Is Conventional Wisdom About GMO Safety Correct?

Conventional wisdom demands skepticism. Whether it’s the official stance on high-fat diets (“they’ll give you heart disease, don’t work, or do work but not for long!”), exercise (“you must jog at a moderate pace for an hour a day, four days a week!”), organic food (“it’s nutritionally identical to conventionally-grown food!”), or sun exposure (“you must always wear sunblock!”), I always question conventional wisdom. And when it’s lacking (as is often the case), I rightly skewer it.

I’m going to do something a little different today. I’m going to look critically at conventional wisdom, but of a different sort: the kind espoused by the alternative health crowd.

Now, I’m usually sympathetic to them. We align in many ways, perhaps more often than not. We both prefer organic food, wild seafood, and sustainably-raised livestock. We both understand the benefits of smart sun exposure, spending time in nature, and getting ample amounts of sleep. But when it comes to conventional alternative wisdom regarding genetic modification of food — that it makes food unsafe and unhealthy — I have to put on my skeptic’s hat and take a closer look. This is what I do. And don’t worry; in doing so, I’ll also explore the flip side — that GMOs are absolutely, perfectly safe.

I’ve talked GMO before, but the subject hasn’t gone away. If anything, it’s even more prominent a topic of discussion, with articulate salvos fired from both sides of the argument in recent weeks. Today, I’m going to wade in. I can’t promise a final word on all GMOs for all time. I can promise a balanced, level-headed approach to a very testy topic.

So let’s examine some of the arguments commonly provided by people worried about the health effects of GMO foods.

“They’re not safe.”

Well, which ones aren’t safe? GMO is a broad category.

“Bt corn isn’t safe.”

Bt corn is a GMO with a gene insertion coding for production of a bacterial toxin that targets insects. However, this isn’t a novel toxin. The bacteria that produces it — Bacillus thuringiensis — wasn’t created in a lab, and it’s even used by organic farmers as an effective insecticide.

Okay, but Bt toxin applied in powder or spray form can theoretically be removed with washing or processing. If GMO Bt corn has it baked into the DNA, we can’t avoid it. Isn’t that bad for us? After all, Bt toxin is designed to rupture the guts of the insects it targets, and we’re always emphasizing the importance of a healthy, intact gut lining.

Bt toxin is only activated in alkaline digestive systems. Human and other mammalian guts are acidic and thus resistant, while insect guts are alkaline and thus susceptible. And not even every insect seems to be susceptible; bee foraging behavior appears to be unaffected by Bt corn pollen (PDF) and bees with no exposure to Bt corn still show up with Bt toxins in their guts because the bacteria producing the toxin is so common in nature. Bacteria also appear to be unaffected by Bt toxin, indicating a lack of danger to our gut bacteria.

The specificity of action and lack of effect on mammals or non-target microorganisms (soil/gut bacteria) that made Bt toxin so attractive to organic farmers as an external insecticide makes it non-problematic for me as a genetic modification.

“But a Canadian study found Bt toxins in the blood of pregnant and non-pregnant women.”

Here’s the paper. There are serious doubts about the validity of the levels and the tests used to measure them. Plus, since organic farming uses Bt toxin and given the lack of food intake data, we don’t know the actual source of the Bt in the serum. It could have been organic produce. It could have indeed been Bt corn. Even then, there’s still no evidence that Bt toxin is harmful to mammals with acidic guts, so I’m not sure it’s all that relevant.

However, that study did make an important finding: there were also elevated levels of two herbicides associated with GMO foods (glyphosate/Roundup and glufosinate) and their metabolites in the serum. Suspiciously, the article I linked right above skewering the Bt toxin data are silent on the glyphosate and glufosinate (another herbicide) data. They mention it but don’t elaborate. Another similar article from a pro-GMO site also fails to address the herbicide data, claiming the “post is long enough.”

“They increase the use of pesticides.”

The pro-GMO side says GMOs allow reduced use of pesticides, while the anti-GMO side says GMOs allow increased use. Who’s right?

It depends on how you define “pesticides.” If you’re talking insecticides, GMOs generally reduce the use. Bt corn is one example of a GMO crop engineered to express intrinsic insecticidal toxins, thus reducing the amount of external insecticides applied. If you’re talking herbicides, GMOs increase the use.

Overall, GMOs have led to a net increase in pesticide usage (herbicides and insecticides combined), primarily thanks to Roundup-Ready crops. Whether it’s Roundup-Ready beets, corn, soybeans, canola, or even cotton, many GMOs are engineered to thrive despite heavy and frequent application of the herbicide Roundup.

In non-resistant conventional crops, Roundup is applied very carefully:

  • At planting before the crop has emerged.
  • After emergence, avoiding direct contact with the crop.
  • Right before harvest, when the plants are hardy and mature enough to resist it.
  • After harvest, to clear the fields.

When a crop is Roundup-Ready, the herbicide can be applied continuously and indiscriminately without harming the crop. The result is often persistent accumulation of the herbicide in treated foods, as with GMO soybeans.

“Roundup isn’t safe.”

Proponents of GM technology will offhandedly mention the benignity of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. Even Charles Benbrook, a GMO critic who authored the study showing that GMOs increase pesticide usage and a letter showing the benefits to organic farming, considers it one of the safest herbicides available.

But there’s a small problem with extolling the safety of glyphosate: Roundup isn’t just glyphosate. The herbicide formula contains surfactants and other “inert” ingredients that make glyphosate better at killing weeds and, maybe, causing collateral damage. In one piece of in vitro research, scientists showed that Roundup could be up to 125 times more toxic than glyphosate to human mitochondria. Detractors will cry that the author of that paper, Seralini, is a known anti-GMO activist with serious methodological problems in his other papers (poor controls, small sample sizes, tumor-prone mouse strains). That’s probably fair. He’s not the only one, though. Earlier papers have found similar discrepancies between the effects of glyphosate and Roundup:

Those studies aren’t evidence that Roundup is harming us, but they do show that studies using isolated glyphosate don’t give the whole picture.

“Roundup damages gut bacteria.”

Roundup kills weeds by disrupting the shikimate pathway (PDF), a pathway involved in the biosynthesis of several crucial amino acids. Human cells are relatively unaffected by the herbicide because our cells don’t use the shikimate pathway. There’s nothing to disrupt. All good?

Bacteria also employ the shikimate pathway, and we’ve got an awful lot of them living inside our bodies and handling some very important tasks, including immune function, digestion, production of neurotransmitters, mood regulation, and many more. This means our gut bacteria may be susceptible to Roundup residue on the foods we eat (and the air we breathe, the water we drink, and so on). This isn’t a big issue for people eating primally because the biggest offenders are Roundup-Ready soybeans and corn (and all the related food products) – two foods you likely aren’t eating regularly, if at all. That said, your exposure may be elevated if the food you eat eats a lot of Roundup-laden soy and corn (PDF), like CAFO livestock, dairy, and battery-farmed poultry, all of which may show traces of glyphosate.

Interestingly, a recent paper showed that those very same bacterial species that are reduced in celiac disease – lactobacillus, enterococcus, and bifidobacterium – are the ones most susceptible to glyphosate, while the pathogenic bacteria like salmonella and clostridium botulinium (responsible for botulism) are highly resistant to glyphosate (PDF). Furthermore, glyphosate also inhibits the anti-pathogenic activity of enterococcus bacteria. One of the reasons why “beneficial bacteria” are so beneficial is that they tend to keep the pathogens at bay, and glyphosate directly interferes with it.

“Genetic engineering is different from traditional breeding.”

Yes and no.

In nature, mutations to genes begin at the local level. Genes mutate, creating new alleles, and if those mutations confer survival benefits, the organism possessing them may pass the mutated alleles on to its offspring and, eventually, the species. Traditional cross-breeding co-opts this process, speeds it up, and isolates it, but at the core it’s essentially the same thing. If cross-breeding or natural evolution creates a trait dangerous to humans, we’ll often adapt to it, develop ways to mitigate its harm, or discontinue its use. Either way, the damage is contained to the area of adoption — which for thousands of years of agriculture was relatively small in scope.

Genetic modification in the lab allows instant adoption of new mutations. Once the seeds have been approved for commercial use, they are dispersed to any farm that can afford them. Within a few years, people all over the world are consuming foods that include the new mutation. If that mutation poses a threat to human health or the environment, it becomes a global threat because the scale and speed of laboratory genetic modification is many times larger than that of a naturally-occurring mutation. Traditional forms of genetic engineering (selective breeding of plants to amplify desired traits) begin locally and develop over many generations, giving the environment and its inhabitants plenty of time to adapt to the new mutation or stamp it out. Natural evolution proceeds over an even-longer timescale on the order of hundreds and thousands of years. In the case of GMOs, once the seeds have been approved for commercial use, mutations are global and instantaneous.

I haven’t seen any strong evidence that existing GMO foods introduce traits that are directly dangerous to humans, but the potential exists. If a GMO is going to be problematic over the long term, and these problems aren’t acute enough to show up in safety studies, there might not be enough time for us to adapt.

“Inserting one gene can affect multiple traits, not just the target trait.”

The common misconception about genes is that a single gene affects a single trait. In reality, multiple genes can determine single traits, and single genes can affect multiple traits. Pleiotropy is when a single gene affects more than one seemingly unrelated trait.

Of course, this also holds true for traditional selective breeding. Breeding tomatoes to be sweeter might alter other traits dependent on the “sweetness gene.” And theoretically, genetic engineering should allow greater control over unwanted pleiotropic effects, while selective breeding is more of a shotgun approach with more chances for unwanted pleiotropic effects.

“We need long-term human studies.”

I agree. Unfortunately, we can’t have human studies the way we can with mice. We can’t (and wouldn’t want to, of course) wean babies onto 35% GM soybean diets, track them for several decades, “sacrifice” them, and dissect their internal organs for evidence of pathology.

“I went GMO-free and feel better than ever!”

Say your average relatively uninformed consumer hears about GMO dangers, decides to go on a GMO-free diet, and Googles “gmo free diet.” What does the first result tell them to do?

1. Go organic.

2. Load up on fruits and veggies.

There you have it: going on a GMO-free diet works, for the vast majority of people, because it promotes consumption of organic food, including meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables (which we know are higher in phytonutrients and lower in pesticide residues). It’s not an even exchange for GMO-free versions of common GMO-replete foods. A GMO-free diet almost always works out to be an overall healthier and vastly different pattern of eating that ends up looking a lot like the Primal Blueprint.

“So you’re saying GMOs are safe?”

Not exactly.

I worry about the world’s food supply being controlled by a single company, or an oligarchy of companies.

I worry about the Roundup-Ready gene allows farmers to spray willy nilly. I worry about it ending up in my food and, ultimately, my body. More than anything, I worry about the effect it might have on my gut bacteria.

I worry about the scale and speed at which genetic modifications can be adopted across the globe and hope current testing protocols are sufficient to catch any dangerous ones.

But I don’t see any major issues with the process of genetic engineering in and of itself.

Don’t get me wrong: I avoid GMO foods when I can. But not because I fear genetic engineering. Genetic engineering has the potential to do some really cool things, provided we get it right, like the folks who made low-PUFA, high-MUFA soybean oil.  I avoid GMOs because I don’t want to consume Roundup, which as far as I can tell likely causes most of the problems linked to GMO foods. Because I don’t eat very much corn, soy (except for natto, and the only natto I’ve found without junk in the ingredients uses organic soybeans), sugar beet (I much prefer organic beets from the farmer’s market with the greens still attached; if you’ve never had beet greens, sauté them up in olive oil with some garlic and serrano chiles for an arguably superior alternative to spinach and kale), canola oil, or cotton (tastes terrible).

Oppose specific GMO foods. Explain why you don’t want Roundup-Ready beets and soybeans in your diet — because the Roundup it allows farmers to apply in ever-increasing amounts isn’t benign. Don’t rail against all GMOs because of something you don’t like in one. Don’t be like the skeptics who deride all organic foods because a study they like found identical levels of vitamin C in conventional and organic strawberries.

Genetic engineering isn’t inherently harmful to human health. It’s weird. It’s new. And putting a bacterial gene in your carrot or whatever sounds crazy, but it’s not necessarily bad.

What do you think, everyone?

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TAGS:  big agra, GMO

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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193 thoughts on “Is Conventional Wisdom About GMO Safety Correct?”

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  1. It is way too early in the morning for my brain to process this. Thanks for doing the heavy lifting on this topic, I’ll be back to digest it later!

    1. I respectfully disagree, I knew something fundamental here was bugging me but I had to go think about other stuff before it came clear.

      “Conventional wisdom demands skepticism.”

      The conventional wisdom Mark’s referring to there is the science-led notions of the last hundred years or so (but especially post-WW2) – that saturated animal fat is bad, that hydrogenated veg fat and novel vegetable oils are good, that grains should be the foundation of every meal, and so on.

      People in the past knew you mostly don’t eat between meals – this got overturned for a while by the idea we need to “keep our blood sugar stable” and never enter a fasting state. They also knew whole food was mostly good, that fats like butter and lard had their place as additions to a diet, and that eating too much sweet stuff wasn’t desirable for anyone.

