Picking Promises


“What would you do in the following situation?

  • You are a tomato farmer whose crops are threatened by a persistent species of beetle. Each year, you spend large sums of money for chemical pesticides to protect your crops. A biotechnology company introduces a new strain of tomato plant that produces a natural pesticide, making it resistant to the beetle. By switching to this new plant, you could avoid both the beetle and the chemical pesticides traditionally needed to fight it.”     (http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/science/gmfoods/)

Would you switch?

Genetically modified organisms have gained popularity because of situations presented in a manner similar to this…  The answer these biotechnology companies desire from farmers who have toiled endlessly attempting to tread water in the fight for survival is a resounding and enthusiastic YES!

Proponents of genetically modified/engineered plants and animals include promises of higher yield and ease of growing for farmers, promises of higher nutrient density for people, and promises of life for the entire world. The FDA, USDA, American Farm Bureau Federation, and the biotech companies are making lots of promises…

There are also many (including myself) that promise that management practices can increase crop yield, that a varied and nutrient dense diet can be attained if more farmers used intensive management practices, that our methods of farming CAN feed the world… I am not a scientist nor do I claim to be infallible. (I just want open sincerity and transparency here, folks) There are, however, many many minds far greater than mine that also embrace these promises – including scientists AND people that don’t have a bunch of letters after their name but do have actual experience in the trenches!

My goal is NOT to point my finger at “the bad guy” and say that “if they would stop ____, then all the world would be merry and bright and world peace would reign…” I only want to point out a few fallacies and inconsistencies that I see, present facts, and allow you to decide for yourself where you stand in the GMO battle and which promises you will embrace.

In my readings, many GMO proponents use scenarios like the one beginning this post to promote and advertise genetically modified products. Reading many of these articles reminds me of the logic course I took in high-school… Most arguments are based on faulty logic, incomplete data, or self-proclaimed promises. My first thought after reading the opening question was : That question, in its phrasing, is biased. There are several un-stated assumptions.

  1. Your tomato farm is growing very large quantities of tomatoes each year, probably with no crop rotation, land rest, or other natural healing or organic practices designed to help reduce problems.
  2. There are only two ways to solve your problem – dumping on chemicals or using a GMO.
  3. The beetle is your only antagonist and this GMO will solve all your problems, significantly increase your crop yield, and possibly save the farm.

Possibly the most exasperating article I’ve read recently was one put out by agweb.com this past April about the new GM rice called “golden rice”. The article talks about how this rice (inserted with beta-carotene from daffodils) may save over a million children a year by providing half their needed Vitamin A per day.  This article has many many logical fallacies including several appeals to pity, an appeal to probability, “appeal to the stone”, fallacy of the single cause, etc.

In a discussion about GMOs Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said he hopes lawmakers would move away from “a non-science based agenda driving law and rules.” He also stated that “The science has proven that GMO foods are safe and equivalent to non-GMO foods from a safety perspective,”

Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, says “There are no – and never have been any – documented health risks from genetically engineered food in the marketplace,”

Is that true? Perhaps Mr. Duvall is correct in saying that there are no documented health risks, because the FDA does not document health concerns…

According to an article found on centerforfoodsafety.org, “the [FDA] does not require any pre-market safety testing of GE (genetically engineered) foods.  The agency’s failure to require testing or labeling of GE   foods has made millions of consumers into guinea pigs, unknowingly testing the safety of dozens of gene-altered food products.   … The FDA, in its response to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Food Safety in 1998, admitted in court that it had made “no dispositive scientific findings,” whatsoever, about the safety of genetically engineered foods.  In other words, the FDA has given the biotech industry carte blanche to produce and market any number of genetically engineered foods without mandatory agency oversight or safety testing and without a scientific showing that these foods are safe to consume.”

In an article by writer and filmmaker and executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, Jeffrey   Smith reveals what an ex-Monsanto scientist revealed to him… In his article entitled “Just Say No to GMOs: Sowing the Seeds of Deception,”, Smith writes that due to the results of tests on milk from cows injected with genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH), three of his colleagues refused to drink milk again unless it was organic. Why? Because Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-1) is well-known for causing cancer and the scientists were well aware that IGF-1 was found on rbGH: The very hormone they inject into the milk-producing cows.

Hmmm… There’s some non genetically modified food for thought. Next week I hope to share and explain some of the possible risks of GMOs to which we are subjecting ourselves.

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About Hannah Hale

Hannah hails from McComb, Mississippi, where she farmed with her parents and three sisters. Home-schooled all her life, she grew up helping her grandfather on his Black Angus farm and working with her family to raise dairy goats, laying hens, and bees. Her love for animals blossomed through her involvement in 4-H and cattle showing. Hannah discovered Polyface through a lecture by Joel, and while reading his book You Can Farm, she realized that her life-long dream of farming could become a reality. The summer of 2013 saw Hannah a Polyface intern, and she was subsequently chosen to become an apprentice. Now married, Hannah helps her husband as they work as Polyface rental-farm managers. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of the Polyface team and learn from the best. In the future, Hannah wants to farm full-time and keep Jesus central in her life.
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3 Responses to Picking Promises

  1. Paige says:

    Nice post, Hannah! I definitely agree with your dissection of the logic used to market GMOs to farmers.

  2. Corin says:

    I’m still surprised when I meet people who don’t know that GMO’s are evil… but how can I blame them? The deception is wrapped up in such neat, appealing packages. Such noble ideals – saving farms, ending world hunger. It’s good to be reminded that a bit of good logic can deconstruct their ‘science’ pretty quickly.

  3. ociaatlantic says:

    The public does not understand the difference between hybridization and genetic manipulation. They think its all the same. I recently heard a local garden center employee tell a customer looking for GMO free seed that farmers have been using genetic manipulation for thousands of years to grow farm crops.