The ‘War on Science’ as it is called, is an endless ‘war’ that will last with us humans however ling we live. The main objectives, should they exist, can never be fully fulfilled. As Steven Novella puts it – and as some wars go – when it comes to the War on Science, the only focus should be on the next battle, and not the whole war, as this is one of the most unpredictable and unstable wars. When it comes to GMOs, what should that next battle be?
First up: politics
The current political battleground hangs mostly on labelling GMOs in the USA and the current delays in the EU. Things in either side are going very slowly. The anti-GMO movement certainly hasn’t persuaded everyone to join in and label, and it appears that quite the opposite is happening, with celebrities like Jimmy Kimmel and many others using their fame, in a way, to help push for the pro-GMO side. The public is getting to hear more of the pro-GMO side and the pro-GMO side is louder than ever, as it showed during the March Against Myths (counter protesters against the March Against Monsanto) campaign.
Another side here is the Republicans, who tend to be more pro-corporate and so may support GMOs more. This however may be shaken up with Bernie Sanders, who gets the case about labelling wrong. As I’ve discussed in a previous article, labelling GMOs is the wrong side to take here, and won’t be the most helpful choice. It is also important to remember that labelling is only the first step, and making labelling a federal mandate will only open up the doors for more action against GMOs. If GMOs do get down that very unlikely path, the end for biotech would be near.
Which gets me to my point. Many, many scientific organisations, biotech companies (including drug manufacturers) and millions of people would stand against such a law. Monsanto would probably take it to the SCOTUS and scientific organisations would stand against such a thing in either way. Since GMOs are under no real threat right now, considering Obama’s very scientific agenda, we can try avoiding all of this by furthering science to the public.
Most common myths
GMOs are practically enshrined in myths. So much information and, therefore, misinformation exists about GMOs. It is arguably the biggest pseudoscience topic, as I’ve argued before.
The existence of so many fronts to battle on and the lack of a public consensus as well as the education system being littered with such misinformation and the general image of ‘natural is better’ makes this a very tough battle. To summarise previous statements from this article, the consensus on vaccines and evolution is far, far bigger in the scientific community, and those denying evolution are the minority of the US population. Likewise, a big scientific consensus exists on vaccines and most of the population is vaccinated or is pro-vaccines. It is true that GMOs have a big scientific consensus, beating climate change and standing at 88%, however this is no good as the public has the worst scientific record on GMOs, with the pro-science side only being a major minority.
To obviously win the battle on the public front (a very strategic front as it affects legislation as well) we need to go in one bit by another. We don’t have the huge majority of scientists that quickly come through and debunk creationism. We have a lot of scientists worrying about the GMOs, yet it’s just as much of a pseudoscience as creationism. To be fair the most concerns aren’t about safety but wrong information is wrong information. This is bad (obviously). To make problems worse, the GMOs campaign also (similarly to the vaccines and climate change campaigns) opens up to economics and ethics. Those things don’t make the issue here any easier. Evolution v creationism only focuses on science. That’s it. But the extent of the aspects affecting GMOs here is one of the reasons the pseudoscience on GMOs hasn’t been stopped. The above things mentioned makes this THE worst issue to deal with.
To slowly and gradually win over public support, what’s the next battle that should be fought over GMOs? The scientific bit. That may, unhelpfully, sound a bit vague. Currently the debated health impacts and environmental impacts are what inspire people to join. These are the false ideas that make people passionate and want to spread their messege. Thankfully as well, more and more of the public knows not to fall for this and instead picks on Monsanto, ethics and economics (upcoming article). Getting people in the ‘pro-GMO; anti-Monsanto’ area is a great success on our part and can get us to be able to drive home the labelling question and solve the larger problem on the small, meaningless details.
Here’s the thing, the issue over safety is not only the backbone of the anti-GMO movement but also it’s heart. Taking out that heart will kill the rest of the body.
It is also the most useful battle as we’re already winning it. I see many people, for example in SciShow’s recent video about GMOs, accepting the facts over safety but jumping on the patents and contamination issues. In this way, the issue starts to move over from public VS GMOs and labelling to the public VS Monsanto, which has less to do with legislation and laws and science and GMOs and more to do with corporations and ethics. GMOs that are helpful would be widely accepted.
Maybe the end is in sight for the anti-GMO movement.
Wait, what’s that ringing sound. Oh, Dr Mercola just published his latest article and people are already retweeting. Crap.