A strong lineup of biotech advocates took on the task of dispelling the myths and proclaiming the facts of genetically modified crops and foods at a forum in Washington, D.C. Tuesday (June 4, 2013). All that was missing were the biotech detractors.
Karl Haro von Model, moderator Patrick Michaels, Jon Entine, and Kevin Folta
That was no fault of forum organizer Jon Entine, a journalist and founder of the Genetic Literacy Project at George Mason University. He originally booked Jeffrey Smith, author of “Genetic Roulette” and a veteran naysayer, and Gilles-Eric Seralini, the French scientist who claimed that biotech corn caused rats to grow tumors.
But Smith and Seralini backed out when they realized they would also be up against Kevin Folta, a plant geneticist from the University of Florida who is very active in debunking anti-biotech claims. Rounding out the panel was Karl Haro von Mogel, a graduate student at the university of Wisconsin and proprietor of the Biofortified blog.
Folta pointed to the use of scary-sounding statements by anti-biotch forces, noting “the use of fear is pervasive” in those circles. Activists like Smith try to frighten people by claiming that the rise of biotech corps is linked to the alleged rise in autism, diabetes, and other disorders, he said.
“But you shouldn’t confuse correlation with causality,” Folta said. “Just because two things happen at the same time does not mean they are linked.” He noted that the increase in both diabetes and autism tracks almost perfectly with the increase in organic food sales.
“But I wouldn’t say one causes the other,” he said. “Obviously not. And we must make decisions based on data and evidence, not on fear.”