This is discussion about GRAND PRIZE WINNER! Stronger plants, stronger science, and stronger communication..
There are many websites out there that tell people what to think about GMOs. Only a few provide information, invite people to engage in conversation, and let them decide for themselves.
There isn't any other site that encourages consumers to discuss the issues of GMOs with the scientists who are creating them. This unique conversation both allows consumers to get information from the source and allows scientists to learn more about concerns that consumers have.
This two-way conversation is why I participate in Biofortified and why it's gotten my vote!
I write for Biofortified, and I also have my name on the contest entry. Each day of the final week of voting I will post a reason why I think Biofortified deserves your vote.
Today's reason is Science. Our goal is to make factual scientific information available and accessible so that people can learn about the genetics of the foods they eat. Not only that, but we also want to help people understand how science works and what new discoveries mean for the future. To read more about this on our site, go here:
None of the other entries make a commitment to helping people understand the science. We hope you will consider voting for us!
I have viewed over the recent years, the arguments for and against GM with no bias either way initially, until that is, I received, from official sources, the level of corruption, bribes and lies perpetrated by certain companies engaged in this "new toy" of bio-engineering that no one has any idea how much damage it may or will do to the environment.
The level of crop failures on so-called drought resistant plants, failure of increased yields promised on the likes of BT Cotton all point to fraud and rushed projects, money and returns being more important to most of the GM Industry than safety or truth.
Then we have cover-ups on the established side-effects of these products that are causing great concern in places like India, France and so on.
The truth I regret to say from my observations is that there may eventually with the strictest controls imposed on the likes of Monsanto whose apparent cavalier attitude is mind-boggling to the extreme; be some measure of benefit on proven modifications to plants but, we should be in no doubt that the main drive by the GM Industry is not philanthropic and out of concern for the people, but to gain control of the world's food supply and therefore maximize their profits.
So let us cut the effluent of the Bull and be honest for once.
Although you say here you are not pro GE, on your own homepage there is a link to "Other Pro GE Blogs" implying that yours is one, too. And there is no link to anti GE blogs (which would be a requisite if you really were committed to balanced representation). You even have a link to "Monsanto According to Monsanto" (the industry blog), but no link to the powerful documentary "The World According to Monsanto." Given these facts, how can you really say that you are offering both sides? Your entry here doesn't seem honest.
Megan, please point out where we have said that we are "not pro GE". I've re-read our entry and can find no such thing. I'd appreciate it if you didn't make baseless accusations about our honesty. --- Like the other people blogging at Biofortified, I am a scientist working on genetic engineering. We see genetic engineering as a generally safe technology that may be useful in solving some problems in agriculture. In this way, we are pro-GE. --- That doesn't mean that all traits created by genetic engineering will be beneficial, or that all of them will be safe. That doesn't mean that a given trait will work in all situations, in all crops. Each situation is different and must be evaluated as such. --- At Biofortified, we do our best as scientists to evaluate evidence presented in peer-reviewed publications and other materials and translate it into language that can be understood by people who don't have college-level backgrounds in biology/genetics/biochemistry/etc. We believe that people deserve this information so they can make well-informed choices about the food they eat. Simply telling people what to think and do is condescending and not very helpful. --- We do, from time to time, present information from a variety of anti-GE sources, typically to debunk it. I have yet to find an anti-GE site that doesn't mix in fear-mongering exaggerations with their facts. I don't know why they feel the need to do this, especially since there are plenty of valid concerns about GE to discuss. I don't feel that it is ethical to present a link to a site with purposeful or accidental factual errors without at least some explanation of what a reader will find when they click the link. --- The World According to Monsanto in particular is discussed briefly in a post and then in the comments of my own blog Genetic Maize. http://geneticmaize.squarespace.com/blog/2008/9/23/contaminated.html. As a busy graduate student, I haven't yet had the time to discuss all of the errors and merits of the film. Hopefully we will earn enough votes to earn the prize here so we can attract more collaborators to Biofortified so we can share the work. --- Note: I really, really wish that Changemakers would allow paragraphs in their text boxes. Here, I've used 3 dashes to indicate separation between paragraphs.
