why 'GMO-free' is a marketing ploy you shouldn't fall for"

William Saletan's "Food for Thought: The debate over genetically modified organisms is a great case study in how to think critically"
Kavin Senapathy's "The Anti-Vaccine And Anti-GMO Movements Are Inextricably Linked And Cause Preventable Suffering"
Dihydrogen Monoxide FAQ

Methods of creating new plants or organisms:
  • Natural: let the randomness in Evolution (mutations created by natural radiation, natural mutagenic chemicals, copying errors in reproduction) create new species.

  • Selective breeding.

  • Grafting.

  • Hybridization.

  • Mutagenic breeding, via radiation or mutagenic chemicals.

  • Genetic modification: deliberate addition or removal or replacement of specific genes or sets of genes.

Stephan Neidenbach's "I grew GMOs in my suburban garden, here's what happened"

Cavemen eat organic but don't live past thirty