Jane Goodall condemns GM food, says its proponents are “anti-science”

March 16, 2015 • 12:20 pm

Oh dear Lord. I don’t know if Jane Goodall is simply ignorant of the evidence for the safety of GM (genetically modified) food, or, like Lynn Margulis, has become so taken by her own fame that she thinks her pronouncements on subjects outside her field are decisive. Or it could be that the Daily Mail’s report is simply wrong, but I’d bet big money against that. And it’s even worse, for Goodall apparently called the advocates of GM food “anti-science,” which is in fact a characterization of her own attitude on the issue. As the Mail reports:

Dame Jane Goodall, the renowned primate expert, has condemned ‘deluded’ politicians for pushing ‘Frankenstein Food’.

The highly respected academic has endorsed a new book, which argues the companies responsible for developing genetically modified farming and food have twisted the evidence to minimise the dangers.

. . . Dame Jane argues that the advocates of GM food have ignored evidence of harm with the result it is they who are guilty of being ‘anti-science’.

Here are more of her claims, which I’ll reproduce in extenso (I haven’t read her foreword)

Dame Jane’s concerns have been raised in the foreword to a new book, ‘Altered Genes, Twisted Truth’, which is written by the American public interest lawyer, Steve Druker.

Its publication comes as the US is seeing a growing backlash against GM. Just last week it emerged that the country’s favourite chocolate manufacturer, Hershey, is to drop GM from its products.

Dame Jane said she has become appalled as what she calls a ‘shocking corruption of the life forms of the planet’.

She said the GM process, which involves adding foreign genes to plants to create toxins to fend off insects or give them immunity to being sprayed with chemical pesticides has fundamentally changed them. [JAC: Yes, but so has artificial selection, which in fact changes more genes in a species than does “the GM process.”]

However, she complains that supporters of the technology have committed a ‘fraud’ by trying to give the false impression that these new plants are essentially the same as those created by conventional plant breeding.

She said: ‘This very real difference between GM plants and their conventional counterparts is one of the basic truths that biotech proponents have endeavoured to obscure. As part of the process, they portrayed the various concerns as merely the ignorant opinions of misinformed individuals – and derided them as not only unscientific, but anti-science.

There’s a difference between the technology of gene transfer (used in making GMOs) and that of artificial selection, as the latter involves selecting on naturally-occurring (or induced) mutations in a species or breed; but that difference is irrelevant to the real question: whether GMOs are dangerous. And on that the science is decisive: the answer is, “so far, no.”

More from the Mail:

Importantly, she claims, the companies have spread disinformation to try and win public support.

‘Druker describes how amazingly successful the biotech lobby has been – and the extent to which the general public and government decision makers have been hoodwinked by the clever and methodical twisting of the facts and the propagation of many myths. Moreover, it appears that a number of respected scientific institutions, as well as many eminent scientists, were complicit in this relentless spreading of disinformation.’

Dame Jane is considered to be the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees.

And this is simply reprehensible;

. . . However, Dame Jane warns it would be an enormous risk to accept the technology and describes Mr Druker as a hero worthy of a Nobel prize for lifting the lid on the truth about GM.

Nobel Prize? Seriously? There’s more about Druker’s book in the article, and you can see its Amazon listing here (it comes out March 20).

We have, I think, seen Bill Nye recant his similar claims about GMOs, and let’s hope that Goodall does the same. But somehow I don’t think she will.  And I’d love to see her debate the same GMO proponent who offered to go up against Nye. (Nye refused.)

