Science writer Kyle Hill coins the new term argumentum ad monsantum on his blog. Among other things, he argues:

If Monsanto has anything to do with it, it must be evil. That seems to be the prevailing opinion on the monolithic biotech company. 

Making the leap from Monsanto’s business practices—whatever you may think of them—to the “dangers” of GM foods is a mistake in logical reasoning. It is akin to saying landscape paintings are potentially evil because the painter was a serial killer. The conclusion does not follow from the premise. And giving some product or process the attributes of its user is the logical fallacy that currently leads typically pro-science liberals like [Bill] Maher astray on questions of nuclear power, vaccination, and especially GMOs. Whether genetically modified foods are safe is a scientific, not a political, question. To intertwine views of Monsanto with GM foods is therefore an argumentum ad monsantum, a disturbingly popular logical fallacy, and Bill Maher is the classic example.

The first component to the liberal opposition to genetically modified food appears to be a genuine misunderstanding of how it works. The genetic modification of food is a much more exact science than many opponents realize. As this fantastic explainer outlines, genetic modification is typically about inserting a single gene—whose effects we test for toxicity and allergenic properties—into a crop. It is not a haphazard Frankenstein process of sowing and suturing animal and plant parts together. In fact, a Frankenstein-style process is exactly what was done before genetic modification.

Even when we are taking genes from animals and inserting them into plants or vice-versa, the results are still safereduce pesticide use, and dramatically increase crop yields. In fact, this year, a review of over 1,700 papers [PDF] concerning the safety of GM food in the journal Critical Reviews in Biotechnology concluded, “The scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazards directly connected with the use of genetically engineered crops.”

It’s fashionable to think that the conservative parties in America are the science deniers. You certainly wouldn’t have trouble supporting that claim. But liberals are not exempt. Though the denial of evolution, climate change, and stem cell research tends to find a home on the right of the aisle, the denial of vaccine, nuclear power, and genetic modification safety have found a home on the left (though the extent to which each side denies the science is debatable). It makes one wonder: Why do liberals like Maher—psychologically considered open to new ideas—deny the science of GM food while accepting the science in other fields?

He provides his opinion on this question, but why do you believe it is happening?

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One particularly ignorant environmentalist group, noticing that a lot of recently-demonized industrially-produced chemicals all had chlorine in their formulae, decided we needed to ban all chlorine compounds.

Why not take it a step further and ban all halogens?  We could claim our first success almost immediately as astatine is staggeringly rare in nature--we've nearly eradicated it, woo hoo!

And more seriously, to add to Unseen's observation, chlorine, a gas that, if you breathe it I understand feels like you just shot an acetylene torch up into your nostrils, and sodium, a metal so reactive that even water will cause it to burn--quite violently in fact--combined make that self-same table salt you were talking about.

"Fear of the unknown," isn't that how religion got started?

Gene Roddenberry's vision of a planetary government seems utopian to most, but start breaking down geo-political trade barriers with global declarations of rights and some free-trade deals....well, most people freak right out, seeing it all as a conspiracy by the illuminati, a new world order.

Navigating an unfamiliar computer in the 80's could be a nightmare, and the only way to share files was to print them out.  Enter Bill and Steve, industry standardization, plummeting prices - and vast tracts of the population view at least one of them as the embodiment of evil, even after having ripped off every shred of software without giving either man a penny.  My browser is collecting information about me!!!!  Oh, but I wouldn't even consider paying $5 for one that doesn't.

I think Monsanto is the same.  Worldwide food production is at least triple what it would be without big-agro, but they are too big, and so therefore must be doing something underhanded.  They are making us reliant on all their cheap, bug-free food!  Bastards!

I would, as long as it's open source, opt-in, and offered some reasonable assurance that it worked. But the public Internet is the most powerful and effective spying and tracking system ever invented, so I'd be doubtful enough to keep the $5 and use Tor instead.

You've touched on an interesting issue here.  I don't back up nearly as often as I should, because every free product I've ever seen won't do what I want, XCOPY and its successors are broken, and I can't figure out before I pay for non-free software whether it will do what I want it to do.  (If I could read the manual before I buy, that would be a different matter.  I find myself perusing manuals in big box stores and even Home Depot to see if a device actually has the features I want before I plunk down the $$$.)  I may well end up writing my own; it will probably copy twice as many files as it really needs to, but at least it will do what I fricking want it to do.

Have you looked at EaseUS? It's free for home users, as they make their money from business users.

(Never mind, I forgot it doesn't back up files, but disc images.)

Science denialism and liberal politics...yep, there's no reason they can't go hand in hand. I mean, look at all the new age garbage fringe members of the party absolutly believe in.

In my opinion, competition and product variety make for a better marketplace (a yummier plate). Genetic variety is a thing to preserve. I don't think gmo's are evil. I think they're a good supplement to what we have.

Why do people worry so much about what they put in their bodies when we're already all being penetrated by radio waves, breathing all kinds of poisonous gases, eating meat that was ripped of the bones of animals whose entire existence consists of continuously being tortured and executed, eat vegetables grown in dirt and salads that had bugs flicked off of it, drink all kinds of artificial sugary shit in our sodas, and then on top of that have other unhealthy habits like smoking? This has to be a new level of being oblivious. Like my friend the other day, who while we were sitting outside was talking about how she likes the fresh air, while she had a cigarette in her mouth. She didn't seem to notice how fucking stupid that made her look. You don't get to talk about fresh or dirty air while you're sucking on a cocktail of poisonous shit. And people bitching about genetically modified anything don't see the hypocrisy and futility of their concerns either.

Life's inherently unhealthy, that's why you die at the end, dummy. I'd get people being upset about this if humans were immortal. Then we could argue about things making you sick and whatnot, but we're not immortal, we die anyway. What's the fucking point of having a body if you're not going to use it. And while I'm at it, let me segue into the obvious question here. Why don't we just cut the food modification bullshit and try this stuff out on humans? Modify humans to operate on less food or be less aggressive and horny, or something useful like that. The problem isn't that there's not enough food on earth, there is actually more than enough to feed every mouth. The problem is that there's too many humans and that as a species we're completely selfish assholes.

I'm imagining a field of lettuce as far as the eye can see. Now I'm imagining a coyote stalking through it. He feels an urge to pee.

As an organic gardener I dislike the creations of Monsanto simply because hybridized seed is sterile. I want something open-pollinated that I can store and replant the following year. As someone who believes in self-sufficiency I do not want to rely on a megacorp to sale me seed year after year when I can simply remove them from the process altogether.

The jury is still out on what the long term health implications might become for ingesting HMO oriented foodstuffs. Mother Nature works wonderfully without human assistance. Sometimes we simply cannot leave well enough alone.

Feeding the planet should not be relied upon from a 'mega scale' corporate farm viewpoint but rather return it to a local level. The energy invested to ship frozen foodstuffs halfway around the world is a classic example of inefficiency and ultimate waste. While it might seem trivial to some I think it is awesome to sit down at your dinner table and everything you eat came off your land or out of your garden. I know exactly what is and is not in each and everything on my plate. There is a great deal of satisfaction and comfort in knowing that. But I also realize it's difficult for everyone to do the same. The next best thing is supporting your local farmer's markets. We need to bring things back to the local level as much as possible. That's my rant, sorry for the divergence. 

Not a bad rant, even if I don't totally agree with the pro-nature idealism. Promoting local production and local, healthy choices are also good reasons by themselves, as opposed to habitually choosing food based on price and convenience.

There's another reason for raising people's income and standard of living. When you have to make every dollar stretch to the max, buying organic and making other smart choices often has to take a back seat to more practical considerations.


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