The stupidity of knee-jerk anti-GMO

I caught the end of this depressing GMO story on NPR last week.  Apparently, the marketplace– led by anti-GMO luddites– has decided that sugar from sugar beets is less worthy because sugar beets are modified to by Glysophate tolerant:

About half of all sugar in the U.S. comes from sugar beets, and the other half comes from sugar cane. Now, for the first time, sugar traders are treating these as two different commodities, with two different prices.

It’s all because about eight years ago, nearly all the farmers who grow sugar beets in the United States decided to start growing genetically modified versions of their crop. The GMO beets, which can tolerate the weedkiller glyphosate, otherwise known as Roundup, made it easier for them to get rid of weeds…

Just in the past two years, though, that’s changed. Many food companies have decided to label their products as non-GMO. And because practically all sugar beets in the U.S. are genetically modified, those food products are now using sugar derived from sugar cane grown in Florida, Louisiana or outside the U.S. There isn’t any genetically modified sugar cane…

Maybe this would be rational if consumers were averse to sugar plants sprayed with herbicides, but that’s not it all.  It’s simply an irrational fear of things labeled GMO.  And, of course, the non-GMO sugar actually causes more use of herbicide:

Planting genetically modified sugar beets allows them to kill their weeds with fewer chemicals. Beyer says he sprays Roundup just a few times during the growing season, plus one application of another chemical to kill off any Roundup-resistant weeds.

He says that planting non-GMO beets would mean going back to what they used to do, spraying their crop every 10 days or so with a “witches brew” of five or six different weedkillers.

“The chemicals we used to put on the beets in [those] days were so much harsher for the guy applying them and for the environment,” he says. “To me, it’s insane to think that a non-GMO beet is going to be better for the environment, the world, or the consumer.” [emphasis mine]

Ugh.  And, as for GMO food somehow being “unnatural,” you know what’s “unnatural”?  Pretty much everything we eat.  It is a product of centuries of genetic modification through a process known as artificial selection.  Sure, GMO allows for far more dramatic impact on the genome, but traditional plant breeding changes things plenty. To wit, I love this Vox post on how much some of our favorite foods have changed, e.g.,


evolution of corn

Meanwhile, there was recently a big National Academy of Sciences review about GMO, you’ll be shocked to learn they concluded, as Brad Plumer puts it: “The best evidence suggests current GM crops are just as safe to eat as regular crops.”

Now go back to eating your GMO-free, sugar-cane sweetened cereal.

Photo of the day

From the Telegraph’s animal photos of the week:

A horse gets a bath after a morning workout at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.


NC Republicans: bad for business

Obviously, Republicans want to make the current controversy all about bathrooms, privacy, and political correctness.  That works for them and they will surely continue to do it.  But Democrats have a big advantage in that mainstream corporate America–not just a bunch of Hollywood liberals and entertainers is behind them.  And in being against the hate-inspired NC legislation (prominently, not just bathrooms but preventing local protection of LGBT rights), the business community strongly helps the Democrats’ case.

I could be wrong, but it seems to me the Democrats’ Fall campaign in NC has written itself, “North Carolina Republicans: Bad for Business.”  Republicans can talk about privacy and men in women’s restrooms all they want, but I don’t think that resonates with voters like the fact that HB2 is demonstrably and undeniably costing the state jobs and business investment.  That’s a valence issue.  Everybody wants jobs and economic growth and the Republicans are on the wrong side of it because of HB2.  It’s not clear to me how you spin away the fact that numerous national/international companies have said they will not be investing in our state as a direct result of HB2.  Talk about “politicial correcntnness” all you want, but the undeniable fact is that the Republicans’ narrow social agenda is bad for the North Carolina economy.

And here’s some good coverage on the behind the scenes business angle on this I meant to quote from, but, hey, at least this post is existing in reality and not just my head (the graveyard for most of my “posts”).

Maybe the war on drugs really is succeeding!

So, I watched “The House I Live In” for the second time, yesterday, with my Summer Criminal Justice Policy class.  Super-powerful documentary about the utter moral abomination that is our country’s war on drugs.  Already hate the war on drugs?  Watch this and hate it more.  Think the war on drugs isn’t so bad?  Watch this and open your eyes.  If you’ve already got Netflix, it’s on streaming.  Or consider springing just a few bucks to watch on Amazon, etc.

One of my favorite moments in the film is when Canadian addiction expert, Gabor Maté, speaks about the war on drugs.  He suggests, looking through a different lens, maybe the war on drugs really is succeeding.  (I’ll paraphrase and add a little, but basically…) If we consider all the jobs in prisons and in the criminal justice system, if we consider all the money made in the prison-industrial complex, if we consider all the politicians re-elected by being “tough on crime” maybe the war on drugs really is succeeding.

Of course, more than anything, it is absolutely needlessly ruining so many lives and so many communities with so little benefit.  I truly believe that in the next century, Americans will look back on this episode in our history with absolute shame.

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