Given Goodall’s high profile and influence, she really should be more careful about this kind of stuff. What she says will influence far more people than what even a renowned plant biologist says.  And, if her words further inhibit the adoption of safe and life-saving foods like golden rice, she’s even behaving dangerously.

h/t: Kurt

92 thoughts on “Jane Goodall condemns GM food, says its proponents are “anti-science”

  1. The Gates Foundation supports GMO research, and Bill Gatesdiscussed the controversy with the WSJ.

    NB “This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate”:

    are you concerned about a backlash from … environmentalists and others who are you know we’re being … very anti GMO … him the Gates Foundation’s singled out … for … in particular the GMO controversy isn’t someone you care about the environment you walk … to make sure that we don’t put more lame into … a room full production we should take the marginal land … on skewed CEO Tunisia and into the soil degradation … and eight ads for crop productivity Constantine Walz its reduced to non insecticide we use that phrase productivity … I don’t think … there’s some simple hey aam environmentalist and therefore I’m against Newt … new technology … and sugar … AEI I’ll fully admit there’s some controversy … any minute sometimes it’s hard to understand that off … you know with eyes open we’re making sure that the schools on some of our work is saying ok … here’s the of rice with vitamin E years of banana bits are fortified … in allude to the kids who go blind look it that … extra measles deaths because those kids don’t have those vitamins … and is not something that … you know is is worthwhile on … in a very least it should be there so the help they get that choice

    … um, okay, that transcript may not be 50% accurate.

    Anyway, there are a number of very serious, very thoughtful people confident in the safety and promise of GMO; why someone as intelligent as Jane Goodall doesn’t avail herself of their input I cannot understand.

    1. The environmental movement has a split personality. In addition to the side which has a scientific approach is the side which has adopted a spiritual, holistic, neo-pagan viewpoint with Nature as Mother Earth and life as a Vital Force requiring a harmonic balance. There’s a huge chunk of overlap.

      But it’s not big enough.

      If Goodall has lost sight of the distinction between these two groups — with the Mother Earth side co-opting scientific language and the Planet Earth side making use of spiritual language — then she can go on for quite a while without being able to see that the Other Side is not siding with anti-environment and let’s-kill-the-chimps-for-trophies.

  2. Perhaps someone should ask her how many brown-skinned children should die of vitamin A deficiency in order to preserve the ideological purity of our food supply.

  3. ‘Or it could be that the Daily Mail’s report is simply wrong, but I’d bet big money against that.’

    Oh wow, I wouldn’t — unless they just lifted the article in full from someplace else (which is one of the things they do). Daily Mail is super click bait and not overly fussed about facts.

    What with the plagiarism and sloppiness charges a couple of years, though, it does sound like Dame Goodall is exceeding her … attentiveness lately. Definitely sad.

      1. Jerry, you may well be correct in this particular instance but you ought to bear in mind that those of us in the UK (I’m guessing that this also applies to Caitlin) are fully aware of just how much of a despicable and hateful newspaper the Daily Mail is. So a certain amount of cynicism is inevitable and fully justified.

      2. Nope. As I said above, they lift material from (almost definitely more reliable) others. I’m just saying the Daily Mail doesn’t have that kind of credibility on its own.

          1. I think it’s more like Murdoch’s Wager — an arbitrary Daily Mail article could be factual and competently reported, but I’m hedging my bets by assuming them all to be deeply flawed in some substantive (probably offensive) way.

    1. I think there was a study out a while ago that found that if someone believes in a conspiracy, then they are much more likely to also believe other conspiracies. It was like many people have a tendency for seeing causal agents out there. When confronted with shit just happening, some flip a switch to conclude ‘no, it is because ‘they’ made it happen.
      Ok, done venting for now.

  4. I used to really admire Jane Goodall but she keeps saying batty things. I seem to recall she believed in Big Foot as well. My dad said it is because she is getting old (which is funny because I think they are around the same age). I don’t think it is age but ignorance.

      1. Yes and she says it a lot. It really is disappointing because I’ve heard her put evolution deniers in their place in a very calm way and I really liked her approach.

  5. I agree with Jane. Monsanto and the FDA are hiding the truth. FDA is run by ex-Monsanto execs. America’s health has declined markedly since the introduction of GMO foods. Politicians hide the truth to sustain their PAC contributions from Monsanto.

    1. Its amazing how Monsanto with its 15 billion in revenue is able to control the government and nearly all of the relevant scientist and all of the worlds major scientific bodies. Monsanto is not even a top 500 company world wide.

