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Why People Oppose GMOs Even Though Science Says they're Safe

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout: Debate & Discussion' started by rocketsjudoka, Aug 20, 2015.

  1. rocketsjudoka

    rocketsjudoka Member
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    Personally I'm neutral on the subject of GMOs. I think some of the fear about them is alarmist and unscientific, such as eating GMO foods will somehow alter our genetic code. I think though there are still many issues out there that should be concerning such as the idea of patenting genes and while genetic modifications happen all the time in nature and humans have been tampering with the genetics of plants and animals for millennia through selective breeding the type of modifications that genetic engineering allow for are unprecedented and I'm not sure what the longterm implications of them are. This piece though does address some of the basic squeamishness that might underlie much of the opposition to GMO.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/a...-gmos-even-though-science-says-they-are-safe/

    Why People Oppose GMOs Even Though Science Says They Are Safe

    Intuition can encourage opinions that are contrary to the facts



    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.
    see also:

    Energy & Sustainability: Bigger Cities Aren't Always Greener, Data Show | Evolution: Bird Cries Wolf to Deceive Predator 40 Times Its Size | Health: Pharma Watch: Raising Awareness or Drumming Up Sales? | Space: Sun Accused of Stealing Planetary Objects from Another Star | Technology: Introducing the First Vehicle Powered by Evaporation | More Science: Baby Chicks' Mental Number Line Looks Like Ours

    Disgust also affects people’s attitudes towards GMOs. The emotion probably evolved, at least in part, as a pathogen avoidance mechanism, preventing the body from consuming or touching harmful substances. We feel repelled by things that possibly contain or indicate the presence of pathogens such as bodily fluids, rotten meat, and maggots. This would explain why disgust operates on a hair trigger: it is better to forego an edible meal under the misguided assumption that it is contaminated, than to consume sickening, or even lethal, food that is erroneously thought to be safe. Hence, disgust can be elicited by completely innocuous food.

    GMOs probably trigger disgust because people view genetic modification as a contamination. The effect is enforced when the introduced DNA comes from a species that is generally deemed disgusting, such as rats or cockroaches. However, DNA is DNA, whatever its source. The impact of disgust explains why people feel more averse towards GM food than other GM applications, such as GM medicine. Once disgust is elicited, the argument that GMOs cause cancer or sterility, or that they will contaminate the environment, becomes very convincing and is often used. Disgust also affects moral judgments, leading people to condemn everyone who is involved with the development and commercialization of GM products. Because people have no conscious access to the emotional source of their judgments, they consequently look for arguments to rationalize them.

    Our cognitive analysis is not intended to debunk every anti-GMO claim a priori. A particular GM application may have unwanted effects, which can also be the case with a product of organic or conventional farming. The risks and benefits should be assessed on a case-to-case basis, regardless of the process. The current applications have been proven to be safe. One may take issue with the involvement of multinationals or be concerned about herbicide resistance, but these issues have to do with how GM technology is sometimes applied and certainly do not warrant resistance to the technology and to GMOs in general. The emotional and intuitive basis of anti-GMO sentiments however prevents people from making these distinctions.

    The impact of intuitions and emotions on people’s understanding of, and attitudes towards, GMOs has important implications for science education and communication. Because the mind is prone to distorting or rejecting scientific information in favour of more intuitive beliefs, simply transmitting the facts will not necessarily persuade people of the safety, or benefits, of GMOs, especially if people have been subjected to emotive, anti-GMO propaganda.

    In the long run, education starting from a young age and specifically targeted at tackling common misconceptions might immunize the population against unsubstantiated anti-GMO messages. Other concerns can be addressed and discussed in the wider context of agricultural practices and the place of science and technology in society. However, for now, the best way to turn the tide and generate a more positive public response to GMOs is to play into people’s intuitions as well. For instance, emphasizing the benefits of current and future GM applications — improved soil structures because herbicide resistant crops require less or no tilling, higher income for farmers in developing countries, reduced vitamin A deficiency, virus and drought resistance, to name a few — might constitute the most effective approach to changing people’s minds. Given the benefits and promises of GM technology, such a change is much needed.
    ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

    Stefaan Blancke is a philosopher at Ghent University and co-editor of Creationism in Europe (Johns Hopkins UP, 2014). His interests include pseudoscience and the way it reflects underlying intuitions. He has also published on the history of science, public understanding of science and science education, often from evolutionary and cognitive perspectives.
     
  2. val_modus

    val_modus Member

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    I do bieve that most people's opposition against GMOs is based on false grounds and no scientific evidence. But most people in this country are morons, especially in regards to scientific literacy.

    The part of the scientific community that is atleast concerned with widespread GMO use does so on different grounds than what most of the population does. Some of these reasons include the decline of genetic diversity in agriculture (which could have disastrous consequences), transgenic movement of certain "resistance" genes (antibiotic, weed, etc), and accumulation of certain designer genes in our foods/everyday lives. The article very briefly mentions these things in one of its paragraphs, but doesn't really dive into the interesting counterpoints against gmo use.

    There is a cost-benefit element to GMOs that we just haven't been able to engage dialogue in as a nation... Passing legislation that makes it ok for food companies not to label what GMOs they're using doesn't help either.
     
