Photo for EDIT1, Friday June 29

Genetically modified grains can improve yields, lessen the need for agricultural chemicals, and provide perfectly safe food for a hungry world — despite rumors, and worse, to the contrary.

Remember all the warnings about genetically modified organisms? They’re bad for us; they harm the environment; there is too little oversight; they fail to increase yields; and they will do little to help feed the world.

GMOs are plants and animals whose DNA has been modified by genetic engineering. The process has allowed researchers to develop corn that can survive drought, soybeans that stand up to weed killer, virus-free papayas, and potatoes that don’t bruise — in short, countless varieties of crops that yield more and cost less to grow. That’s good news for farmers and for our food supply.

The widespread commercial use of GMOs in the U.S. began in 1996. By 2010, Americans were reading reports about the dangers of these so-called Frankenfoods. Leery environmentalists led protests and called for boycotts here and across the industrialized world. Their detailed claims included dire predictions that genetically modified plants would destroy ecosystems and alter human DNA. They warned that GMOs would cause cancer, autism, and a host of other ailments. Some of the more bizarre claims warned that governments were using GMOs to reprogram and control their citizens.

Even though the scientific community has repeatedly stressed there is no basis for these fears, hysterical reports and overly concerned citizens spurred activist groups to disrupt countless crop trials and destroy research facilities. Eco-warriors succeeded in causing millions of dollars in damages and countless hours of lost research.

In one of the more notorious cases, the environmentalist group Greenpeace waged an ongoing campaign in the Philippines to prevent the development of “golden rice” — a crop that had been modified to prevent vitamin A deficiency, which kills and blinds hundreds of thousands of children yearly.

Environmental activist and science writer Mark Lynas became infuriated by the Philippine government’s attempt to avert the blame for the destruction from Greenpeace to area farmers.

For years, Lynas had been one of the most outspoken eco-warriors in the fight against GMOs. His biggest targets were companies like Monsanto and Syngenta — leaders in developing genetically modified crops. But several years ago, he began to realize he was wrong. In 2013, he outraged activist friends and colleagues by speaking at a British farming conference and apologizing for helping “to start the anti-GMO movement.”

This week, Lynas’ lastest book, “Seeds of Science: Why We Got It So Wrong on GMOs,” was released. The book reports that almost all warnings made over the past decades about the altered foods have been completely debunked.

The Wall Street Journal recently published an essay from Lynas’ new book. In it, the author says he realizes now that the biggest problem isn’t that so many countries have banned GMO use; what’s far worse is “that the anti-GMO campaign has deprived much of the world of a crucial, life-improving technology — and has shown the readiness of many environmentalists to ignore science when it contradicts their prejudices.”

According to Lynas, biological protections engineered into GMO crops have reduced use of insecticides and herbicides by 37 percent. Thanks in part to GMOs, the once ever-present threat of famine has been nearly eliminated.

Lynas is emphatic that scientists be allowed to continue their all-important research without obstruction. He warns that researchers “shouldn’t be hindered by those who, having already filled their bellies, have the luxury to indulge in righteous, ill-informed campaigns against promising new food technologies.”

We couldn’t agree more.

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(21) comments

ADRIAN FLANAGAN

Regardless of the merits of GMOs (and I agree the evidence is in their favor), this has been a horrendous PR fail by "Big Agriculture". Corporations can longer just say "don't worry about the details, trust us" because too many times they have betrayed the public trust. Every time they fight labeling, much of the public reasonably assumes they have something to hide.

HOWARD CROSBY

And how much petrol to feed 8 billion? For how long?
A dozen or so generations will have harvested millions of years of production.
How many elders will attest to longevity as a good thing?
We need GMOs because science gave us antibiotics.
Our redesign and reconstruction of earth is .........questionable.
Jungles support life, concrete jungles support corporate/legal/governmental entities.

Tom Terrific

Big difference between crossing plants and gmo. I will wait until the general consensus in the scientific community agrees. Both sides seem to have vested interests. Parts of the article sound like a Monsanto position paper. I wonder if the billions of $$$ at stake might have swayed someone’s opinions.

Dennis Hannick

I almost laughed at the idiots who protested (are still protesting) the GMO's. Man has been genetically modifying food since he started raising crops and domesticating animals. Through selective breeding and crop management, there is not a single food that has not been genetically modified to suit our needs and wants. It just took a little longer and was not as efficient.