      Yet the gas industry that makes up over half of the top 25 largest revenue companies are only able to get a tiny minority of the relevant scientist to say global warming is a hoax.

      1. “Yet the gas industry that makes up over half of the top 25 largest revenue companies are only able to get a tiny minority of the relevant scientist[s] to say global warming is a hoax.”

        But they seem to have gotten a lot of Republican politicians to go along with them.

        I think that while business and gov’t are so intertwined, it’s reasonable for the public to be concerned. While it may be wonderful to add vitamins to your rice, is it also wonderful to add pesticides to your corn? Does allowing one mean we must allow the other?

        We need reliable science coverage presented in layman’s terms. And, thanks, Jerry, for a blog that does this well. I envision you starting an online magazine that is a kind of a Consumer Reports of science.

        1. GMOs have lowered the use of pesticides to (I think) only *one* kind that is *less* poisonous than any other.

          The “poison” in the corn (oy!) is not poisonous to anything beyond certain insects.

        2. Adding pesticides to one’s corn is something that gets done anyway. The beauty of GMOs in that particular case is that we can either spray tons and tons of chemical pesticides over the crop, polluting the groundwater and killing every insect in sight (and ending up with pesticides in our cereal, naturally), or add a single protein to the plant’s proteome… a protein that will only kill the insects that attack the crop. Since the protein in question is harmless to plants and vertebrates (it targets a cell receptor that they do not possess, and must be exposed to gastric juice that is basic instead of acidic to be activated), and you have a pretty good argument to replace classical pesticides with bioengineered ones.

          Gene modification is like any kind of knowledge-driven technique. It’s what it produces that matters, not the technique itself, and we have regulations to make sure nobody tries to sell corn that expresses a toxic protein. If the public (and Jane Goodall) demanded more stringent regulations that would be one thing; but more often than not, the opposition to GMOs seems to be purely emotional. Strangely enough, the same public that frowns upon corn expressing an anti-sense RNA that reduces the expression of one of its own genes (a harmless enough modification, one would think) will gladly consume rainbow-coloured “foodstuffs” that come straight out of a chemical plant.

        3. What is wrong with pesticides in corn or any food products for that matter? People talk brag about their addiction to pesticides all the time such as the insecticide never agent caffeine.

          But, to get to your point yes its awesome that Bt was added to the big cash crops. The use of insecticide has dropped like an anvil since their introduction. Round Up ready also awesome because glyphosate is better then every other herbicide on the market in every way possible. Less toxic, more effective, cheaper, short half life and has given rise to conservation tilling. I guess we can go back to paraquat if you really want to.

          It might not be sexy to the consumer like golden rice or making something taste like magic but its these types of traits that actually make the world a better place. Go ahead ban Round Up we will just use another herbicide. Ban herbicides and you decide what billion or two people you want to starve to death.

          1. Just saw this video and it made me think twice about the effects of glyphosate and “Roundup-Ready” crops. Prior to this evidence I was a firm believer in the safety of GMO’s. Now, I’m not so sure.

          2. Why is it then they are adding 2,4-D to the herbicide ready crops? Seems due to mutations superweeds are appearing that are resistant to Round Up. Where does that end?

            And Monsanto puts in the suicide gene so the corn and soy won’t germinate. How long before they control the seed market? What happens to the price of food when it is in their control?

            What happens to that bit of Bt genetic material that makes Bt toxin once digested in our guts? Can it be picked up by the resident E.coli? If so can the E.coli start producing Bt toxin and make our guts leak?

          3. The suicide gene is a myth. That technology has never been approved for use, and is not found in any current crops.

          4. The suicide gene is a myth. That technology has never been approved for use, and is not found in any current crops.

    2. Correlation does not equal causation, and in this case there are several known factors for the decline such as cheap sugary drinks and high fat fast food.

