Why Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn't support GMO labels
The 'Cosmos' host says people need to 'chill out' over GM foods ... and the brouhaha ensues.
Fri, Aug 08, 2014 at 12:58 PM
Few topics have the hot-button potential of genetically modified foods – so unless you're ready to rumble, talk of GMOs is best left off the Facebook page and skipped at the family holiday table.
But that didn’t stop celebrity astrophysicist extraordinaire Neil deGrasse Tyson from expressing his views on the topic last week, and doing so with gusto – as in, telling the anti-GMO crowd to, “chill out.” Not surprisingly, people freaked.
It all started when a French journalist asked Tyson about "des plantes transgenetiques" during a book signing. In his two-minutes-and-change reply — all caught on video and gone viral since — Tyson began, “I’m amazed at how much rejection genetically modified foods are receiving from the public.”
"Practically every food you buy in a store for consumption by humans is genetically modified food," said Tyson, his enthusiasm rising as he spoke. "There are no wild, seedless watermelons. There's no wild cows ... You list all the fruit, and all the vegetables, and ask yourself, is there a wild counterpart to this? If there is, it's not as large, it's not as sweet, it's not as juicy, and it has way more seeds in it. We have systematically genetically modified all the foods, the vegetables and animals that we have eaten ever since we cultivated them. It's called artificial selection."
The rest you can see below.
Among a host of other things, critics of GM foods have a problem with the lack of distinction between modifying plants and animals through traditional breeding and genetic modification that requires the use of biotechnology, and involves techniques such as inserting genes from different species – as Mother Jones points out – but Tyson doesn’t see it that way.
Following the subsequent hoopla, Tyson took to Facebook noting that:
Everything I said is factual. So there's nothing to disagree with other than whether you should actually "chill out" as I requested of the viewer in my last two words of the clip.Had I given a full talk on this subject, or if GMOs were the subject of a sit-down interview, then I would have raised many nuanced points, regarding labeling, patenting, agribusiness, monopolies, etc. I've noticed that almost all objections to my comments center on these other issues.
He then went on to explain his points in a bit more detail. But, it wasn’t enough. And so with that in mind, he took to Facebook again this week to lay it all out.
So there you have it. What do you think? As a scientist, does Tyson toe the line of his discipline too closely without considering the broader implications? Or does his argument make sense to you?
Related stories on MNN: