Excellent New York Times Article on the Success of the Anti-GMO Campaign in Hawaii

KillerTomatoesThe front page of the Sunday New York
featured a long article, “A
Lonely Quest for Facts on Genetically Modified Crops
,” details
what happens when scientific issues are decided by votes. The
article follows the political and intellectual travails of Hawaii
County (a.k.a. Big Island) council member Greggor Ilagan as he
tried to navigate through the massive amounts of disinformation
being deployed in a campaign to ban modern biotech crop varieties
from the island. (Back in October, I reported on the nonsensical
anti-GMO crusade in Hawaii in my article, “In
Search of Frankencorn in Hawaii

Times reporter Amy Harmon does an superb job of telling
the story of how council member Ilagan sorted through the claims of
activists and the counterclaims of scientists in reaching his
lonely decision to vote against the ban. Here are some

But with the G.M.O. bill, [Ilagan] often despaired of assembling
the information he needed to definitively decide. Every time he
answered one question, it seemed, new ones arose. Popular opinion
masqueraded convincingly as science, and the science itself was
hard to grasp. People who spoke as experts lacked credentials, and
G.M.O. critics discounted those with credentials as being pawns of
biotechnology companies….

Scientists, who have come to rely on liberals in political
battles over stem-cell research, climate change and the teaching of
evolution, have been dismayed to find themselves
at odds with their traditional allies on this issue
. Some
compare the hostility to G.M.O.s to the rejection of climate-change
science, except with liberal opponents instead of conservative

“Just as many on the political right discount the broad
scientific consensus that human activities contribute to global
warming, many progressive advocacy groups disregard, reject or
ignore the decades of scientific studies demonstrating the safety
and wide-reaching benefits” of genetically engineered crops, Pamela
Ronald, a professor of plant pathology at the University of
California, Davis, wrote on the blog of the nonprofit Biology Fortified….

Sensitive to the accusation that her bill [to ban GMOs] was
antiscience, [council member] Ms. Wille had circulated material to
support it. But in almost every case, Mr. Ilagan and his staff
found evidence that seemed to undermine the claims.

A report, in an obscure Russian journal,
about hamsters that lost the ability to reproduce
after three
generations as a result of a diet of genetically modified soybeans
had been contradicted by many other studies and deemed bogus by
mainstream scientists.

Mr. Ilagan discounted the correlations between the
rise in childhood allergies
and the consumption of G.M.O.s,
cited by Ms. Wille and others, after reading of the common mistake
of confusing correlation for causation. (One graph, illustrating
the weakness of conclusions based on correlation, charted the
rise in organic food sales and autism diagnoses.

In October, the county council voted for the ban 6 to 3 and the
bill was signed by the mayor on December 5. The whole
Times article is well worth your attention. Read and it

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2014/01/06/excellent-new-york-times-article-on-the

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