Let’s Not Get Too Crazy About #GMOs and Neil deGrasse Tyson

I admire and respect Neil deGrasse Tyson a great deal. We need more people like him telling all the science deniers that science is a real thing. It’s why I found his comments about GMOs and people who oppose them of interest.

Mother Jones is one outlet reporting on an undated interview he gave that’s making the rounds today on social media(1). In his characteristic and straight-forward way, he excoriates people who express concerns about GMOs.

I’d love to hear more from him on GMOs.

I’d like to hear his thoughts on some important distinctions between GMOs and plant and animal breeding. I believe he would acknowledge those distinctions. It would seem to be perfectly within his character, in fact, to find out that he already is addressing those distinctions even as this post gets written.

First, I’d like to know what he thinks about the distinctions between genetically modifying an organism and breeding plants and animals for desired characteristics over generations.

I don’t know if GMOs include watermelons bred to grow without seeds or long stem roses, but here’s how the The Non-GMO Project defines GMOs.

GMOs are “…plants or animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals. These experimental combinations of genes from different species cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.” (2)

Dr. Tyson didn’t discuss this in the video.

Then there’s this. I’d really love to get his thoughts on this one.

“Over 80% of all GMOs grown worldwide are engineered for herbicide tolerance. As a result, use of toxic herbicides like Roundup has increased 15 times since GMOs were introduced.” (2)

I’m really concerned about all this use of herbicides. I consider it to be just as troubling. I look at this increased herbicide use, and I think I see it as the root cause and real reason GMOs exist at all.

Monsanto makes RoundUp. Monsanto makes “RoundUp Ready” seeds. Plants genetically modified – not bred, not even engineered, but modified – to be “RoundUp Ready” means big money to Monsanto. By controlling the seed supply and the chemicals sprayed on them, they can drive agriculture in directions that don’t look good except for them and their shareholders.

How so?

The plants grown from Monsanto seeds and sprayed with Monsanto RoundUp either don’t produce seeds that can be stored and replanted year after year or, when they do, farmers who store and plant them risk lawsuits(3).

So, seeds that can be bathed in poison, can’t be replanted, and can legally be obtained only from one company are why we have GMOs. Monsanto doesn’t make money if they can’t trap and force farmers into buying their patented seeds year after year and the herbicides to spray on them.

And after all of that, there’s the environment. I really am anxious to hear what Neil deGrasse Tyson has to say about all that extra poison being sprayed into fields and that leaches into ground water and into our environment because……well……..it’s poisonous.

Yes, I want food to be labeled. I want to know if it contains unnatural genetic modifications

Yes, I want to know from that bit of information that it’s very, very likely to have been bathed in toxic herbicides as a result of just being a GMO crop.

No, I don’t want to eat that food.

Yes, I want to punish farmers, food companies, and retailers who deal in such food by NOT spending my money with them.

Yes, I especially want to draw attention to and to punish Monsanto for their attempts at literally controlling the world food supply.

Yes, I also want to protect farmers. Real farmers, not BigAg, but farmers who want to do what farmers have been doing since farming started in the Fertile Crescent – saving seeds to plant again year after year.

Yes, I believe there are ways to feed the human race without GMOs. Notice I’m not saying without scientific measures, or without controlled breeding, or without even some level of plant and animal engineering. What I am saying is this. Modifying organisms so they can be drowned in poison without full disclosure is wrong and dangerous.

The discussion about GMOs must include the motives behind the science. Questions need to be answered about who actually benefits. People deserve to know the dangers to us and to our environment.

I look forward to hearing more from people like Dr. deGrasse Tyson about all of that.



(1) Neil deGrasse Tyson Tells GMO Critics to “Chill Out”, Mother Jones, http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/07/neil-degrasse-tyson-on-gmo

(2) GMO FACTS, The Non-GMO Project, http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/

(3) Why Does Monsanto Sue Farmers Who Save Seeds?, Monsanto, http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/why-does-monsanto-sue-farmers-who-save-seeds.aspx