Settled, but Unheralded

Monday, July 07, 2014

Within an article about Monsanto, which Bloomberg Businessweek notes is "America's third-most hated company", is the following instructive and amusing tidbit:

While the debate about the impact of [Genetically Modified] crops on the environment continues, the question of their effect on human health looks increasingly settled. The National Academy of Sciences, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, Britain's Royal Society, the European Commission, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, among others, have all surveyed the substantial research literature and found no evidence that the GM foods on the market today are unsafe to eat. One of the few dissenting research papers, a 2012 study in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology that found tumors in rats fed modified maize, was retracted by the journal last fall after questions were raised about the researchers' methodology. [format edits, bold added]
The science is "settled"? I'm hardly surprised, but where have I heard this claim before?

Isn't the source of the rabid hatred for Monsanto from the left, which is currently in throes of "climate change" hysteria? And isn't it interesting -- setting aside the question of the validity of the claim that climate science is settled -- that the same people who cudgel us to death with that mantra sweep under the rug settled science they don't like?

I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to divine what "science" might mean to such cherry-pickers and recommend the article for a much more positive reason: It is very interesting. Near the end of the article, there is an account of an epiphany by one businessman who "hadn't heard many good things" about the company before having to decide about negotiating with it. It concludes:
What [Climate Corp. co-founder David Friedberg] realized, though, is that the best way to think about Monsanto is as a technology company. Its technology "just happens to take the form of a seed," Friedberg says. "As I got to learn about it I was like, 'Wow, this company is as innovative and as impressive as Google.' "
Read the whole thing, and consider passing it along to any reasonable adult of your acquaintance who might be on the fence about the safety of food obtained from genetically modified crops.

-- CAV


Vigilis said...

"I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to divine what "science" might mean to such cherry-pickers and recommend the article for a much more positive reason:..."

Gus, the phrase "The science is "settled" has become a legalistic rallying cry for the incompetent career politicians who hope their pronuoncements trump scientific rigor.

Thanks largely to the growing successes of unelected, never-named, K-street lobbyists many public schools already teach from 'space-age' texts espousing settled science.

Isn't this a modern version of pre-Renaissance scientific dogma?

Gus Van Horn said...

You raise a good question, and I had thought of hedging a bit, but given what I know about how genetic modifications are made, I don't think it far-fetched to say that -- unless the modifications themselves cause the organism to produce a protein or other metabolite that it is is harmful to consume -- genetic modification does not produce organisms that are unsafe to consume. That is, genetic modification is as safe as whatever the modifications cause to occur.

At a certain point -- and I doubt we are there with climate or many other questions about nutrition -- one does reach a high level of certainty, and it becomes ridiculous to claim otherwise. Would you doubt, for example, that consuming a reasonable amount of pure water is dangerous to your health? No.

I won't be drawn into a debate about where we should draw the line, but for most decisions, where one does is his own business and his own business only.

Gus Van Horn said...

Oops! I meant "good for", rather than "dangerous to" in the above.