Why People Oppose GMOs Even Though Science Says They Are Safe

I used to be part of the anti-GMO thing until it was pointed out how without GMO foods we would lose a billion or two people to starvation.  As of today we have 7.363 billion people on this planet and are headed towards a massive population crash like a runaway train.

Loss of several billion people to starvation is inevitable unless we stop the population bomb now with one child only policies.

From Scientific American:  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-people-oppose-gmos-even-though-science-says-they-are-safe/

Intuition can encourage opinions that are contrary to the facts

By Stefaan Blancke
August 18, 2015

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have met with enormous public opposition over the past two decades. Many people believe that GMOs are bad for their health – even poisonous – and that they damage the environment. This is in spite of overwhelming scientific evidence that proves that GMOs are safe to eat, and that they bring environmental benefits by making agriculture more sustainable. Why is there such a discrepancy between what the science tells us about GMOs, and what people think? To be sure, some concerns, such as herbicide resistance in weeds and the involvement of multinationals, are not without basis, but they are not specific to GMOs. Hence, another question we need to answer is why these arguments become more salient in the context of GMOs.

I recently published a paper, with a group of Belgian biotechnologists and philosophers from Ghent University, arguing that negative representations of GMOs are widespread and compelling because they are intuitively appealing. By tapping into intuitions and emotions that mostly work under the radar of conscious awareness, but are constituent of any normally functioning human mind, such representations become easy to think. They capture our attention, they are easily processed and remembered and thus stand a greater chance of being transmitted and becoming popular, even if they are untrue. Thus, many people oppose GMOs, in part, because it just makes sense that they would pose a threat.

In the paper, we identify several intuitions that may affect people’s perception of GMOs. Psychological essentialism, for instance, makes us think of DNA as an organism’s “essence” – an unobservable and immutable core that causes the organism’s behaviour and development and determines its identity. As such, when a gene is transferred between two distantly related species, people are likely to believe that this process will cause characteristics typical of the source organism to emerge in the recipient. For example, in an opinion survey in the United States, more than half of respondents said that a tomato modified with fish DNA would taste like fish (of course, it would not).

Essentialism clearly plays a role in public attitudes towards GMOs. People are typically more opposed to GM applications that involve the transfer of DNA between two different species (“transgenic”) than within the same species (“cisgenic”). Anti-GMO organizations, such as NGOs, exploit these intuitions by publishing images of tomatoes with fish tails or by telling the public that companies modify corn with scorpion DNA to make crispier cereals.

Intuitions about purposes and intentions also have an impact on people’s thinking about GMOs. They render us vulnerable to the idea that purely natural phenomena exist or happen for a purpose that is intended by some agent. These assumptions are part and parcel of religious beliefs, but in secular environments they lead people to regard nature as a beneficial process or entity that secures our wellbeing and that humans shouldn’t meddle with. In the context of opposition to GMOs, genetic modification is deemed “unnatural” and biotechnologists are accused of “playing God”. The popular term “Frankenfood” captures what is at stake: by going against the will of nature in an act of hubris, we are bound to bring enormous disaster upon ourselves.

Continue reading at:  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-people-oppose-gmos-even-though-science-says-they-are-safe/

One Response to “Why People Oppose GMOs Even Though Science Says They Are Safe”

  1. Edith Pilkington Says:

    Interesting article, Stuart Brand, apparently, feels similarly. I think they should be labeled so people can make their minds up for themselves but then again, when I look at that abstract linked to on “psychological essentialism” I realize how distorted people’s impressions can be. That damn Elsevier, though; I wish I could get the whole article. That’s what Aaron Swartz died for.


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