Who to trust on biotech foods?

Many consumers are understandably hesitant to embrace biotech foods. Foods produce through biotechnology are relatively new to the public, the science is complicated and it’s tough to sift through the conflicting arguments by proponents and opponents.

When it comes to our food, we are especially skeptical of any perceived health risks, and a lot of the coverage of biotech foods claims that they are dangerous “frankenfoods”. Really, though, anything can be made to sound scary – it’s a simple and effective strategy for opponents to use (just look at political ads!). Smiling scientist

To clearly demonstrate this phenomenon, look no further than DMHO.org, the website for the very scientific-sounding Dihydrogen Monoxide (DMHO) Research Division. They warn of the dangers of DMHO, explaining how it’s “a constituent of many known toxic substances, diseases and disease-causing agents, environmental hazards” and many more terrible things. The truth? Dihydrogen monoxide is water.

This may be an extreme example, yet all of these “dangerous” characteristics of water are true. More disturbing is the ease at which individuals have been able to obtain thousands of signatures calling for the ban, or restriction of DMHO. There are various examples of even well-educated individuals being duped by the “risks” of this “dangerous chemical”.

Our point is, it’s very easy for misinformation to spread, and even easier to use scare tactics to mislead consumers. There’s no way that all of us can obtain the level of education needed to immediately recognize science from pseudoscience, so we need to rely on the most reputable sources in the field.

On occasion, even experts’ opinions can differ on certain issues, but biotechnology is not one of them. The most reputable science, food and health organizations all have positive positions on agricultural biotechnology:

  • World Health Organization – “No effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of (biotech) foods…”
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. – “Biotechnology provides powerful tools for the sustainable development of agriculture, fisheries and forestry, as well as the food industry.”
  • American Medical Association – “Our AMA recognizes the many potential benefits offered by bioengineered crops and foods…and encourages ongoing research developments in food biotechnology.”
  • International Food Information Council – “This process results in tangible environmental and economic benefits, that are passed on to the farmer and the consumer.”
  • National Academy of Sciences – “Agricultural biotechnology is one tool that holds great promise for alleviating hunger and poverty.”

These clear endorsements from those who know the most about agricultural biotechnology demonstrate its safety and vast potential. The faster this knowledge and acceptance spreads among the general public, the faster all can enjoy the numerous global benefits that this exciting technology can offer.

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About Joel Brooks

Growing up in the Okanagan Valley, Joel had the opportunity to experience apple growing first hand, a background that helped lead him to his role as Product & Special Projects Manager. Joel feels privileged to work with such great people towards a goal that’s so easy to get behind – helping people to eat more apples!

Comments

    • Joel

      Hi Jon, thanks for your comment!

      The European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSR) is a great example of an organization with a very reputable sounding name that is not made up of mainstream scientists. Just like the Union of Concerned Scientists, it is an organization that has a activist-like motivation to ban biotech crops no matter what the evidence says, and they attempt to create an image of themselves as unbiased, independent scientists, which is not the case.

      This is one of the reasons truly independent and reputable organizations like WHO & AMA are referred to above, as there on many organizations of lesser quality that are hard to distinguish from the mainsteam at first glance.

      • C. Rader

        Many years ago I was present when UCS was organizing itself. We were scientists and engineers concerned about a number of ways that science was impacting policies, most especially the nuclear arms race.

        But we quickly found out that UCS was not really intending to be an organization of scientists. All they wanted from us was the use of our names, giving us no say in what the organization did and how it did it.

        Still, for a few years they at least advocated for causes I would have agreed with. But vastly oversimplified, with less and less relationship to honest science. Today I would be ashamed to be associated with UCS.

        • Joel

          C. Rader, thank you for sharing your personal experience regarding the formation of the UCS. It is disappointing, yet unsurprising, to hear that the best intentions that existed when the group was in its early stages fell by the wayside as the organization became increasingly focused on advancing their own agenda, rather than promoting sound science.

    • Joel

      Hi Amy – thanks for your question!

      All commercial apple orchards are now propagated via grafting, rather than by seed (check out our infographic on modern apple production here for more!). So, if a grower wanted to plant Arctic apples, they would buy the trees from us, and would then own the trees themself.

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