It must be hard to be an aspiring writer. I, thankfully, am neither a writer nor aspiring to be, but our subject today is. On Saturday in the Guardian Liberty Voice, Gregory Baskin showed us what happens when you trade quality for quantity in the quest to become established. You can read it here. Although it was probably as much ideologically driven as it was hurried, I can’t help but think that the Guardian’s “boot-camp” program, in which new writers have to produce a set number of articles, had something to do with the absolute shoddiness of his – and I hate to use quotation marks this way, but – “reporting”.
Chapter 1: In which it is revealed that I am an asshole
Can I call you Greg? Look, it’s not all bad. You’ve got a real knack for combining true things like, “Hillary Clinton spoke at a biotech event and delivered a pro-GMO message,” with things you’d like to be true about how GMOs are icky. I think I cracked your code though. Everytime you say something that isn’t remotely supported by the evidence but fits your preconceptions, you just throw a comma on there and a “critics say” and BAM! – reporting. Bet you learned that in college.
The most important thing that you need to learn Greg, is that the “inter” part of interwebs means that you can link every fallacious statement you make back to the person who said it. You should try doing this as a habit so that in the future, I can mock them as well. If you run short on time, just link to Alex Jones‘s wikipedia page.
THIS IS NOT GOOD CITATION.
There are two reasons. First, none of those links support your claims. Secondly, if they did, you’d want to put them within the text, near the statements they supported.
Using the orange-kiwi image was cute though. It’s got this unassuming power to totally mislead people about what GMOs are, but with a light spin. Definitely better than the other go-to photos for a GMO story: someone injecting a tomato, or a stock photo of DNA. Those would be real downers. This feels more like, “teehee, what a fun summer’s afternoon, a kiwi inside an orange, weird! Let’s not talk about how we’re going to feed the growing population of the third world without using GMOs, fuck them!”
Chapter 2: Onward, to the very article itself!
Critics point to a number of issues against the use of GMOs in agriculture, starting with the warning that genetic engineering interrupts a food plant’s genetic code, thus possibly creating toxins, allergenic agents or altering the nutritional value of the food produced.
I appreciate this valuable warning Greg. You raise very valid points about how making changes to things could change things. The problem of course is that no one is arguing for the irresponsible use of GM technology, not even Monsanto. See your concerns were universally shared in the early days of biotech, so stringent regulations and testing were put in place to avoid these exact concerns. But I’m glad you’ve wisely decided to preempt that process and forgo any benefits that might be derived from these new technologies.
Another warning is that pollens from GMO plants are inevitably released into the atmosphere, thus pollinating non-GMO plants and forever altering the latter’s more pristine genetic codes.
This is actually the least inaccurate thing you say in the entire article. I’m sure that you meant it merely to connote the difference between those innocent wholesome natural domesticated plants and the evil, rotten GMO crops that make forbidden love to them with their pollen, but your use of “pristine” made me laugh a bit. The scattershot of natural mutation has created large sections of non-coding, not selected for, repetitive, or unused DNA in every species, and many of what we consider “normal” domesticants barely even resemble their wild counterparts. I don’t expect you to become an expert on what you are writing about as a citizen journalist, but if you don’t even have a basic understanding, you might want to stick with just citizen.
A third warning from critics is that GMOs can actually kill other organisms. For example, corn genetically modified with the Bt toxin (the intention was for the plant to manufacture its own pesticide) has been found responsible for the destruction of monarch butterfly larvae. Similar impacts could effect other plant and animal species, critics say.
HOLY SHIT, NOT THE FUCKING BUTTERFLIES. And monarch? Those were my favorite kind. Thankfully that isn’t true, according to the USDA and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. See you can only get monarchs to suffer negative effects from BT corn pollen when you COVER milkweed in it, in far greater concentrations than are found in the middle of a corn field. Important information, sure, it will help guide future research. But for now I’ll have to continue murdering butterflies the old fashioned way, by hand.
Perhaps the most sinister argument of the anti-GMO crowd is that the trend is the final blow in the century-long global decline of small farmers. Power, they say, is concentrated with the very few corporations that own the patents for the plant seeds, and this dictates in farmers an addictive dependency on the must-be-purchased seeds and chemical inputs. Indeed, many see the epidemic of Indian farmers committing suicide (270,000 between 1995 and 2012) as being sourced in the inevitable abyss of debt generated by the requirement to buy ever-more-costly chemicals and GMO seeds.
Whew, I thought you had my heartstrings pulled to the limit with the butterfly thing, but now you’ve really upped the ante Greg. Your wording is a little strange though. It took a long time for you to never mention that a suicide rate of 7 per 100,000 amongst Indian farmers is substantially lower than the national average of 15. Seems like the kind of thing I’d put right up at the front of that paragraph then maybe delete the rest of what you wrote, find some sackcloth and ashes and spend a while considering how you misused the plight of genuinely suffering people to justify your ideology about corn.
Oh right, I’m sorry. The “critics” did that, he said knowingly.