Megan Westgate is a Executive Director of the Non-GMO project, so it comes as a surprise that on the first day of the final voting week that she is playing dirty politics and putting words in our mouth. As everyone can read above, we do not claim to not be 'pro-GE' as Megan has said. We do have a list of several blogs on the sidebar of the site which includes the Monsanto blog. She asks why we do not have a link to the anti-Monsanto film there, and quite simply, it is not a blog! We are little by little building lists of resources for people to find out more about genetic engineering, including governmental resources, scientific journals, and yes, even anti-GE sites such as the one she operates. These links will be in pages on the Biofortified site, with descriptions of the resources and links to where they have been discussed on our site, if necessary. There are many sites out there that repeat false or misleading claims one way or another, and we are trying to sift through it as best we can with our busy schedules.
It is also curious that Megan faults us for not having links to anti-GE sites, when on her own site there are no such reciprocal links. Every author listed is either anti-GE or died before knowing about it. She is applying a double-standard.
It is ironic that Megan has made stuff up in the process of calling us dishonest, and as the executive director of the non-GMO project, this reflects very poorly on them. Allow me to humbly suggest that she apologize publicly and retract her statement. I pledge to keep our involvement in this contest civil and respectful, and I hope that all other participants will join me in this pledge.
I appreciate the responses to my comment and am grateful for the opportunity to discuss further. I apologize for my misunderstanding, but stand behind my sentiment that there is room for confusion based on the wording of your entry. You say here that with your site "Discussion is two-way," but all the links you have up are pointing one way only: towards GE. I am sorry for saying that you present yourselves as "not pro GE," because you're right, you don't say that anywhere. Based on your responses, it seems you agree with my comment that you are not about presenting both sides, and I appreciate that clarification. I think my confusion is understandable. Might I suggest that if you wanted your entry to be completely clear here, you could directly say that your site is pro GE.
You're absolutely right that I am the Executive Director of the Non-GMO Project, and as such take a strong interest in what other organizations are doing to educate and inform the public. We believe that people have the right to avoid GMOs if they want to (and they also have the right to eat them if they want to as long as it doesn't negatively impact others). I think that a blog like yours could be a really useful complement to our labeling program IF it actually was a two-way discussion that gave just as much coverage to the cons as the pros. If your site did that, even I might vote for it!
I join you in your pledge to be civil and respectful, thank you.
Megan, the goal of Biofortified is to create a place for scientists and consumers to have a two-way discussion about the facts of genetic engineering. --- As we said in this contest entry, and as you can see on the Biofortified website, we have recently instituted a forum where consumers are welcome to post questions and engage in a two-way discussion aka conversation about genetic engineering. We encourage consumers to ask questions and post their concerns in the comments of our blog posts on Biofortified and contributing blogs as well. The reason why we entered this contest was so that we could better advertise and hopefully get more people to visit Biofortified so the discussion can happen. --- The other side of the coin, of course, is the scientists. Along with attracting consumers, we also need to recruit contributors. We're actively looking for graduate students and professors from a variety of fields to help contribute to the conversation through posts, videos, interviews, participating in the forum, or any other way they can. As we mentioned in the contest entry, having an interview with Michael Pollan would be a great way to introduce some of the problems with genetic engineering, and hopefully get a discussion going about those issues.
Are you open to having anti-GMO scientists as bloggers?
Scientists, like all other people, carry bias with them. What we must do, in order to be good scientists, is to acknowledge that bias and do our best to conduct experiments and analyze data without letting our bias affect what we are doing. In that sense, there should never be a scientist who says they are "pro" or "anti" anything. They can say that the evidence leads them to support one or another theory. We would gladly welcome scientists (including social scientists and other relevant professionals, such as IP lawyers and public policy experts) who have looked at the information and decided that, for whatever reason, they do not support genetic engineering as it currently exists. We would not welcome as a regular contributor a person who chooses rumor over fact. However, persons like that are not denied their chance to speak at Biofortified. They may participate in an interview, start forum topics, and participate in the conversation.
