The controversy over Genetically Modified Organisms is perhaps one of the most polarizing issues of the decade. People from all walks of life have gathered on social media, the interwebs, and at rallies around the world to raise awareness for this Super Ultra Mega Uber Important issue that everyone needs to WAKE UP and EDUCATE THEMSELVES about! Soccer moms and fitness enthusiasts everywhere have magically turned into nutrition experts qualified to give diet and health advice (and shame you for your incorrect choices of food, you ignorant fool!). People who have never farmed a day in their lives (but have a garden!) have suddenly determined that they know the best way to feed the world (organic, duh!!!). Entire communities and industries have been built upon this controversy, complete with punditry, “news” organizations, politicians, “concerned citizens,” mommy bloggers, and of course the all-important celebrity endorsements.
I’ve been actively involved in this debate for well over a year now, and here are some of the things that I learned, starting with…
THIS IS NOT A SCIENTIFIC DEBATE
Did you know that there is an international scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs backed up by every major scientific organization on the planet?  You know, those same organizations that you probably trust but never questioned (or better yet, ARGUED WITH) when it comes to the scientific consensus on Anthropogenic Climate Change? This includes the World Health Organization, The Royal Society (the oldest learned society in the world), and the European Commission, plus organizations from “other” countries like Africa.
But enough of that “international” crap, let’s focus on what really matters, and that’s ‘MERICA! For that, we have the American Association for the Advancement of Science (the largest scientific organization in the world), the American Medical Association, The US National Academy of Sciences, and a bunch of other “sciencey” organizations you’ve probably never heard of nor cared to learn about prior to being EDUCATED about the IMPORTANCE OF GMO AWARENESS! 
On top of all those weird sounding “learned societies” and “scientific organizations,” GMOs are also highly regulated by every government where they exist. But for those who have never left the REAL WORLD (The USA!), we have the FDA, USDA, and EPA. Not to worry though, because anti-GMO activists have discovered a secret conspiracy after a TOTALLY thorough and unbiased investigation of all the relevant facts (which is something they are absolutely known for).
Together, the 19 scientific organizations and learned societies that I just referenced, plus the dozens of regulatory bodies throughout the world, represent the collective opinions of hundreds of thousands of scientists. Apparently, most (or all?) of them are believed by some to be part of some international conspiracy between CORPORATIONS and BIG GOVERNMENT to POISON YOU and KEEP YOU IN THE DARK!
Of course, “real scientists” are being “silenced” for speaking out against the powers that be. There’s no REAL consensus on GMOs, (just like there is no REAL consensus on Climate Change) because I quickly Googled “GMO consensus” and came across an anti-GMO political organization’s website that says there is no consensus. Nope, instead it’s a grand conspiracy among FAKE INDUSTRY SCIENTISTS (“industry scientists” is defined here as anyone who supports the consensus) vs REAL SCIENTISTS who put PEOPLE before CORPORATIONS AND GREED!
MOST ANTI-GMO ACTIVISTS DEMONSTRATE A PROFOUND IGNORANCE OF BASIC CONCEPTS IN SCIENCE
Like any group that contains millions of people, anti-GMO activists occupy a wide spectrum of beliefs and intelligence levels. While most anti-GMO activists come from the environmental and progressive left, I have met conservative anti-GMO activists who base their beliefs on the bible, libertarians and anarchists of the Alex Jones variety, old people, children, doctors, teachers, and even scientists with PhD’s.
And then there is the majority. The average. The idiots. The people who make you wonder whether they even graduated high school biology or chemistry, or whether those subjects are even taught in public schools. These people make up the bulk of the anti-GMO movement, and you can see for yourself by simply attending any anti-GMO rally or protest. Here’s an interview I did at the “March Against Monsanto” just prior to the election in Hawaii.
At that same event, I met activists who told me that GMOs are created by injecting the AIDS virus into corn DNA, that GMOs cause autism and cancer, vaccines cause autism, Monsanto is intentionally poisoning people as part of some elaborate conspiracy theory to depopulate the planet, that scientists are uninformed on the issue (but anti-GMO activists know THE TRUTH!), Monsanto and the government are poisoning us with chemtrails, and last but not least, the secret volcano lair that the government is operating in collusion with Monsanto. Oh, and self-replicating nanotubes.
