Genetically modified organisms is a hot and heavy topic, with people stacking up on both sides of the GMO debate. It seems that without ‘facts’ to support one’s opinion, individuals resort to impertinence to get their points across, even if they are highly educated and respected. The incivility of one particular professor of food science, Bruce Chassy, is especially alarming as the debate on GMOs becomes more heated. We all have bad days, but resorting to insults only discredits one’s arguments.
Ken Roseboro of the Non GMO Report has written exclusively about GMOs as a journalist, and he’s done it for quite a while now. So you can imagine his surprise when a discussion with a noted professor emeritus led to a name-calling session.
Roseboro and Chassy were reportedly in a discussion at the recent Institute of Food Technologists’ (IFT) Expo held in Chicago, when the insults started to fly. Chassy gave a presentation, which, in fairness, was his ‘side’ of the story – but within it he mostly attacked GMO opponents. Without mentioning the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association and their illegal campaign contributions to fight GMO labeling, he said that pro-GMOers were smearing GM technology, and using billions of dollars to do it.
Firstly – this is simply false. The GMO biotech companies are well equipped to fight with billions themselves against any supposed monies that anti-GMO advocates are able to muster. He called anti-GMO advocates ‘a bunch of liars.’ In all fairness, I’ve called biotech companies the same, but I usually substantiate that claim with facts.
In the same presentation, Chassy also showed pictures of starving children in Africa with bloated stomachs stating that this is what GMO technology was meant to correct.
Chassy also said that initiatives to label GM foods violated the First Amendment and that many state labeling bills have “zero tolerance” standards for GMOs – but where is our right to know what is in our food or other things we ingest? Would Chassy be happy to indulge in some water contaminated with arsenic without knowing it was there?
He also showed a cartoon of two cavemen; one saying to the other “we exercise, eat organic and free-range food but we’re still dying at 30 years old.” I’m not sure who penned that cartoon Chassy decided to put up, but I know countless people who eat organic and workout (myself included), who are in better shape than most people I know who live a different lifestyle.
Here’s where the insults began, though.
After Chassy finished his presentation, he took some time to take questions from the audience. Roseboro approached the mic to ask his own questions, introducing himself as the editor of The Organic & Non-GMO Report. He politely disputed several of his points, as any civil human being in a society might do.
“After a few questions, I went up to microphone, introduced myself as the editor of The Organic & Non-GMO Report and politely disputed several of his points. I said there were no state GMO labeling bills that had a zero tolerance standard. Chassy got flustered and asked another speaker, Wayne Parrott, who said that California’s Proposition 37 had a zero tolerance requirement. It didn’t. I said that GMO labeling did not increase consumer food costs in Europe.
Chassy responded that European consumer costs increased 10% – 15% and that ‘it’s in the scientific literature.’ (I’m still looking for that. An analysis by the National Economic Research Associates for the government of the United Kingdom found that consumer food costs would increase by at most $4.00 per year with GMO labeling.) Regarding Chassy’s “virtually all soybeans are GMO” claim, I said that the US alone produces two million acres of food-grade non-GMO soybeans each year.
At this point Chassy became visibly frustrated and said: ‘I’m going to be rude to you.’ And he was, telling me I was deluded among other insults. Then he waved his hand to dismiss me and said ‘Now let someone else ask a question.’
‘On behalf of IFT, I want to apologize.’
Another person may have angrily returned the insults to Chassy. Instead, I sat down, shut down my laptop computer, and left the meeting. As I was leaving a woman from Kraft Foods approached me and said, ‘He was very rude. I’ve seen people on both sides act that way. There needs to be dialogue.’ She then said: ‘On behalf of IFT, I want to apologize.’”
I’ll say – if experts want us to take their word for it when they say GMOs are safe, they shouldn’t be afraid of some simple questions at a symposium. And if GMOs are so safe – why not just label them?
This article first appeared at Natural Society.