  3. Remii

    Remii Member

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    Science will tell you God isn't real and humans have been on the planet longer than 4000-5000 years...

    What's your point...???
     
  4. bnb

    bnb Member

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    Monsanto has not been particularly nice to smaller farmers. Many of us simply want labeling. Whether we buy non-GMO for ethical, pseudo science, or perceived health reasons, we want that info avail.

    There's so much on labels already, it's not a big inconvenience or cost to producers. It's just lousy marketing -- which is why the industry is fighting like mad to keep it off the label.
     
  5. RedRedemption

    RedRedemption Member

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    Are you saying you disagree? :confused:
    Whether or not you believe in a God is one thing, and that is fine... but you don't believe humans have been on this Earth for longer than that?
     
  6. Amiga

    Amiga 10 years ago...
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    Science doesn't tell you that about God. Science doesn't work with the unobservable.
     
    1 person likes this.
  7. fchowd0311

    fchowd0311 Member

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    Science doesn't say that god isn't real. It doesn't make any claims about a god.
     
  8. Amiga

    Amiga 10 years ago...
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    No study on long term effects. It has only been 2 decades.

    Anything new that go into our body and environment takes time to know the effect. We don't think so based on current data, but let's see in 30-50 years.

    Not against GMO. It's a necessity for human especially in the latter part of this century. Awards outweight risks. But careful eyes need to be maintained on it.
     
  9. Rocket River

    Rocket River Member

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    Science also said Tobacco didn't cause cancer for like 3~4 decades

    Rocket River
     
  10. Bobbythegreat

    Bobbythegreat Member
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    I think the issue here is that a lot of people's things is subject to a naturalistic fallacy. Thinking what occurs naturally is inherently "good" and what doesn't occur naturally is inherently "bad".

    I don't really have an opinion on GMO's one way or the other because I don't know enough about them. That said, I wouldn't dismiss or fear them simply because they are not natural, and I feel like that's what a lot of people are doing.
     
  11. Remii

    Remii Member

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    I'm saying people have the right to believe what they want to believe and should have the right to know what they are eating without other people bytch'n about it. Especially when scientists approve drugs all the time that have to be recalled for F'n people up.

    But what's going on here is an example of why these big corporations have all this power and run the government.
     
  12. Commodore

    Commodore Member

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    same reason people oppose nuclear power; stupid leftists with a microphone
     
  13. Mr. Brightside

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    A lot of people I know who only eat organic and won't touch GMO don't even know what GMO stands for when I ask them. They just heard it's bad.
     
  14. Invisible Fan

    Invisible Fan Member

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    There was a lengthy and nicely sourced Salon article about GMO alarmism by one of our own. It changed my mind on certain things.

    I think it's fairly measured, sometimes preachy but overall pretty compelling.

    As it is now, there's no distinction between Good/Bad GMOs or Good/Bad pesticides on food labeling. Thinking in binary makes things conceptually simpler, but in this case, it complicates **** and makes the categorization systematically useless.
     
  15. SF3isBack!!

    SF3isBack!! Member

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    Science as far as religion goes proves that certain elements of the bible are wrong but it can't prove there is no god.
     
  16. thumbs

    thumbs Member

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    What's the controversy? We have been eating GMOs since the days of Gregor Mendel.
     
  17. CometsWin

    CometsWin Breaker Breaker One Nine

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    We don't know the effects of GMO on us or the environment. Blanketing all GMO as safe because some haven't had any issues is not helpful. There are a variety of things that were once thought safe that turned out to be quite dangerous so I'm prepared to let others be the guinea pigs. Plus, the idea that you could own the genetic code for certain foods is ridiculous.
     
  18. Rocket River

    Rocket River Member

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    I don't understand why people have such an issue with people know what they consuming.

    So much . . .WE KNOW WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU . .. TRUST US . . . YOU DON'T NEED OR EVEN HAVE THE RIGHT TO KNOW . . . BE CAUSE WE KNOW BETTER AND WELL . . SCIENCE

    Why fight to simply put information on it?
    These are the people IMO would have fought to not have products put their ingredients on products back in the early 1900s . . . .because . . .. TRUST US and TRUST BUSINESS.

    Probably wonder why we even need an FDA . .. because Corporations will behave without it and if they don't people won't buy it . .. . right?

    Rocket River
     
  19. Mr. Clutch

    Mr. Clutch Member

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  20. Northside Storm

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    My key problem with GMO has and always remains the following:

    "The new botany aligns the development of plants with their economic, not evolutionary, success."

    It's science rushed for the madhouse system we currently have, a system that will in a mere century or two devour all of the resources that took millions of years to develop and consolidate.

    That will have dire consequences, consequences human beings in their short span of time have shown a surprising willingness to sink into.

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v471/n7336/full/nature09678.html

    The next time you're raging on about an irrelevant paper debt passed onto the next generation, consider the total destruction of biodiversity our collective "economic utility" is accelerating--and how the only people who are really raking it in are a select class of Monsanto et. al owner/shareholder types and highly subsidized upper-class mega-farms.

     
    #20 Northside Storm, Aug 20, 2015
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2015

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