Anti-Biotech Activists Cry “OMG,” Scientists Facepalm

CCF_FacepalmWith a vote in Washington state coming in November on whether to mandate scientifically irrelevant labeling on foods have been produced using biotechnology, activists hope their latest P.R. creation will convince people better than their failed campaign last year in California did. That creation is a film titled “GMO OMG.” Seriously.

And the reviews of this waste of 83 minutes are in: It’s awful and useless. Even a reviewer from The Hollywood Reporter, who clearly supports the anti-biotech message generally, hopes nobody watches “GMO OMG” because the film is so dumb. The review’s bottom line is, “Smarmy doc exemplifies some of the worst trends in advocacy film.” Others were even less charitable: The New Yorker’s science columnist suggested that “adopting reality as [a] principal narrative” was too much for the filmmaker, while Scientific American’s reviewer called it an “Epic Fail.”

But guess what: No matter how terrible “GMO OMG” is as a work of agitprop, it won’t be the most absurdly stupid thing produced by anti-biotechnology activists this summer. That dishonor belongs to diet book publisher — her company published Marion Nestle’s latest cartoon manifesto — and organic farming advocate Maria Rodale, who wrote an “open letter” to President Obama earlier this month comparing American agriculture to Syrian war crimes. (Another Huffington Post contributor suggested boycotting Rodale’s magazines and books in response because the comparison was so wrong and offensive.)

According to this hysteria, by using pesticides on conventional crops (some of which are produced by biotechnological methods), farmers kill with abandon. Yet that’s not what a recent University of California-Davis study found: Pesticide residues on produce declared especially bad by anti-biotechnology groups were negligible. Oh, and organic crops use pesticides too, including some that are more potentially harmful than conventional pesticides. (Organic or conventional, pesticide levels are typically too low to make food dangerous to eat; remember, the dose makes the poison.)

The activists’ argument that states and the federal government should mandate labeling biotech food puts them at odds with reputable scientists: Both the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Medical Association find mandatory labels on biotech foods unnecessary.  But maybe scientists and doctors are wrong, and maybe cult soap manufacturers – an organic-only personal care products firm called “Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps” that puts the religious ramblings of its founder on its product labels has donated over $1,000,000 to the Washington State campaign — are right. We know on which side we’d place our bets, though.

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