I hope you had a chance to catch the quick, fifteen-minute segment on GMOs on Dr. Oz’s show this morning. Dr. Oz, whose show reaches over three and a half million people, featured three guests – Dr. Pamela Ronald, pro-GMO author of Tomorrow’s Table, Dr Michael Hansen, a researcher with Consumer’s Union and Jeffrey Smith, hopefully well known to all of you as the founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology and author of Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods. As part of Down to Earth’s commitment to educating the community about the dangers of GM foods, we’ve featured Jeffrey Smith’s research in a number of recent blog posts.
Although Dr. Oz made an effort to keep the debate balanced, it was clear from the start that Dr. Ronald faced an uphill battle convincing people that untested GMOs pose no health risks to consumers. In an audience poll done before the debate, 80% of the audience said they would not purchase GM foods if they were labeled. I suspect that the reason most of them preferred not to eat them is because they knew nothing about them, not because they were already convinced that GMOs are dangerous. Most humans and animals have an adaptive aversion to putting things in their mouths that they know nothing about. So it was hard to sell people on the idea that GMOs are perfectly safe, no further studies need to be done and there is no debate among scientists about their safety when it was obvious to anyone paying attention that there IS a debate – that’s why Dr. Oz decided to hold one on his show in the first place.
Dr. Ronald claimed repeatedly that there is a worldwide consensus among scientists that GMOs pose no health risks to humans. This is obviously false. In fact, Dr. Hansen, the scientist sitting right next to her on the panel, was clearly not “perfectly comfortable” with the safety of GM crops as Dr. Ronald claimed. Dr. Oz also pointed out that six European Union countries have banned GMOs from being grown within their borders, which indicates that at least a couple scientists around the world think there might be something to be concerned about.
This is the most important point: if nothing else, we need more safety tests done, published and peer-reviewed before we continue to allow genetically modified plants into the environment where they can never be recalled. In the meantime, we need mandatory labeling of GM foods so people at least have the option to avoid them if they want to.
The reality is that certain people are against GMOs on the principle that we shouldn’t mess with Mother Nature and other people are convinced GMOs are the future of food on the principle that technology is always an improvement over natural systems. But the majority of people haven’t made up their mind yet. Monsanto and its minions shouldn’t be bullying these people to eat their science experiments by falsely claiming that everyone who knows what they’re talking about already agrees that GMOs are perfectly safe, and if you disagree it’s because you’re an ignorant, radical troublemaker who hates biotechnology because you don’t understand it.
Although the segment was too brief, and each debater wasn’t able to do much more than add a sound bite or two, I hope this broad exposure will bring much needed awareness to the issue of genetically modified foods. I cheered when Dr. Oz did a close up of the Non GMO Project Verified label at the start of the show. Down to Earth is a charter member of the Non GMO Project, and we do our best to promote the products that live up to the Project's rigorous standards. Hopefully, this label will become more prominent in consumers minds and, as Dr. Oz reminded his audience, the issue will be decided when we vote with our pocketbooks three times a day.