Flawed inflammatory: the GMO argument

Sarah Hartley seems a bit confused in an Opinion: Why scientists’ failure to understand GM opposition is stifling debate and halting progress.

Genetically modified crops are safe for human consumption and have the potential to feed the world and improve human health, scientists have been telling us for years. On June 30, 110 Nobel laureates from around the world signed a letter demanding that the environmental pressure group Greenpeace stop its campaign against GM crops. How many people must die before we consider this a “crime against humanity”? the letter asks.

Note the selection from the letter and remember that this is an opinion about scientists that fail to understand. Also note that the question is factually accurate and reasonable although it is a confrontation to denial.

Our research has identified five requirements for advancing a responsible debate about GM crops. These are a commitment to honesty; recognition of the values underlying the practice of science; involvement of a broad range of people; consideration of a range of alternatives; and a preparedness to respond.

This is nice, but such advice should start at home. How can there be “a commitment to honesty” when a whole litany of dubious allegations and logical fallacies are presented in support of the opinion? How is calling the letter “inflammatory” be considered honest? How are these “requirements” considered relevant when they appear more to be accusation by innuendo and presented that way because the accusations have no merit?

It is clear that the scientists accusing Greenpeace of crimes against humanity feel deeply frustrated about what they see as shackles on a technology that for them has clear benefits for the world’s poor. However, by signing the inflammatory letter, they reveal a flawed and naïve understanding of the debate. This approach is likely to result in further agitating and polarising the debate rather than achieving the desired outcome. Indeed, some may even see these scientists as using their privilege and authority to promote a particular technological solution to a political problem.

The quote provided refutes the accusation here showing that the opinion is based on flawed perceptions chosen to support a bias. That is supported by labeling and judging the Nobel laureates with words such as “flawed and naïve” and asserting that it is they who are “agitating and polarising” and using “privilege and authority.” The opinion also describes health and nutrition as a political problem and maligns technological solutions.

The fact is that the opposition to GMO is based on promulgating fear, uncertainty, and doubt and shows no consideration for the damage its efforts do to integrity or even the physical human condition. Hartley’s concerns about the scientists are misdirected. She chooses the easy target and, in doing so, demonstrates that she is a part of the problem and not a part of the solution.

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