“If you love it so much, why don’t you marry it?”
Who doesn’t remember this ridiculous line from their childhood? The schoolyard taunt was directed at a whole array of things that one might be inclined to defend – best friends, the teacher, or your favorite color crayon. Normally, or hopefully, most people grow out of such childish taunts when they reach an adult age and start to mature.
Apparently that isn’t necessarily true for anti-GMO activists and, unfortunately, one interviewer used such a taunt against a respected scientist while he was attempting to promote Golden Rice. The now infamous YouTube video shows a short clip of an interview with Dr. Patrick Moore, where he states that glyphosate does not cause cancer and that you could drink a quart of it without it hurting you. The interviewer then mocks Dr. Moore by offering him a glass of glyphosate to drink. Realizing the interview is a sham, Dr. Moore ends the interview and walks off camera.
The video clip launched the attack by anti-GMO activists of Dr. Moore and anyone supporting genetic modification – if glyphosate is so safe, then why don’t you drink it? Naturally, activists also alleged that Dr. Moore was a paid Monsanto lobbyist.
So, first of all, who is Dr. Moore?
Dr. Moore, who has styled himself as The Sensible Environmentalist, works primarily on efforts to promote adoption of Golden Rice. As a co-founder of Greenpeace in Canada, he dropped out of the organization quite a while ago and has written about his experiences since that time. The real reason activists have a problem with him is his positive position regarding genetically modified crops.
(If you forgot, Golden Rice is the rice that has been genetically engineered to include higher levels of Vitamin A. The goal of the GMO is to help children in parts of India, where Vitamin A deficiency is prevalent and causes blindness. I stated before, and still maintain, that opposing such a product simply because you’re afraid of genetic engineering is unethical and selfish. But, I digress….)
Oh, and Dr. Moore has nothing to do with Monsanto. Of course, glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Round-Up, which can be paired with Round-Up Ready corn, soybeans, and sugar beets as one of the most prevalent genetically modified traits being used in the world.
Now, I’m not that familiar with Dr. Moore’s work, so I have no idea where he stands on a whole host of issues that I may find important. Nor do I care to find out, because that isn’t the real issue here. The entire drama gives us a glimpse at just how contentious and ridiculous this entire conversation has become. Forget Dr. Moore for a second, his comment was dumb anyway.
The real issue is that we now have a whole movement that really honestly believes that we should go around judging whether or not something is safe for use by whether or not we would drink a glass of it. While it may have started as a way to mock Dr. Moore, this has somehow become a slogan and justification for hating GMOs. Just like Food Babe refusing to eat ingredients if she cannot pronounce the name, we now have a bunch of activists steadfastly refusing to listen to reason on technology because we wouldn’t drink a glass of Round-Up.
Though, I suppose if you’re going to out right deny science, then I shouldn’t be so surprised that you think this is a justified argument. With over 2,000 studies showing that the genetically modified crops available commercially are safe, activists want to divert attention to the ridiculous off-the-cuff comment by a scientist during a live interview. How about addressing some of the real fallacies to your claims?
Or, just for a moment consider how you’re hurting farmers and consumers with your false allegations against biotechnology? It’s so easy to poke fun and joke around when you don’t have a care in the world for the hard-working farm families that provide the food in your pantries. Not to mention that while activists are out employing schoolyard taunts, farmers are trying to figure out a way to feed 9 billion people by the year 2050 with less inputs – that will require doubling production numbers from 2008, by the way.
One good thing did come from the drama. The taunt inspired Kavin Senapathy to start a hash tag trend on Twitter. #IfItsSafeThenDrinkIt encouraged followers to post photos of products that are safe, but that we probably won’t be drinking a glass of any time soon.
A couple of my favorites:
— Kavin Senapathy (@ksenapathy) March 29, 2015
— J. D. Horschel (@HorschEL_Jefe) March 29, 2015
Oh, and in case you’re wondering how Dr. Moore feels about his less-than-charismatic answer, Dr. Moore offered the following as an explanation for what actually happened:
For many years, my opponents have claimed that I am a paid lobbyist for GMO seed companies, in particular Monsanto. This is a technique used to avoid debating the science that proves Golden Rice and GM foods are safe. Monsanto has now issued a statement that I have never been employed by them (link 2 below) so I will no longer have to put up with that lie. Personally, I admire Monsanto’s leadership in improving many crop varieties, through both conventional breeding and transgenic breeding.
Unfortunately, I accidentally gave my opponents another distraction to use while being interviewed on French TV a few months back. I was extremely upset with this interviewer as he lured me to an interview under false pretences. It was meant to be an interview on Golden Rice and he pulled a stunt on me. The video has since been cleverly edited to distort my actual opinions on the subjects discussed.
I did not intend to say that glyphosate was “safe” to drink, it is not intended for consumption. My point was that in almost all cases it is non-lethal to drink in large quantities and therefore ‘safe’ in the manner that it is used in farming worldwide.
I conduct hundreds of live interviews each year and this is not the first time I have made a mistake under the pressure of a live interview and probably won’t be the last. Only those who put themselves in this situation would understand how difficult it is to do a live interview with a hostile host.
I had stated in a previous interview that glyphosate was safe to use in agriculture and mentioned that it has such low toxicity that drinking a large quantity of it at the concentrations used in farming would not cause permanent damage to humans. In the middle of the interview now being circulated, the interviewer abruptly changed the subject to glyphosate and asked if I would drink a glass of it on camera. I blew up at him because clearly only a fool would drink an unknown substance offered by a hostile stranger live on camera. I had never said I would drink glyphosate in the first place, only that nearly all the people who have tried to commit suicide by drinking it have failed. And they were drinking concentrations of glyphosate far higher than those used as a spray to control weeds. Glyphosate is sold as a concentrate and is typically diluted to 1- 2% with water before it is applied.
You can read his full comments here.