    3. America’s health has declined markedly since the introduction of GMO foods.

      Yeah, but we’ve also gotten about 25 pounds heavier since the 70s too. I tend to think that’s a bigger health driver than vitamin A in our rice and corn, don’t you?

      1. Yeah, but we’ve also gotten about 25 pounds heavier since the 70s too.

        GMOs didn’t hit the market until 1994. The timeline correlation just doesn’t work out.

    4. I do not mean to pile on here, but how is that a number of competing biotech companies will seamlessly work with different, competing political parties and independent scientists to create a vast conspiracy? Oh, you are going to say that those researchers, with their NIH and NSF grants (not biotech grants) must still ALL be sold out to industry or to their government handlers. And no one blows the whistle? No one gets a conscience? All those liberal PhD’s driving used Toyota Camrys on their hush money? Just like thousands and thousands of other government and industry conspirators in dozens of other conspiracies? Is it not amazing how robotically obedient are the minions in a conspiracy?
      Sorry, but the data fits the more boring & much less exciting model, which is that there is no evidence. But we should still watch for some.

        1. i’m not a genius, but maybe it could be because they have training and education relevant to vie for the positions as citizens with basic liberties. people make a lot of assumptions about it, i guess, and then don’t support them, they just leave them at the pre-hypothesis stage. in reality, isn’t it possible that their previous position doesn’t have a real influence on their decisions in a subsequent position? i know this is far out stuff, but you gotta at least consider it possible in lieu of solid evidence to the contrary beyond speculative contention and anecdote.

        1. They are wrong about one while right about the other. This is not unusual in the world. Linus Pauling was a great scientist. Linus Pauling promoted wackadoodle ideas about vitamin C. It was the same Linus Pauling doing both.

    5. What is your source for the statement that “America’s health has declined markedly since the introduction of GMO foods”? Does it take into account other factors such as immigration? I saw an article that claimed Americans have gotten shorter by a few inches over the last 25 years or so. It turned out that the article didn’t bother to take into account the very large number of Mexican as well as Central and South American immigrants that came to the U.S. over that period. Those immigrants are considerably shorter than Americans on average. I seriously doubt your claim and I doubt any health change can or has been linked to GMO foods.

  6. She’s spent too much time with chimps!

    I can understand a philosophical objection, which would be nutty but not nuttier than other weird food rules, but magnifying or inventing dangers is just silly and beneath her.

  7. Goodall is 81. In contrast, Pauling went off the deep end with his megavitamin C advocacy around the age of 67. I’m not going to begrudge her a late-in-life crankery. I won’t believe it on her authority, to be sure, but I don’t see it as a disaster to her reputation or good science in general either. Hopefully people are smart enough to recognize that, often (but not always), very old + new field = bad sign. Certainly the combination is at least a cause for some skepticism.

    1. I hesitate to impute any crazy views to someone’s advanced age unless there are other signs that they’re losing it. I haven’t really seen that in Goodall. I think it’s ungenerous to say that someone’s dotty because of age.

      1. Well, the brain is an organ; it gets old too. Much as we hate to think about that. Not every organ is going to fail at the same rate, but it does speak to a sort of social bias when we find it perfectly comfortable to admit that our heart and lungs and kidneys may not be what they used to be, but saying the same thing about the brain is ageist and verboten.

        Having said that, I’m not imputing ‘dottiness’ in general and I’m not saying age alone is a reason to ignore someone’s opinion. I’m saying age + field switch should make us skeptical of the person’s credibility in their newfound field.

        1. The problem is that you’re still blaming age without showing any actual evidence to support the hypothesis that it is, in fact, an age related issue.

          1. Either it’s age-related (in the sense of time-dependent) or she’s always been a crank without showing much evidence of it prior to now. Which is the less generous, or less parsimonious alternative?

          2. That, like all people, she’s imperfect and despite her incredible accomplishments in the field of primatology she’s at just as large a risk of saying something stupid as the rest of us.

