To Grow a Salmon: The fight against GMOs has become the liberals’ climate change moment
Those of a democratic slant, the liberals of America, love science. They fight against the fallacy of creationism; they fight for broader acknowledgment of climate change issues; they fight in favor of stem cell research and against homophobic appeals to nature. No matter what, they just love science. They love it so much, in fact, that the scientific community has come to accept that whenever a controversial topic comes into the forefront, the liberal community of voters will always support them and help push the discoveries mainstream. So it has come as a bit of surprise slap across the face when finally, a scientific consensus is met with denial by their most loyal supporters amongst the common people. For the liberal, the acceptance of GMOs is their climate change moment.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are a hot topic these days, especially after the FDA recently approved the first human consumable GMO version of living animal: A salmon, bred to be larger and more adaptable than “natural” salmon. For some people, the apparent difference between “growing” and “raising” a salmon is one of ideological pertinence. And just like republicans seem to have difficulty grasping the truth of climate change, a scientific consensus so amazingly complete that over 97% of the entire scientific community agrees on its validity, liberals just can’t come to terms with the simple, scientific fact that GMOs aren’t hurting anybody.
Before going any further, I first feel it is required to briefly examine the arguments against GMOs as there are several and some may have more validity than others in the field.
The first argument is also the most common: GMOs hurt people. They are filled with god-knows-what kind of chemical trickery all hidden within the secret, magic-sauce scaffolding of artificial genetic mutation — it just sounds bad, doesn’t it? It sounds like the start of some kind of Terminator movie or the zombie acopolypse. It’s unnatural! The second argument goes along the lines of “don’t mess with nature’s design: If the salmon was fine for the past thousand years, then it’s fine now.” It’s the idea that humans aren’t all we think we are and we tend to screw things up long before we fix them (“look at climate change, for god’s sake!”) so what makes us think we can fix nature this time around? The third argument is one I like to call the “Anarchist’s Appeal” and centers around some form of question loading such as “do you really trust Monsanto/the FDA/your government over your local farmer?” It’s a way of casting doubt and appealing to the fact that we would all probably like to see our food coming out of the ground rather than a test tube.
The fourth and final argument against GMOs is a bit more interesting and so I include it separately here. Some people have drawn attention to the fact that GMOs may limit biodiversity and cause ecosystem collapse. By engineering corn, for example, it’s possible that we have wiped out countless other types of grains and caused incredible disruptions in soil availability for farmland as the crops eat up resources year after year. It’s a very interesting concept that by engineering our environment we are inevitably destroying it and is something I will come back to in detail later on.
Arguments against GMOs are classic fallacious appeals to nature
So, with all that said, first things first: GMOs are hurting people. A classic appeal to nature, this argument is basically the same kind of nonsense people use against homosexual relationships: It’s unnatural, goddamnit! Uttered by the foolish minds of those that are devoid of any basic scientific knowledge, it is the least of the arguments against GMOs and generally does little else than incite to riot like minded sheeple. This is an argument that could be attacked using the same means of attacking climate change deniers: education. Read a book. Actually, don’t. Read the raw research. It’s all in there…an overwhelming scientific consensus exists stating that, after literally decades of research dating back to the ’90s, GMOs are perfectly healthy, have no adverse effects on humans and no adverse effects on other animals that might eat them as well. About the only tangible difference that eating GMO-free food will make in your life is that you will become poor much quicker from the extra price hike. A kind of reverse snake oil scam, the GMO-free dietary recommendation that is oh-so-common in hippie America is just a load of bull. Don’t believe the research? Ok…how about the chicken you’re eating? Over 90% of all consumers of GMOs are not humans, but rather other animals like chickens that get fed augmented diets of specially crafted grains. We then eat chicken (a lot of chicken) and have been doing so comfortably without issue ever since the first chicken ate the first cross bred kernal of delightfully juicy, GMO corn.
But wait, you yell. What about how all that research is actually funded by the evil food corporations and never independently conducted? Well, jumping over argument two and skipping straight for three, let’s tackle that. It’s actually a valid point, though in this case it’s a bit misunderstood most of the time. Research bias is something that readers should always be aware of and good research will always declare the bias, especially in sociological fields. The biggest response to this is that it’s simply a lie. Many of the largest research studies conducted on this topic have been done independently without any direct funding from a corporation involved in the production of food. A few have been, of course, and those should probably be suspect…it’s akin to the coal industry commissioning research studies that find “no significant impact.” Obviously, loads of crap. But in this case, there’s lots of independent studies that have confirmed the overall consensus, yet again. And these studies have been done on enormous research pools of data, across large spans of time. In short, you don’t have to trust Monsanto and take their word for it…it’s all there, in raw, independent black-and-white.