      Grains as a base were only eaten by the very poor, everyone else moved to proteins and fats as much as possible – a direct reversal of the recent grain-based food-pyramid.

      So, the actual “conventional wisdom” Mark usually debunks on MDA stems from half-understood recent scientific attempts to improve on our diets by modifying foods, creating new types of fats and novel manufactured foods, heavily led by commercial forces that cherry-pick research to get their own products promoted by government and health providers.

      This means that the pro-GMO argument fits completely into that definition of the “conventional wisdom that proved to be wrong” – CW that was also driven by a desire to sell product, through skewed science, and often (hello, John Harvey Kellogg) obnoxious ideologies.

      I don’t think this article was particularly well thought-out, since the ideologies that support GMO are identical to the ones that put soy-fortified wheatbreads smothered in hydrogentated veg fats (as the “healthy” alternative to butter) on our tables for several decades, while demonising meat and animal fats.

      1. The small intestine is alkaline alkaline.
        a lot of bicarbonate is secreted there to inactivate clhoridic ac7d from the stomach so the pzncreatic enzymes can be activated and be able to work, they need an alkaline ph to be active.
        maybe mark needs more knowledge about the digestive system.

        1. If you click on this link and go to the abstracts, you do find some studies showing detriment to sheep, cows, and rodents with bt corn:

          There’s also a bunch of studies indicating it may be more than and why there is no scientific consensus:

          There’s also the latest news on carcinogenicity:

          I agree with the precautionary principle. It’s hard to know for certain with such a politically impacted topic and the fact that long-term studies are hard to find.

        2. Excellent point about the ph of the small intestine. I hadn’t realized it was alkaline, but verified and indeed it is!

      2. Well said Mr. Rathbone. We would all do well to remember that Monsanto also brought us the harmless Agent Orange.

        1. Not to mention heavily involved in the Trans Atlantic slave trade.

      3. This article is an almost complete travesty. Anything that’s “alternative” cannot be considered conventional wisdom. Being in the health circles, Mark is surrounded by people who say the same talking points over and over, so he may get the sense that the anti-GMO stance is “conventional wisdom,” even though people in his circles do tons of research all the time. Here he is attempting to set himself apart it seems.

        Or he is just being paid by Monsanto to say these things. I only say this because he pulled out every talking point in the shill playbook. I’ve seen these before when getting trolled on my Twitter account by hordes of them. They all bring up these exact same points, horizontal gene transfer, debunking RoundUp concerns. It’s like they’re reading from a manual. Now Mark has transcribed that manual with his own intelligent spin onto a “natural health” website. Travesty I tell ya.

    2. If the manufactures of GMO`s had nothing to fear why are they fighting so hard not to label food products as made from GMO foods ?

      This will be our future asbestos and smoking issue in 30 years with no one to clean up the mess .This is a self regulated industry which always leads to disaster

      1. Self regulated industry is not the problem. A population of followers who put too much trust with the authorities is the problem. People are living blindly because they think the authority is looking out for them. Sorry folks… BIG BROTHER DOES NOT CARE ABOUT YOU! That’s the truth.

    1. I tend to agree with you. So many times we can see where the best of intentions have been turned sour by greed.
      I think I will choose my GMOs carefully and watch as the long term study is done on the majority of our society while they are not looking.

    2. It isn’t run by greed, it’s run by service and cooperation. You exchange because you have a double coincidence of wants. You don’t exchange if you don’t want what the other guy has. The greed hypothesis assumes the seller has all the clout. The seller has none of the clout. He can only sell what buyers choose. Pepsi only uses aspartame until enough people decide they don’t want it. Is that greed? Who cares? I get my pepsi without aspartame.

      1. People never asked for aspartame, they asked for reduced calories. Greed leads the company to ignore/distort safety concerns and use the cheapest ingredient only after enormous effort by others outside of the producer convinces the consumer to avoid aspatame dose a producer change to a new ingredient.
        There are thousands of examples of greed driving companies from cigarette manufacturers to indigenous land grabs around the world. Greed is a major problem.

        1. ^ This.

          I don’t trust the people monitoring the results not to skew, mislead, lobby, and use other methods to cover over data contrary to their financial best interests, meaning that there’s no opportunity for the kind of informed choice that levels up the playing field.

          This goes double since any admission of a dangerous flaw doesn’t just mean lost sales, but crippling lawsuits and potential personal liabil’ity for their executives.

          If GMO research was being handled only by people outside the commercial world with no vested interests, I’d have more faith, but that’s not going to happen. Look at the cover-ups on dangerous drugs that turn out to do far more harm than good – the link is first denied, then blame shunted round, and still victims seldom if ever get their claims that it harmed them officially and publicly recognised, let alone any compensation.

          Drug scandals, awful though they are, affect a minority – this is the food chain for our entire species.

        2. I have to agree. Joshua is referring to the “perfect” or “ideal” market, in which all players have complete information. When science is thrown out that shows negatives to a manufacturers’ food products, marketing persuades consumers that a certain product is what the need in thir loves for happiness, and government intervention manipulates the market in order for powerful companies to artificially reduce the price of their goods, it is difficult to argue that the buyer has the power.

        3. Consumers asked for aspartame every single time they bought a can of diet pepsi.

        4. I think you are missing something here. The people wanted low calorie and never questioned the process. It’s cheap and easy. That’s just meeting consumer demand. The consumer has been misled into believing low calorie soda is fine by the very organization they look to to protect them. You can’t trust the authority. Unless you don’t mind being oppressed that is.

      2. except in this case they are trying to sell stuff most people don’t want without properly labeling products so people don’t know what they buy and can’t make a choice.
        apart from that, i have a problem with GMO companies trying to monopolize the food supply. paying licence fees for seeds to plant – which you have to buy from the GMO companies every year. you can’t keep some of the harvest for planting next year, no sir. if you do that they sue you. hundreds of farmers went bankrupt due to lawsuits. buy the way third generation pigs eating GMO corn stopped reproducing, became infertile. should that happen tu us humans, the population explosion problem would be fixed pronto! might be a good side effect of GMOs after all?
        i say no need to fight the GMO companies (us in europe do, fortunately).
        It is sufficient to pass a law similar to the one they passed in Argentina. Saying living organisms can not be copyrighted and nobody can collect any royalty on a living organism, never mind who created it, God or M…..o.
        That is the only way to keep these guys at bay.

        1. and i almost forgot. it never happened in the past that somebody cross bread a bacteria with a plant. cross breeding is NOT genetic engineering and the two should not be confused. as far as i am concerned, GMO is a no-no and the GMO companies can shove the stuff up their A. of course anyone who wants it is welcome to get what they ask for. just label it properly so that we all can make a choice.

      3. In this country the seller does have much of the clout as manufacturers limit more and more choice from the grocery stores. What left is there to buy? I can not find ham without tons of sugar in it…I can in Italy. I can’t find bread without malt flour (whatever that is) not that I eat a lot of bread…so I don’t buy it. Soon I will be forced to buy the junk because there is no choice. That is what will happen with just a few companies supplying food….

      4. Thanks for the voice of reason Joshua, it seems most people here contribute to much power to the Monsanto’s and Coca Cola’s of this world. I used to as well. Until I started reading blogs such as Mark’s and realized there is an alternative to everything I was/am sceptical about.

        As to GMO, as a biochemist I can say confidently no one had the truth. So little is known about the human body and how it works that it will be years and big changes needed before we will know THE truth.
        And that is why I am thankful for this article, because, as always, Mark takes a balanced stand based on the little evidence that is available to give us today’s truth. And if new evidence comes out tomorrow he will adapt.

        To come back to Joshua, I buy my vegetables and fruits locally without caring to much. If the evidence against Round-up becomes stronger, then I will make sure I find a source that doesn’t use it or very little of it. And by doing so I slowly move the market away from that pesticide. I will also inform friends and family about it through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.If we all do, we will change the world. And we will win against Monsanto.

  2. the whole process of genetic engineering involves a naive interloper called human being – it reminds me of letting young children play with handgrenades! Mother Nature knows best so leave it to her as to which genes belong to a species of plant or animal.

    1. Yes, I agree with Marie. It completely undermines NATURAL selection.

      1. No it doesn’t. Because recently a new type of transfer of genetic material called Exosomes have been getting a lot of attention when initial results showed that mRNA from one specie was found in another. And that it would potentially be taken up by the latter. So even Mother Nature seems to be doing this. Our understanding of her workings are just still very limited.

    2. a) Human’s have been practicing selective breeding in plants and animals for millennia. Are organic carrots good for you? Surely you only eat purple ones…
      The orange “carrot coloured” ones are artificial

      b) mother nature “knows nothing” but experiments a lot… evolution keeps the results with “successful” traits.

      I’m not saying I trust the big companies either (because of motivation or ethics) – I think Mark has expressed it well

      1. Purple carrots have some very valuable antioxidant nutrients that the orange ones lack. Purple is better, but both are full of nutrients. But that is a natural variation, tho the form that survived better in the wild was purple.

        Neither purple nor orange carrots have cancer promoters at the beginning or the gene structure to jam the gene “ON.” “Promoter” is a technical term here. Before the gene itself begins, there is a special DNA sequence that determines whether this gone is ON right now and being made. That beginning part is called the promoter.

        Cancers and infectious viruses have to have a special promoter to make sure the hijacked cell makes their proteins. Genetic engineers have found these sequences very useful to make sure their own added gene is extravagantly produced. That is NOT a natural variation at all.

    3. “Mother Nature” is not some perfectionist deity. The natural world is loaded with “mistakes,” that we can only accept and live with. A worthless appendix that can still painfully kill us. Difficult childbirth due to our bipedal evolution. Knees and other joints way too easily ruined. The list is long.

      Also, just because a give “thing” never appeared in nature doesn’t mean it’s bad. Maybe evolution would have done it eventually, maybe not.

      Don’t overly generalize, which is indirectly a point of what Mark is saying. We need to look at the specifics.

      1. The difference is that human GMO interventions spread quickly and affect the entire food system.

        What is novel is not the ability genetics in food but:

        1) Ability to introduce genetic material from completely different biological domains
        2) The speed at which we can do this (months in a lab vs. generational evolution)
        3) The scale at which we can do this (industrial distribution vs. localized ecosystems)

        We do not know and cannot predict the consequences. On a limited/localized scale, this is fine.

        No one understand the disastrous health consequences of rapidly introducing huge amounts of sugar and processed carbohydrate into the diet via industrialized food–it was ‘probably safe’ until it wasn’t.

        Now imagine that problem, but self-replicating and on a global scale. The burden of proof of total safety lies with those proposing to introduce GMO foods. It is impossible to provide.

        The issue is probabilistic, not nutritional. Yes of course these foods COULD be safe (though again, it seems there is more and more ‘anecdotal’ evidence of negative health outcomes) but do you want to bet the entire world food supply that they are?

        1. Awesome post Eric.. I agree Its about complex systems not one guy eating a carrot.. The human mind cant fathom the burden on the ecological system and neither can computers. So untill they can they shouldnt gamble with a system that has spent billions of years fine tuning…

        2. The problem is not that we do not know and can’t predict the consequences (small problem). It is that we don’t care. CEOs are psychopaths and only care for themselves. There terms are short term and so are there outlooks. Any one who has studied commerce would have been shocked by the Ford Motor Company case where they made a (good) financial decision to not recall and repair cars that were killing customers because it was cheaper to pay the dead drivers families. This is how corporatism works. This is the problem not genetic modification (perhaps gm is the solution human gm). If people lived longer it would help those who think short term to think longer term and allow those who think longer term to prosper, aswell as giving those not born into power a better chance of getting there. Like the atomic theory Gm is not the problem but how we use is

      2. The appendix is NOT worthless – it acts as a reservoir for gut bacteria when the main intestines and colon are infected with hostile and aggressive strains, which the body gets rid of through diarrhea, and it acts in a similar role when someone needs antibiotics. It seems to act as a stash – a reservoir of gut bacteria, waiting to repopulate – outside the everyday function of the colon, which is to transport food and absorb stuff.

        This kind of thinking (with respect) – that we know ahead of time what’s worthless, and what’s not – is incredibly dangerous since the very existence of the sciences proves that we do NOT know it all.

    4. So if Mother Nature knows best we should just leave polio, measles, plague and small pox alone and let them run their “natural” course. Nature does not always know best. Man has become the top of the food chain because of brains. It’s up to man to best use all tools at our disposal and be smart about what we do and how we do it.

      1. Thank you! Natural is not a magic bullet. I think Mark expressed the pros/cons very well, and was quite reasonable. I can’t say the same for this comment section. haha.

      2. Then what keeps man in check? When people survived measles,
        pox, or what ever, they pass those stronger jeans forward. You die,
        then weaker jeans are discarded. Sound crude but that is nature.

        1. Plenty of species become extinct. I believe it is nearly all historically speaking

    5. “the whole process of genetic engineering involves a naive interloper called human being”

      The exact same statement could be made about any conventionally bred plant, which is basically everything you eat and that we have eaten for hundreds or even thousands of years. That’s not “mother nature” doing the work, it is humans — and in an even more blind and uninformed way. If you’ve ever eaten a banana, apple, ear of corn (non-GMO), or virtually any other crop, you’re eating a HUMAN-made product. It was NOT made by “nature”.