I concur with Anastasia, as a matter of fact I want to say that we are absolutely open to an 'anti-GE' blogger contributing posts to the blog, provided that they base their writing on peer-reviewed research and not fudge the facts. We often learn more from our opponents than we do our allies. As a matter of fact we are very excited about the possibility of winning the changemakers grant because we have a plugin author who will be able to design a plugin for Biofortified that will allow people who have their own blogs, whether they like GE crops or not, to write posts that can go up on the group blog. This has the potential to expand our base of contributors a lot, widening the discussion.
Another way we try to expand the discussion is by having guest posts. I am currently interviewing someone who is critical of genetic engineering, which will be posted on the site when we are done exchanging emails. Indeed, if an 'anti-GE' person wanted to write something to go on the blog, we have a contact page where they can send it for consideration. So far there have been no takers.
Will you allow people who disagree with your organization's position to even comment on your site? You could leave a comment on ours right now!
Thanks, Karl, I think you were able to put this more plainly than I did - I have an unfortunate tendency to be wordy.
NO as they just peddle the biotech lies
We don't have much "anti-GE" content on the site because
are fairly new, and are continually adding content. It takes time to find reliable sources of information, particularly, as I said in a previous comment, because so many "anti-GE" sites mix in misinformation (or outdated information) with the facts, and we as scientists do not feel comfortable spreading what amounts to rumor. --- If you know of any blogs or other sites that advocate a fact based consideration of the issues, please let me know and I will personally add them to the Resources page that I am developing. This page will include editorial remarks along with the links. For example, we need to indicate that "Monsanto According to Monsanto" is an industry blog written by employees of Monsanto and as such may contain bias towards Monsanto's products. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to put as much time into doing this as I would like. --- As we said in this contest entry, the contributors are currently 2 graduate students and 2 professors. All of us have heavy workloads, writing blog posts only when time allows, on a voluntary basis. We have research, planting, harvesting, classes, teaching, writing papers, reading papers, writing proposals... This does mean that our site will be less polished than a professional site for a for-profit organization like the Non-GMO project. We are constantly looking for more contributors to help spread the workload.
Understood. Just as a correction, we are a 501(c)(3) non-profit. We, too, have limited resources and incredibly long hours, so I empathize! I appreciate your openness and may very well follow up with suggestions and contributors. Thanks for being open.
I am interested to learn more about how the Non-GMO Project works. I was under the impression from various news stories that food companies can pay your organization to test their products for genetic elements common to genetically engineered plants, and to use your label on their products. This sounds like the business model of a service-providing for-profit company, so I'm confused as to how it can be a non-profit. Perhaps these news stories misrepresented the Non-GMO Project? I couldn't find confirmation on the Non-GMO Project website. Also, 501(3)(c) organizations must not be operated for the benefit of private interests. I think the companies the Non-GMO Project provides services to will directly benefit financially from the services, so I don't know how that applies either. The organic and "natural products" industries will directly benefit financially from the Non-GMO Project's services as well. Of course, my realm of expertise is far from the legal intricacies of tax code, so I am willing to admit that my thoughts on this may be completely wrong.
First a simple clarification: no we do not test products. We work with companies to implement best practices for protecting their products from contamination (these practices include testing, which they can hire any accredited lab to do). We also work to give consumers here the same right to traditional food that consumers in Europe and elsewhere have access to, and that we believe is a fundamental human right. We are a federally approved public benefit organization based on these activities. This is not a money-making operation for our participants, either. It is costing them huge amounts of energy and money to keep GMOs out of their products because health food consumers already expect their products to be non-GMO. I can assure you that without exception, everyone involved in the program would be a lot happier if they didn't have to worry about genetic contamination in the first place. Many people still feel strongly that it is the responsibility of the companies creating the contamination to clean it up, and that it is extremely unjust that the burden is placed on those who are being contaminated. If you want to understand our program better, I urge you to spend more time on our website and you might even consider reading The Non-GMO Project Standard. I could also be available to discuss by phone if you have further questions. Thanks.