Now, back to number two: Humans shouldn’t screw with nature. My immediate answer to this argument is that humans have been developing GMOs since, well, the dawn of farming. They just called them something different at that time — terms like “husbandry,” “pruning” and “cross pollination.” Far less scary, but not quite as applicable to the modern techniques, so the terms changed. Think back to a good summer. The sun is low in the sky, casting a golden-orange glow of radiant beauty across a sky peppered in little altocumulus clouds, patching up for the rain tomorrow. A musty scent of humid heat floats in the air around you as the buzz of flies mingles with the hum of the cicada and chirp of the nightly frogs, just now coming up from their lazy daytime slumbers in the mires. You’ve been swimming all day, changed into a garb of light, soft cotton and just finished grilling a damn good dinner for yourself: The smells of charred steak and lightly seared potatoes fills the slightly sweet, twilight air around you. Also in the mix: A set of juicy, grilled corn cobs, hot and wet with the sweat of a melted butter pad. Well, you probably aren’t thinking about this right now, but that corn you are about to indulge in is the product of thousands of years of GMO innovation at the hands of humans. You see, if it weren’t for some very, very clever farming tactics of cross breeding, corn would be nothing more than a tiny little dried up cob of grain that would crack your teeth. That eclectic stuff you get during Halloween to decorate your yard and house with? That’s corn in a closer to original form…it’s dried out and designed for decoration and still a GMO, but yes, that’s more what your ancestors thought of when they thought of corn. For thousands of years, corn was a food fit for pigs and other feed animals only. Humans never would have touched the stuff. But thanks to the marvels of science, we now have juicy, edible corn cobs that are huge, thick and sweet…and grow easily, and pretty much everywhere, making corn one of the few “apocalypse ready” foods that will have a huge hand in solving world hunger. It’s just that today, most people are afraid of these same techniques of farming when they are coming from a lab rather than a dirty patch of land somewhere in zip code “908middleofnowhere.” It’s a fear based in tradition and it needs to stop.
GMO foods have zero detrimental impact on the environment
Now, when it comes to ecological significance of impact, this is where the debate becomes interesting. So what if GMOs are ok to eat? If they’re having a direct negative impact on the environment, wouldn’t that still mean we should be more cautious with using them? My answer is a solid, definitive, strong “maybe.” There’s a few responses to this argument that I believe to be valid and important to factor into your choices. The first, is that “ecology” is largely a subjective study at this juncture in history. We have the larger, overarching environment of Planet Earth — things like the atmosphere, the existence of trees and the water cycle. All this is required, absolutely required, for life to exist in any capacity and especially high functioning life like humans. Then we have ecosystems within this larger environment…things like rainforests, deserts and human-made cities. This is where ecology comes into play. Are we disrupting the ecology of a desert by watering it down and growing fields of crops there? Maybe. But who cares? This counter argument goes along the lines that we are now the drivers of the engine of evolution; that technology has advanced far enough along that by the time supposed damage occurs, we will be able to completely reverse it. So what if we breed out some kind of inferior grain that a certain kind of insect relied upon for food because our corn was just so abusive to the ecosystem? Does it really matter? Perhaps, and honestly, we don’t really know where the Butterfly Effect will lead us, but as it stands, no. It just doesn’t matter (unless you happen to be that insect, in which case, congratulations on learning English). We are effectively changing the earth, for better or worse, and the idea that it is somehow better off without us is lunacy to the highest degree. It’s better off subjectively, in an environment where the earth never changes. If you, personally, consider a pre-holocene earth to be the most natural, purest and best state it has ever been in, then sure, the earth is better off without humans. Of course, if you like volcanos and really hot, lava-filled watery goo then perhaps a primordial earth would be “better” and therefore, no animals or plants at all would be ideal. A “better” earth is just a subjective way of telling the world you’re a masochist and waiting for the end to be nigh…by all means, join Heaven’s Gate and be on your way while science actually works on advancing us further into a more comfortable life filled with juicy corn, giant carrots and meaty salmon.
Now, all of this is a bit of a mental exercise in philosophy, because it does not, in fact, matter at all. Research has shown that GMOs have little to no effect on environments where they are introduced. Rather, more traditional problems like farming techniques on soil use remain the issue. So quit whining about GMOs and instead tackle real issues like how do we make better use of the land we have? Go forth…make yourselves useful!
If you accept the scientific consensus on climate change, then you can’t deny it when it comes to GMOs
So why does all this matter? Is it really worth a tirade if someone just ignorantly decides to eat non-GMO food? The short answer: yes, yes it is. Going against GMOs causes research in the area to be stifled as public opinion starts to shift against it and when that happens all the benefits we get from GMOs start to lesson…things like corn that can grow in extreme climates to help those in need of a stable food source. I’m glad you have the money and level of comfort to wake up one day and decide that your diet will now be “GMO-free” but not everyone in the world has that luxury and I’m quite certain that there are many nations with populations that wouldn’t give a flying rat’s ass if their food was grown in a lab or a farm. They’d just be happy to be eating. Eating a GMO-free diet is a way of voting with your money: If enough people do it, eventually, there will be fewer GMOs. Thus, there is a reason to get mad and demand some reason. We need funding for GMO development that is healthy, approved and viable.
If you accept the scientific consensus on climate change, then you can’t deny it when it comes to GMOs. Cherry picking and confirmation bias is something we are all susceptible to and everyone practices each fallacy at some point in their life, but the logic of it is simple: Either you accept the science or you don’t and if you don’t, you’re just being as silly as those on the other side of the aisle denying some other science. You can’t show me all the meticulous research on climate change and then give me a blog post you dug up on Reddit talking about the GMO conspiracy and expect me to take you seriously. This is a plea to drop this anti-GMO nonsense and get back on board with the science…I know you’re better than that. Save us all some money in the long run and go eat some corn, savor some potatoes and thank science for what it hath provided.