      “Mother Nature knows best so leave it to her as to which genes belong to a species of plant or animal”

      “Mother Nature” is not a real singular entity with a brain and a will. You do know that, right? Nature is result of the blind confluence of, and balance between, millions of species trying to survive and reproduce. Nature doesn’t “know” anything; it isn’t acting in our best interst. Nature’s behavior is a result of a very complex web of cause and effect. No more, no less.

      1. What, there is no Mother Nature? You’ve dashed all my illusions! Blast! Next you’ll tell me President Trump signed a bill turning over the FDA agency to Monsato.

  3. You put very eloquently into words how I think most in the community personally feel about GMO crops. It’s not that GMO is bad per say, it’s what they do to grow them because they are GMO, namely, more roundup, less micronutrients.

  4. I have two questions here.

    The first concerns the alkaline digestive tract. Ruminants have an enormous alkaline fermentation vat – the rumen – that is packed with bacteria capable of digesting cellulose. Do Bt feeds have the potential to damage these bacteria?

    My second concern is allergies. I have been able to find no studies at all on the potential for transferring allergens from one food to another. I want to know whether it is likely that inserting, say, peanut genes, into say, corn, with the worthy intention of making a corn with complete protein, might create allergic potential for consumers of the new corn. I went to with this question and got a cheery but dismissive answer to the effect that as this had happened with Brazil nuts, GE companies no longer use Brazil nuts.

    While I have no life-threatening allergies, there are many people who do. I have chronic migraine, so I very carefully watch what I eat. Legumes and nuts are major triggers for me, as are bananas and a host of other things. I can avoid most triggers by simply preparing my meals from scratch, and reading labels with great care on the odd occasion that I use packaged foods. I would be really annoyed if I bought fresh produce that triggered migraine attacks, and discovered that gene-splicing was to blame! I want labelling – nobody can make informed decisions when the information required is deliberately withheld.

    1. Thank you for bringing up the food allergy issue! I do have severe food allergies, including corn. Even if Roundup went away tomorrow, I still wouldn’t feel safe eating GMOs until they put a label on my apples telling just what genes they added!

      1. Other patented products, or which comtain patented components, have labels which assert the patent number, and this is required to protect the invention. Why not GMO foods?

        This would help me, because I don’t really believe that all GMO foods are categorically bad, but I suspect that some probably are. I would prefer to have the information to be able to figure out which are which. Patent numbers would be a good start. From there it is public information that someone could build a database of to facilitate lookups and link to studies.

  5. Just like many people who are metabolically damaged NEED an LCHF version of Paleo or Primal to heal and get hormones, gut bacteria, mitochondria, etc. to optimal then they likely can be more flexible on the carbs, the planet and humanity is not able to tolerate GMOs right now.

    I think the evidence is much clearer that they do significant damage to humans. Get a Monsanto executive to eat GMO crops and feed their family them.

    The Earth, people, societies, ecosystems need to heal now. GMOs do massive damage at many different scales: individual, fields, ecosystems, globally. We know way too little and the more that comes out the worse they seem to be for every living thing, not just people.

    The only way forward is working with Nature. Going back to GMO free, MIXED farming. Transitioning to local agriculture. We are at all time low or thereabout oil prices.

    We need SELF-CONTAINED agriculture. Cows peeing on grass and popping on it. Of course this does not serve MNCs.

    Maybe with another 100 years of testing not controlled by any monetary interest, GMO technology might possibly be a net benefit. But not now. Not by a LONG shot. More damage, more input use, more destruction. They have so far, arguably, been the worse technology every used in agriculture for multiple reasons, at multiple scales, to many different species.

    1. Monetary interest is the only one that will do it long-term. Nobody acts unless they think the means will achieve their ends. Without the prospect of receiving the medium of exchange with which they will trade their means for someone else’s ends, it won’t happen.

    1. I make my own using Natto Spores or you can go to your local Asian market. They sell it in the frozen food section. I believe Japan doesn’t allow GMO soybeans so it should be fine. If you want to make your own it’s fairy simple. Here is where I get my natto spores It comes with the instructions on how to make natto or if you’re like me and like a visual demo you can check out

  6. Very balanced view on a complex subject and I very much agree. I say that I avoid all GMOs as much as practical but I include all modern agricultural products in that classification, even if they were modified by “conventional” breeding. The purpose of those improvements were aimed at productivity, increased sweetness, etc, and not really health. In the process these products are less healthy for us. I posted a similar article awhile ago with a very similar viewpoint.

  7. Thank you for explaining the subject in a way that I can understand. Knowledge is power.

  8. Here’s the main concern… Just like with everything else (drugs, plastics, preservatives, etc, etc) WE are the guinea pigs as those items are basically “innocent until proven guilty”. Which means they get to basically put whatever they want on the market for our consumption and it’s considered safe until it starts making people sick – sometimes many many years later (BPA, anyone??). No thanks, I’m not willing to be the guinea pig.

    Not to mention, what’s going to happen when these GMO crops take over all of the other crops and there’s nothing left but GMO -and THEN we find out it’s not safe? What then? I hear the word “sustainability” thrown around like it’s the next best thing since sliced bread, but no one seems to understand what that TRULY means.

    1. The other thing is, the human body can tolerate just so much. GMO’s in addition to all the other types of pollution we must deal with might be too much cumulative damage for many people.

      1. I think this may be the most important point of all……….we have been increasingly piling on stresses and toxins over recent decades…..there are too many distorted toxic sources and behaviors to say which are having more or less effect………The straw that broke the camels back has already been laid upon our culture in much of our population nutritionally – especially the young. I eat “clean” because I don’t want to carry around a bail of straw on my back……Gmo’s may be just a hand full of straw…..but there are so many different handfuls out there…I want to be as free from this toxic load as possible – in all areas of my life.

    2. Once it all becomes GMO and they find out it is dangerous as you say, they’ll just reverse genetically engineer it back to the way it was. LOL, what a mess, right? They are truly playing God.

    3. That’s a great point. I had the opportunity to happen onto an Anti-GMO demonstration in Kauai. Apparently Monsanto has engineered a fungus resistant papaya. One of the farmers had a natural papaya and Monsanto papaya side by side. To the eye they looked the same. However, the GMO papaya had poor texture and was flavorless compared to sample of the real papaya. The seeds from the real papaya had a peppery almost wasabi-like flavor. The seeds from the GMO tasted different, more industrial? The demonstrators illuded towards accusation of Monsanto for spreading the fungus. If industrial agriculture wins, it may wipe out the existence of the primal papaya and alter the enzymatic benefits of the fruit. This will be a tough battle because aparrently, Monsanto is the biggest donor to the University of Hawaii department of Agriculture. Even if the GMO papaya is harmless, the flavor itself will decrease demand. The organic farmer will suffer while industry has profited from the sale of the gmo trees and cares less about those who sell the fruit for a living. We’re these demonstrators wackos or was this true? The problem with GMO is the truth will surmount long after the damage is done.

      1. If the GMO papaya lacks flavor compared to the organic one, that would benefit the organic farmer. Unless there are people who like flavorless papaya in which case they wouldn’t be buying the flavorful one anyway.

        1. I think where Jack may have been going is that with aggressive seed modification, it’s going to be extremely difficult to keep those seeds from spreading and modifying organic seed. Eventually, organic seed can get altered, similar to the idea of “pesticide drift.”

        2. Without labels how can you tell you just stop buying the fruit and it’s price drops eliminating the poor non gm farmer first and you are just left with gm fruit which eventually no one buys but there is never any evidence as to why and besides CEO of mega Corp is retired or working somewhere else or most likely dead as he was already old nearly all CEOs are. The problem is not gm but how it is used.

  9. Lately I’ve really come to appreciate your writing Mark – it’s always objective, pragmatic and … dare I say it… evidence based. More so than anything else I find on the Internet.

    One more good example of good GMO -> Papaya in Hawaii.

  10. Hey Mark
    One thing about natto ingredients: most of the natto with bad ingredients are because of the included flavoring packet, which usually has all kinds of nasty stuff. I’m not sure if that in and of itself is enough information to rule any particular brand in or out. Here in NYC there are a few packages labeled Non-GMO. I’ll try to dig up some photos I have lying around.

    1. You do know that Organic Farmers also use pesticides, right? The Organic Farming Associates get you to believe otherwise.

      1. Yes I do know, but let’s say you have to smoke cigarettes to survive. Would you choose the ones with less tar and nicotine? or go for the Camels? Your choice!

  11. “Conventional Alternative” sounds like an oxymoron. It makes sense in context, just sounds funny. Not criticizing, just pointing out something that amused me.

    1. Especially when ‘Conventional’ means the industrial agricultural practices developed well within the last hundred years. As opposed to methods used for millenia.

      Conventional agriculture pollutes our air, waterways, oceans, depletes soil, kills pollinators & other wildlife, etc. It’s responsible for 1/3 of greenhouse gas emissions, and that’s before the shipping. Avoid anything from Big Food as much as possible.

    2. It IS an oxymoron. By definition, alternative health is against mainstream. I don’t know why, but this article seems to be flipping the script to confuse people. It DOES have a ton of great information and thought put into it. I think it’s genuine. However, I think the phrase you mentioned is worthy of actual criticism, not just musing. There is no such thing as conventional wisdom in alternative health. It has to be one or the other… unless he’s trying to get us to not think like CW people in our alternative health circles. But he should just point it out, not state it as if it’s already given that we’re CW zombies.

      1. “There’s no such thing as conventional wisdom in alternative health. It has to be one or the other”.

        That statement about says it all in regards to the current paleo movement mindset and it’s followers.

        1. Oh whatever. You’re just trying to flip the script and muddle the discussion. With health, you have CW, and you have alternative health. CW took years and years to solidify into the sorry and fanatical religion it has become, pushing vaccines, pharmaceuticals, grains, and low-fat.

          You can have bad tendencies and uninformed trends in a new movement of course, but you can’t claim to be radical by staying aligned with CW then applying the term to the ones who are actually INTERESTED in learning the truth and scrutinizing the research, just because more people and more people have been convinced of the more accurate info and are starting to approach being the majority. This is some political game you’re playing. You don’t become the skeptic if you start to defend Big Pharma just because suddenly those skeptical of it have made headway and started to sway the majority.

        2. Alternative health embraces everything from raw veganism, fruitarianism, calorie-restriction for optimum nutrition, to high-fat (and intentionally high calorie) diets, or hardcore paleo diets that are focused on meat and little else, whereas current CW sings from the same hymnsheet – lots of smaller carby meals, sugar as a harmless nutrient (“a calorie is a calorie”), sweeteners get the green light, and veg oils are the only permissible fats.

  12. I would agree with you completely, I do not think GMO is inherently dangerous in and of itself, but the Roundup is absolutely a bad thing. Just like you I try to avoid it where and when I can. However I’m also a strong believer in mandatory labeling for GMO’s because ultimately it does not matter if it is or is not a bad thing, people should be able to choose if they want to consume them.

  13. Current testing protocols for GMOs are far from adequate. Biotech companies do their own research, decide how long the study will be, don’t publish the data, and can fail to reveal any research with adverse effects. The report GMO Myths and Truths, by 2 genetic engineers and a science writer, gives a lot of detail on the poor regulation of GM crops, the pressure on scientists to produce the results industry wants, and the difficulties for whistleblowing scientists. Also info about how studies which claim to show safety actually do nothing of the kind.

  14. The main concern I have with GMO labeling is that it will give people a false sense of security. As Mark points out glyphosate is used on many nonGMO crops so buying nonGMO doesn’t mean you aren’t consuming it. Almost all nonorganic meat, chicken and milk probably contains glyphoste since just about everything is fed GMO feed.

    Plus I think the lack of labeling may drive growth in the organic sector which is a good thing And labeling products as GMO Free is consistent with organic labeling. Farmers don’t label what pesticides are in their products, but the labeling requirement is for the pesticide-free products. Organic Consumers is offering a test for glyphosate so you can test whether it is in your body. Might be a good thing to check out.

  15. At this point, for me, my main concerns on GMO are ownership of the food-chain by big agribusiness and increased use of pesticides. We have been manipulating genes in other life forms for some time but now our tools are more sophisticated and allow us to do so more and more quickly.

    1. I think the farmers in India would agree with you. The ones that are still alive, that is.

  16. GMO can mean a heck of a lot!

    GMO is one way that humans have been mucking about with the layout of genes in organisms… hybridization is another. If you think that Hybridization is completely benign then you are seriously misinformed.

    If you created the exact same plant via GMO that you did via hybridization it would be as benign or dangerous as the hybridized variety… no more… no less. This can be intentional or unintentional. Africanized honey bees, comes to mind.

    You can have JUST AS REASONABLE an end result via GMO or just as unreasonable an end result.

    We now have the unenviable position of having to feed 7 Billion people on this planet. GMOs are here to stay! If we don’t use them then the poorest of the population are who get the shortest end of the stick!

    It isn’t GMOs, per se, that have to go… It is the 1-2% of the population who controls everything and are willing to hide PARTICULARLY dangerous GMOs AND hybrids in order to make the biggest pile of money… THEY are the danger!

