Currently, thousands of plants and animals grown and raised in the United States have been genetically modified in some way. Since the beginnings of agriculture and animal husbandry, humans have been manipulating the genetics of plants and animals but what’s different now is that we have the ability to successfully and effectively splice genes from one species into another. Sometimes DNA from a bacterium has a property that is effective when added to the genome of corn. Once this DNA is added, the corn is considered “genetically modified” or a genetically modified organism (GMO). (Click here for more information on what a GMO is)
Rigorous scientific studies have consistently shown that GM foods are as safe to consume as their non GM counterparts however fears about their safety persist. Why is that? To get to the heart of the issue we have to examine the role of language in our acquisition of knowledge, the relationship between emotion and reason when making decisions about our health, and standards of good science.
“Intuition can encourage opinions that are contrary to the facts.”
“By tapping into intuitions and emotions that mostly work under the radar of conscious awareness, but are constituent of any normally functioning human mind, such representations become easy to think. They capture our attention, they are easily processed and remembered and thus stand a greater chance of being transmitted
and becoming popular, even if they are untrue
. Thus, many people oppose GMOs, in part, because it just makes sense that they would pose a threat.”
Strongest opponents of GM foods know the least but think they know the most
“The extremists are more poorly calibrated. If you don’t know much, it’s hard to assess how much you know,” Fernbach added. “The feeling of understanding that they have then stops them from learning the truth. Extremism can be perverse in that way.”
The finding has echoes of the Dunning-Kruger effect, the observation from social psychology that incompetence prevents the incompetent from recognising their incompetence.
“GMO labels won’t clear this up. They won’t tell you whether there’s Bt in your food. They’ll only give you the illusion that you’ve escaped it. That’s one lesson of the Non-GMO Project, whose voluntary labels purport to give you an “informed choice” about what’s in your food.”
“That’s the fundamental flaw in the anti-GMO movement. It only pretends to inform you. When you push past its dogmas and examine the evidence, you realize that the movement’s fixation on genetic engineering has been an enormous mistake. The principles it claims to stand for—environmental protection, public health, community agriculture—are better served by considering the facts of each case than by treating GMOs, categorically, as a proxy for all that’s wrong with the world. That’s the truth, in all its messy complexity. Too bad it won’t fit on a label.”
“There has been a considerable amount of discussion and debate regarding the safety of genetically modified food. Though the topic has been researched over and over again, there isn’t evidence that eating conventional produce will cause disease, despite whatever the scientifically-illiterate Food Babe has to say. In fact, over 2000 studies have found GM food to be perfectly safe. Genetic modification is simply a tool, and like all tools, it’s how you use it that matters. ”
“Even though the World Health Organization has stated that all GM food on the market have been tested and approved, many Americans still question how safe they are.”
Proponents of genetically modified crops say the technology is the only way to feed a warming, increasingly populous world. Critics say we tamper with nature at our peril. Who is right?
“But with the G.M.O. bill, he often despaired of assembling the information he needed to definitively decide. Every time he answered one question, it seemed, new ones arose. Popular opinion masqueraded convincingly as science, and the science itself was hard to grasp. People who spoke as experts lacked credentials, and G.M.O. critics discounted those with credentials as being pawns of biotechnology companies.”