I can’t tell you how many anti-GMO activists who have told me that organic “does not contain chemicals” (water is a chemical), or that GMOs are created by sticking syringes into tomatoes. Listen to this activist explain the dangers of GMOs:
There is no such thing as GMO wheat on the market, and this person has never eaten “genetically modified wheat” in his entire lifetime, ever. All of these “symptoms” of consuming “GMO wheat” exist entirely in his imagination (this is known as somatoform disorder). Many anti-GMO activists complain of imaginary symptoms caused by “GMOs” that don’t even exist, and how they were magically “cured” of their illnesses by “switching to an organic diet.”
Whenever pressed on the evidence to support their beliefs, anti-GMO activists invariably resort to scripted talking points and slogans that they heard a thousand times before from other activists, social media, and the internet. Not a single ounce of critical thought is ever put into the issue, and no actual research was ever done on their part. They are simply repeating very simple and easy to remember slogans like “Just Label It” or “No to Monsanto” or “Patenting Life” or “Indian Farmers” or “Unnatural” or “poisons/toxins.”
Even the “intelligent” and “informed” anti-GMO activists who pride themselves on being “educated on the issue” are completely irrational when it comes to the subject, even if they are otherwise incredibly intelligent and rational in every other area of life. These people couldn’t remain logically consistent if their lives depended on it, and intellectual honesty is non-existent Even the possibility that they could be wrong, or that a corporation could be right about this one particular issue, is totally out of the question. Here is me interviewing the greatest intellectual mind of the anti-GMO movement in Hawaii, Dr. Lorrin Pang, and this is only a few months after I myself de-converted from the anti-GMO cult. Having no previous experience or expertise in the subject, this is the best that they could muster; some random comedian with a camera and microphone running circles around a doctor who has worked for the WHO for 20 years.
And some victims of anti-GMO propaganda don’t even know what a GMO is…
ANTI-GMO ORGANIZATIONS RELY ON FEAR AND IGNORANCE TO PROMOTE THEIR AGENDA
Have you ever seen those ridiculous “Frankenfood” memes pop up in your news feed and wonder who exactly is producing all of this crazy shit? You know, the tomatoes with the syringes sticking out of them like they are shooting up heroin, the zombies eating corn, the rats with tumors, the “organic corn” and the “GMO corn” eaten by squirrels where the apparently health-conscious squirrels only eat the organic corn, the mutated chickens, the Frankenstein microwave dinner, and my favorite, the apple with teeth that bites the kid in the face.
Who has time to make this stuff up, and where do these internet rumors come from? Well, one notorious bullshit meme factory comes from a group called “GMOINSIDE.” Other bullshit memes come from groups like “Millions Against Monsanto” and “GMO FREE USA.” Their stated goals are to “educate the public” about the “concerns and dangers of genetically modified organisms. And by “educate” they mean “scare the shit out of people.”
Even intelligent people are susceptible to this kind of fear mongering and propaganda — its actually a form of marketing. I can’t tell you how many intelligent and rational people that I’ve met who avoided GMOs for the simple fact that they saw one of these memes on their Facebook feeds (even I was one of them, though I’m neither rational nor intelligent, just good looking :D). Now, the reason I know that they are both rational and intelligent is that when confronted with contradictory information they don’t have a problem changing their position to reflect the new evidence (which makes them different from activists, who are generally irrational but often just stupid as well).
Celebrities are the best case study of this phenomenon, with dozens jumping on the anti-GMO fear bandwagon.
It should be noted that most people, including hardcore anti-GMO activist, are simply victims of this scaremongering. They truly believe in most of the bullshit that is being promoted by these organizations and individuals who create this crap. I’m even convinced that many of the meme creators themselves somehow believe it, even though that seems counter-intuitive because on some level they must realize that they are intentionally scaring or at least misleading people.
BIG ORGANIC IS A BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY, AND ANTI-GMO ORGANIZATIONS HAVE SPENT MILLIONS ON THEIR PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGNS
We’re not talking chump change here, anti-GMO organizations spend millions of dollars to promote “GMO awareness” and various political/”community organizing” efforts designed to either “label GMOs” or outright ban them in certain jurisdictions. While no evidence is ever presented to support the claims of danger, the money is instead spent on hilariously unqualified “experts” and other “grassroots” organizations and individuals as a substitute for actual scientific research.
The Organic Consumers Association, Ceres Trust, and the Center for Food Safety, are among the groups who raise millions of dollars to create these “organic grassroots movements” in various communities, often paying for totally unqualified “celebrity speakers“ to talk to people about the “dangers of GMOs.” Here is the Hawaii Center for Food Safety’s Director refusing to say how much she spent to bring Vandana Shiva (a non-scientist) to Hawaii for the second time on an inter-island tour to discuss the dangers of GMOs (her usual fee is $40,000 per speech plus business class travel from New Delhi).