    2. You may not begrudge her dottiness but it will do her legacy no good. One of the main reasons Wallace didn’t get the recognition from history that he deserved was his addiction to spiritualism. Obvious lunacy tarnishes everything you do.

  8. It should be a bit of a clue that the anti- GMO book she’s endorsing is written by a lawyer and not a scientist. Part of being intelligent is recognizing what you don’t know – a little knowledge etc. You don’t have to automatically defer to scientists, and you should ask questions and require satisfactory answers, but generally, you should also recognize scientific consensus.

    To me, anti-GMO and anti-vax go hand in hand.

    1. I was talking to my famiily doc the other day and he told me someone had suggested that vaccinations should be labelled gluten-free and then all the crazies would drag their kids in for the shots;-)

  9. I have tried to learn about GM cocoa, and I cannot find that it even exists. The cocoa genome had been mapped for genetic markers. This was to more efficiently breed specific varieties of cocoa by conventional means. No source that I have found says that there is GM cocoa.
    But even this mapping effort, which was carefully explained in the links I found, seems to be associated with a fair amount of misunderstanding and hysteria with the anti-GMers calling the effort ‘dangerous’. One site recounts the horrors of anti-Bt crops:

    “Through the mass genetic modification of nature via GMO crops, animals, biopesticides, and the mutated insects that are created as a result, mega biotechnology corporations are threatening the overall genetic integrity of the environment as well as all of humankind.”
    Wow! No wonder Dame Goodall is concerned!

    1. (The title ‘Dame’ is the counterpart of ‘Sir’ and is only used with the first name. Hence ‘Sir Attenbrough’ (for David) is wrong, while ‘Lord Attenborough’ for his late brother was correct usage. USians should probably avoid trying to use these things, or at least refer to Wikipedia.)

  10. My only angst here, besides the sometimes reprehensible business practices of companies such as Monsanto, is the question of velocity

    Both a lobbed softball and a bullet fired by a sniper rifle faithfully follow the laws of physics. But there’s a substantial difference in their impact – literally – that’s primarily due to their difference in velocity.

    This is one of the issues that climate change deniers don’t get: the issue isn’t that the climate is changing – they’re right that the climate is always changing – but that our actions have accelerated the rate of change. That rapid rate of change will doom many creatures (including, perhaps, humans) because their normal rate of genetic or habitat change is no match for that velocity of world wide climate change.

    So, my concern on GM foods is not that they’re the effect of genetic modification, but that the *speed* with which we make those modifications and introduce these changed organisms into the world is likely to be much faster than any rate that we could effectively monitor and control. Of course, I also worry that market pressures will lead unregulated or lightly regulated businesses to skip steps in the due diligence they should do. (Anybody who works in quality control is used to the fact that we will often (completely unconsciously) lie to ourselves. It’s why one has separation of responsibilities – to help insure that there’s some independence in the checking of important things.)

    So, Professor Ceiling Car, make me feel better: is this a misplaced concern? Is the speed at which genetic changes occur and are spread in Nature comparable to the speed at which these companies are modifying and disbursing changed organisms?

    1. It takes around the same time to produce a non gm plant line as it does to produce a gm one. While you can insert a gene it takes times to produce a plant that carries and expresses that gene correctly.
      Most commercial varieties (gm or non gm) do not compete effectively with wild type plants. In may cases are infertile or if they cross breed the resulting plant doesn’t express or does not compete with it’s wild cousins.

    2. With kierans’ help, I can add that the rate of environmental change due directly to the presence of GM crops is not at all faster than how we have changed ecosystems by conventional breeding. We still plant gazillions of square miles of genetically uniform monocultures, and we would do that with or without GM. The ‘bullet’ of change is not GM. That really seems to be undetectable directly in the greater environment. The real changes are those from big agribusiness planting huge crops, pumping water out of the ground, and (this is indirectly due to GM): spraying Roundup resistant crops with LOTS of Roundup herbicide. That is a very possible environmental effect indirectly due to GM. Possible effects from that are still being assessed. If I want to find something possible wrong and worrisome about GM crops that will be near the top of my list.

