Scientific American goes totally pro-GMO

magazine cover for Scientific American
via Scientific American

Last week, I wrote about a Scientific American article that extolled the benefits of genetically modified crops, but seemed light on counter arguments.

What I didn't realize is that the magazine has gone totally pro-GMO. In an editorial authored by "The Editors," the entire publication came out against required labeling for foods that contain genetically modified organisms.

They argue that labeling GMOs would cause food costs to rise, in addition to returning to the argument that GMO foods fight food insecurity:

"Antagonism toward GMO foods also strengthens the stigma against a technology that has delivered enormous benefits to people in developing countries and promises far more. Recently published data from a seven-year study of Indian farmers show that those growing a genetically modified crop increased their yield per acre by 24 percent and boosted profits by 50 percent."
Naturally, proponents of GMO labeling are fighting back. One issue is that the editorial conflates people who want GMO labeling with people who are totally anti-GMO. Many people who support GMO labeling are not necessarily against genetic engineering research nor its application, but are fighting for better transparency. Someone who is concerned about pesticide-producing corn might not be opposed to vitamin-enhanced rice. Stacie Orell, the campaign director for GMO Free N.Y., is one such person, she tells the Daily News:

Specifically, she noted the inclusion of a passage about the benefits of golden rice, a GMO crop that targets vitamin A deficiency that often leads to blindness in the developing world.

"While I’m not against the idea of golden rice, its benefits in practice remain unknown,” Orell said. “These are theoretical ideas that the bio-tech industry often uses to green-wash the issue.”

Stacy Malkan, the former director for Yes on 37, California's unsuccessful GMO labeling campaign, told the Daily News she found further issue with the article:

“The editorial is sloppy and unscientific,” Malkan told the Daily News. “Saying the FDA has tested all the GMOs on the market is patently false. Each individual company is responsible for testing its own products, and they then decide if they want to voluntarily report it to FDA. But they aren't required to test or report.”

Mark Bitman, the food writer for The New York Times, also weighed in:

"Rather than providing consumers with useful information, they suggest, labels would only heighten the misconceptions that genetically modified foods endanger our health. The same would be true for anything else questionable, I suppose; sounds like a dumb position for a sometimes-smart magazine."

Scientific American goes totally pro-GMO
The magazine rallies against GMO-labeling and denounces opponents of genetically modified crops as "unscientific."