There is also Jefferey Smith from the one-man “Institute for Responsible Technology” who came to Hawaii to give his “expert advice” on the dangers of GMOs. He is best known for making two very entertaining “documentaries“ on GMOs that are either funny if you understand the science of GE or extremely scary and disturbing if you don’t. His qualifications? He is a ballroom dance instructor and believes that he can fly using yoga.
In fact, the list of anti-GMO “experts” is a who’s who of crackpots and thoroughly discredited scientists. These are the kinds of people that anti-GMO organizations rely on to give credit to their fear and scare mongering propaganda campaign, and they don’t come cheap either.
When we talk about Monsanto being a “large multinational corporation,” keep in mind that Whole Foods did about 12 billion in sales last year vs Monsanto’s 14 billion, and that’s just one grocery chain. Big Organic is probably the greatest marketing gimmick in history in terms of sales. The idea that “organic” means “pesticide free” or “small family farms” is about as accurate as Snoop Dogg being a feminist icon.
The truth is that it is a multi-billion dollar industry that is capitalizing off of the public’s ignorance of science and agriculture.
ANTI-GMO ORGANIZATIONS AND ACTIVISTS WILL PERSONALLY ATTACK ANYONE WHO GETS IN THEIR WAY
You might have heard about the recent “controversy” over University of Florida Professor Kevin Folta and his emails with biotechnology representatives. What you might not of heard was that no evidence of wrongdoing or impropriety was ever presented. Anti-GMO organizations immediately seized this opportunity to vindicate the smear campaign that they had begun long before they “discovered” these “smoking gun emails.” So what did the emails say? Basically that the University of Florida received money from Monsanto to continue Dr. Folta’s science communication and outreach efforts that began long before any donation from Monsanto. His message never changed, and the anti-GMO organizations never bothered to demonstrate how this affected his message in any way (his message is that science says GMOs are not scary). Instead, activists leveled threats of violence against him and his family.
Kevin Folta is only the latest scientist to be crucified by the anti-GMO movement for teaching heretical and blasphemous concepts like “science” and educating the public on the scientific consensus of GMOs. I’ve had friends like the Hawaii Farmer’s Daughter who was the target of a smear campaign for operating a blog critical of the anti-GMO movement. The leader of one anti-GMO organization, “Babes Against Biotech,” bought a web domain in her name and proceeded to publish all kinds of nasty and libelous accusations against her. Right before the election, businesses and public buildings were vandalized and anti-GMO activists proudly proclaimed their intent to destroy any pro-GMO yard signs or the campaign posters of politicians who they claimed were “bought out by Monsanto.”
There are entire communities dedicated to people who have been attacked or banned by anti-GMO organizations and individuals like “Banned by Food Babe” or “Banned by GMO Free USA” or “GMOLOL.” People have shared countless stories of their interactions with anti-GMO activists who have threatened to burn down their farms, vandalize cars and homes, and even MURDER employees of biotech corporations, farmers, journalists, and scientists. One activist here in Hawaii even threatened to bring ISIS to the islands if the State didn’t pass a “pesticide disclosure” bill.
I myself was given the nickname “Bronsanto” (which I absolutely ran with) because the anti-GMO activists were convinced that I was some kind of covert agent sent in by Monsanto to “infiltrate” and “spread dissension within the ranks.” They came up with all kinds of theories of why I was doing this and how much I was being paid by “Monsanto” or “the government” to “harass and intimidate peaceful protesters.” The put together a well organized campaign to discredit me by contacting my church (a Hawaiian church which contains only close family members and relatives), harassed me on the internet, contacted colleagues, friends, and universities that I had attended in the past (and even one I was planning to attend in the future), and newspapers that I had previously written articles for, all under the guise of being “concerned citizens” who felt “offended” by my words and actions.
ARGUING WITH IDIOTS CAN TURN YOU INTO A BAD PERSON
I started this journey over a year ago having anti-GMO views. Upon discovering that there was widespread agreement within the scientific community on the subject, I immediately changed my position (this is known as intellectual honesty, apparently a rare occurrence in politics). To the anti-GMO activists, this was seen as an obvious sign of “being bought out by Monsanto.”
I began by making Youtube videos documenting the lies of anti-GMO activists and debunking some of the more outrageous claims. In time I began to find entire communities of like-minded skeptics and so I made it a point to confront the activists at their own events and rallies to share my experiences with others. Though I was always willing to educate anyone who wanted to learn more about the subject, I didn’t find very many people at these events who were open to a rational dialogue, as they were all more or less driven purely by emotion.