  11. I don’t worry about GM foods. But, I can often understand the reluctance of some people to accept them, as Monsanto and large corporations have too often strong-armed farmers and consumers alike. I think much of the resistance is the result of their own tactics and they could have done a much better job of introducing them to the public. That said, I have great respect for Jane Goodall as a chimpanzee researcher and advocate. I have met her in the United States and in Tanzania, where I also worked with chimpanzees (not at Gombe). She has done tremendous work. However, none of that work makes her any more qualified to speak about GM foods than me (and I do not consider myself qualified at all). I don’t know or care what Stephen Hawking thinks about evolutionary theory or whether gluten is good or bad, either.

    1. Everything you have read or heard about Monsanto is a lie from the anti GMO movement. They had to make up the monster that they needed. I mean I don’t want to defend a corporation that makes 15 billion a year but the stuff against them is ridicules.

      They don’t sue farmers for accidental cross pollination. Monsanto sues less then 7 farmers per year and its for violating their contract they signed.

      Monsanto is no where close to a monopoly. They are not the largest seed company. Not the largest ag tech company. Not the largest ag chemical company. They don’t even produce a majority of round up. They license their tech to all the seed companies and its the independent companies that have increased their market share over the last 20 years.

      They are not even in the top 500 companies world wide in revenue.

      1. Yes, and I count myself as one who was, for a time, snookered by the old ‘make the farmer destroy their crop b/c they had some patented plants that spread from next door’ conspiracy. I had looked into that some time ago, and I am persuaded that that was a hoax. And yet the salacious story will persist, as it is the the nature of conspiracies.

      2. Monsanto has a poor corporate image. Maybe they should work on that. They have billions of dollars. Fire your PR team and hire some new ones.

  12. The once-reputable consumer magazine Consumer Reports has thrown in with the anti-GMO crowd. Here’s a quote from the article “FAQs about GMOs” in their March 2015 edition:
    “Animal studies – commonly used to help assess human health risks – have suggested that GMOs might cause damage to the immune system, liver and kidneys.”
    That’s pretty dishonest. If you discount the studies which have been retracted, I don’t think there’s anything to support that.

    1. I lost my trust in Consumer Reports when they cautioned users of Listerine to rinse thoroughly because of the alcohol in it – a lower percentage than most Scotch.

      However, their new car reports have saved me thousands of dollars.

  13. World hunger is an immense problem and I can’t help but wonder why the anti-GMO crowd doesn’t take a look at how great the contribution of GMOs could be toward alleviating it. In fact, some things I have read indicate that we can never solve the problem without greatly increased use of GMOs. And I can’t help but think that if the problem was as bad for chimps as it is for humans that Jane Goodall would have a different opinion.

  14. Do you all realize that most of the research into the safety of GM foods done by the FDA is merely it’s food safety? GM products are not tested as rigorously as they would be if they were drugs.

    Almost all of the research on GM foods has been to demonstrate that they have equivalent nutritional value to previous cultivars, or whether their genetic traits stay contained in the agricultural field in which the plants themselves are sown.

    But, the fact of the matter is that some GM products do not contain just a simple inserted gene. Some of them have multiple additions, including operative genetic activators.

    At “The Panda’s Thumb” I asked about this and was assured by at least one commenter that there was nothing to worry about – these genetic factors would never survive the HCL in a human’s digestive tract….

    only to learn that recent published results show that not only do these factors survive, but actually make it into people’s bloodstream intact.

    I asked the scientifically-erudite commentariat there to play Devil’s advocate and to offer possible scenarios where human biochemistry might be adversely affected. I didn’t get much of a response (outside of being accused of being a shill for DuPont).

    I would like to challenge the erudite folks here to comment on just how much we really *don’t* know yet about the possible genetic and biomedical consequences of human ingestion of these genetic factors.

