Whether it’s science, history or politics, when what people believe comes up against what actually is true, we know which one’s winning that battle. Exhibit A begins below.
Ever tried to convince somebody to change their mind on a subject that, to us, seems blindingly clear? A topic on which the science is definitive, the data are unimpeachable and the facts of the matter are statistically significant?
Of course you have, if you care more than a whit about the business of animal agriculture and the food products that are staples of the American diet.
And if your experiences were anything like literally hundreds of mine in similar circumstances, the results were predictable: You go nowhere. The person didn’t budge, the needle didn’t move, the tsunami of factual evidence you likely delivered accomplished exactly nothing.
Zip, zero, nada.
We’re witnesses to that phenomenon being played out daily during the presidential campaign, and unfortunately, the same dynamic is in full force when it comes to the public’s beliefs and misconceptions about food production.
Denying the research
Take GMOs. Please.
Even though a committee formed by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine — as prominent and credible an organization as there is — declared that genetically modified crops are not only safe, but beneficial for people and the environment, you’d have about as much success convincing anti-GMO activists of those facts as you would convincing Donald Trump he’d look more presidential with a buzz cut.
“When you look at consumer opposition to the use of GM technologies in food and account for the label, we found that overall the label has no direct impact on opposition,” Jane Kolodinsky, a professor at the University of Vermont, chair of the Community Development and Applied Economics Department, and author of the Academies’ GMO report, said in a statement released by the university.
Kolodinsky added that the committee’s research revealed that people predisposed to avoid GMO ingredients would do so, and those who either want GMO ingredients or are indifferent about them would make that choice.
In reference to the bill passed in the Senate that critics claimed effectively neutered mandatory labeling laws, such as the legislation in Vermont, Kolodinsky said that, “The [GMO] label would not signal to consumers that GMO ingredients are inferior to those produced using other agricultural production methods.”
Tell that to the more virulent faction of the groups opposed to genetic engineering, and the meltdown would resemble what you see on-screen in “Star Trek: Beyond,” as the hideous bioweapon developed by the rogue Starfleet commander commences to shred everything in its path.
(Wait — I should have to added “Spoiler Alert” before that sentence. Did I mention Starfleet? Ha, ha. No, no. I meant the “evil alien” who develops a hideous bioweapon).
For the record, the Academies’ report, “Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects,” is 388 pages long, and having read through it, I can testify that it’s as thorough as it gets.
Did I say I read it? I meant to say, I thoroughly skimmed it.
Well, the Executive Summary, anyway.
Here’s what the 27 distinguished scientists and staffers concluded (in the summary):
“The available evidence indicates that GE soybean, cotton, and maize have generally had favorable economic outcomes for producers . . . depending on pest abundance, farming practices, and agricultural infrastructure. The crops with the insect-resistant trait generally decreased yield losses and the use of insecticides on small and large farms.” [italics added]
Tell that to the activists, and you’d either get a flat denial — “That’s not true!” — or a “Yeah, but . . .” followed by some counter-argument that attempts to dismiss what careful, conservative scientists spent months determining.
And how about the other beef people harbor against GMOs? “Harmful to human health!” or, “We don’t really have any evidence that they’re safe!”
Quoting again from the Academies’ report, here’s what the science says:
“The committee also examined epidemiological data on incidence of cancers and other human-health problems over time and found no substantiated evidence that foods from GE crops were less safe than foods from non-GE crops. [italics added]
Proof positive, right?
Not when that reality squares off against the perception of Frankenfoods.
Perception by a TKO every time.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.