Keith Kloor has an excellent article at Slate on how scientific denialism is not the exclusive province of the Right: GMO Opponents Are the Climate Skeptics of the Left.
This hit home for me, because I’ve been following this issue for a while. People like Dan Kahan (whom Kloor quotes in his article) have been (gently) taking people like Chris Mooney to task for their willingness to paint science denialism as a conservative-specific thing.
It also was kind of depressing for me to see how Mark Frauenfelder at Boing Boing, a site I like a lot (obviously, since I repost stuff from there all the time) was willing to run a really propagandistic piece attacking the No on 37 campaign (the campaign to defeat California’s Proposition 37, which would require labeling of [some] genetically modified food). It especially saddened me to have a couple of comments (including my own) that I think were quite civil and reasonable, but criticized Fraunfelder for doing that, quietly deleted from the comments there.
Anyway, links for that stuff:
- The dumb “No on 37” campaign to defeat labels on genetically engineered food – Frauenfelder’s original article.
- Of GM corn and rat tumors: Why peer reviewed doesn’t mean “accurate” – First of two sanity-restoring articles by Maggie Koerth-Baker, Boing Boing’s science editor.
- Authors of study linking GM corn with rat tumors manipulated media to prevent criticism of their work – Second of two Koerth-Baker articles setting things straight.
The thing that bugged me about Frauenfelder’s original piece, even after he updated it to acknowledge that the “GMO corn gives rats tumors” study was problematic, was the glib way he seemed to assume that by simply looking at the budgets and list of donors on either side of the Proposition 37 campaign, he could determine which side was the Good Guys and which were the Bad Guys. Here’s what he said:
When I visited the site I was impressed by processed food conglomerates’ desperation to defeat this bill. Monsanto is one of the corporations spending money to defeat 37 (According to Yes on 37, Monsanto, DuPont, Bayer, Dow, BASF and Syngenta have donated $19 million to No on 37).
Big food companies are indeed pushing to defeat Prop 37. And somewhat smaller organic food companies are pushing to pass it. In each case, the financial incentive of the people trying to influence the outcome is clear. But the reality of whether GMO foods are, in fact, dangerous, and whether the public interest will be served by mandatory labeling, has nothing to do with how you feel about the companies that stand to profit if the measure passes or fails. It’s a scientific question, and it’s true or not based on how the universe actually works.
Michael Hiltzik had a good piece about this in the LA Times last week: Prop. 37: Another example of the perils of the initiative process.