Our View: Let the Science Speak for Itself

September 11, 2014
Farm Policy Facts has never shied away from calling out farm policy critics for mischaracterizing agriculture, defying common sense, or twisting facts to suit their agendas.
 
Yet for all the foolishness we’ve encountered – like comparing farmers to cheap drunks at an open bar, or critics’ close ties with Brazil, or erroneous claims of billionaires receiving farm policy benefits – this might take the cake.
 
Apparently in the world of environmental extremism, independent scientists from some of the country’s top academic institutions are enemies of truth who cannot be trusted.
 
At least that’s what a group of GMO activists appear to be saying, and their end goal appears to be torpedoing an upcoming, independent National Academy of Sciences meeting on GMOs.
 
Beginning Sept. 15, a National Academy of Sciences committee will host a series of public hearings designed to produce a new study that takes a “scientific-based look at genetically engineered crops.”
 
The scientific committee explains the rationale for the study, which will be compiled by the National Research Council, this way:

People around the world have a wide range of questions and opinions about the economic, agronomic, health, safety, or other impacts of GE crops and food. Claims and research that extol both the benefits and risks of GE crops have created a confusing landscape for the public and for policy makers. This National Research Council study is intended to provide an independent, objective examination of what has been learned since the introduction of GE crops, based on current evidence. The study will assess whether initial concerns and promises were realized since the introduction of GE crops and will investigate new concerns and recent claims.

Seems pretty straightforward and logical. 
 
Yet, Agri-Pulse recently reported that the Pesticide Action Network of North America and other known opponents of GMO technology are howling about the conference. And that’s despite the fact that many of GMO’s staunchest opponents have been invited to speak at the first public meeting.
 
By sending opposition letters and using their PR assets, critics are “trying to lay the groundwork to fault the eventual findings of the study that they fear will ratify the global scientific consensus in support of biotech agriculture,” Agri-Pulse writes.
 
In other words, extremists are bashing an independent scientific study that has yet to be written because they are confident scientific evidence supports the safety of biotech crops.
 
Their fears that science will side with agriculture appear justified.
 
Agri-Pulse noted that a National Academy of Sciences committee found in 2010 “substantial net environmental and economic benefits” from farm related biotechnology.”
 
The National Academy of Sciences isn’t alone.
 
Scientific American, a renowned independent scientific journal, editorialized against GMO food labeling on Aug. 20, noting that such policies would spread confusion and slow scientific development.
 
Add to that the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the World Health Organization that note GMO crops are just as safe as other foods, and scores of anti-labeling editorials by big newspapers and you’ve got a pretty compelling case on your hands.
 
Farm Policy Facts has been careful not to wade too deep into the contentious GMO debate. We believe that American agriculture is beautiful for its diversity and that all farms should be celebrated – big and small, conventional and organic alike.
 
But we do believe in facts. And in our opinion, agricultural critics would be wise to stop trying to strong-arm scientific debate and should instead let science present unbiased facts to help guide decision-making.