    If you can’t yet tell… I get incensed by stupid, short-sighted and shallow-thinking people who just don’t have a clue and like to hop on any ol’ bandwagon!

    1. “GMO can mean a heck of a lot!”

      No, the term didn’t emerge until human’s began splicing transgenic genes. Attempting to expand the definition to cover traditional breeding practices (hybridization) is disingenuous.

      As for needing GMO’s to feed the planet. There is already enough food being produced to feed everyone on the planet, and would be even without GMO’s. And GMO yields are not rising, as I wrote below, there is an initial boost in yields but no sustained growth, for that you need to look to organic. From the USDA (hardly a bastion of anti-GMO activity):

      “farmers indicate that they adopted GE corn, cotton, and soybeans primarily to increase yields”

      “Over the first 15 years of commercial use, GE seeds have not been shown to increase yield potentials of the varieties.”

      Farmers can charge more for organic without suffering the consequence of superpests, so the free market will take care of the US GMO “controversy”.

    2. You cannot create the same exact plant with GMO as you can with hybridization, because the GE (genetically engineered) plant has the insertion of an ENTIRE gene, and more importantly, it has its control sequence jammed into a make-this-continuously mode, using genes from cancers and infectious diseases. I am sure some natural variations happen because of changes in the control sequences, but it cannot happen in nature the way it happens in the lab.

  17. GMOs may be safer then we realize but until there is a better base line track record and more data to learn about long term effects I will continue to avoid GMO foods in favor of non GMO and continue to grow most of my own foods and hunt my own meats. I realize that hunting is not even a 100% fix as the deer and elk I hunt can be feeding on crops that are of a GMO base but I feel there would likely be less GMOs present in wild game then domestic raised meat sources.

  18. I agree with GMO mandatory labeling, no matter which side of the fence you sit on, you have the right to know what is in your food and to choose whether you are going to buy it or not. It’s estimated that 90% of Americans want labels to list GMO products on foods, amazingly, this bill was voted down in congress; too many politicians re-election campaigns are funded by these big biotech companies. Follow the money people…….

    1. Why make it mandatory? I think we can treat it like “organic” products. Everyone assumes it is not organic unless the product is labeled organic.This is not mandatory.

  19. What nature makes is incredibly complex, and we understand only a miniscule amount about how biological organisms function. Genetic engineering technology is random in its effects, with no precision about how the ‘desirable’ gene segments get inserted into the host organism’s DNA. There can be a wide range of impacts on the final organism, but all the company cares about is the presence of the supposedly desirable trait.
    As a person who cares about nutrient dense whole foods, I don’t want scientists messing with Mother Nature. Add or increase a micronutrient with science? Sure. But you screw up nature’s time tested proportions. Including potentially turning some things off and dramatically increasing production of other naturally produced substances.
    Plus you potentially produce a plant that will generate entirely new and toxic proteins. All of the plant’s natural regulatory mechanisms are messed up. The ‘desirable’ new proteins are made by the plant 24/7, producing very high concentrations.
    The process of genetically engineering an organism creates massive collateral damage to the host’s DNA. Thousands of mutations can occur.
    When we consider the impacts of SNPs, SINGLE nucleotide polymorphisms on human health, how can we believe that creating thousands of mutations in the genome of a plant or animal can possibly be safe?? Would you let a scientist shoot a DNA segment into your cells, knowing that thousands of mutations might occur? Not for me, thanks.
    Very little safety testing is done. There have been instances in which safety tests were performed which were Not required for crop approval, and extremely harmful effects were discovered. Leading to the crop (peas) not being made available, when it would have been approved without that test.
    Those sorts of long term damages may be occurring in humans and in livestock animals, yet not being attributed to GMO consumption.
    How do we know that increases in cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and autism aren’t being contributed to by the proliferation of GMOs in the food supply? There are many who believe that they are related. But it is oh so hard to prove the causal relationship ‘scientifically’ when GMOs are so prevalent. Even simple causal relationships are famously hard to prove when human physiology is so complex.
    The promised benefits of decreased pesticide usage, increased yields, and increased hardiness have not proven to be reliable. In fact, the plants are frequently unhealthy and under perform. As you already said, Mark, pesticide/herbicide usage has dramatically increased with GMOs.
    Plus contamination of non-GMO crops is very real. In my opinion, it is not possible to have a 100% guaranteed GMO-free source of soy, corn, or canola. If we were to stop planting GMOs, the process of getting back to truly GMO-free would be very laborious, if possible at all. But at least we could stop planting have GMO prevalence gradually decrease naturally.
    In my opinion, any small potential benefits are just not worth the risks and damages.

  20. Mark, ask the wrong question get the wrong answer. The question is not merely are GMOs safe (answer: we don’t know for sure). The question is are they good for the planet, including all its species, not just humans, in the long term, not just in the next year or two. Answer: we don’t know, but there sure could be problems. Why rush in? The European precautionary principle is wise. Here in the USA, we’ll get the answer that well funded corporations want, until Citizens United is overturned.

  21. One of my main concerns is that as you said, each genetic alteration has the potential to drastically and suddenly alter other aspects of the plant besides the intended one. We don’t know that much about how parts of the genome interact and how these changes exactly alter the final plant. Novel amino acids and other components can be created and we just aren’t looking for that. Researchers are checking mostly for things like hardiness and crop yield, which is their bottom line.

    If we could actually trust companies like Monsanto to do good quality good faith research on their products in the interest of our health, it would be different, but as it is, we have to assume Monsanto is only interesting and doing and advertising research that benefits their income. ‘Critics’ of other research are typically hired by Monsanto and the like and are not often true scientists. They are trained and paid by Monsanto and do not know or care about the full picture.

    I have heard data that as many as 1 in 3 scientists in related fields are paid by Monsanto and other similar companies to speak often and as loudly as possible in favor of GMOs with threats like that the world will soon starve to death if GMOs are not allowed to go forward quickly. They say it under guise of scientific fact when it’s actually just Monsanto propaganda. It’s hard to get to the truth in the face of such a propaganda onslaught and with Monsanto holding control of most of the actual data and only letting out that which fits with its propaganda schemes.

  22. re: Right before harvest, when the plants are hardy and mature enough to resist it.

    What practice is that?

    There is the practice of “dessication”, often used on wheat (none which is GMO yet). The wheat does not resist it, as the whole point of the application is to terminate growth for convenience of harvest. This raises the question of how much glyphosate or RoundUp® gets into the wheat.

    (That would be only a rhetorical question, because anyone concerned about that specific issue probably is not eating runt mutant goat grass anyway {sold to you as “wheat”} for a long list of reasons.)

  23. “Gmo” are rhe most studied food source ever. Glycosophate is extensively studies and the benifits far outweight the risks especially in contrast to “organic” farming which uses much more damaging pesticides in much larger quantities. Lab based breeding is safer, traditional breeding has no controls to prevent the accidental traits like potentially harmful lectins. Gmo crops use less water again in contrast to organic which use much more water and resources in General. Organic food us produced largely by the same companies that already produce most of the food supply so eatibg organic dies literally nothing to de centralise food production. Mono culture is the result of demand….period.

    1. Gmos are almost totally NOT studied in actual fact. Some highly respected publication claimed that these things have been extensively tested for 20 years longer than they have even existed. Scientists searching for the truth find that statement and others like it and think they are informed. In reality, there are few tests even by the industry. Industry tests are so shallow that when real scientists see them, they are shocked. Only a few independent test have been done. Monsanto says they all showed GMOs safe but the real results found enormous harm. It turns out to be very, very easy to spin propaganda so that scientists think the real research was badly done and the industry spin is the careful research. Unfortunately, the whole thing is going to crush the reputation of ” science” when the public finally finds out how easy it is to lie with it.

  24. I agree totally with Mark and what others have said. I think we need to tread lightly and be very careful about consuming GMO’s and do our own research. FAR too many our willing to just accept GMO’s out of hand because “They were designed by very smart genetic engineers so they must be fine.” People really need to wise up! Yes the engineers are smart and yes the crops work BUT that does NOT mean everything is ok! Everything was OK with Vioxx too, really OK – Then they found it causes heart attacks unequivocally and it was pulled from the market. Those scientists who designed Vioxx are just as smart as the genetic engineers but everyone, and i do mean everyone makes mistakes. Think about this just for a moment — What if the GMO scientists are wrong? How big does that make their mistake? Answer – It’s a global and profound mistake.

  25. my take,
    we don’t know all about GMOs but we do know much more about organic foods..
    the safer alternative is organic
    I would rather buy organic than GMO and will continue to do so

    in the end, GMO and pharma corps use humans as guinea pigs..
    we are the test subjects
    that’s why there are lawsuits against companies, they actuarize their obligations and their responsibility.
    lawsuits are cheaper than not having the product on the market..

  26. Hi Mark, My personal decision is to avoid GMO’s as much as possible. Your article did not mention the high correlation between the introduction of GMO’s in the 90’s and a large increase in our population of many autoimmune diseases, cancer, allergies, autism, etc. Another 90’s event that correlates is the fluoridation of water. Our health statistics should cause alarm and a response from the government and from traditional medicine, but there has not been any meaningful response. One response would be to have well funded solid scientific studies of the correlation. Now it’s a battle between well-funded “Monsanto” scientists and under-funded independents.

    A question I have about GMO’s is the source of the inserted gene. I have heard of bacteria, fish, mice, and even human sources. What is the situation for someone who wants to be vegan eating a vegetable with animal genes inserted? How about someone who does not want to be a cannibal eating a vegetable with human genes inserted?

  27. thanks for the great article as usual. I also strongly object to the idea of making it illegal for farmers to save seeds. and to fine & legally harrass farmers whose crops are contaminated by GMO pollen blown across the road. My major concerns for GMOs currently are less about health and more about botanical contamination with unknown consequences and corporate control.

  28. Mark, I appreciate you addressing this volatile topic. I’ve generally preferred local food, organic food, and other food in that order. I haven’t gone out of my way to avoid GMOs but was withholding judgment, I guess. There are increasing numbers of people to feed on this planet, and I think we need to explore ways to get more yield out of crops.

    In addition to your informative article, I read an article in July on titled Unhealthy Fixation (I don’t know if it’s cool to link, so I didn’t). It lists many of the same points you do here along with some of the misinformation that is being spread by GMO opponents. Long, but well worth a read.

    Each side seems to have a vested interest in discrediting the other for their own gain. We, the consumers, are left wondering what the truth is. I am committed, as you seem to be, to being informed about both sides of this changing topic in order to make my own informed choice.

    Love the site!

    1. I don’t think we should be exploring ways to get more yields out of crops. I think we should be exploring ways to stop having so many humans born around the globe. Read ‘Collapse’, There have been several societies in our past that have used up everything around them until they disappeared. I think we are on the verge of another one.

  29. Anyone consuming GMO foods and thinking it’s perfectly OK should have their head examined.
    Anyone thinking that Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience, and Dow are not evil giants who are trying to destroy our food should really read the book Genetic Roulette by Jeffrey M. Smith.
    And anyone who is not familiar with H.R. 1599, the controversial bill about GMO labeling, which its opponents have nicknamed the “Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) act, should at least get familiar with it and oppose it. That’s my take and I’m sticking to it.

  30. Interesting that you’d put out an article like this, knowing it will be misconstrued to say “Mark endorses GMO’s”… when in fact you say that you avoid them and eat organics.

    I completely agree that glyphosate (RoundUp) is THE biggest concern. But, GMO’s are what enable the rampant use of glyphosate.

    Truth of the matter is that GMO’s have NOT been proven safe. Neurological diseases have SPIKED since the release of GMO’s in the late 1990’s. Is there a proven link? No. But, it’s not been proven.

    1. Unfortunately, non-GMO-wheat around the globe gets harvested in a concerted and synchronized manner by spraying and killing the plants with excess glyphosate.
      So, when it comes to wheat, we must all go organic, no matter what genome has been engineered into the seeds.
      Also, genetic engineering makes use of antibiotic resistance genes. These aid in the trait selection process.
      Such genes can recombine or be incorporated into the genomes of our commensal gut bacteria, thus making us non-responsive to the antibiotics.

  31. I don’t see GMO plants, in and of themselve, to be a problem. However, their intended purpose is to resist pesticide sprays, and it’s these sprays that are my concern.

    I am also not keen on a company patenting whole foods. If they want to go this route, they need to make their plants STERILE! Bees and other insects can, and will, cross pollinate GMO plants with “wild” varieties. Today, patent holders have a problem with this, and go after the bees (and the bee keepers). That’s wrong. There are some bee colonies that have become resistant to Roundup, and they have been seized or destroyed whenever identified. ( You can bet policy this will spread to the rest of the world eventually.

    In order to protect their patents, GMO seeds are NOT to be stored for next years planting. This has been a tradition of farmers for centuries. Again, if the GMO plants were sterile, this issue would be mute.

    STERILE SEED! That’s and oxymoron, you say. Yes it is. There are two biological systems I can think of that produce sterile progeny. Bananas are rendered sterile by preventing the pollinator species from “doing their thing”. Chicken eggs are also rendered sterile by not allowing roosters to fertilize them.. GMO seed companies need to find a way to render their plants sterile if they want a legitimate lock on “Mother Nature”. Who knows, maybe Roundup killing bee colonies IS that strategy?

