GMO opponents fall for a hoax

Every once in a while, there’s a story that’s so unbelievable, it almost sounds like a myth of legendary proportions. Let me try to write this without laughing.

Each day, I receive news feeds from Google with articles from all over the web regarding my favorite issues. Vaccines, vaccinations, politics, sports, and whatever interests me. The feeds are very specific, so sometimes there are just a couple of articles, sometimes, especially with vaccinations, there are literally several dozen. I scan the headlines, and some become articles here.

One of my feeds is simply “GMO,” or genetically modified crops, which are foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). All types of agricultural breeding induces genetic modification, but in general, GMO usually implies actual manipulation of the genes. GMO’s are a major controversy because of the use of DNA recombination-introducing genes from one species into another, which usually provides crops with added advantages, such as resistance to pests. A few weeks ago, when the thoroughly debunked “GMO corn causes cancer” story hit the interwebs, and my GMO news feed was filled with articles. Lately, it’s dropped down to a handful.

Yesterday, a handful of science denying (anti-GMO) bloggers and websites were touting a story that Kaiser-Permanente, the huge managed healthcare corporation with nearly 9 million members, was warning all of its members to avoid GMO foods. Kaiser actually uses science based medicine in its health care model, because it knows that real science in medicine helps its members live longer and healthier. So, I was surprised to read such a “statement”.

Apparently, in a Kaiser newsletter to its members (see above), they state that “despite what the biotech industry might say, there is little research on the long-term effects of GMOs on human health. Independent research has found several varieties of GMO corn caused organ damage in rats. Other studies have found that GMOs may lead to an inability in animals to reproduce.” Really? There’s evidence of that? But let’s continue.

The anti-science websites went crazy with this information. One website, the anti-science blog, Fooducate (really?), can’t resist opining, “It’s not surprising that Kaiser Permanente is brave enough to come out so boldly about GMOs. KP is considered a progressive health provider. It has been running farmer’s markets outside medical centers for several years.” A few other websites jumped on the bandwagon, Occupy MonsantoNatural Society News, ENews Park Forest, all without actually checking to find out if Kaiser really did say anything.

So, did Kaiser really say anything publicly that indicates it is now anti-GMO?

First, there’s nothing about GMO’s on Kaiser’s website for its patients. You’d think that if this was a new initiative of Kaiser, it would be in a letter to its members, or on the member’s website. There is not one single mention of GMO’s there.

However, an Oregon news website, Willamette Live, decided to find out what Kaiser really thought about GMO’s. Willamette Live contacted a media representative of Kaiser Permanente, and received the following response:

The article appearing in this fall’s issue of Partners in Health, Kaiser Permanente’s newsletter for members, was written by one of our nutritionists, and presents her views and insights on the subject. As a mission-based non-profit healthcare organization, we believe it is important to share information with our members on a wide range of topics related to health care and health, but we do not take an organizational position on every issue.

Kaiser Permanente believes the ongoing research and debate on bioengineered foods, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is important. We also recognize there are important conversations about related initiatives and propositions. While we believe these are important scientific and political debates, we do not have policy positions on these subjects.

So, some anonymous nutritionist wrote this article in the newsletter, and Kaiser Permanente, the healthcare provider, has no opinion whatsoever on GMO’s. 

And, as for the dangers of GMO’s, there is no scientific evidence supporting such a point of view. However, there is a boatload of scientific evidence that says GMO’s are safe:

These science denying, anti-GMO websites are so gullible. They ignore real science but fall for a hoax that arose out of a photo of a Kaiser newsletter that did not represent Kaiser Permanente’s actual opinions about GMO’s. 

Maybe these websites should read my article on how to find bad science in news articles. Hah.

The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!