I know we talked about GMOs before, but it seems they have come to a whole different prevalence lately, thanks mainly to this Grist series on Panic-free GMOs. Author Nathanael Johnson goes into minute detail in figuring out everything from what GMOs really are to the literature surrounding it to the regulations attached to them. All of that and more in 26 installments. Now, I have to admit that I haven’t read all of them yet (in fact, I am somewhat stretched for time at the moment because exams never seem to stop here), but from what I have looked at I think Johnson did a wonderful job of doing the research and then presenting it at eye’s level for the normal reader – in fact, most of his articles speak in a tone of voice as if he were just telling you about this over a cup of coffee at his kitchen table. Highly recommendable (and also customizable – since all of his posts are listed here, you can just delve into whatever topic you have always wondered about without having to block out several hours from your schedule.)
To add yet another viewpoint, look at this recent article which is very critical of the scientific journalism surrounding GMOs and especially the eulogies surrounding their achievements which, it argues, often do not have replicable scientific evidence to back them up. It points out the huge responsibility science reporters have in influencing public opinion, and how much companies rely on them to portray one image or another:
The fundamental driver behind scientific misreporting, therefore, is not intellectually lazy journalists (though they do help). It is that for agribusinesses and other powerful corporations everything is at stake in science journalism. Their reputations as essential and ethical organisations are daily at risk for the reason that it is in science that the hypocrisy is most self-evident: of financing climate change denial while espousing corporate responsibility, of insisting on due process while buying ones way into the political process (or bribing government officials), of attempting to undermine environmental and worker safety legislation, while describing oneself as a clean green global good citizen, and so on.
It continues to contend:
But in this the biotech industry is no different from almost every realm of economic activity. From the food industry to the mining industry, to the conduct of wars, very few people would support these activities in anything like their present form if they were fully understood. It follows that the underlying reason businesses operate as they do is that the modern press fails in its fundamental purpose. In 1822 James Madison wrote that:
“A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both.”
In this last sentiment, I agree. There is no worse way of making a decision than letting yourself be drawn one way or another by simplistic news headlines. All the more reason to hunker down and read all those 26 installments by Johnson – for me, maybe tomorrow. 😉