Debunking Anti-GMO

10 Reasons Why Being Anti-GMO Means Being Against Social Justice

Some of the available GMOs

Many anti-GMO activists like to pretend that they care about social justice, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is a deceptive lie that tries to sell anti-science bigotry as the highest moral good. In reality, they are just pseudoscience grifters who lie and distort the facts.

In fact, anti-GMO activists are actively trying to withhold scientific advances in plant breeding from poorer and disadvantages communities. This is based on the racist fetishizing of a past that never was. The natural state is nothing to celebrate, but filled with harm, disease and starvation.

Contrary to anti-GMO propaganda, GMOs increase farmer profits, reduce use of more dangerous pesticides, save many non-target insects, boost income of women in agriculture, reduce hard labor, helped save entire industries from having their crops wiped out by pests and can greatly reduce human harm and deaths. The anti-GMO movement itself is rife with pseudoscience and increasingly collaborating with anti-vaccine activists, conspiracy theorists and the far right.

Anti-GMO activists in their zeal to oppose genetically modified crops and medications are actively opposing social justice.

Withholding technology from poorer communities

GM crops produce higher yields, decrease food costs, require less insecticides, reduces the use of more harmful herbicides and has many other benefits. Anti-GMO activists opposes the use of genetically modified crops and therefore wants to condemn disadvantaged communities to producing food with less yield, higher cost and more insecticides and more harmful herbicides.

In a cruel twist, anti-GMO activists who claim to support social justice efforts actually promote increased social injustices. They are actively withholding new scientific advances and technologies from poorer communities and they are doing so while claiming that they are doing this for the benefit of the people who are denied access to the scientific improvements in agriculture. There is no other word for it. This is evil.

Anti-GMO activists fetishizes a past that never was

A crucial part of the anti-GMO movement involve a fascination for all things “natural”. It is tempting to think that things that are natural are also good, but nothing could be further from the truth. Dying in childbirth is natural. Getting bitten by a snake is natural. Botulism, one of the most dangerous toxins known to us, is completely natural. Asteroid impacts are natural. Getting mauled by a bear is natural.

The scientific and historic reality is that the past was terrible. Infectious diseases killed millions of people, maternal mortality was enormous and entire communities starved to death. This is not something that is desirable. It is not something we should work towards keeping or restoring. Nature is not good. Nature just exists. It us up to us humans to work towards a better world by reducing suffering and increasing human flourishing. Looking back into a past where women could not vote, where rape within the marriage was legal and there was very little, if any, due process and claiming that we should restore the alleged “glory” of the past is completely delusional.

It is also worth pointing out that the food we eat today has been modified through artificial selection to suit our needs. They look nothing like the wild relatives or the “natural” ancestors of modern food crops. The wild banana has large seeds. The ancestor of corn, teosinte, is a straw with very little food on it. A great article showing fantastic images of wild relatives or inferred ancestors of modern crops is called Here’s what fruits and vegetables looked like before we domesticated them. Genetic modification merely involves smaller, more precise and more well-regulated compared with conventional plant breeding.

By fetischizing a past that never was, anti-GMO activists stand in the way of modern developments that improve the food and lives of people. It is also racist, because it makes harmful assumptions about how underprivileged communities live.

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GMOs increases profits for farmer

GMOs that are resistant to insect pests lead to harvests with less of the crop being permanently damaged by insects. GMOs that are resistant to herbicides are less harmed in their growth by competing weeds. Taken together, this means that the harvest end up being bigger and thus the farmer gets more income for the same input. Considering the fact that farmers use less harmful pesticides that cost less, the total profits for the farmers are higher if the use these GM crops. This is still the case even if you take into account the cost of genetically modified seeds.

A 2014 meta-analysis on the impacts of genetically modified crops showed that:

On average, GM technology adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68%. Yield gains and pesticide reductions are larger for insect-resistant crops than for herbicide-tolerant crops. Yield and profit gains are higher in developing countries than in developed countries.

They concluded that:

The meta-analysis reveals robust evidence of GM crop benefits for farmers in developed and developing countries. Such evidence may help to gradually increase public trust in this technology.

