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GMOs Have a PR Problem

It’s safe to say that the debate over genetically modified crops isn’t about facts—study after study has consistently shown GMOs to be safe—but rather about feelings, namely the discomfiting notion that genetically modified foods are somehow unnatural. The science here is clear, but as the New York Times reports, the public remains unconvinced:

In a Pew Research Center survey published in January, 88 percent of scientists vouched for the safety of G.M. foods, as they’re usually called, dwarfing the 11 percent who considered them unsafe. Among the American public, 37 percent judged the foods safe and 57 percent unsafe. […]

There is no meaningful distinction between [GMOs] and other foods, as far as genes, proteins and molecules are concerned…“From a genetic point of view, genes are genes,” said [University of Wisconsin professor Dominique Brossard]. “It doesn’t matter where they come from.”

This is a question of perception, not reality, and many people remain wary of what they see as tampering in Mother Nature’s realm. And, of course, greens are doing little to ease these concerns, frequently choosing instead to inflame them.

This makes little sense, but then, that’s what we’ve come to expect from the modern environmental movement. Greens will breathlessly describe the dystopian future that awaits us just around the corner, one characterized by overpopulation and food scarcity, by a planet ravaged by hotter temperatures and more severe storms, but in the next sentence muster the gall to attack genetically modified crops. If things really are as bad as they believe, why go after one of the likeliest solutions to feeding our world’s growing population in harsher conditions?

Greens are well practiced at finding a new villain, but they’re demonstrably incapable of getting behind the right kind of hero. GMOs should be just that; they can feed more with less. Tackling the public’s negative perception of GMOs ought to be a top priority for green groups around the globe, yet we see the opposite in practice.

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  • Kieselguhr Kid

    Absolutely. I wonder if you also noticed that the same Pew survey shows scientists considerably more convinced that global warning is a serious problem, and that the evidence is solid that it is caused by human activity, than the general public. It also shows scientists considerably more opposed to offshore drilling and to fracking than the general public. No doubt you feel the same about the public needing to listen better to the scientists’ message.

    • Andrew Allison

      What the report actually says is that “When it comes to climate change and evolution, a majority of adults see scientists as generally in agreement that the earth is getting warmer due to human activity (57%) or that humans have evolved over time (66%), though a sizeable minority see scientists as divided over each. Perceptions of where the scientific community stands on both climate change and evolution tend to be associated with individual views on the issue.” Not scientists, but the same adults who are convinced that GMO is bad. The utter mendacity of your comment beggars belief.

      • Kieselguhr Kid

        It’s remarkable to be called mendacious by someone who seems to be actually lying. Just as the report “actually says” that 88 percent of all AAAS members polled (as opposed to 37% of the general public) consider the science that says GMOs are safe is solid, it also “actually says” 87% of AAAS members say the science is solid for anthropogenic climate change (as opposed to 50% of the general public), 66% of AAAS members oppose fracking (as opposed to 51% of the general public), and 66% oppose offshore drilling (while the general public on balance favors it.) The nubers are right there and accessible. You appear to be baldfacedly omitting much of what’s in the survey to make it look like I lied, when I did not.

        Something about mendacity beggaring belief?

        • Andrew Allison

          There’s no question that CO2 is a greenhouse gas (it’s what makes our planet habitable). However, the appalling inaccuracy of the models produced by “climate scientists” and the pathetic attempt to explain these failure demonstrate that nobody has succeeded in establishing the actual relationship between atmospheric CO2 and global temperature. Simply put, not only is there no such thing as “settled-science”, but the historical record shows a long-term rate of temperature increase roughly 20% of that predicted by the alarmists. The fact that two-thirds of AAAS members (actually, two-thirds of the few sampled, but hey, nine out of ten doctors recommend has a long history) oppose fracking and offshore drilling says more about the members than science.

          • Kieselguhr Kid

            I’ve worked in this field and am pretty sure you’ve no idea what you’re talking about, but, that’s beside the point. If you want to say that the poll isn’t particularly meaningful or a smart thing to cite, that’s fine — for what it’s worth, I don’t think a general poll of AAAS members is a very smart thing to do either. But that means you’re agreeing with my original point. Either you think the pol results are meaningful and reflect an error in the thinking of the general public in which case it makes sense to trot out that AAAS members support GMOs — _and_ that they oppose fracking — or you don’t think they’re meaningful, and neither result has much value. So my point stands — the blogger appears to be dishonest, although clearly you lap him.

      • Kieselguhr Kid

        What’s interesting about your lie is that it only works if you assume the people inclined to agree with you aren’t smart enough to look up the survey themselves, which is probably true.

        • Andrew Allison

          As stated, I quoted from the report. Are you suggesting that Pew is lying?

          • Kieselguhr Kid

            No you’re lying. What you did is pretty obvious. You _did_ quote the report, yes. And then called my comment “mendacious” to suggest you were giving the facts and I wasn’t. Which is astonishing because the results I quoted were from the same section as that the blog entry quotes — if I am mendacious by your lights, then Via Meadia is much more so. Now you’re caught in a lie and trying to dig out, and failing.

    • CapitalHawk

      So you’re saying scientists are more likely than the general public to be registered Democrats.

  • NECroeus

    The scientist’s research is paid for by the GMO companies. What’s so hard to figure out?

    • Thom Burnett

      Show some evidence for that assertion. It seems very, very unlikely to be partial, let alone, mostly true.

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