In the spirit of balanced representation, can anyone here point me to a site with independent studies (not funded by commercial biotech companies) that discuss the "rescue" aspect of GMOs? We do currently link to the GMO Compass, which is industry connected, but in general prefer to direct people to non-profit, independent resources. If you have any suggestions along those lines, we would be happy to consider them. Thanks!
I do not know what you mean by "rescue".
In the context of this contest "risk or rescue," rescue would be the benefit aspects. Is that more clear?
I apologize. When a mutation causes a detrimental effect and a second mutation corrects that problem, it is called a "rescue" - I inappropriately applied jargon! One person that posts many studies about genetic engineering is David Tribe at http://gmopundit.blogspot.com/. I don't know how he finds the time to find so many resources! And on that note, I am off to sleep.
Unfortunately as our entry points out, this is a false dichotomy. Genetic Engineering is not a risk or a rescue, it is both. Plant breeding has risks, as well as organic farming, even. The real question in our minds is what modifications have benefits that outweigh the risks, and the black-and-white pro-or-anti-GMO thinking distracts from this important issue.
Nevertheless, I do understand what you mean - independent sites (how about University sites?) that highlight some of the benefits would be good to add to your list, along with book authors that aren't anti-GE. I would recommend checking out Tomorrow's Table by Pam Ronald and Raoul Adamchak, and Pam is one of our bloggers, too. I hope you will consider adding Biofortified to your list, too, we are independent, and winning this contest will help us maintain that independence.
In all fairness, your website indicates that the non-GMO project is itself an industry organization:
"The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization, created by leaders representing all sectors of the organic and natural products industry in the U.S. and Canada" So I'm finding it hard to understand why you are afraid of the term 'industry.' The companies that started the non-GMO project believe they have a lot to gain by suggesting that foods that do not carry their label are unsafe, just on a smaller scale than the Monsantos and Syngentas do by saying their stuff is safe.
If you want to see a list of studies that support the safety of GE crops, check out this list maintained by David Tribe: http://gmopundit.blogspot.com/2007/06/150-published-safety-assessments-o...
I think the most practical way to have an open discussion about GMOs is to label them first. Why aren't the biotech food corporations coming forward with this idea? If they think their products are self-evidently good then they should trust the public reaction and openly label them. Their current attitude makes them seem secretive and conspiratorial, and with a strategy of integrating all their products in our food before there is any discussion of it. I would add that in Europe this debate began much earlier than in the US, and as a result of that discussion public opinion is overwhelmingly against genetically engineered food. Labeling it in Europe would be a marketing disaster. I think that's why the biotech interests in the US don't want labeling.
John, you make some very good points. I agree that voluntary labeling of products from genetically modified foods is something that companies should be able to do if they wish. Where it gets sticky is mandatory labels. The nutritional quality, toxicity, etc of products sourced from genetically modified organisms is well within the range of values for non-genetically modified organisms (at least for the ones currently on the market). If there is no difference, and no health risk, then a mandatory label may not be appropriate. Some other examples of labels that might be appropriate as voluntary labels but not as mandatory labels are "vegetarian" and "Kosher". I invite you to start a discussion on the Biofortified forum, it would be great to tease out some of the nuances that often get lost when discussing this issue.
There is a very good marketing reason behind not labeling the foods. However, if the public demands to know (being paranoid, as they are), the government should respond by mandating it.
BUT, there is no good reason to single out GMOs. The end product is not different (but it's plentiful and cheaper!), it's still tested just like the others. It would feed into an unsupported paranoia as happened in Europe, damaging agriculture and the availability of fruits and vegetables. It would be labeling as unecessary and shallow as the 'antibiotic free' labels on chicken, which must be antibiotic free to begin with. That the public is already eating quite a bit of GMO food and doesn't really seem to care tells me enough about the proper course of action.
If people have philosophical objections to some food, there's no reason for the government to use my tax dollars to label for their belief system.
But I think the people who want labels might end up disappointed. I've seen indications that people might not be as afraid as the label advocates *think* others are.