In contrast, organic farming decreases yield by 34%. Because it is so inefficient, organic farming need more land to grow the same amount of food. Put differently, organic farming produces less food.

By opposing GMOs, anti-GMO activists push for a future that increases pesticide use, reduces crop yields and decreases farmer profits in a way that is particularly harmful to low and middle income countries. Many anti-GMO activists like to believe in their own moral superiority, but their harmful nonsense actually opposes restorative social justice.

GMOs reduce use of more dangerous pesticides

For many decades, farmers have used spores from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis on crops. These produce a highly specific toxin that only kills pests of the order Lepidoptera (such as the European corn borer, corn earworm and many more). Scientists came up with the ingenious idea to genetically modify crops by putting in a gene for the toxin into the plant itself and made it transcribe the toxin only when exposed to the pest. These became known as Bt crops and have helped reduce the use of harmful pesticides. No longer need farmers spray their fields repeatedly. The plant defends itself.

The following image is from a National Research Council (NRC) report Impact of Genetically Engineered Crops on Farm Sustainability in the United States (page 84):

Pesticides has reduced

The report concluded:

Insecticide use in corn (in pounds of active ingredient per acre) has steadily declined since 1997 as the adoption of Bt corn (which reached 50 percent of corn acres planted in 2007) has increased (Figure 2-7). Bt corn was introduced in the mid-1990s to control European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis). Because chemical control of European corn borer was not always profitable (and timely application was difficult) before the introduction of Bt corn, many farmers accepted yield losses rather than incur the expense and uncertainty of chemical control. For those farmers, the introduction of Bt corn resulted in yield gains rather than pesticide savings (Fernandez-Cornejo and Caswell, 2006). However, a new type of Bt corn introduced in 2003 to protect against corn rootworm (Diabrotica spp.), which was previously controlled with chemical insecticides and crop rotation, has provided substantial insecticide savings (Fernandez-Cornejo and Caswell, 2006).

This shows that the use of insect-resistant crops have not increased pesticide use and in fact it is suggestive that the relationship is the opposite.

A similar argument can be made for glyphosate-resistant crops (page 62):

Use of herbicides have decreased

While the use of glyphosate has increased, the use of more harmful pesticides have decreased:

When adopting GE herbicide-resistant (HR) crops, farmers mainly substituted the herbicide glyphosate for more toxic herbicides. However, the predominant reliance on glyphosate is now reducing the effectiveness of this weed-management tool. Glyphosate kills most plants without substantial adverse effects on animals or on soil and water quality, unlike other classes of herbicides. It is also the herbicide to which most HR crops are resistant. After the commercialization of HR crops, farmers replaced many other herbicides with glyphosate applications after crops emerged from the soil.

By opposing genetically modified crops, anti-GMO activists want to support a world with more insecticides and more harmful herbicides.

GMOs save non-target insects

General application of broad-spectrum insecticides kill insects indiscriminately. By using insect-resistant crops that specifically target only the pests themselves and not insects generally, the use of GMOs can help save non-target insects.

A 2006 review by O’Callaghan and colleagues found that:

Insect resistance, based on Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) endotoxins, is the second most widely used trait (after herbicide resistance) in commercial genetically modified (GM) crops. Other modifications for insect resistance, such as proteinase inhibitors and lectins, are also being used in many experimental crops. The extensive testing on nontarget plant-feeding insects and beneficial species that has accompanied the long-term and wide-scale use of Bt plants has not detected significant adverse effects. GM plants expressing other insect-resistant proteins that have a broader spectrum of activity have been tested on only a limited number of nontarget species. Little is known about the persistence of transgene-derived proteins in soil, with the exception of Bt endotoxins, which can persist in soil for several months. Bt plants appear to have little impact on soil biota such as earthworms, collembolans, and general soil microflora. Further research is required on the effects of GM plants on soil processes such as decomposition. Assessment of nontarget impacts is an essential part of the risk assessment process for insect-resistant GM plants.

