GMO info; schoolyard beatdowns

Posted by Ralph Schwartz on August 15, 2013 

We received a good comment on my post yesterday, "GMOs: What do you know?" that links to more information on the "Yes to 522" side. (Initiative 522 would require labels on raw agricultural products that are genetically modified and on processed foods with GM ingredients.)

An editor had to send me the comment because it never posted. This new format for the Politics Blog doesn't accept comments with links -- a standard restriction in comment forms that is intended to reduce spam. It came without the commenter's name, so I don't know who sent it. It reads thusly:

"Ralph, If you are truly seeking answers about GMOs, Bellingham based The Non-GMO Project is a great local resource.

"If you want to drill down into the nutritional science, cause-and-effect GMO issues, Bellingham based Certified Nutritionist Tom Malterre is an individual that can break down very complex problems so just around anyone can understand them. Here is a video interview I did with Tom at the Justice Begins with Seeds Conference in Seattle two weeks ago. (links to Toms website, social networks, Autism Research Institute webinar is in the text box below the video.)"

I approached this with the same thirst for knowledge I expressed in my post yesterday. Yes, I thought, now I will get to the core reasons why genetically engineered food should be labeled.

I won't mince words. The 10-minute video was another disappointment.

For one thing, it's not an interview. It's a stand-up by Tom Malterre, in the style of an on-the-scene TV news reporter. An interview would provide the opportunity for good, challenging questions on Malterre's position.

Turns out that Malterre is a faculty member with the Autism Research Institute, which on its front page walks this tenuous line between trying to not be scientifically inaccurate while at the same time insinuating an unverified claim:

"Although there is as yet no documented connection between GMOs and autism, there is much discussion on the relationship. Note: Google lists 857,000 entries for 'GMOs and autism.'"

We are all advanced enough in the Internet era to know that just because it's on Google doesn't make it true.

For the record, the causes of autism are unknown, though promising studies point to genetics and brain structure.

In the video, Malterre suggests a link between GMOs and/or the pesticide RoundUp, and autism, irritable bowel syndrome, eczema, the rise in antidepressant prescriptions, and increasing violence in society. Again, he's careful not to claim a link. He just says it's possible. Whether the casual listener or the members of the audience not well versed in science can discern the difference is an open question.

Bottom line: Malterre himself says "no one knows" whether GMOs are bad for you. But he is definitely suspicious. He said a yes vote on I-522 would enable the consumer to conduct his/her own experiment, to see if removing genetically engineered food from one's diet improves eczema, mood swings, etc.

A yes vote at the ballot box, he says, will enable consumers to vote in a way that really counts -- with their money.

Speaking of money, Malterre included in the video a pitch for his cookbook. He's got the credentials -- he's a certified nutritionist -- but his claims would have more gravity if they weren't wrapped around a sales pitch.

To conclude on GMOs: Deciding how to vote in November hinges on a dilemma. Vote yes, and consumers can avoid genetically engineered foods just in case they are harmful. Vote no, and the economy of companies that rely on sales of GM foods isn't disrupted for no good reason (possibly).

If that is the decision-making calculus in play, I predict Washington voters will approve I-522.

* * *

To shift gears and discuss commenting.

Commenting is the most important element to the Politics Blog. I have learned a hell of a lot by reading people's responses to what I wrote and to each other. The blog is fortunate to have so many intelligent readers who are willing to engage the ideas brought forward here.

But there is a downside, as you've all seen firsthand. The comments can devolve into schoolyard bullying. The new blog format, introduced last week, seems to encourage this because it indents replies directly under the first post, which makes the thread of statement and responses easier to read.

In my post yesterday about the Republicans in Congress, I removed a handful of comments that either included foul language or simply mean verbal assaults. I know the Internet is fertile ground for bullying, known in the vernacular as trolling, but it is my responsibility to erase it when I see it. So if you're tempted to curse at someone or question whether they qualify as a human being, I would suggest resisting.

I kept the following comment exchange up because it wasn't mean-spirited enough to warrant removal, but still -- how much is the conversation advanced by an exchange like this?



The Democrats do not have leaders with a clue.

19 hours ago in reply to mathrews



The clueless speaks

5 hours ago in reply to Im_The_Stig



 Yes you did.





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