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Hexaploid2287 karma

Hi! I've been a long time fan, and I'd like to ask about something a bit old. I work in plant science, and we have this controversy that is every bit as unscientific, damaging, and irrational as the controversies surrounding evolution, vaccines, and climate change, so I was thrilled to see there was an Eyes of Nye episode on GMOs...right up until I watched it, and saw you talking about fantastical ecological disasters, advocating mandatory fear mongering labels, and spouting loaded platitudes with false implication. You can see my complete response here, if you are interested, and I hope you are, but it was a little disheartening.

When I look up GMOs in the news, I don't see new innovations or exciting developments being brought to the world. I see hate, and fear, and ignorance, and I'm tired of seeing advances in agricultural science held back, sometimes at the cost of environmental or even human health, over this manufactured controversy. Scientists are called called corporate pawns, accused of poisoning people and the earth, research vandalized or banned, all over complete nonsense. This is science denialism, plain and simple. That Eyes of Nye episode aired 9 years ago, and a lot can change in nearly a decade, so I want to ask, in light of the wealth of evidence demonstrating the safety and utility of agricultural genetic engineering, could you clarify your current stance on the subject, and have you changed the views you expressed then? Because if so, while you work with public education, please don't forget about us. We could use some help.

Thank you.

Hexaploid1771 karma

Uncertainty is the same trope used so many others. Do you recognize what you've just said? That's the appeal to ignorance, the same used by others I know you have encountered to make their point. I have evidence that there are ecological benefits. There is no evidence of disaster. I cannot prove that there will not be ecological harm with absolute certainty, I fully admit that, but someone once said that my inability to disprove a thing is not at all the same as proving it true. There's a dragon in your garage. That which cannot be falsified is worthless, you know that, and when we have known benefits, it is a horrible risk assessment strategy.

I'm sorry, but your point about 'malnourished fat people' has no bearing on this. That may be a problem in developed countries, but where nutrition is concerned I'm not talking about developed countries. We are very privileged to have such abundance; not everyone is so fortunate. Furthermore, I would never claim that, say, a fungus resistant crop would combat malnutrition in developed countries, but that does not mean it is without benefits; I would consider a reduction in agrochemical use to be a pretty nice benefit, no?

Your implication that this is a corporate issue is downright insulting. Golden Rice. Rainbow papaya. Biocassava. Honeysweet plum. Bangladeshi Bt eggplant. Rothamsted's aphid repelling wheat. INRA's virus resistant grape rootstock. CSIRO's low GI wheat. Many others around the world, go to any public university. This is about corporations, how could you say something like that?

I see we disagree about a great many things then, if you feel an appeal to ignorance, a red herring, and something about corporations are going to convince someone who is in this field. But thank you anyway for your reply. Now I know.

Hexaploid273 karma

Hi! Thanks for doing this AMA. I'm one of those people who feels that the political spectrum is poorly represented by just two points, and like to show support for third parties. However, one of the problems I have with the Green Party and your stances is that I'm a plant scientist, and your position on genetically engineered crops is absolutely wrong.

You say you want a moratorium on GMOs until they are 'proven safe.' Well, that's no different than saying that we shouldn't act on climate change until it has been 'proven real.' Your statement is implying that burden has not already been met; this is not the case and acting as if it is no different than denying something like climate change, not in my book. I'm not going to vote for a party that is insistent on ignoring what my field of study has to say, one that clearly states that my research had better toe the party line or it gets banned. Politics should listen to science, not the other way around.

We shouldn't be arguing about this; on this particular issue at least, I'd like to think we should be on the same side here. The scientific facts are that genetically engineered crops are, as a general statement, safe for people and the environment and bring many benefits. Go to the ag department of your local land grant university, start a dialog, you'll get answers. So what can I, as a scientist who has a responsibility to work for public education do to change your mind here? Because we need change, if we want to sustainably provide adequate nutrition for all people in the face of the challenges before us, and as far as I'm concerned the Green movement has been holding back progress that, if environmentalism is your primary goal, should be embraced. Thanks!

Hexaploid42 karma

i.e. create pesticide-resistant staring of food and then load them up with more pesticides then they should

But that isn't what they do. One of their major products is insect resistant varieties to specifically avoid the need for increased pesticide usage. The other is herbicide tolerant to avoid the need for a series of pre- and post- emergent herbicides and tillage as weed control methods, to minimize what is necessary and the ecological impact. This 'douse them with pesticides' thing is a misconception. It would be great if there were some better method to control weeds, minimizing inputs is always a goal, but as it stands, this is kinda the best system. And also, this is a thing which has no connection to CCD.

Hexaploid42 karma

I work in plant science, a field that also has a similarly styled, unscientific controversy (I notice Greenpeace is one of the partners in the march...I really wish they'd stop denying, lying about, and occasionally destroying plant science & research) and I would love it if we could get more people, both the public and scientists, to stand up and make some more noise in support of science. What do you recommend to get people motivated to work towards positive action? Thank you.