Speaking at the National Press Club Address recently (9 Sep 2015 – Series 2015 – episode 32), US science journalist Jon Entine was alleged by Simon Grose (Canberra IQ) to seem ‘aggressive’ and “defensively ironic” in his pro-GMO stance. Grose suggested that this may be because the GM message is one that seems difficult to sell. Is this the reason why Entine has been chosen to speak at the Agricultural Bioscience International Conference in Melbourne, in a session entitled “Public acceptance of agricultural biotechnology“.
Arguably Jon Entine is a spin doctor for the BioAg industry. Truth Wiki certainly paints him as such. Although he opened his speech with a certain defensive air – albeit disguised in humour – Entine categorically opposed the trend in demonising big Biotech companies like Monsanto. He emphasised the positive aspects of increased yields, reduced water and pesticide use and subsequent lower produce costs. He claimed that the cost-benefit ratio simply results in sensible business decision for farmers to use GMO crops, that there is no sinister coercion. According to well-respected scientist, David Zilberman, these claims are true. With increasing global food insecurity it is credibly argued that these benefits of GMO crops are essential for the sustainability of the world’s population.
Entine repeatedly mentioned sustainability in his Press Club Address. A catchword for the new millennium, the concept of sustainability is also used in the Conference’s media promotion, yet not only in relation to environmental sustainability, as most applications of the word are now the norm, but first and foremost in relation to the sustainability of the biotech industry:
Entine threw down the gauntlet to the countless anti-Monsanto, anti-GMO campaigners out there, falling only just short of labelling them as fraudulent, self-interested propagandists for the organic farming industry. This insults the many scientists (for example, Union of Concerned Scientists, the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility and the Institute for Responsible Technology) who have warned against the adverse ecological and nutritional effects of Monsanto’s agricultural biotechnology. As at January this year, over 300 signatories endorse ENSSER’s statement that the scientific community is not unified in its opinion on GMOs. Unlike the claims of Entine and other GMO proponents not all scientists agree that GMOs are safe, or the best agricultural model for global food security.
Not once did Entine address the carcinogen issue that is the root cause of so many countries banning or heavily regulating glyphosate and GMO crops. Nor did he refer to Monsanto’s history of producing toxic chemicals such as DDT, dioxin, Agent Orange, saccharin and PCBs. (For a complete history see here).
The GMO issue is far from settled, as so many Big BioTech proponents claim. Scientific dissent is not simply alarmist claptrap and misinformation. There is a very real debate to be had, and it would be best if both sides were transparent and accountable in their arguments and proofs, so we, the public can make informed choices for our health, and the health of the planet.