We discussed that once over at Biofortified:
That said, if people want to fund, maintain, and monitor the foods--at their own expense--I don't have a problem with that. It's pretty much just a marketing strategy.
Thanks for adding to the discussion. In the future on our blog, I plan to write about the research that has been done on acceptance, and it isn't as cut-and-dry as the Non-GMO Project makes it out to be. For instance, if there is any cost associated to labeling, the ~90% support for labels all but dries up. No more than 20% of people are willing to pay more than I think it was $10/year for such labels. Moreover, when presented with actual purchasing decisions to make with labeled GE produce vs conventional (And sometimes organic), people end up choosing the GE more than the others because it is pesticide-free and sometimes cheaper. The 53% figure they give on their website is self-reported, which does not often match up to actual behaviors.
All the reports I have read and comments from farmers show that GM seed is DEARER and most have proven not to be higher in yield so where do you get this idea from about being "plentiful and cheaper"?
Perhaps you want to visit areas in India where Farmers have committed suicide having been promised huge yields on things like BT so-called Disease resistant cotton only to find them not disease resistant, costing three times more than conventional seed and with yields far below that promised.
I am sure the widows and families will welcome you!!
Thanks for commenting. Bt does not make cotton disease-resistant, it makes it insect-resistant. And the rates of suicide have been shown not to have anything to do with Bt cotton but instead with a whole host of other internal problems in the country and its agriculture. Check out this report by the IFPRI on the matter:
Although GE seeds often cost more than non-GE seeds, they also save the farmer money by cutting their pesticide (and herbicide) use, labor, and other farming-related costs. The farmers are often able to make more money, and/or sell their stuff cheaper. It isn't always the case, though. Besides, it would make absolutely no sense if farmers had to pay more to grow it, and had to sell it at a higher price to make money - why would they even grow it in the first place? They can always choose different seeds, yet they very quickly choose those ones.
Also, the Union of Concerned Scientists report that you might be referring to about yield did NOT find that genetic engineering didn't increase yields. In fact, they found that insect-resistant Bt corn increased yields. I would recommend reading it in full:
I suggest that if all the reports you have read indicate what you have said, then you could do with a bit more reading. Sometimes that's all we ask as scientists!
The $ is the Master,
GMO will be shown to be as harmless as Tobacco,
It may be farther down the road,but the human toll will be sad, But science will say they are the same or better...
Just not proven yes yet...
"GMO will be shown to be as harmless as tobacco" - quite prophetic actually. You do understand that cancer is viral/pathogenic in cause and smoking is at best a trigger for the biological cause don't you? Are you aware of the diseases that smokers don't tend to get like Parkinsons, MS, Crohns and UC for a start? There are more, but why should I do your research for you?
Monsanto are thieves stealing genes from plants selectively bred over thousands of years. India kicked their arses through the courts.
Try to separate science from popular propaganda.
and how do you guys know it will be shown to be as harmless as tobacco? what evidence do you have?
I'm actually not even sure what this comment is trying to say - I didn't think Tobacco was harmless, myself. So that makes me think the commenter is being sarcastic. Then again, maybe they're not. It is hard to understand either way. As I linked in a previous comment, there are literally hundreds of published, peer-reviewed studies concerning the safety of GE crops.
I realize he was being sarcastic I was just wanting him to provide evidence for his claim that GMOs will be like tobacco
Lets be clear: biofortified is written by 2 graduate students and 2 professors. We work for non-profit institutions. We are teachers and researchers. Unlike many of our competitors that are selling services, we do not profit from our work. The only things Karl sells is honey and beeswax candles. The only thing I sell is a book that my husband, an organic farmer, and I co-authored. He also sells organic produce to faculty and students. Do not be manipulated by the media and large food processing corporations and retailers. Get the facts on food. Vote biofortified.
Reason #4 to vote for Biofortified: Michael Pollan!
Thank you for your response Karl, however, most of my information actually came from Indian Government sources regarding the suicides and their association with the Cotton Crops and failures.
The facts of the matter really comes down to the following issues:
1/ Fact, the likes of Monsanto are not doing GM Modification for any other reason than to gain control and therefore, up their profits, of the world's food supplies.
