Don’t Destroy Research!

3 simple steps for anti-GMO activists:

  1. Oppose GMO crops on the basis that there is insufficient publicly funded research.
  2. Destroy publicly funded research.
  3. Go to 1.

There have been opponents of biotechnology derived crops (often referred to as genetically modified organisms, GMOs, or GM crops) since before the commercial introduction of this technology in the mid-1990s. There are a variety of reasons cited by those opposed to this technology, but two of the most often heard complaints are 1) GM crops are produced almost entirely by large corporations, and 2) there is insufficient publicly funded research investigating these crops.

I have some personal experience with these arguments. A few years ago, I attended a public hearing in Boulder County, Colorado where there was debate on whether to allow Roundup Ready sugar beets to be grown on County owned land. Many Boulder County residents  stood up to argue against allowing GM beet production. A vast majority of those speaking against the technology relied heavily on these two points, and it is easy to find these same arguments all around the world whenever anti-GMO sentiments are expressed. The anti-GMO crowd will nearly always begin and end the debate with some version of “Monsanto is evil!” or “Where is the research proving this technology is safe?” I am not going to address the validity of these two arguments, as that has been done many times by many other people.

What I want to do here is draw attention to the hypocrisy currently being exhibited by some players within the anti-GMO movement.  Currently in the UK, field trials are underway to test a new variety of wheat that has the potential to resist aphid damage without the use of pesticides. The wheat was developed through biotechnology, and uses knowledge of insect pheromones. The technology is a great example of scientists using knowledge of the insects biology to reduce reliance on pesticides. This is a goal that, in theory, is shared by nearly everyone in society. Certainly anyone who considers themselves an environmentalist should support research into methods that could dramatically reduce pesticide use. Not only is it an ingenious idea, but it is publicly funded, being carried out at the Rothamstead research center in the UK. So one would think that this research would be embraced by even the most ardent GMO skeptics, right? After all, it addresses the two most commonly cited complaints about GMOs. It is not patented by giant corporate interests, and it will add to the body of knowledge on the benefits and risks of GM crops.

People who oppose GM crops because there is insufficient research should be particularly strong supporters of public research (untainted by evil Monsanto). But here’s the rub: a group calling themselves Take the Flour Back has threatened to destroy the trial. They are even asking people to “…bring your own biohazard protection and dustmask…” At first glance, I suppose it should not be too surprising that a small group of individuals would threaten to take such action. Vandalism of GM crop research is certainly nothing new.  But it is difficult to reconcile this action with the claims of the anti-GMO movement as a whole. It appears that the modus operandi of the hard core anti-GMO crowd is now to destroy the very type of research they claim must be done to prove the technology is safe.

Even if we assume there are legitimate reasons for opposing GMO technology as a whole (which I do not personally believe to be the case), it seems to me that we should ALL be able to agree that public research on the topic is a good thing. Destroying publicly funded research demonstrates a complete disregard for science and knowledge, and removes any credibility from those who would condone such acts. It also completely undermines the two most common arguments for opposing GM crop technology. It is inconceivable that any group could be so entrenched in their beliefs that they are willing to vandalize publicly funded research that could reduce the environmental impact of crop production. This act, if it takes place as planned on May 27, will long be remembered as an example of what is currently wrong with the environmental movement. The anti-science faction of the environmental movement must be excised before we can hope to make any real progress in feeding the world in a sustainable manner.


  1. That was a great + succinct expression of the situation: 1, 2, 3. Couldn’t be clearer.

    And couldn’t agree more: there are some fundamentalists who say: no tech, no way, no never. But I’ve had some conversations with moderates who say: well, if it had enviro benefits, and it wasn’t corporate…maybe…

    Well, this is your chance moderates. Not corporate. With benefits. Now is the time to look. And to demand that we collect the data. And evaluate it. And decide.

    Stand up for research. Don’t let zealots win.

  2. Andrew,

    There is very little science in environmentalism. It is a religion. It does not have to make sense. The basic tenant is that there are too many people and anything that will perpetuate that situation has to be stopped. It is the only way to save the earth. Man is an unnatural organism.

    Lars Baker

  3. My experience dealing with someone who has bought into the fear-mongering anti-GMO, say no to science, frankenfood, scare tactics on the internet.

    This all started with the Laramie County Master Gardener Plant sale her comments to me via email “Might be nice to say if the plant is GMO or Non GMO.” My reply; “very rare for the general public to get GMO vegetable seeds unless they buy from one of the very large seed companies (not the companies that send cataloges out to home/hobby gardeners) this is not even a worry on any level.” Catherine.

    Her reply was off the charts so hang on: “That is FALSE Catherine. Do your homework. We buy all our seeds NON GMO. Do your homework! You are stating the opposite. One of the reasons I buy NON GMO seeds..mill my grain, bake my own bread, make my own granola, make my own soups and much more is that I do not buy processed foods and strive to stay out of the market place.”

    “Just because Monsanto has a desire to take over the worlds food source doesn’t mean I am going to roll over and play dead and become “neutral” like others. It is people like you who think they know it all because they believe in USDA and do not research themselves or take the time to study. Shame on you for being a director of Master Gardening and choosing to be neutral. I have already found errors in your canning methods and in much of your thinking…and in your health talk presentations.
    Please take me off your email list. I do not want to be associated with your “neutral” thinking.
    As for the strawberry..I do NOT buy in Grocery stores. ..and do not buy in restaurants.”

    “People like you are the reason we allow Monsanto to continue to feed us poison.”
    Sue Reynolds

    My reply back: “Because of whom I work for I must be neutral on these topics and let the listener make THEIR OWN decision as to what THEY want to do; it’s called freedom of choice. I’m sorry that you are offended by my stance and I have taken you off any of my mailing lists. ”

    Wow: internet fear mongering and junk science has won. How sad for us.

  4. I have a hard time understanding how scientific research into the safety of GMO products could ever cover all the variables and all the conditions under which such products are used, hence the safety of the product can never be fully validated.

    Becasue so many GMO product pollens spreads in the wind and contaminat other natural plants all the research in the world will not protect natural seed. We could end up with a monster on our hands and no way to hault it without fully destroying all crops in that variety. Like the situation we now have with corn in the USA. Now that evidence suggests that GMO corn is unsafe for human consumption all the corn crops must be destroyed and a natural seed must be reinstated. Do we still have enough natural seed to facilitate the planting for a season? I hope so. Will we actually have the forsight to change our corn crop seed? I doubt it.

    I have difficult time seeing that any researcher can study and fully comprehend the nature of phytonutrients and their total role within a plant’s metabolism and the full impact a genetic modification can make in a plant , nor understand the impact of humans eating genetically altered phytonutrients… but that doesn’t mean that we should not try to obtain such knowledge.

    The ultimate crime is in experimenting on the unknowing and the unwilling masses of humanity without notification, warning nor the ability to opt out buy being able to select foods that they know are not altered.

    Likely, someday we will come to understand that some genetic modifications are much more serious and harmful to our existence than others and that some genetic modifications pose no threat at all. We will never know without testing and accumulating a significant body of research to document and transfer knowledge is absolutley required. Only independent study funded by non biased institutions should be considered valid and worthy of note. Clearly Monsanto and their likes have proven themselves corrupted and have cost the lives and livilhoods of countless throughout the world. Their actions have clearly been psychopathic. I do not accept that evil is too strong of a word for their game plan for humanity.

    It may be a century or more before we really understand the impact of what we have done and are continuing to do. By then any attempt to reverse our genetically modified situation will succumb to the ancient rule: little too late.

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