  32. Let’s look at Europe and their resistance to allowing GMOs..
    are there not scientists there that find GMOs unsuitable..
    I’m pretty sure there are..

  33. Thanks for the breakdown Mark! The jury is still out for me on GMO’s but I am extremely against Roundup on my food. As you mentioned, I really don’t trust Monsanto et al to be in charge of the worlds’ food sources and the global impact is kinda scary if they mess it up. My biggest fear with GMO’s and their companies is the labeling issues. They are required to label their products in many European countries but have fought tooth and nail to ban labeling here in the US. Whether GMO’s are healthy, only time will tell, but I still have the right to know if they are in my foods.

  34. One of the best, most reasoned articles about this subject I’ve seen. Thanks.

  35. Thank you, Mark. You are brilliant and logical. This is the best review I’ve read yet of the GMO debate. I hope you manage to influence those who seem not to understand the science and the logic.

    1. I respectfully question the accuracy of this statement: “Bt toxin is only activated in alkaline digestive systems. Human and other mammalian guts are acidic and thus resistant, while insect guts are alkaline and thus susceptible.”

      Just for clarity on what I’m about to quote, any pH with a number above 7 (such as 8) is alkaline.

      Searching online and through some old textbooks counters the assertion our entire digestive tract is acidic, for example:

      “The chyme moves further into the small intestine which becomes slightly more alkalinic at a pH of 7 to 8. The intestines do not need a highly acidic terrain as does the stomach, because, it doesn’t need it. Its job is absorbing vitamins and minerals.”

      And: “The pH is at alkaline levels in the mouth and small intestine, but the pH in the stomach is at acidic levels. The enzymes there work at different optimum pH levels.

      …As food passes from the stomach into the small intestine, the pH must be raised. Bile – an alkaline substance – is released into the small intestine to achieve this.”

      And small intestinal damage seems increasingly endemic, as a cause for allergies, sensitivities, and a range of other woes. So count me even less convinced than before reading!

  36. Maybe someone already mentioned this, but what about the World Health Org listing glyphosate as a probably carcinogen? And there are a lot of old country people in my farming community who have died from pancreatic cancer. Lots of corn and soybeans raised around here and people spraying Round-up everywhere.

  37. The more I think about this post, the more I think it is the most ‘anti-Primal’ post Mark has ever made. And I am bit disturbed by it.

    Now I like to think of Jedi as the perfect example of Primal. They incorporated ancient wisdom to navigate in their modern world. They were not anti-modern. They were the best pilots, best computer hackers, but also grounded by ancient-wisdom.

    That made them reach their human potential or whatever species they were.

    GMO is not very sane approach to food production. It has so many unknowns and so many possible catastrophic consequences for individuals and ecosystems.

    And GMO crops are MORE resource intensive. Right now it seems it is lose-lose-lose-lose except for a handful of elites. And that is just what we know.

    Grok would not Grok this post by Mark at all. Clearly a smart Grok would say we are WAY over-reaching with GMO. It should cease worldwide. As I said above, we are perhaps 100 years, or decades away from the benefits even coming close to outweighing the negatives.

    This should never have been done. Not a smart application of our ingenuity at all. Massive over-reach.

  38. This article misses the entire crux of the anti-GM argument as articulated by Nassim Taleb and the precautionary principle.

    The question is not whether or not GMO ingredients are safe, per se. The questions are whether:

    1) GMO foods can PROVEN to be safe on a global, long term (multi generational) scale. Short answer: no. There is not even testing being done in this regard (how can there be? the tech is not old enough).

    2) Does centralized manipulation of a global food system entail risk of potentially ruinous (i.e. global and non-reversible) catastrophe. Short answer: yes.

    This debate is a probabilistic one. GMO’s are bad for the same reason you wouldn’t put the ENTIRE world population on a new model of airplane at once, or test out a ‘new (self replicating) supplement’ by dumping it into the entire water supply.

    Unless you (or any other writer) addresses the systemic risks involved you are missing the point. When cigarettes first hit the mass market, there was a ton of evidence demonstrating safety. Same thing with large industrial agriculture, the sugar lobby, etc. The marked difference with those issues is that they were localized (largely) and voluntary: one chooses to smoke. Imagine a world where GM crops have contaminated the entire food supply (and are controlled by a handful of large corporate entities).

    These are the avenues that need to be explored thoroughly to have a serious discussion of this topic.

    1. Big Nassim Taleb fan. Thanks. But…

      While we’re at it, I’d put cell phones in the same category as cigarettes and GMO…20 years from now, just wait and see the lawsuits flying.

      1. In terms of potential for unforeseen consequences, you are right (one might include wifi).

        The big difference though, is cell phones (and cigarettes) are localized and voluntary phenomena (for the most part). One chooses to use a cell phone, to smoke, etc. To look at it another way–it is impossible to use a cell phone ‘by accident’.

        When one considers that:

        1) The ecological network is one interconnected entity (i.e. injection of and industrial distribution of GMO foods affects the entire entity AND self propagates within it)

        2) It is quite possible to ingest GMO foods by accident (most of us already do if we consume food products containing domestically produced soy or corn)

        The problem begins to look differently.

        The distinction is important as it prevents setting up a ludditic straw man argument (i.e. ALL technological advances have unforeseen consequences, therefore we should shut down all scientific research/tech advancement).

        It is a question of SCALE and SPEED.

    2. I agree completely. Whichever side you on the debate, do you want the world’s food supply to be controlled by Monsanto and a handful of MNCs? Do you think those companies are interested in nourishing people with their products? In some ways this debate is similar to the tabacco safely debate with much higher stakes. And we know how that came out.

  39. “Explain why you don’t want Roundup-Ready beets and soybeans in your diet”

    That’s a narrow framing. Why should I have to explain why I don’t want it in my diet? Why shouldn’t we start with the question: why would I want it in my diet? That’s the bigger question: how do transgenic foods benefit the consumer?

    Cost? I buy quality food.

    GMO crops seem to trade a short-term boost in yields for a long-term decline in yields as superpests emerge from the heavy pesticide usage. Organic makes productivity yields year after year. Which paradigm will win the long-term? That’s a no-brainer.

    And while I think the yield difference will be in the non-GMO side within the next couple of decades the market pressure may act even faster than that. People don’t want GMO foods, which is why congress is working to override state GMO labelling laws right now. So I consider this issue largely moot. GMO’s don’t provide enough of a benefit to consumers to outweigh the risks and many people are aware of this. The free market will end this era of GMO experimentation in the US quickly and efficiently.

    I, too, dislike US centric scientific worldviews. People, scientists and otherwise, in other countries are not stupid. On issues where the US differs with other countries on policy, it is always wise to at least consider that other countries may have better policies, especially on any matter related to health given the US ranking compared to other counties in various health metrics.

  40. Current testing protocols for GMOs are far from adequate. Biotech companies do their own research, decide how long the study will be, don’t publish the data, and can fail to reveal any research with adverse effects. The report GMO Myths and Truths (2nd Edition) by 2 genetic engineers and a science writer (googling will find it) gives a lot of detail on the poor regulation of GM crops, the pressure on scientists to produce the results industry wants, and the difficulties for whistleblowing scientists, and many more probems of the technology. Also info about how reviews which claim to show safety actually do nothing of the kind.

  41. I don’t know that GMOs are bad.

    I DO know that I’m highly suspicious of a company that will sue people for doing research on their product without the permission of that company.

    In order to get the seeds legally, you have to sign a waiver that agrees to that.

    If they’re so all-fired great, what is the fear of having research done?

  42. If you read any comment on this topic, please read and consider mine. Let me introduce myself. I live in Northwest Iowa, the very heart of our country’s conventional agriculture. More swine and poultry are raised in the four county area surrounding me than anywhere else in the country. I make a living buying and selling livestock pharmaceuticals. I speak daily with some of the industry’s most progressive and successful farmers. They are not very concerned with pregnant women in Canada or reducing Roundup use, and they are especially not concerned with your gut bacteria ;). But, in the last couple of years, they have started planting non-gmo corn. Why?
    They have found that their pigs have a much higher fertility rate when they don’t eat GMO’s. Sows on a gmo diet often have fewer pigs, false pregnancies, or give birth to what are called “mummies,” which are dead, partially developed piglets. These farmers have no skin in the non-GMO debate. All they want is to make they highest profit they can. And their profits are higher when they do not feed their sows GMOs.
    Now I assume you can see where I am going with this. Humans and pigs are very similar physiologically (I know of more than one person walking around with a pig valve in their heart). If GMOs are causing such profound problems in livestock, how can we think they are ok for human consumption? Granted, the diet of a pig is almost all corn and soy, and so the effects will be much more pronounced than they will in a human diet, which, for now, is lighter on GMO products. But how far are we willing to push our luck. And could this be a contributing factor the the infertility epidemic today? It should be noted also, that not all strains of GMOs have this effect on reproduction. However, they are not tested and there is no way for farmers to know ahead of time whether or not they will have a problem. And it’s all mixed together when it hits the food system.
    I think GMO technology could ultimately be a good thing for society, but far, far more testing needs to be done before we feed them to our families.

  43. Here’s a great interview with Kevin Folta, a land-grant scientist exploring ways to make better food with less input, also learning and teaching how to effectively communicate science to the public. He is also a professor in and chairman of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida, Gainesville.

    Definitely worth the watch if you’re interested in the topic. Dispels a lot of myth.

  44. Mark, I asked a friend knowledgeable in the subject of GMOs to read your article and respond to it. This is what he said:

    Small intestine starts at 6.0 ph at the duodenum and ends up 7.4 ph alkaline at the ilium. Which blows his hypothesis away. The bacteria and enzymes in the small intestine need a slightly alkaline environment. When we become over-acidic we create the ideal conditions for cancer and Candida albicans.

  45. The GMO industry is too interlinked with the depopulationist global élite to be trusted.

    GMOs are virtually unknown in Europe. WE have spoken and acted; THEY don’t like it but are impotent.

    1. Agreed. Have we not learned that at the very least, we do not want big brother controlling all of the food supply? We (the US) always fall behind Europe in preventative measures regarding food. Our autism rate alone is proof of why those nations were correct. I think Grok would have passed on by.

  46. I have to say, having been raised as a wild child in a toxic free environment, until one day I was sprayed at age four by a craggy faced old man with no teeth by arsenate, (lead, arsenic and solution whereby I nearly died), I must say, “What the hell are you talking about, Mark?” This thing escalates, it doesn’t stop here, we will be affected and infected by more and more “creations” until one day we won’t even recognize who we once were. Other than that one episode with a pesticide until we moved to Seattle, I was in superb health, a boy everyone said, “Who the hell is that, he’s unbelievable!” I wrestled ever boy and racked up over 3000 wins, zero losses. I arm wrestled blacks, whites, marines, truck drivers, laborers, and weightlifters and lost but once and two weeks later against the same guy, won. In other words, I’m an Irish bred Revolutionary with an eye on reality, not this ridiculous “voice of reason” nonsense. This will escalate, we will, our children will, the world will simply because we don’t want to appear close-minded and let the lab maniacs alter us in ways we will regret, it’s already happened to many. In our infant period, our brains grew as we laid in bed and we became more cerebral than other mammals until we created hell on earth and with each creation we need another to counteract the prior lunacy we created. Look at Madame Curie, for instance, carried around her “creations” in her jacket pockets until they killed her. They called her a genius and she won two Nobel Prizes, wow, now that’s an act to follow. So, you’re the voice of reason, I’m the voice of reason too, not from an academic platform with a degree in chemistry, but as a mammal who experienced the near death from what many would perceive as only a minor deterrent to the caterpillar invasion, but it nearly killed me. The GMO thing is designed to keep us working, fast and furiously making the plutocrats richer, and the environment a disaster that is happening and increasing. We’re on the edge of the cliff with one foot on a slippery slop and the other in space over the abyss. My son, who is 53 years old ran the Boston in 2.51 last year, not great, but not bad. In other words, our genes and lifestyle pay off and to eat GMO creations is stupid and empowers those who should never be allowed to operate let an escalate, but who said the majority is smart. The book, The Idiot, by Dostoyevsky described a man who forgave those who harmed him, lied to him, assaulted him, mocked him and he forgave all of them. Irish warriors met the well armed Romans (the wealthy) and armor protected, with only their hatred, their hair like that of wild beasts, with only a sword, and shield, and not a stitch of clothing, and the Roman soldier never saw or imagined such a spectacle, it was like something out of hell coming at them with fury, murder, and unstoppable momentum, it was men whose very life, freedom and land was being invaded by men with an order but not a heart felt goal. The Irish warriors goal was to decapitate and kill these pretentious goons and so it went. My people were of that class, but also of the Irish nobility, we were not passive, we kept an eye out for even the slightest hint of outside interference. But others came and we left Ireland, they called us “Wild Geese,” and we went to Spain, France, Canada, Cuba, Australia, and the U.S. We believe in revolution, not controlled. So, the more we bow to so called reasonable ideas designed to favor a few at the cost of the many, the closer we get to oblivion, and that is insanity. George Soros, the hedge fund trader, said to Bill Moyer, “If we continue doing what we’re doing, we’ll cook.”