2/ Good land management and respecting the role of Nature instead of thinking that we are smarter than it, will provide adequate food.
3/ No one is ungrateful of the role that most Scientists have played over the centuries, but there are as with all walks of life, those whose motives are not as ethical as one would wish, remember Thalidomide its genetic effects known before it was launched. We also note the results of the French scientific reports on the likes of GM Maize that pose serious questions as to safety.
4/ If Nature has not chosen to cross viral DNA or other unrelated species with another, why should Scientists think they know better when this whole thing about GM is still a "new toy"?
5/ The scare tactics of feeding the world is not borne out by facts. much of the hunger is thanks to the Mugabe's of this world, world-wide deforestation and other man-made problems causing massive changes in weather patterns and loss of arable soils.
6/ The current displacement and / or murder of people who won't leave their lands in South America to grow GM Soya mono-crops, that historically, we know is an unwise method of growing food but some people never learn least of all big corporations, is a disaster waiting to happen.
7/ And finally, what part of "We don't want GM Foods nor do we want to be held to ransom on the price of our food to satisfy corrupt businesses isn't understood"?
Hi Garry, please provide your reference that establishes that GE cotton was a cause, major or minor, of suicides in India. The claim is widely made, but statistics showing this connection are never produced. Would it interest you to know that as Bt Cotton cultivation has gone up in the suicide-prone regions of India, that suicide rates have now been going down? It's in the report I linked you to.
Also, Nature does cross unrelated species with another - it is a well-known process called Horizontal Gene Transfer. Arguments based upon "Nature doesn't do it so we shouldn't" are not only false but essentially theological in nature. Why do you capitalize the "N" in Nature, and refer to it as "choosing" as if it was a person?
Referring to GE crops and murder and ransom is also a scare-tactic, so I'm not sure what kind of point you are trying to make here.
I apologise for the delay in responding but have been away on business, as indeed, is often the case these days.
Firstly, the reference to "Nature" as an entity is figurative rather than literal, just as Mariners refer to a ship as a "She", not because such a vessel has any gender, but a term that the origins of which are lost in the mists of time and cover the relationship between mankind and such aspects of life. (Although, Admiral Nimitz may have had a clue when he said that "A Ship is called a "She" because it costs so much in Paint and Powder"!!)
However, history teaches us that when mankind think they are better than nature, evolution of whatever, things have a habit of going seriously wrong with disaster and deaths ensuing.
I shall have to go back through a lot of files to find the information I want, especially about the major French research showing serious problems with GM Maize.
Another useful quote from the US: "A former agricultural adviser to US presidents says the failure of a genetically modified field pea trial should act as a warning for future GM crop testing.
The 10-year CSIRO trial was abandoned when tests found the peas were making mice seriously ill.
Dr Charles Benbrook, who advised presidents Carter, Bush senior, Reagan and Clinton says the field pea trial failure shows current GM crop testing is grossly inadequate.
"I don't believe that this new study proves that all genetically engineered food is posing a great threat to people but it certainly confirms the need to go back and look at the major food crops," he said."
It is an obvious fact that GM Bio-Tech industries are not interested in producing better or more food, but expanding their control over the supply of seed and therefore, the price of food and their profits.
Anyone who thinks the likes of Monsanto with their reprehensible record, are interested in promoting better food for the people out of some sense of responsible conduct are not on the same planet.
The question I levelled before, still remains; What part of "No Thanks, we don't want or need GM Foods or crops" is not understood?
I was watching election returns last night and reloading this page at the time they said it was going to be announced....I'm a sucker for voting outcomes of all sorts....
I know our counter may be off a bit but as published in Eligibility and Criteria, winners will be announced today at 4p EST.
Thanks! I was watching the countdown last night, and then the timer vanished. I thought maybe I wasn't looking at the right place.
I'm so delighted with this outcome. There is so much mis-information on this topic, and I'm certain that the Biofortified team can really bring facts and clarity to the conversation.
I also want to thank the larger science community that came together to show that this matters to us.
Looking forward to more!