    I am NOT saying that there is any danger to eating most GM foods. I am saying, however, is that it seems to me to be a rather large section of the scientific story missing here – exactly what happens or might happen to active genetic modifiers which make it into the human bloodstream.

    1. “GM products are not tested as rigorously as they would be if they were drugs.”

      They wouldn’t. These organisms are mainly used as food and that is the kind of testing that is needed. Then their products are used as drugs they are tested as drugs.

      I also want to remind that there has been a 2 decades long delay wherein the safety of these techniques were investigated as such.

      Re making metabolites making it into the bloodstream. (I don’t think that “genetic modifiers”, whatever that is, will. Certainly genetic material is targeted for breaking down, to ensure organism safety and nutrient uptake.)

      These genes are derived from bacteria akin to those that live in our guts. Gut bacteria convert nutrients and we take them up. Venter has showed that 10 % of metabolites in our blood stream are prokaryote derived.

      These communities are individual. Even if two persons would have the same metabolic alleles and would eat exactly the same food, 10 % of the metabolites would differ to some degree.

      So what are we discussing here? Trying to control what is uncontrollable, and seems to be non-problematic?

      1. “seems to be non-problematic”.

        Bad choice of words, since the gut communities are involved in some diseases and are implied (or even validated now) as problematic in metabolic disease.

        What I meant here is that ingesting odd metabolites is normal, and may even be beneficial in maintaining nutrient uptake. The safety of specific such are again ensured by the food testing, not by being part of natural variation.

  15. My favorite comment on the issue came from Steve Novella: “it’s ‘Frankenfood,’ not ‘Frankenstein food’; if you’re going to use the meme, at least get it right!”

  16. I’ve always beena huge admirer of dr Goodall and her work but this doesn’t surprise me. As far as the Bigfoot claim, I remember looking that up a while ago and seeing that she had said something akin to she would love to believe such an undiscovered primate existed, as opposed to stating that she believed it did. I’m not going to examine that further lest I discover that she actually said something more foolish. Still, she is an immensely admirable and inspiring scientist and human being, albeit sadly blinkered on some topics.

  17. The Daily Mail article seems pretty accurate.

    Reading her foreword it’s plain she believes what Druker writes in preference to the pro-GE folk:

    I think it is important that you read this book carefully, assessing for yourself how firmly it is grounded in fact and logic. You may well come to the same conclusion as I have: that Steven Druker is upholding the tradition of good science. Then read some of the books and articles written by pro-GE scientists – especially some of those by prominent biologists – and you may well decide that their standards often fall significantly short of his.

    It’s not clear from this short foreword what those standards are that the pro-GE scientists are falling below, but it would be useful if she elaborated.

    She does accuse the pro-GE folk of being anti-science:

    Altered Genes, Twisted Truth can be expected to meet fierce criticism from those who promote the GE food venture; and, like all who attempt to disclose the venture’s underside, its author will probably be attacked and branded as anti-science and anti-progress. BUT it seems to me that it is not those who point to the problems of the venture who are anti-science: it is quite the other way around.

    She signs off:

    To me, Steven Druker is a hero. He deserves at least a Nobel Prize.

    1. Which Nobel Prize? The only two Nobels that are not for scientific contributions are the Nobel Peace Price and the Literature Nobel.

      What scientific contribution has Steven Druker made?

      The news articles states: She [Jane G.] said the GM process, which involves adding foreign genes to plants to create toxins to fend off insects or give them immunity to being sprayed with chemical pesticides has fundamentally changed them.

      The presence of humans has been changing the planet for a while now and I see no end to it. The real question is whether it is good change or not. The detractors of GMO food simply ignore the benefits of this technology. Of course, there is no guarantee that down the line something could wrong. Such guarantees don’t exist for any technology.

      The opposition seems to come down to the simplistic: Nature good; make any change to it = raping Gaia. Am I missing something?