  47. It might be worth getting some historical data on food allergies/issues in humans for the last hundred years.
    I’m over 60 and when I was growing up I didn’t know any other kids who were ‘allergic’ to any kind of food, peanuts or dairy for example as so many people are now.
    Celiac disease and gluten intolerance is almost epidemic along with diabetes and obesity in the last 30 or so years and getting worse. I look at photos taken of my family from the 1920’s to about the 1960’s and there are no overweight people there at all. Everyone there is slim to normal size, eating a diet that didn’t include fast food, junk food, processed chemically laden food, GMO’s and the rest of the absolute crap that is served up to us as ‘healthy’, this is before the scientists got hold of our food and started changing things on a MASSIVE scale.
    About the only ‘fast food’ we knew as kids was the local fish & chip shop that sold fish caught from the sea and locally grown potatoes that tasted great and I have no idea of what they were cooked in but industrial cooking oil wasn’t around then, perhaps lard as that’s what my Mum used when cooking chips at home. There was also the local bakery who made and sold pies, pasties, sausage rolls and cakes but they were a treat and not a staple.
    There are so many things I can’t eat now without causing digestive distress or allergic reactions. Yellow and orange colouring causes me to break out in a rash and eating wheat or anything containing wheat causes asthma like symptoms not to mentions terrible pains in the gut and my joints.
    I won’t go on as so many people have issues that are so much worse than mine and there is no doubt in my mind that it’s all caused by the food we eat and our environment that is getting more chemically poisoned by the day.
    I don’t even know if it’s possible to reverse what’s happening given big Agri and Chemical business isn’t going to stop what they are doing as they are backed up by our governments who basically have no power against these people who now control most of our food and medicine.
    It’s really heartening to see that as individuals we can make a choice as to what we eat and thank goodness so many of us are rejecting being poisoned and embracing Paleo/primal in ever larger numbers.

  48. I think we are worrying too much about food (organic vs GMO) and not enough about the security of our electrical grid. The latter should be issue number one on all of our minds. We are completely vulnerable to either an enemy attack (cyber or nuclear EMP) or solar flare. This is a game over situation that most Americans are not aware of. Do some research on this and write your congressmen.

  49. “What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean” (Isaac Newton).

    “There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know.” (Donald Rumsfeld)

    The above quotes sum up how I feel about GMOs. Biology is too complicated for people to say that they know GMOs are safe.

    1. We “knew” that saturated animal fat was causing heart disease, and under the watchful eye of scientists, replaced it with a carb-heavy diet (and hydrogenated veg fats where fat was unavoidable), and now everyone’s thin, happy, healthy, and has great cardio-vascular health and no diabetes!

      Oh, wait…

  50. We bought our chickens from someone who raised them from birth with non-GMO grain. When we (accidentally) bought conventional chicken feed, they refused to eat it. Nada. Not one bite. Later on, when we thought we were “treating” them by a special mix of 3 grains, they carefully picked out the corn and ate only the other two grains. Now… chickens aren’t supposed to be the smartest animal around… so I have decided to be at least as smart as my chickens and refuse GMO.

    1. That is interesting–I spoke last year, to a rancher from Nebraska who was mostly unaware of GMOs (sadly-as are too many folks). He was buying both non GMO and Roundup ready alfalfa hay. He told me his bulls preferred the non-GMO version when offered free-choice.

  51. So if I buy some frozen spinach labeled “pesticide free”, does that mean it’s both insecticide free and herbicide free or does it depend on how the seller defines the word pesticide? I don’t trust companies and can see them using labels to misinform consumers and sell more products if they’re allowed to control the definition.

  52. Thanks for the article. We will continue to reject GMO food and instead, buy organic and local as much as possible. I don’t trust “big medicine” to keep me healthy, why should I trust “big agri” to provide safe food to keep me healthy?

    We’re all free to choose our food. If some people want to eat GMO food, that’s their right. I’m not much for making new laws, but I think that we must have the freedom to know what’s in our food, so labeling isn’t a bad thing. If Monsanto and their ilk are so convinced their GM foods are great and safe, they why don’t they proudly label their food “contains GMO?” Why can’t farmers save their seeds? Why are farmers sued when GMO crop seeds blow onto their land? Why are Indian farmers who planted GMO cotton committing suicide. Too many questions and not enough satisfactory answers.

    Follow the money and ask “who benefits?”

  53. Mark failed to address the fact that Roundup is not only sterilizing the soil over time, but also inducing the growth of Roundup resistant weeds. That is why they are now starting to add 2,4-D herbicide back into the mix. I just read an article in a Texas agriculture publication with quotes from Panhandle farmers that weeds in their cotton were out of control. They had to hire workers to physically remove the weeds.There are reports of livestock reproductive issues as well.

  54. Here’s an idea…Why not try an experiment? Two sample groups, one, elite private school children (including Monsanto exec’s children) and the other prison inmates. Elites get Frankin food and vaccines and prison inmates get organic and no vaccines.

  55. Generally appreciate your perspectives, Mark. But I have to disagree. The fact of the matter is we are dealing with unintended consequences for junk science that has accumulated over generations or even a century. Much of that is junk food science. The fact of the matter is neither you nor anyone else, be they the most brilliant scientist in the world or the most ignorant, has any idea what they are talking about on this topic. That is because scientific rationalism is farcical. The universe doesn’t peel back all of its secrets, connections and consequences and say here they are.

    The reality is nature has laws for a reason. One of those laws is the boundary created between different life forms. Taking a piece of bacteria and inserting it into the genes of a piece of grass is something that nature clearly is not going to do. So, what are the consequences of this? The smartest person in the world has no idea. And neither do you. So, all of this is nothing more than a rationalization. Frankly, it makes me wonder if you were paid to write this. Were you?

    1. I honestly don’t believe there is such a thing as true science anymore–if, in fact, there ever really was. Ancel Keys proved that with his 50 year experiment (still ongoing) on humanity by pushing a carb-based, low fat diet. Plus any fats that were recommended were all the wrong kind. Trans fats were the answer–until they weren’t…now they are proven to be highly unhealthy. I thought, in science, one was supposed to hypothesize then attempt to prove that hypothesis invalid. If not provable, it must be valid. Nowadays it seems a “scientist” postulates a theory or a pre-conceived concept. Then he/she stands behind it even if it is wrong–because the scientist is paid to prove the theory correct either by a corporation or because they need that college research grant and will skew the results to please the donor. Oh–and then they degrade and humiliate any scientific naysayers with proof that states otherwise!

  56. Yes, our stomachs are acid. But the acid is neutralized in the duodenum–the first foot of the intestines leaving the stomach. It is alkaline the rest of the way through–so Bt can indeed affect human and mammalian “guts.” With 300 times the concentration found in nature or in organic farming, Bt could explain the rise in gluten sensitivity or other problems. Maybe. We would have a better idea if these things were properly labeled.

    The few studies that have been done have been maligned by the very companies with BILLIONS of dollars at stake. That buys some very skilled propaganda indeed. In reality, the few non-industry studies that have been done have found dozens of serious problems within just 10 days of GMO feeding.

    Ranchers have found infertility in farm animals. I think this is the issue that will finally destroy GMOs and the chemical based farming paradigm. There will be chaos in the human race from this.

    The FDA (stands for f’ing drug administration in my book–poison promoters) has successfully covered up the very first GMO human food–a supplement called L-tryptophan. This natural substance was widely prescribed for helping people fall asleep when there was a sudden rise in a horrible new disorder that was the most painful disease that DOCTORS had ever seen. All cases traced to this supplement, so after 80 deaths and thousands of permanent disabilities, the FDA stopped its sale for a few years. That was about 1989 but the FDA and the pharmaceutical and GMO industries covered it up so well that I only found out this year that the only company with a problem used a genetically modified organism in its production. The supplement batches with the most problems had been less well purified. That became proof that purification was the entire problem when the evidence strongly pointed toward the genetic changes.
    The supplement was purified from bacteria. Strain 1 was wild type, while strains 2,3,4,5 were increasingly modified. Strain 5 produced most of the problems and the GMO aspect was blithely whitewashed away when 2 earlier deaths were found. Strain 4–only modified 3 times instead of 4 and that is all it takes to cover up something devastating and striking.
    Logically a billion people will die or be seriously harmed before the human race truly wakes up.
    “Organic” foods are full of contaminants, too–but you can reduce your toxic load 90% and thus greatly improve your personal odds of survival.

  57. Mostly we’re talking about corn when we talk about GMO food. And most GMO corn is not consumed directly by humans. It’s consumed by livestock and sadly by cars. Yes, much acreage in the US is devoted to feeding our cars.

    I use Roundup in certain specific situations: when I have to get rid of an invasive, non-native plant that is not easily killed by mowing or digging. Sometimes I also use it on poison ivy. I wear a Tyvek suit and gloves, and I take a shower afterwards. I use only the regular Roundup, not the extra special heavy duty Roundup, which has other chemicals in it besides glyphosate and the surfactant.

  58. I’m a farmer. When I weigh the costs and benefits of using a new kind of seed or technology, I am thinking about things like, “What is the down side of using some Roundup here, versus the down side of using a lot of tillage here?” Roundup-ready corn seed does prevent soil erosion. That said, my corn is open pollinated and I grow it for myself to eat, not for cars or cows. I grow a small amount for corn meal.

    But my point is that there are trade-offs in every farming decision that you make. There is no pristine or perfectly environmental way to farm. Farming is not “natural.” You have to do stuff like cut down trees to even get started. Then you have to get rid of vegetation on the ground, either with herbicides, or tillage, or mulching. (I mostly use tillage. Which causes some loss of organic matter in the soil.) Then you have to keep cultivating to keep weeds from taking over.

    So I have some sympathy for agronomists who are fooling around with new ways of breeding corn and soybeans, the backbone of American agriculture. As Michael Pollan pointed out, Americans are mostly made out of these two crops, indirectly or directly. GMO corn is the least of our troubles. If you want to get worried about the future of the food supply, worry about climate change. That is going to kill a lot of people. Not GMO corn, probably.

    1. I now live in Texas but was born and raised in Iowa. I am old enough to remember diversified farms where farmers raised livestock and rotated crops to help provide fertility and weed control. It wasn’t perfect and it was more labor intensive. Now fences are removed and crops are planted from roadside to roadside. Farmers, I believe, are illiterate when it comes to having a clue about healthy soil. An active, healthy soil is chock-full of beneficial microbes and earth worms and is renewable. My guess is the typical farmland soils are devoid of such life–all amendments must be added to the sterile soil in mega-doses. Such as anhydrous ammonia that kills earthworms on contact and Roundup that acts as an antibiotic and kills off the beneficial microbes and binds up the minerals. And the “nutrients” are N/P/K, not things that would typically feed the microbes allowing them to then provide the nutrients to the plants in proper amounts. Yes–feed the world but without providing nutrition. And many of us know that good nutrition is the very foundation of good health.

  59. Wow, fabulous article, going to share it around. Here in Australia that argument rages, but GMO is mainly in cotton, and canola, and perhaps corn. We don’t use roundup in wheat, just harvesting when ready, as we have long hot summers, usually around Christmas.
    My concern is barely mentioned, but it’s buying seeds “if they can afford it”. Many third world countries such as Africa and India (Google suicide belt), have had gmo seeds marketed to them as being drought resistant, and pest resistant, but with one crucial flaw (if you are a subsistence farmer), no viable seed to save, or being prosecuted for saving seed, and royalties demanded for those seeds. In India it has sent thousands of families to the wall, and prompted an obscene amount of suicides.
    I feel we need choice. We need the origins of the food we buy to be labelled and we can then choose. However, canola gmo know no boundaries crossing fences and contaminating sourounding crops. A recent court case in Western Australia for compensation was lost by an organic farmer who found his neighbours gmo canola robbed him of his organic certification. The other issues are super weed problems, where these roundup ready crops cross with near cousins who are weeds, like wild mustard with canola, to create weeds that are also resistant to roundup. Weed resistance is already a problem, with annual rye, wild oats, and wild mustard, but the indiscriminate use of her ides in conjunction with gmo is to me a recipe for agricultural ruin. Thank you for writing this piece.

  60. What is wrong with humans changing and selecting better foods? We have always picked the seeds or taken slips to propagate the variety of food, plant or animal that is the most productive, disease resistant and the tastiest. I plant purple beans that that bugs won’t touch. Look for fruit that is sweeter and so on.
    Yields are more than doubled. Good news in a hungry world.
    Now we can select traits on a more sophisticated level.

    1. I have to agree with Mrs. Rathborne. Please follow Mark’s fine example. When you claim extraordinary results, like doubled yields, then cite a source.

  61. Genetic engineering is not the precise technique that it’s claimed to be, and is totally different from hybridisation, which still uses the normal sexual breeding used since before Grok. Creating a GM seed involves a completely different process. The first step in creating a gM seed is precise, but the following steps are not. The process of inserting a GM gene cassette into the DNA of a plant cell is crude, uncontrolled, and imprecise, causing inheritable mutations in the plant’s DNA blueprint, which can change how the the natural genes of the plant functionin unpredictable and potentially harmful ways. Tissue culture for GM also causes mutations.
    These processes lead to unpredictable changes in the DNA, also in proteins, and the biochemical composition of the resulting GMOs, which can result in unexpected toxic effects, allergic potential and nutritional disturbances, as well as unpredictable effects on the environment.

