Slate's William Saletan Shows How It's Done Son
There's been no shortage of journalists of late flacking for the pesticide and junk food industries regarding genetically engineered foods, aka Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). This coincides with the massive industry PR push behind the Safe and Affordable Food Labeling (SAFE) Act, ie. the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, which will stop states from requiring disclosure of GMO foods. Easily fooled and blind to their bias, these journalists focus on irrational or fringe elements in the movement to label GMO foods, celebrate commercially insignificant examples of GMOs, and cover up that over 90% of GMO food acreage is engineered by chemical companies to survive huge doses of weed killer. Rather than sound the alarm that the pesticide industry's new 2,4 D herbicide-tolerant GMO crops were recently greenlighted for planting this spring by industry-friendly regulators, these journalists bury the fact they are destined for our dinner plates this fall.
William Saletan of Slate, prominent spoon-fed banger of drums in support of war in Iraq, recently stepped up to show fellow media lackeys how best to swallow and regurgitate pesticide and junk food talking points on GMOs, and advised Americans they don't need to know what they eat and feed their families. In his article, "Unhealthy Fixation" Saletan states:
"If you're like me, you don't really want to wade into this issue. It's too big, technical, and confusing. But come with me, just this once. I want to take you backstage, behind those blanket assurances about the safety of genetic engineering. I want to take you down into the details of four GMO fights, because that's where you'll find truth. You'll come to the last curtain, the one that hides the reality of the anti-GMO movement. And you'll see what's behind it."
He then spends 5,000+ words discussing genetically engineered virus-resistant papaya that represents less than 0.001 percent of GMO crop acreage worldwide, and beta-carotene-enriched genetically engineered rice that represents exactly zero percent. Only at the end of the article does Saletan devote any attention to the real concern driving the modern GMO labeling movement: that pesticide companies are engineering major food crops to survive huge volumes of the toxic weed killers they sell. And even then he lays down pesticide industry spin that glyphosate -- the main herbicide GMOs are engineered to tolerate whose use has skyrocketed on food -- is "safer," even though the World Health Organization determined earlier this year that glyphosate is a "probable carcinogen" (which he alludes to only by hyperlink without explicitly stating and interfering with his argument.) Even more egregiously, he fails to state that the pesticide industry's next generation "stacked" herbicide-tolerant GMO crops also tolerate huge amounts of 2,4 D, an older herbicide and known toxic component of Agent Orange, along with glyphosate.
Saletan also blithely asserts that genetically engineered Bt insecticide in GMO corn has led to a reduction of insecticide use, failing to mention that use of systemic neonicotinoid insecticides on GMO corn has skyrocketed from zero to almost 100 percent in the past twelve years -- insecticides which are banned in the EU due to their killing power on bees, pollinators and other non-target wildlife. (See former EPA Senior Scientist Dr. Ray Seidler's "Pesticide Use on Genetically Engineered Crops.")
Up until 2011 I myself was a sucker for industry-fed propaganda served up by the likes of Saletan, that GMOs were mostly nutrient-enriched drought-tolerant yield-boosted crops that require less pesticides. But then the government deregulated "Round-Up Ready Alfalfa" and the charade was over: GMOs are about chemical companies engineering crops to tolerate huge doses of the weed killer they sell. Alfalfa isn't even generally sprayed with herbicide in the first place. A huge swath of the American public woke up to the fact that GMOs are really about pesticide companies selling pesticides, and the modern GMO labeling movement was born. Commercially insignificant GMOs like GMO papayas, rice, apples and potatoes are red herring distractions and not the issue. Herbicide-tolerant 2,4 D & glyphosate food crops are what's for dinner and should be Exhibit A when discussing labeling GMOs. And regardless of potential risks, just as consumers have a right to know if orange juice is from concentrate or if vanilla is artificial, they have a right to know if food has been genetically engineered.
Journalists covering science, agriculture and food need to wake up to the influence and track record of the pesticide and junk food industries, and stand up for the public interest. These industries are desperately trying to force the DARK Act through Congress. This bill would pre-empt citizens' rights to enact mandatory GMO labeling, and its backers are counting on clueless journalists to help them do it. But hopefully our elected representatives will stand up for our simple right to know if our food is engineered to be saturated in toxic herbicide--a right citizens in 64 other countries already have.