NORBERT MAYR

Hannick, it took a little longer and it took the liberal elites at our universities you like to deride so vociferously. I hope that you realize that almost all GMOs in this country and world have been developed by either universities or universities in conjunction with agricultural concerns. Thank you, liberal elites, for this wonderful contribution to society.

NORBERT MAYR

Twenty years ago a UN study reported that every day more than 50,000 children died of starvation in the developing world. Science brought us GMOs and huge increases in agricultural yields that brought this horrible number down by just about 90 percent. This editorial correctly points out that none of the dire predictions have come true, the “Frankenfoods” have proven quite safe. Hail to science.

KENNETH BRADFORD

Yet. One word and one abbreviation: radium. DDT. I don't disagree with what the writer said and you echoed. Humankind needs more food. But whatever humans can do, apparently we will do, and we usually do not spot Murphy lurking in the underbrush. Do it -- but be very careful each step of the way.

NORBERT MAYR

Kenneth, you are of course correct. Penn State has developed in its agri department a strain of corn that has increased yields from 90 bushels per acre to above 110 bushels. It took almost twenty years and was accompanied by stringent safeguards, and the agri-sci people have kept close watch on the results. At one point they learned through studies that their Frankencorn reduced the butterfly population (no kidding). Back to the lab, fix the problems, and hello Monarch. Proper research accompanied by careful study and vigilance assure them of progress. Some people still go a little bonkers but that is ok, they'll keep us on our toes and remind us of that wonderful DDT not too long ago.

TOM EATON

"Yet. One word and one abbreviation: radium. DDT"
Wasn't drinking coffee - but this caught my attention and almost made me lose a precious gulp of my adult beverage. Banning DDT is indeed a cautionary tale, but not in the way you infer. Any way you spin it, Rachel Carson's tome led to the death of millions of unfortunate / third world souls. Interestingly enough I haven't seen any of the usual suspects or their minions comparing her to Hitler / Stalin or chairman Mao. I guess since they came from (rhymes with spit)-hole countries they really don't matter.
#sad

TOM EATON

Yet again a radical fringe leftist group stands athwart progress... DDT / GMO's / fossil & fissile fuels / etc etc ad nauseam. They use doctored evidence to demonize rational folk and put millions at risk of poverty (or worse) in order to impose their will / boost their self-esteem and virtue signal their peers.
Bias confirmation is always reckless / irresponsible, but in these cases it's downright anti-science... and carries grave consequences.

KENNETH BRADFORD

I was going to comment on substance, but then I read, "Bias confirmation is always reckless / irresponsible...." From you? As Tracy might say, you can't type if you're blowing coffee out of your nose.

Steve Corneliussen

I got in line right behind you, Mr. Bradford. I mean, sheesh, this from the same gentleman who yesterday appeared to me to be proclaiming that **all** of the blame for the national tsunami of incivility goes to people outside his Trumpist tribe? And who also appeared to me to be charging that even to question him about that remarkable accusation constituted harassment of him? As I said, I may have misunderstood his refusal to be questioned, but his dogmatic certitude (not the same as certainty) of his 100%-not-from-my-tribe stance was stark.

TOM EATON

Wind Mr Cornelliussen up and watch him go - on / and on / and on... please show where I even intimated that “the blame for the national tsunami of incivility goes to people outside his Trumpist tribe.” Then you can show where I said “that even to question him about that remarkable accusation constituted harassment”.
I’ll wait patiently for you to connect those “remarkable” dots – but I won’t hold my breath.

TOM EATON

After you clean yourself up – one question if I may KB. Who were the science deniers in this instance?
Hint: They are scolds of a feather with the folk in this forum who reflexively recoil from any statistic or fact that doesn’t support their preferred narrative.

Steve Corneliussen

Zat include the three-nontrivial-lies-per day statistic?

Steve Corneliussen

> folk in this forum who reflexively recoil from any statistic

Zat include the three-nontrivial-lies-per-day statistic?

TOM EATON

“non-trivial lies”
Such as?

Steve Corneliussen

C,mon, man. Are you really denying the Trump flood of nontrivial lies?

TOM EATON

C'mon man, are you trying to justify harassment / hounding of members of the administration at their homes / theaters / restaurants / etc etc?

GEORGE SNEAD

I have no qualms about GMO's generally. I do object to industry efforts to suppress transparency in food labeling. I also have a problem with the whole notion of patenting grains, although I concede that the Monsanto's of the world would have little incentive if they couldn't profit from their work.

STEVEN PRICE

George Snead - I'd add to your comments that without patent protection, neither Monsanto nor any other company would waste their resources on R&D.

Welcome to the discussion.

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