    In fact, not at all Grok-like.

    (Latham JR, Wilson AK, Steinbrecher RA. The mutational consequences of plant transformation. J Biomed Biotechnol. 2006;2006:1–7. doi:10.1155/JBB/2006/25376.
    Wilson AK, Latham JR, Steinbrecher RA. Transformation-induced mutations in transgenic plants: Analysis and biosafety implications. Biotechnol Genet Eng Rev. 2006;23:209–238.
    in GMO Myths and Truths – “Genetic engineering is crude and imprecise, and the results are unpredictable”)

  62. I know you will get a lot of flack for making this post, so thank you for taking the time to give a well reasoned presentation of some GMO issues and facts. The truth is, with the world at 7 billion people, feeding the global masses is increasingly a challenge. It’s great if in the 1st world you have the ability to pick and choose organic/GMO-free/Gluten-free/local/etc “just because”. but I hope your readers stop and consider that the rest of the world is in many cases just happy to have ANYTHING to put in their mouth for dinner.

    1. More people are suffering from obesity now than starvation on this planet, and the myth that GMO yields more has been completely debunked.

      There is actually no shortage of food, just endemic problems around the distribution of that food, due to way the global economy works. I don’t think placing the ability to feed us entirely into the hands of private companies (who prohibit seed storage) will somehow alleviate this…

  63. GMO crops would only be truly deserving of such a fair-handed piece of writing if some version existed which was first tested on humans over several decades (impossible and undesirable) and only then offered, clearly labelled (not happening) to the rest of us, by creators who had zero profit motive and also no desire to deny or demean any reports of adverse affects, due to fear of lawsuits.

    You might as well hold out for Star Trek replicators to make perfect food for us all, because they’re slightly more likely to actually exist at some point.

    I do also fear that this will be spun as “MDA says GMO is fine, just watch those pesticides” to be honest.

  64. A good example of GMO bashing and activism gone wrong is the “Golden Rice” initiative.

    Overall this GMO food could save hundreds of thousands of lives every year in poor countries by adding Vitamin A precursors in rice, yet Greenpeace oppose it and fields have even be vandalised.

    I think GMOs is a topic too complex for black and white thinking, sometimes an imperfect solution is better than none.

    1. You are aware that Golden Rice has never been ready for use? Not because of opposition, but because it has failed its field trials. In the most recent field trials GR had a lower yield than existing rice crops and so it’s back in the lab – so wouldn’t be likely to be ready for several years yet. IRRI, the organisation developing it says “Golden Rice will only be made broadly available to farmers and consumers if it is: (a) successfully developed into rice varieties that retain the same yield, pest resistance, and grain quality—agronomic and eating traits acceptable to farmers and consumers—as current popular rice varieties; (b) deemed safe and approved by national regulators; and (c) shown to improve vitamin A status under community conditions.”

  65. I recommend that anyone who is undecided about GMO’s read Altered Genes, Twisted Truth by Steven M. Drucker (ISBN 9780985616908). If you still think GMO’s are safe after reading it – good luck!

  66. One thing you did not address is that as more and more Roundup is used, there are beginning to be more resistant weeds–“super weeds”if you will. Plants evolve much more quickly than we do, and the war on weeds will have to escalate to keep up, bringing in greater volumes and lesser studied herbicides to combat what we have caused to evolve. This is not unlike the antibiotic resistant “super bugs” our overuse of antibiotics has created.

  67. It’s important to remember that GMOs are not only about what we are putting in our bodies. They are also about what they are doing environmentally and economically, and they are about what we don’t know.

    In the BT argument, there are a few points worth adding. With regard to BT consumed, the BT-toxin in BT corn is not chemically identical to the BT toxin applied to organic crops. The safety of BT crops is based upon an extrapolation from naturally occurring BT. The BT gene is also combined with a gene that tells the cell to not stop producing the BT and the concentrations of BT are much higher than the dusting. Some scientists are concerned about the potential for horizontal gene transference that could cause serious problems, and some are concerned we do not understand the impact of this form of BT at this concentration on our long term health. Unfortunately we don’t require adequate testing to understand this as a condition of approval.

    On the environmental front, BT crops are much worse than the organic approach. BT in organic farming is not normally done indiscriminately; it is used for specific infestations when needed—not continuously. In the same way that Roundup Ready crops have resulted in an explosion of glyphosate tolerant weeds, the pervasiveness of BT crops has resulted in BT resistant bugs. In fact this suggests horizontal gene transfer may be at play in that this is the primary mechanism for antibiotic resistant bacteria. This has not only put GMO crops at risk of substantial infestations, it also puts organic farmers at risk of problems by rendering their very small toolkit of pest management useless. Interestingly, the answer by the pro-GMO world is to keep using BT crops, add insecticides, and do crop rotations. What the organic farmers learned a long time ago is that crop rotations are very effective in pest management because the food sources change the environment, naturally cleansing overgrowth of certain pests. Perhaps if the GMO world looked at diversified farming and crop rotation we could avoid adding insecticides to the environment to counter the technological failing of BT corn, but that is not the case. The failure of BT crops to manage pests is an illustration of a failed approach in which we try to over-control nature vs. work with it, and it creates an adjunct chemical warfare increase when the approach fails. This is bad for our health and bad for the environment, but it’s good for the chemical company’s increasing pesticide sales.

    Another key issue with GMOs is what we don’t know. A few years ago, the genome project declared they had decoded things and now know that 2% of DNA does something and 98% is junk. What genetic engineering is doing is playing with the 2%. However not too long after this “scientific declaration”, scientists discovered the 98% appears to do something related to gene expression and it affected by the 2%. So while GMO creators claim they know exactly what they are doing, that is quite disingenuous at best given how little we know about these gene expression issues. In addition, the changes being made to DNA are predicated on vertical transference models. As David Suzuki states, there is no reason to believe the things we understand about vertical gene transference apply when we are doing forced horizontal gene transference across species boundaries. Given that, it is dubious at best that genetic engineers really know the impact of the changes they are introducing. The trouble here again is the lack of adequate testing. And if a problem occurs, it will be down the road when it’s too late.

    Detecting problems related to GMOs is also hamstrung because of the frequency of changes to common GMOs. The creators have not created a single strain of glyphosate tolerant corn; they have created many. Some are created to combine traits like BT plus glyphosate resistance. Others are just new versions of a previous trait. Each of these new creations introduces new opportunity for things to be present like new proteins that are a result of the engineering process—proteins that humans have never consumed. They also create the opportunity for the emergence of other chemicals in the food that are produced by the plant or are a result of chemical reactions related to the engineered trait. For example, there are some studies that show GMO corn has formaldehyde at significant levels. There are two issues here. First the FDA approves GMOs based on “substantial equivalence” which is based on the similarity between what is in the same non-GMO crop and what is in the GMO crop. They DO NOT disqualify “substantial equivalence” if the GMO crop has things that don’t exist in the non-GMO crop (like formaldehyde or new proteins) unless creator identified an acute health problem resulting from the GMO. But with 90 day tests on rats, and no long term studies, and constantly changing versions of GMO crops, linking serious health problems is almost impossible. Second, the rates of change are so rapid, there is inadequate time for study before the next version is broadly in use. This severally damages the ability to do public health studies that might identify linkages to health issues.

    Related to this is the short testing periods, and lack of disclosure and oversight to review testing. The FDA, EPA and USDA rely solely on the testing results performed exclusively by the GMO creator. In fact if you read and FDA approval, the language is very specific and careful to say that the company seeking the approval states it is safe and the FDA did not see anything in the company’s submission to deem it unsafe. Compounding this problem is the fact that GMO creators can keep the data and test methods confidential under the protection of intellectual property laws. These are the same laws that allow the creators to block most independent testing, because obtaining GMO seed to grow plants you can test with requires signing an agreement that says the seeds can’t be used for research. With billions of dollars on the line, someone please explain to me why companies who produce GMOs would not alter or toss out data that might result in a less favorable review—especially given that the companies involved have a rich history of doing that and getting caught many years after the fact. The utter lack of transparency and extreme control of testing creates and environment in which deception could be rampant and the ability to detect deception be blocked. This is a major factor for why many are against genetic engineering completely. Until we create a food system in which there is transparency and independent peer review with high standards, perhaps GMOs are not a good idea to be unleashing onto the public.

    Of course the GMO creators are perfectly fine with this protection from transparency, weak substantial equivalence standard, rapid rate of GMO changes, and their ability to flood the market. This combination makes it possible to easily cast stones at any study that might link GMOs to a growing rate of disease that scientifically correlates with the increased adoption of GMOs, in some cases at 98%. And because GMO creators have never looked at long term health issues and because they can throw stones at any studies in this area, they can stand up and say “trillions of meals served and not one time have GMOs been proven to cause a health issue.” While the statement is true, it completely lacks integrity.

    The last point I would like to make is the economics of GMOs. GMOs are about control of the food supply using intellectual property. We’ve yet to see philanthropic or even high-consciousness attempts at GMOs. Virtually every commercial GMO crop is about increasing the use of the creators’ pesticides and are, in fact, linked by contract to force farmers to use the pesticides in the amounts dictated by the seed supplier. The GMO creators get an extra benefit from a requirement the FDA has put in place related to GMOs; a GMO can only be approved it can cross pollenate with its non-GMO counterpart. While that may sound like part of “substantial equivalence”, it creates a nature driven mechanism to expand market share. If a GMO crop cross pollenates a neighboring non-GMO field, then the neighboring farmer is now guilty of patent infringement and can be sued. Further, GMO creators have used draconian approaches to increase control by threatening farmers with law suits, and by using virtually black-ops methods to storm onto farmers’ properties to “protect” their intellectual property. There are several documented cases in which farmers became victims of the deep legal pockets of Monsanto. In many cases, farmers simply cave in and become enslaved by Monsanto’s licenses to avoid litigation. Others who fight and have won have been financially ruined or at least severely damaged by these calculated attacks that Monsanto just sees as a cost of doing business (that has a return on investment).

    While I would agree with your statement that genetic engineering should not be labeled bad in all cases just because it is genetic engineering, these issues illustrate that caution, testing with oversight and adequate time, and revision of laws are well advised across the board. We are accelerating the rate of change in genetics that we really don’t know what we might be unleashing on the planet. We need far more transparency and we need laws that significantly improve the fairness for non-GMO farmers whether it is liability because GMOs created new pests and weeds that damage non-GMO farmers, or that non-GMO crops become contaminated.

  68. Interesting read. I like how you played both sides. At the end of the day I play it safe and do my best to avoid them altogether. Cheers.

  69. I don’t have a problem with GM produce; the process itself is an exactification of traditional farming methods.

    What I do have a problem with is that private companies patent seed formulas and prohibit farmers from saving their seed for next season. GMO farming also promotes large monocultures instead of crop rotation or landrace farming, which leads to a loss of soil nutrients and biodiversity that is environmentally damaging. Not to mention, most GM crops are not bred for better taste or nutritional value, resulting in a bland and uniform crop.

    However, give me a local community that works to maintain ecological health with specially-bred produce varieties and I am on board.

    1. the ”process” is NOT an ”exactification of traditional farming methods”!

      do your research!

  70. GMOs reduce biodiversity… and not just of the plants. All those weeds they kill with herbicides? Some insects need those plants to breed and survive (and not just Monarch Butterflies). All those insects that are killed by these plants engineered to kill them? Who do you think eats those insects? Birds, spiders, lizards, etc. Bees aren’t the only pollinators being killed off. It’s true that the genes themselves probably won’t ever have an affect on humans, but we just can’t predicts all the effects an action will cause. Look at how we almost killed off birds by trying to control mosquitoes with DDT (the males of which, btw, pollinate plants as well).

  71. What are the health benefits of GMO crops..
    the only benefit it seems is profit for the agri corps..
    The responses have been very enlightening.. awesome!

    1. Indeed. I’ve yet to see a single person tout the benefits of GMOs for himself and his family the way folks do for organic foods and even the GMO companies are not proud of their products. There are no people proudly boasting of feeding GMOs to their children and no GMO-proud labels touting the benefits of GMOs the way companies proudly display organic, gluten-free, pasture-raised and other labels. The pro-GMO arguments instead amount to “it’s not that bad” or “it’s the lesser of two evils.”

  72. I differentiate between transgenic and cisgenic modifications when saying GMO.

    It seems like a lot of people want to group them together and then talk up how farmers have been genetically modifying crops for thousands of years.

    Yeah, technically true, but nobody was putting viral and bacterial genes in my veggies until just recently.