That’s back when it was fun for me. I honestly enjoyed making these videos to expose how batshit crazy some of the activists were and how terrible their arguments sounded. Never once did I become angry or irritated by the hardcore activists, they were always a source of amusement for me. The crazier they were, the better the material for my videos.
But soon the anti-GMO organizations put out a general prohibition on talking to me, and nobody wanted to do interviews anymore. I had to find stragglers who didn’t get the word yet but eventually I was banned from every single anti-GMO group in Hawaii. I was kicked out of more than one event and refused entry at others. Activists started to attack me personally because they couldn’t refute my arguments, and they were absolutely convinced I was a “Monsanto troll.” Some threatened me with violence and posted my address on their Facebook groups. Image memes were created with my face on it saying things like “avoid this mentally deranged veteran” who is “violent towards women.” Eventually I let all of this get to me and started lashing out at the activists.
It came to the point where I focused 100% of my efforts on the truly hardcore, irrational, batshit crazy activists. I attacked them personally, called them stupid, idiots, retards, morons, etc. I stopped trying to educate regular people on the issue and instead resorted to flame wars with devout believers who had absolutely no interest in learning more about the subject or changing their positions in any way, shape, or form. When they attacked Kevin Folta for being a “paid shill,” my response to the woman who made that comment was “scientists aren’t cheap whores like you, they are high class broads” (in my defense I defined “cheap whore” as “a person willing to say or do anything for money”). When friends confronted me about my behavior and asked me to chill out, I told them to fuck off because they didn’t follow the entire conversation word for word (that was true, but still). It became less about having fun with activists and spreading science literacy and more about preventing anti-GMO activists from spreading bullshit by silencing them through shaming tactics.
Even my wife and kids noticed my transition from being daddy the comedian to the bitter and intolerant asshole that I was quickly becoming. Eventually it consumed me, and began to spill into other political issues which I am passionate about. In fact, even to this day I still have some feelings of contempt towards anti-GMO activists, but I’ve mostly learned to make it fun again because no matter what, I’m still on the right side of science and history and that’s all that really matters in the end. One day anti-GMO activists will come around and realize how stupid they’ve been acting, and those pictures they proudly boast of their protests will be a source of embarrassment once GMOs pervade every facet of our lives like electricity.
ANTI-GMO ACTIVISTS AND ORGANIZATIONS DISTRACT US FROM REAL ISSUES IN AGRICULTURE, SCIENCE, AND GOVERNMENT
There are many legitimate arguments against the overuse of pesticides, reliance on synthetic fertilizers which require fossil fuels, the patent system, government agricultural policy and subsidies, corporate influence over government and lobbying, unscientific regulations, and the limits of science. The case can certainly be made that scientists within the biotechnology industry have failed to properly communicate these ideas to the public, and have contributed to the problem by allowing the anti-GMO movement to grow so big in the first place.
Companies like Monsanto and Dow have a deep and dark history of poisoning, cover ups, and close ties to government, so initial public skepticism towards these corporations is absolutely justified. For example, many biotech corporations only recently started allowing full use of their “intellectual property“ for independent testing, rather than a patchwork of legalese that leaves the public confused and distrustful. Their continued reliance on secretive government lobbying and political propaganda rather than total transparency does not help the situation either.
It should be noted that most Monsanto Myths are either outright fabrications or intentionally misleading. Also, arguments against Monsanto or biotech corporations do not constitute valid arguments against the SCIENCE of Genetic Engineering any more than arguments against Boeing or Lockheed Martin are valid criticisms of rocket science.
But GMOs are much more than just “Roundup Ready” corn and soy. A friend of mine helped to develop GE insulin back in the 70’s, and now most insulin is made with the help of GE technology, as well as most cheese. Golden Rice has the potential to eliminate Vitamin A Deficiency in poor countries, which affects hundreds of thousands of women and children every year (causing blindness and death). In Africa, they are working on drought resistant crops to help solve the challenges of Climate Change and malnutrition.
The main reason that I support genetic engineering is because of the amazing potential this technology has to offer us in the future. I envision a world where synthetic pesticides become totally obsolete thanks to advances in biology. Weeds could be modified to produce food, or food could be modified to grow like weeds. Mosquitoes and malaria can become a thing of the past. Even human genetic birth defects need not be a thing anymore because the possibilities are endless. The Chemistry Age is coming to an end, and I believe we are now at the dawn of the Age of Biology. While it is important that we not be reckless with this technology, we shouldn’t allow our fear of science and the unknown to prevent society from progressing into the future.