Activists trying to force labels onto genetically improved foods (GIFs) have a black eye: Almost all of them selectively endorse scientific consensuses, picking and choosing which ones to support based on their preconceived radical environmentalist ideologies. This week, we’ve seen the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Food and Water Watch (FWW) again embrace denialism in the service of their “GMO Labeling” policy.
EWG was miffed by our recent piece in The Hill which called out the state of Vermont and activists for pushing falsified fears of GIF safety to advance labeling measures. In his most recent blog post, EWG’s government affairs director responds that the activists aren’t saying that putting warning labels on GIFs is a “food safety issue.” That’s odd, since EWG’s website states that one of “The Five Things You Should Know about GMOs” is “Some scientists have observed changes in the metabolism of animals fed genetically engineered foods. These alterations may indicate a risk to human health—we just don’t know.” If activists including EWG did not irresponsibly spread misinformation about GIF safety, there wouldn’t be a debate about “right to know.”
At least Food and Water Watch is open about its denialism. In a recent news release, FWW claims the following:
[It] would appear that the “consensus,” at its very best, is that that GMO advocates believe that GMOs are safe. This is very different, than, say, the scientific consensus on climate change in which the vast majority of expert scientists agree that climate change is real and caused by human activity.
This is indisputably false to any reasonable standard of evidence. Our own research identified five bodies promulgating scientific consensus—the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society of London, the World Health Organization, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Medical Association—that promulgate both consensuses.
And the claim that only “GMO advocates” believe GIFs are safe is simply a canard. The European Commission (an arm of the European Union, not a particular friend to GIFs) has funded over a decade of research studies into GIF safety. The conclusion is damning one for FWW’s preposterous denials:
The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are not per se more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.
If EWG and FWW believe that keeping alive misinformation helps their campaigns so be it. But their reckless decisions will hurt the efforts of scientists and researchers using GIFs to combat malnutrition (like the 500,000 annual cases of Vitamin A Deficiency, which can and does kill). It’s past time for science to lead the debate over GIFs, and now it’s up to Congress to allow that.