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Live Chat: The Truth about Genetically Modified Food

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are essential to feeding the world, proponents say. Tampering with nature is perilous, critics say. Who is right? Scientific American editor Michael Moyer hosted a 30-minute conversation on Tuesday, August 20  at noon EDT, to explore this question with David H. Freedman, journalist and author of Wrong: Why Experts Keep Failing Us—And How to Know When Not to Trust Them (Little, Brown and Company, 2010). For more on this topic, check out our September issue on the Science of Food, fresh out of the oven. The magazine, in all its print glory, is also available on newsstands next week.


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Image Credit: Flickr/Chiot’s Run

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  1. 1. swoletz 11:40 pm 08/19/2013

    you cannot have a one sided question and answer over this topic without one scientist from monsanto….this quy could spew crap, and we need someone to tell when he is…so either get the other side there, or scrap it, or you will be doing the topic an injustice….and you do not want to piss me off…..

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  2. 2. Hitchiker of the Galaxy 7:48 am 08/20/2013

    European Union has overproduction of food despite a ban of GMO. For several decades now. The only market sector where demand really grows is organic or low-pesticide and environment-friendly food.

    GMO proponents might stop ignoring facts and adapt their business strategy to them. Scientific American could also take care that debates are not over straw man arguments.

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  3. 3. mem from somerville 9:18 am 08/20/2013

    How can you combat stunning misinformation (like that from @Hitchiker of the Galaxy) when we know that the EU imports tons of GMOs? They say it with such confidence, but it’s absolutely false.

    “The EU imported more than 51 million tonnes of animal feed last year, worth almost €15 billion euros, according to Commission trade statistics. About half was GM soy from Brazil and Argentina developed by US biotech company Monsanto.”

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  4. 4. JPGumby 10:59 am 08/20/2013

    Concur with swoletz. This sounds like it’s going to be one sided. “The Truth”, indeed.

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  5. 5. JPGumby 11:06 am 08/20/2013

    In any case, questions I’d like them to address:

    What evidence is there of health risks related to any GMO? If so, which ones, specifically, and why?

    What evidence is there of environmental risks related to any GMO? If so, which ones, specifically, and why?

    If I cross-bred crop plants with wild disease, pest, or herbicide resistant plants to capture those traits in my crops, would the answers to my previous questions be the same as for a GMO?

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  6. 6. geneticmaize 11:18 am 08/20/2013

    The question I have for Mr. Freedman is – where should we get information on science-related topics, if not from scientists? Who has enough background information to understand the complexities of biology if not scientists? I haven’t read the book yet, but the blurb on Amazon confuses me. Sure, the media often doesn’t do a good job of reporting science so when we see “studies say” we should take care, and it is frustrating that negative results don’t get published as much as they should, but that doesn’t mean all science is invalid or that all scientists have an agenda to mislead. I’m all for everyone learning how to be skeptical, but where do we start looking for information if not the primary literature? There are ways to be skeptical about science without throwing the good away with the bad. I did notice that non-profits and activist organizations are not listed in the groups that are “wrong”. I’d like to see the problem of misinformation from these groups addressed as well.

    No offense to Mr. Freedman, but I find him an odd choice for a discussion on GMOs, since it seems his journalism focuses recently on medicine and on non-biology topics before that. Why not choose a farmer or scientist that actually works with biotech? Better yet, why not a panel that includes all of these?

    FYI: there aren’t any GMO peaches, so this picture is a strange choice to illustrate this article. Now, peaches have been genetically modified through breeding, but I’m guessing this is not what was meant. I do thank you for not posing another stupid photo of a syringe injecting a tomato, which of course has nothing to do with biotech at all.

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  7. 7. franliscio 11:59 am 08/20/2013

    Wouldn’t GMO creators have more credibility if names like MOnsanto weren’t synonymous with agriculture thuggery? (IMHO)

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  8. 8. franliscio 12:23 pm 08/20/2013

    Hasn’t golden rice been disproved? Haven’t there been questions about its efficacy?

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  9. 9. franliscio 12:25 pm 08/20/2013
    golden rice

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  10. 10. geneticmaize 12:32 pm 08/20/2013

    Good reliance on the science (as well as economics, ethics, etc). Not a bad conversation overall. I still would have liked to see more diverse backgrounds represented, but that probably wouldn’t have worked with the short time allotted. Nice work!

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  11. 11. Owl905 12:55 pm 08/20/2013

    Baby talk sure rules here – people want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And they want it now, and they want it in 25 words or less.
    Time to smell the cold air – no one knows the truth because this is a roll of the dice. CERN didn’t produce a black hole, vaccinations aren’t secret government weapons meant to kill us. Flouride isn’t a government plot. And neonicotinoids really are the key to unlocking a crisis in the bee industry.

    GMO crops will do whatever they’re going to do whether the proponents say ‘mea culpa’ about the ugly surprises, or not. The stuff that works safely is going to bring something useful to agricultural productivity whether the yellers try to shout otherwise or not.

    Put up the best safety and regulatory fences possible. Mark the packages as GMO (‘consumer resistance’ be damned) to alert all the non-average people. Market test it in regions for a decade before going national and global. And throw every cheap punk who smashes progress, like the Golden Rice field test destruction, into a deep dark place like the one their victims have to face.

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  12. 12. Hitchiker of the Galaxy 5:04 am 08/21/2013

    @mem from somerville
    We are talking about genetically modified FOOD not animal feed.

    You can try serving people in EU animal feed as food, but don’t expect anybody to treat you seriously.

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  13. 13. Blisse 12:56 pm 08/21/2013

    Bad science and bad corporate propaganda in this article. When you mix successes like the good “accelerated hybridization” that GMO produces (Golden Rice) along with the pesticide Frankensteining of Roundup Ready of many GMO crops, you glump all GMO in the same basket. GMO itself is not bad, but it is the GMO just for corporate profit and greed (of Monsanto and others) despite the science showing the harm done by these bad GMO products that has concerned citizens and scientists up in arms. Why shouldn’t I know if I am eating something that I don’t want in my body or trust? Every citizen should have that choice! Your piece reads just like a Monsanto propaganda piece from 10 years ago.

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