GMOs and me in 500 words

First published yesterday on GMO Skepti-Forum

Impermaculture

I left college 27 years ago with a fairly typical anti-establishment ideology.
Having flirted briefly with CND and the anti-nuclear movement in the early 1980s, I determined that there was no hope for modern civilisation- that it was unsustainable- and resolved to a back-to-the land life of self-sufficiency. I quickly got involved with permaculture which I still teach a version of to this day.
My first encounter with GMOs was at an Earth Day event in Maynooth around 1998. Vandana Shiva was there, and Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, debating with a Monsanto executive. Many of my friends had been involved with direct action against Monsanto trials in Wexford, which put paid to GMOs in Ireland for a long time. I went along unquestioningly with the strongly held views of my tribe, but even then I was vaguely aware that I really didnt know anything about GMOs.
Some years later as I learned more about science and critical thinking I became disillusioned with the permaculture movement, with its New Age religious beliefs and superstitions. Slowly, painfully, I found an effective debunking for one environmentalist myth after another. The turning point on GMOs was reading Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Discipline and Professor Pam Ronald and Raoul Adamchuk’s Tomorrow’s Table. I remember racing through the earlier chapters of Brand’s book to get to the bit on GMOs. It was a revelation- everything everyone I knew was saying turned out to be false.

I became fascinated by both the science and the sociology, politics and psychology. I went on holiday to the US and visited Pam and Raoul at their home in California, and got to see Pam’s lab where I met my first transgenes. I engaged in countless debates on Facebook, Twitter and blog threads. I lost many long-standing friends and to some extent have become estranged from my community. I have been constantly surprised by the viciousness and blatant dishonesty people I previously respected have been willing to engage in in order to defend their irrational beliefs. It turns out that the anti-science of the Greens is not progressive and “left-wing” but rather betrays a deeply conservative, traditionalist and reactionary mindset. GMOs are just a form of advanced plant breeding; historically, new methods of breeding have often been opposed by the status quo.
Activists can only see things in simplistic black-and-white terms and absurd conspiracy theories. Theirs is a darkly narcissistic and negative view of humanity which they seem to despise, in contrast to the assumed purity of Nature which they revere, oblivious to how Nature only seems sublime when you have a full belly.
On the other hand I have also been surprised and delighted at the more open-minded students on my course who have shown it is possible for people to shift their thinking, sometimes dramatically and quite quickly, just from having new information presented in an interesting and engaging fashion.
They are the ones who give me hope and make the battles seem all worthwhile.

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9 Comments

  1. but David Icke says that GMO’s are implanted into our bodies by the Illuminati to transform us into sea urchins–surely he cant be wrong?;)

    Reply
  2. I loved reading this, Graham. Great narrative.

    Reply
  3. Admiration for HONESTY . People like Graham who can be honest and free themselves of dogma they are trapped within.
    – It is quite easy to continue deluding yourself ..and keep your friends, instead of facing up to diffcult challenges”

    Reply
  4. Cory Socio

     /  February 20, 2014

    “It turns out that the anti-science of the Greens is not progressive and “left-wing” but rather betrays a deeply conservative, traditionalist and reactionary mindset. GMOs are just a form of advanced plant breeding; historically, new methods of breeding have often been opposed by the status quo.”
    If you didn’t have such a narrow minded perspective on it, you may be able to see a better overviews of the whole issue. “anti-science” is just a dismissive label.
    Maybe you should have thrown “tinfoil hat wearer” in there too?
    Here are some things that these “Greens” would be against.
    > Crops that were free for everyone to grow, instead being patented and the “rights” owned by a large company.
    > Crops that would yield seeds for the next year’s harvest, instead being replaced by ones where the seeds are sterile, and new ones need to be purchased from a central company.
    > Crops that would only yield a healthy crop if grown without being exposed to too many poisons or herbicides, instead being replaced by ones that are resistant to blanket spraying with glyphosate weed killer, which kills other adjacent non GMO plants (weeds) yet absorbs into the GMO crop without giving any visual indication of the levels of this poison present.

    In summary, Monsanto et al is not here to feed the world, they just want to control the world food supply and engineer methods of selling more glyphosate weed killer. All for their own benefit, and to the detriment of private citizens.

    “Anti GMO” isn’t anti-science, it’s supporting health and freedom.

    Reply
    • Maybe you should have thrown “tinfoil hat wearer” in there too?

      My bad- yes, tin-foil hattery should definitely be in there to, thanks!
      Greens have no problem AFAIK with non-GMO patents, which are routinely used and completely acceptable under Organic standards. But I’m glad to hear you would fully support Open Source GMOs, of which there are many (there would be far more available to us if the regulations were relaxed and blanket opposition to GMOs was lifted). eg Golden Rice will be given free to smaller farmers, they will be free to save their own seeds. Maybe you would like to donate in support of Patrick Moore’s Golden Rice campaign?
      Rainbow Papaya in Hawaii was also free to farmers.

      Monsanto et al is not here to feed the world, they just want to control the world food supply

      LOL chemtrailz Cory, chemtrailzzz! ;)

      “Anti GMO” isn’t anti-science, it’s supporting health and freedom.

      ROFL!!

      Reply
    • “Sterile seeds”? Do I detect a hint of the Terminator myth again? Conveniently, Graham has written on that one so we don’t even need to leave this site to debunk it: http://skepteco.wordpress.com/2012/09/02/the-truth-about-the-terminator

      There are plenty of decent links in the article, since quoting Graham in support of Graham is perhaps not fully convincing ;-) And plenty more on the web to confirm it, e.g. on the modern-day source of all knowledge that is Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_use_restriction_technology

      As mentioned in the article, the Schmeiser vs. Monsanto “sued for accidental contamination” story is a myth as well. When you dig into it, an awful lot of the anti-GMO myths don’t stand up, which is a shame for narrative arc but a victory for rational thought.

      This “glyphosate is absorbed without giving visual indication of the levels present” thing is a new one on me… do any herbicides present via a convenient visual indicator? Particularly the ones used in organic farming, which are often more toxic and need to be sprayed in larger quantities (I don’t have reference links to hand, but Google provides the info fairly easily). The smaller quantities needed are precisely by design, although it does seem right to question the lasting benefit of RoundUp Ready GMOs (not *all*GMOs), as farmers seem to be doing: it’s a biological arms race, just as farming and evolution always have been. Anyway, a visual indicator is a straw man: glyphosate levels can be tested for chemically, and GMOs have received more scrutiny than other crops in that respect. General scientific conclusion: it’s fine.

      Reply

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