GMOs boost the wages of women

It turns out that the implementation of Bt cotton in India has lead to greater income for workers generally, but especially for women workers (preprint).

Using a village modeling approach taking into account both direct and indirect benefits, our study found that Bt cotton technology generates not only higher income but also more employment, especially for hired female labor

By opposing GMOs, anti-GMO activists are ironically advocating for a world where women workers in agriculture makes less money.

GMOs mean less hard work

Using genetically modified herbicide resistant crops, farmers in disadvantaged communities need to spend less time on manually clearing weeds. While removing weeds might be a fun afternoon in your own garden, removing weeds from entire fields is incredible hard work. It strains the back, the knees and the hands for the hundreds and hundreds of workers who do it on larger farms. By reducing the need for manual weed clearing, the health of agricultural workers can be safeguarded and they suffer less exhausting and physical damage from such hard work.

By opposing GMOs, anti-GMO activists advocate for a future where farm workers have to work much harder on their hands and knees dragging up weeds in a way that harms their longtime health. That is not compatible with a social justice approach to modern agriculture.

Anti-GMO activists promotes pseudoscience

Because anti-GMO activists do not have any concrete scientific evidence that the act of genetically modifying plants is bad, they have to create fake claims and fearmonger about GMOs in order to persuade vulnerable people who do not have access to scientifically accurate information about GMOs.

Anti-GMO activists falsely claim that organic farming do not use pesticides, when in fact there are hundreds of allowed pesticides in organic farming. They highlight alleged risks with GMOs, when in reality those are risks for any type of plant breeding. There appears to be little to no risks with GM crops that are not found with conventional crops. Anti-GMO activists rely on children brainwashed by misinformation, batshit celebrities on social media or non-experts who support homeopathy to push their agenda.

By pushing pseudoscientific misinformation, anti-GMO activists deny informed consent to disadvantages communities, dulls critical thinking and make it more difficult to use technology to improve agriculture and food output. Pushing pseudoscientific misinformation is incompatible with social justice.

GMOs have helped save entire industries

During the 1990s, the papaya ringspot virus (PRSV) infected large parts of the commercial papaya industry and made it nearly impossible to grow papayas on Hawaii. This threatened to destroy the entire industry, lead to a global collapse in papaya availability and make thousands of people unemployed. Dennis Gonsalves, an American phytopatologist working in Hawaii and at Cornell University, made several genetically modified papayas that was resistant to the papaya ringspot virus and saved the papaya industry.

Today, the majority of papayas in Hawaii are of the strains that he and his team of researchers made. He has also helped to create resistant papaya versions for use in several countries in Africa and Asia. Read more about this exciting story in Genetic Engineering Saved the Papaya Industry at Ohio State University and Transgenic Virus-Resistant Papaya by the American Phytopathological Society (APS).

GMOs can greatly reduce harm and death

GMOs are not used in agriculture, but also in medicine.

In the past, insulin was made from killing cattle and pigs and taking insulin from their pancreas. This was more expensive and the patient could have allergic reactions. Today, almost all insulin is made from genetically modified baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). This works because the gene for human insulin has been inserted into the genome of the yeast. The yeast is then mass-produced in large industrial incubators, the insulin is extracted and purified.

Many life-saving vaccines are today made with genetic engineering. In the past, you typically produced a weakened version of a virus or bacteria by serially growing it in broth until it did not create a productive infection. Today, researchers often extract specific surface proteins from a virus or bacteria and make a vaccine from that. Many vaccines, such as those against HPV and SARS-CoV-2, are made with biotechnology.

Anti-GMO activists thus want to keep modern, cheaper medicines from people and there is a large overlap between anti-GMO and anti-vaccine activists. It is an example of crank magnetism where once you start believing in one pseudoscience, it is easy to go down the rabbit hole and get conned into believing many more.


If you really care about social justice, you should be in favor of helping disadvantaged communities gain access to genetically modified crops and medications made from GMOs or using biotechnology.

The image in this post comes from FDA: GMO Crops, Animal Food, and Beyond


Debunker of pseudoscience.

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