  73. An interesting perspective when considering that many people who subscribe to the paleo lifestyle are also involved in developing the new products such as herbicides and new plant varieties that allow farmers to be productive and feed a growing population at prices that don’t start riots. The reality is that so many of us are so utterly disconnected from farming that we really can’t comment with any meaningful accuracy. GMO technology alongside ‘traditional approaches’ has allowed the expansion of the farmers toolbox when it comes to controlling pests and weeds. I think there is merit in some of the argument related to expanded pesticide use in some of the modified crops but the risk assessments that allow these products to be sold take into account a huge safety margin. I have first hand knowledge of pesticide safety risk assessments and there is no easy way round this to get products registered. People like those commenting on this blog also make these products and do actually have a conscience too you know! Plants naturally produce some of the most toxic ‘natural’ compounds on the planet and when consumed together as part of a modern diet cause unknown synergistic outcomes in humans; it’s simply too complex to boil down to one crop or one pesticide and try to link these to negative health outcomes. We cannot possibly ever test all of them and vilifying man made products is naive in the extreme, esp when you multiply that by the genetic diversity of the human population – not everyone responds the same to everything – just look at cancer drug design for example.
    Living and evaluating your own personal response to a broader, positive lifestyle approach supported by Mark is a much more productive use of time than being anti pesticide or anti GMO and vice versa.

    1. I really consider the notion that puts us as workers in the pesticide field as ridiculous. It’s a nice try, a ploy to make us feel as if we have no say as we are part of the problem..
      Yes, we will link GMO usage to negative outcomes, and no, we won’t stop trying to better our lives..
      fyi.. nice scare tactic, bringing in the riots in the street due to high prices..
      PR much..

    2. “Plants naturally produce some of the most toxic ‘natural’ compounds on the planet and when consumed together as part of a modern diet cause unknown synergistic outcomes in humans; it’s simply too complex to boil down to one crop or one pesticide and try to link these to negative health outcomes. ”

      The first part of this statement misses the fact that humans have been eating these plant-based natural compounds for millenia and have either found ways to process them (cooking pulses, soaking, etc) or use them in moderation, as with caffeine.

      And these toxic natural plant compounds often play a role in improving health through hormesis – something that’s not so true of large-scale pesticide use, with novel toxins.

      As for: “it’s simply too complex to boil down to one crop or one pesticide and try to link these to negative health outcomes” – that’s exactly what research into pesticide & GMO safety is actually SUPPOSED to be doing?

      One tests something with a research hypothesis of “X causes Y” (using X to attempt to cause Y in some representative manner) and only when X repeatedly fails to cause Y, ONLY then can we say there appears to be no link.

      I’ve linked to an explanation of this basic concept in the “website” field and it should show up in my name, below this post.

      If you represent in any way the views of people who promote GMOs and unrestricted use of pesticides, your apparent casual dimissal of research protocols, and your proposal that these things mustn’t be evaluated to see if they link to negative health outcomes, plus the emotive stuff about riots and not being “positive” and “productive” is… worrying, to say the least.

      It seems like an outright denial of the need to research thoroughly, and an invalidation of the merest concept of possible risks, along with an attempt to slur the motives and ethics of any critics – not what one looks for in the scientific mindset.

  74. Here is a MIT professor doing research in some of these ares:

    IMHO, what we’re doing with GMO is fairly similar to the premise in Jurassic Park. We are playing with genetics and putting it out there in our food supply without full understanding of the potential impact on us and more importantly on our kids and their kids. A couple of quotes by Dr. Malcolm: “The lack of humility before nature that’s being displayed here staggers me” and “If there’s one thing the history of evolution has taught us, it’s that life will not be contained. Life breaks free. It expands to new territories. It crashes through barriers painfully, maybe even dangerously, but – well, there it is.”.

    There already has been multiple studies done showing GMO contamination in organic foods. We need to slow down and understand the risks before we find out the hard way that GMO was not the right solution.

    I also believe GMO products must be labeled to allow consumer to make intelligent decisions on their own.

  75. Mark, I am all on board with Primal, I’ve been certified and I appreciate all the great work you’ve don. In this case, I’m not sure if you’ve recognized all the risks associated with GMO. Check out some of the information from Stephanie Sefeff a Sr. Research Scientist at MIT. Very interesting yet concerning information. She’s not the only one doing this type of research. WHO already lists Glysophate as a potential carcinogen.

    IMHO, the way we’re manipulating GMO is like playing God and this is not far off from the Jurassic Park scenario. No, we will not have T-Rex running around, but we really don’t know the full impact of GMO to us, our kids and the environment. Could the bee colony collapse be related to GMO and excessive use of Roundup? What if we no longer have bees one day? Weeds will seem like a minor problem at that point. What about the majority of the population who are not Primal/Paleo? Most people I talk to have no idea with GMO even means yet they consume these products 24/7.

    We don’t know enough about the long term effects of GMO plants, yet we release it out into the environment in massive volumes and we’re all ok with this? Studies have shown GMO is already cross contaminating organic products.

    We don’t know the long term impact of the GMO plants on living organisms never mind what it’s doing to us and our offspring, and again, we all seem to be ok with this. It’s hard for me to comprehend that we’re willing to gamble with our future and the future of our kids and our world with something that we don’t fully understand.

    As others have mentioned, if Monsanto is so sure that GMO is no different than conventional plants, then why are they fighting the GMO labeling laws? What are they hiding? There are too many unanswered questions for us to take the risk without more data and more studies.

    As for me and my family, we will avoid GMO as much as possible and hopefully one day a law will be passed to require GMO labeling.

  76. Mark:

    As usual well done, though there are three things you could/should have emphasized more:

    -GMO proponents point to the “safety” of GMO’s by asking where is the harm, show us. This is the classic mistaking absence of evidence for evidence of absence. Something Turkeys fall prey to until say early November.

    -This is a classic case of a fat tailed risk; see (try Googling) the work of Nassim Taleb. The risks from GMO’s are not only unknown, they are likely systemic and potentially catastrophic. WE assume that risk, the company will just buy congress to avoid liability or worst case, go bankrupt but we still have the problems to deal with potentially for generations. This is an unacceptable risk management practice.

    -Safe or not, we have a right to know what is in our food. If GMO’s were labeled, after much hub-bub the issue would frankly mostly go away. Monsanto has created a huge trust issue for themselve and the industry. They should support labeling laws, and then constantly remind us what a good thing GMO’s are-look for them! I think you underplay the anti-labeleing aspect.

  77. I think that the unbelievable backlash to Mark’s mild suggestion of “I don’t know if GMOs are bad or good at the moment, but I’m not convinced we should be using Conventional Wisdom-esque scare tactics on something before we have solid research one way or the other” says a little too much about human nature.

    Human nature is quasi-religious in its approach most of the time, saying that something has to be “The sainted glorious golden thing” or “The incestuous spawn of the Devil.” But the reality is that thinking of things in that kind of way in the first place is what led the entire human race into discarding healthy fats and oils and eating things that were dangerous for us.

    I think that it’s far better to look at the research and make an honestly informed decision rather than to go “Everything big businesses do is horrific and horrible, and we should run away screaming.” That’s just as bad as going “Cholesterol, a substance our body naturally produces, will cause us all to die of heart disease.”

    I’m skeptical of GMOs too, but I’m equally skeptical of it-has-to-be-good-or-evil human cognition.

  78. Mark! What is the natto you’ve found and where can I get it!?!

  79. Thanks for the well documented rundown Mark. I was starting to form similar opinions about why grains are so harmful to our guts, and was pegging glyphosate. The effect on the gut biome, leading to leaking gut, leading to autoimmune disorders, and on and on.

    I always appreciate your thoroughness!

  80. I agree with the Anti-GMO platform for two reasons.

    1. We don’t have research methods sophisticated enough to determine if GMOs are safe, especially on a long term basis.

    2. Through universities and corporate tax write-offs, tax payers fund the extremely expensive research required to develop GMO products. The benefit of this research goes solely to increase corporate profits. There are no real benefits for consumers or farmers.

    We already have the knowledge required to produce enough safe, nutritious food, but our industrialized system is firmly in the control of those who would rather engage in profiteering.

  81. Yes, Nature, through evolution changes genes, but it does NOT modify them in the way that corporations do. In NATURE, spontaneous mutations in genes can occur to changes genes; also, plants of similar or the same species can exchange genes through pollination/”plant mating”. Animals of the same species and sometimes of the same Genus can mate to exchange genes to produce a viable, and sometimes sterile offspring (ie horse + donkey=sterile mule).
    However in Nature, Kingdoms, Phylums, Classes, and even Orders and Families do NOT and CANNOT exchange genetic material for viable offspring production by mating or pollination.
    (A fly cannot mate naturally with a horse for example, no matter how you try it).

    Corporations on the other hand, add genes from as far apart as different Kingdoms–(ie a fish gene goes into a plant gene for example) by artificial/laboratory instrument methods in a way that could never occur in Nature. The organism that results could not be produced in Nature.

    Another very important point is that Nature has it’s own ‘controls’ for organisms that it produces through mating or mutation, that are excessively toxic or unworkable: they don’t get pollinated or eaten and so can’t spread their genes and die off. This is evolution working to produce the organisms with genes that best work for all in a given environment. And this without any added artificial pesticides or fertilizers! :).
    Artificial Genetic Modification does not have those controls. Whether they are toxic or not, or workable well in Nature or not, scientists working for corporations will continue to produce these Organisms (and their associated pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers, etc,) if humans will continue to buy them (despite any long term ill health effects).

  82. Well, we can debate for days whether GMO foods are safe or not, but the bottom line is that I want to know which foods I am purchasing are GMO, so that I can make the choice as to whether I want to buy them or not. The multi-billion-dollar effort by Monsanto to block all attempts to allow such labeling violates my rights to know what the foods I am purchasing contain, and I resent it greatly. Personally, I will go out of my way to avoid any and all GMO foods (at least for now), as I see no reason to take unnecessary risks with my health.

  83. For those who don’t want to read all the comments, I’ve never seen any ‘health benefits’ derived from GMO..

  84. I personally don’t like to argue the ‘health impacts’ of GMOs, because I am not a food scientist or medical professional. However, I do have an issue with the politics, implications and long term impact on our food system security if we let corporations take too much control. Plus, most GMOs are monoculture crops which is not sustainable. Instead of focusing on GMOs & labeling, we should shift to eating and subsiding, fresh, unprocessed, local foods as much as possible, instead of the corporate offerings. Even try a little urban foraging!

  85. I am a farmer who grows corn and soybeans. Just to set the record straight, when we spray Round-up on our crops, it is beneficial to spray it when the weeds are just emerging and are very small. We can spray less Round-up and it is easier to kill the weeds when they are small. The crops are also very small at this point. Some crops we only need to spray once to kill most of the weeds for the entire year. When the weeds are dead the crop is allowed to grow with no competition and quickly canopy over any new weeds which are about to sprout, thus blocking them from the sun. We do not spray Round-up more than twice in a year, and usually at low rates. Round-up is a herbicide, that is it kills plants, not insects.

    All of that being said, many in my area have commented on the fact that seagulls do not visit plowed fields in the fall to catch earthworms anymore. People suggest the birds do not like the worms because of roundup. Another suggests that a giant waste facility that handles all of the waste from Toronto nearby feeds all of the food a seagull could ever need and they do not bother with worms anymore. It is never easy getting to the truth, but all of us must keep seeking it.

  86. You did a good job of presenting the GMO side of things and it’s clear that a number of people disagree. I will admit that I think there could be a place for GMO products. I also feel that the government doesn’t need to protect me and ban Genetically Modified Organisms. I do believe that I should be able to identify GMO products and make my own personal decision on what I want to put in my body. Currently I believe that the organic label is the only way to identify GMO free products. As long as that holds true, I will will strive to eat organic and assume that everything else may contain some level of GMOs.
    I also am skeptical about the safety of GMOs due to the corporations resistance to labeling. They are quick to add labels that they feel enhance the product and clearly feel that adding a GMO label will detract from their product. I think GMO free will be a label they will add voluntarily if it helps sell the product. Government is not needed and personal choice is preserved.

  87. What do I think? Well, you said it yourself: “Genetic engineering has the potential to do some really cool things, provided we get it right”.

    Therein lies the problem. Getting it “right” depends on (a) profit, which has a habit of throwing morality and consequences out of the window, and (b) regulation, which has a habit of being subject to corruption. Explain the way Aspartame got passed by the FDA, for example, or the way that CFL lightbulbs containing mercury are being used to replace incandescent lightbulbs, which use a tiny bit more energy, arguably at a time of year/day when the heat they output will reduce the requirements of the domestic heating system

    Your summary is naively unrealistic. Look at the garbage that people eat today that does NOT contain GMO. It is hard enough expecting the consumer to understand basic nutrition without having to take the trouble to research EACH new GMO to consider the biochemistry of it, like, for example you consider the “surfactants” in Roundup vs glyphosphate.

    How many peer-reviewed papers (also subject to corruption) do you think Joe Six Pack reads before he decides to eat something?

    Get real Mark! The ONLY safe way to deal with GMOs is to NOT EAT THEM.

  88. I have to agree with you, Mark. I can see that GMO foods are helpful to us, in terms of botanical and production of foods. But the nutritional value of the foods had somehow degraded because of the chemicals and alterations the Genetic engineers did to the foods.

  89. Awww…..come on Mark. Is it just me? You seem to write posts that are pro with regards to both sides of the fence on this, and many other topics. I continue to wait for you to “finish” your research and take a stand. (crickets…..)

    Sending a big smile and wink your way,