For the Activist Who Wants to Learn

I really love when activists like Pat the soap maker shows some signs of wanting to learn something.  She came back again to put another comment on the blog:

Screenshot 2014-05-08 18.56.09

Don’t Be Afraid of Chemicals

When I mention technical names of common substances, it apparently incited fear in her.  I’m glad she looked it up and found that it is just caffeine.  Like many anti-GMO activists, she is afraid of chemicals, well, at least the chemical names of things that we use in our everyday lives.  Everything around us is made up of chemicals including her “naturally derived” soaps.  It’s all chemicals.  One can use the technical names for things like caffeine and lye which make it sound innocuous.  Nature is also compromised of chemicals and in fact is loaded with chemicals itself.  It doesn’t matter if it is derived naturally, some are indeed more toxic than others.

Even if you might derived your lye from ash that is natural, that in itself may not be very much different from synthetically derived sodium hydroxide.  If it works the same way, then it probably is the same chemical regardless of how it was made.

A good example of this is vinegar.  When we think of vinegar, most people see it as what we use to cook, clean or preserve food in.  It sounds very harmless.  But when you use the chemical name of it, acetic acid, it can make people get very scared despite being the same substance.  Chemicals can go by multiple names, whether it be naturally derived or not.  So don’t be afraid of it, learn some basic chemistry and realize how chemicals surround us in our lives and it isn’t always bad.

Appealing To Nature Fallacy

Many people like Pat fall into the appeal to nature fallacy.  They tend to think that just because it is natural that it is much better for you.  That isn’t always the case.  Polio, botulinum toxin, mycotoxins, and so on are all derived in nature but they sure aren’t good for you.  In fact, they are harmful and deadly in some cases.

Nature isn’t always kind too with the disease like whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria.  Cancer itself is nature going haywire to overproduce abnormal cells.  It doesn’t always occur because of some kind of exposure.  Man has figured out how to counter these natural creations to live longer and it isn’t always derived by “natural” means.

Just the use of the term “natural” brings on the connotation that something is better for you or superior.  Is nature always better when there are diseases, disasters, and famines?  Nope.  If we had let nature take the course in our human lives, we’d still be living to the ripe old age of 35.  Disease likely would have killed us if nature was that kind.

Open Air Test Fields With Chemicals that Aren’t Regulated

These comments are pretty interesting because it makes me wonder why people are afraid of modified plants growing around us.  Much of the greenery around us in our lives are not derived in nature and genetically modified by man.  From the gardenias to the variety of gingers and hibiscus plants, they are all modified.  No one is afraid of that.  What about all the genetically modified orchids that grow great in Hawaii?  They aren’t tested and have random genetic sequences that we haven’t tested.

Other examples of genetically modified plants in our world include sweet corn and pluots.  Corn alone, whether it be organic or conventional, is a modified organism with untested genes.  So are the bananas that we consume man made, but no one ever demanded testing of it.  The latest and greatest superfood from across the world have unknown genetic sequences but people devour it without hesitation at all.  Bottom line is that we consume a lot of genes but have we turned into that banana or a fish?  Our bodies just don’t work that way obviously.

Then the claim that chemicals aren’t being regulated is interesting because the ones used on many conventional farms and biotech farms require extensive documentation and licensing to use in many cases.  They also have had lots of testing conducted on them prior to being released for use, despite what you’ve been told by certain politicians.  You can go to the EPA website to actually see what the regulatory process is like.

Note that there is no regulated use of pesticide sprays on organic foods either as required by law.  Not all pesticides or substances used in organic production are derived naturally either.  There isn’t a lot of testing of such pesticides prior to being approved for use either that’s required of biotech companies.  That organic coffee you’re drinking there might have been sprayed more often than you like to consider.

Agent Orange and DDT Argument

The Agent Orange and DDT statement is always the fall back go to reason as to why activists like Pat give as why they can’t support biotechnology.  It’s time to share some facts about the argument that keeps repeating itself here.

Agent Orange is made up of two chemicals, 2,4-D and 2,4,5 T.  You still can find this hardware stores today as it is an effective herbicide.  The problem with AO was not those two chemicals but the contaminant dioxin.  I asked my dad why it was used and he said that it was, “Either you get shot before you even drop to the ground or clear the forest and have a chance.”  Note that it was the chemical companies spraying it either, but the government.  You can read more on AO here and here.

The DDT claim as to why activists don’t like biotech crops is yet another weak one.  It is once again approved for use by the WHO to help eradicate malaria causing mosquitos.  You can read more on it here why your argument using DDT doesn’t work against biotechnology.

Learning by Movies, If You Pick the Right Ones

Many commenters like Pat are very afraid of genetics as is shown in their commentary over and over again.  It’s most likely that they watched Food, Inc, OMG GMO, Seeds of Death, and Genetic Roulette and other moves on YouTube.  The intent of those movies are to scare you.  Did you ever think to try and debunk some of the movies or did you just believe without question?  Easy way to see a different picture on biotechnology is Google the movie title along with the word “debunk” and you’ll see a different kind of site come up.

Here’s some of my favorite simple videos on GMOs that don’t scare and actually can educate, if you actually take the time to watch and understand it.

Basic Genetics

There’s a Gene in My Soup!

Food for Thought on Biotechnology

While people can argue about why we shouldn’t have biotechnology as a tool, consider this thought about it.  It’s a tool that can help others and why not nurture it so others can benefit?



One thought on “For the Activist Who Wants to Learn

  1. I recently found your most excellent blog via a reference on Punaweb here on Hawaii Island. I have been reading though the older posts.

    Good luck changing minds. Have you found any arguments that will begin to change anti-GMO attitudes? I recently used the example of potatoes. Details not at hand, but a Peruvian potato that was resistant to the virus that caused the Irish Potato Famine was used to protect other potatoes.

    I tried to point out that Monsanto was not involved, there was no gene splicing from “alien” species, etc. But no, because it was done in a laboratory and not in a field it is bad. Never mind helping to feed people….

    Anyway, good luck.

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