  18. Of course, per the usual act with conspiracy theorists, a long line of claims are laid out with absolutely no supporting evidence. If scientists are in a conspiracy to conceal the truth and perpetuate myths, show us the evidence for the truth. Obviously, she must have it. Or, she’s merely doing a metaphorical sleight of hand by throwing around spooky words like “toxins.” Nothing to see here folks…

  19. Oy!

    Besides the evidence that it is safe, I would add this:

    – It is claimed that GMO, really the use of herbicides, mean less plant diversity. It does, within the fields, that is the idea.

    There are recent papers that claims that the border regions are no less diverse than without herbicides.

    This point reminds me of the analogous question of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics promotes resistance genes. But so does using manure for fertilizers, according to some recent research.

    Bacteria evolved to handle release from minerals, as in NPK fertilizers, as the control of phosphorous et cetera. Too much dung may mean intensive competition at a guess, cave bacteria communities respond similarly to growth I think, but the difference in resistance mechanisms (NPK: good; manure: bad) is not yet investigated.

    The moral here is: Science!

    – If we are adamant that “GMO” means a form of lateral transfer rather than a form of genetic variation in general, this still leaves us the opportunity to observe that all organisms, in general all genes somewhere, are “GMO/GM inserts”.

    As I understand it, 7 % of active genes in humans are such viral inserts, and many of the mammalian gene control regions are viral inserts that have been coopted.

    The moral here is: Nature!

    1. //There are recent papers that claims that the border regions are no less diverse than without herbicides.//

      Wonder who’s studies? Why is there so much less milkweed available for the survival of the Monarch Butterfly? Perhaps Monsanto could make a Round Up ready milkweed!

  20. One thing is for sure, she certainly has clouded the waters in an already murky pool of miss and disinformation.
    I would waver more to the for camp being more critical in their analyse than those against, which tend to be more emotive.
    The court is still out for me because I cannot predict as to whose advantage GMO products are going to benefit, profit with reason or humanity.
    So far it could go either way.

  21. “…thinks her pronouncements on subjects outside her field are decisive.”
    – or even within, Mr. Wilson.

  22. Unfortunately this fatal confusion between corporate greed and scientific research was initiated by the US court that ruled all those years ago that genes could be patented. If there was no money to be made from patented products the research would have been left to government/resaerch foundation labs distributing their findings for free for the equal use of all manufacturers, as Rothamsted Research does.

  23. There are some external problems ignored on the pro- gmo side, some actually deriving from evolution itself. This is derived from the reductionist view itself, where the problem is treated as “so far we see no evidence of harm by direct consumption by inferential significance test, therefore there is no harm”. First, there are real world problems, such as with roundup ready soybeans, where the constant use has created, for example, resistant horseweed, formerly a fairly mild pest, now requiring at minimum a three spray ” burndown” cycle involving the use of 2-4D. Or the already known lateral transfer from related resistant weed species. These are but small sxamples, including the so called property rights problems that arise in the real world, rather than in the “does our population of test rats show differential harm in a p value?”, something anyone with expertise in statistics can rationally infer is a joke. There is a real problem here, where adopting one view, the ” pro gmo view” is viewed as rational. It has obviously become a Kuhnian species of belief argument, The fact is we don’t know enough, The problem is harm is narrowly defined as testable lab injury, rather than the real world os relationships, dynamic systems and the law of unintended consequences.

  24. I can, for one, appreciate why she is so affected by the anti-GMO zeitgeist. As an arch conservative fighting for beings that cannot pay the rent on the forest they live in, her position is predictable. And, therefore, she’s an assumed supporter of like-minded individuals.. ergo, her exposure to non-science reasons will be often enough to push her personal opinion along the lines of the same conservatism.

    1. Is being sewed as painful as it sounds? Seems like it might be right up there with Medieval torture methods and crucifixion if you sew the right parts together.

      I kid of course, but it seems you have a tinge of antiestablishment bias in your post. Plenty of people here will agree that big corporations do a lot of evil, but in no way is that an a priori assumption that they all do evil all the time.

  25. “The highly respected academic…”

    Forgive me if the point has already been made, but Jane Goodall is not an academic.

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