It’s that time of year again where people from all walks of life come together in large cities around the world to publicise their ignorance about a technology they oppose, but know very little about. I am, of course, talking about those who attended the rather misleadingly named March Against Monsanto protests this weekend. The reason I say these events have a rather misleading name is because the vast majority of people in attendance are not there to protest against the huge biotechnology company Monsanto, but are in fact there to protest against genetically modified organisms (GMOs). I did give some serious thought to jumping on a train and, as I have done for the past two years, attend one of these protests, but I thought it would be a waste of my supporters’ money. I imagined I would see the exact same group of people parroting the exact same discredited arguments as they had the previous years and, from the footage that has been released on social media so far, I was not wrong. However, this weekends festivities did remind me that it has been over a year since I recorded all the footage from the last protest I went to and I really should finish critiquing it, and what better place to start than with a protester who seems to be on the ball.
Like everyone I met at one of these protests (with the exception of Haidee-Laure Giles) this protester seemed like a really nice guy who genuinely thought that GMOs pose a real danger. Unlike the others though, he seemed to have a basic understanding of the science and even seemed willing to change his mind when confronted with conflicting evidence. For example, when I challenged him about BT delta endotoxins toxicity to humans and gave him new information regarding the toxins use in organic farming, he seemed to take it onboard.
What really took me by surprise about this guy was his criticism of the Séralini paper! The ’long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modiﬁed maize’ paper, also know as the Séralini paper, has been a cornerstone of the anti-GMO movement ever since its first publication in 2012 despite being almost immediately discredited and its experiment shown to be fundamentally flawed. This hasn’t stopped people from publicising the rather horrific images it contained of rats whose body weight consisted of approximately 25% tumor. In fact, during this interview one of the protesters in shot can clearly be seen holding a sign with one of these grotesque images. Even organisations who are trying to give the anti-GMO movement a level of credibility, like GM-Freeze, still to this day promote the paper on their website despite their director Liz O’Neill being told personally by myself on radio that the results in the paper are based on an experiment so badly designed, it’s practically fraudulent. Seeing this man admit that there were flaws in the paper was a breath of fresh air, and this man should be commended.
After dismissing the Séralini paper, the protester voiced his concern about the short duration of animal studies required before a GMO can be brought to market. Here, he is presumably referencing the European Food Safety Authority who require a 90-day study in rodents to assess oral toxicity of a given GMO (all of which have shown no negative health effects).The only problem is that there are many similar long-term studies and even some generational studies that feed three generations of the same family – all of which say that the GMO under investigation poses no risk to human health. These papers are easy to find, and it’s this protesters apathy and dismissal of research that opposes his opinion that are my main criticisms of this guy.
One thing this protester brought up has recently hit the news again and is worth mentioning here. Back in 2015 when this footage was taken, a body within the World Health Organisation (WHO) called the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reported that the herbicide Glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic”. I saw many a happy protester that day with banners proudly stating that this herbicide which can be used on glyphosate-resistant GMOs allowing farmers to kill weeds without killing their crops is “probably carcinogenic”. The only problem was that the conclusions of the IARC’s report misrepresented the science in the papers they were referencing. For those who are interested, myself and fellow co-host of The League of Nerds James made a video where we discuss the IARC report and show how embarrassingly void it is and talk about how it was tarnishing the reputation of the WHO.
We also had a League of Nerds episode where we talked about conflicts of interest that could explain the working groups choice to class Glyphosate as a possible carcinogen.
In view of the absence of carcinogenic potential in rodents at human-relevant doses and the absence of genotoxicity by the oral route in mammals, and considering the epidemiological evidence from occupational exposures, the Meeting concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through their diet.
I would like to think that this would be the end of it. That we will no longer hear that Glyphosate is probably a carcinogen and, therefore, somehow all GMOs are evil from these people….but we all know that’s not going to happen. We all know that this line is going to be parroted by people like it was with the Séralini paper for years to come. This is why, and it has taken me many years to come to this conclusion, we should ridicule those who quote outdated or debunked research to promote their dogmatic antiscience views on a technology they don’t like because……reasons. While I know ridiculing these people is not likely to change their minds. Any other response is difficult to imagine in the face of such blatant disregard for scientific evidence