This is a response to Paul Beingessner’s
from Saskatchewan” posted December 30, 2003. To
see Penner’s earlier writings that Paul was responding
to, go to:
March 12, 2004: Paul Beingessner has responded
to my recent article “The Divine Right of Stagnation”
with a characteristically venomous op-ed entitled “Saying
it does not make it so,” in which he challenges my honesty,
my sources and science itself.
Well, Paul, challenge accepted.
First off I am not a hog farmer. I am a hog and grain farmer,
running 1,700 acres of land. Why someone who is interested
in having an honest debate would leave this out is a question
that answers itself.
Mr. Beingessner jumps into the food safety issue claiming
“Science most certainly has not proven there is no risk
to eating GM crops since science has done virtually no direct
testing of that hypothesis.” We’re supposed to
believe after decades of groups carrying on about toxic reactions
to these crops that hardly anyone has testing them for just
that. I guess it’s true; denial is not just a river
I counted 85 studies on this referenced on the University
of Guelph’s web site. There are also extensive lists
at The Royal Society of Edinburgh, at the United Nations Food
and Agriculture Organization, National Academies of Sciences
in America, UK, Brazil, China, India, Mexico, the Third World
Academy of Science, the U.S. Institute of Food Technologists,
Swiss Association for Research and Nutrition, American Society
of Toxicology and affiliates of the American Council on Science
and Health. All conclude that this food is safe.
And let’s be clear about where the alleged danger is
coming from -- DNA. The average person consumes between 0.1
to 1 gram of DNA each day. In transgenic corn the amount of
transgenes represents 0.0001% of the total DNA present. If
someone were eating 100% transgenic food, the amount of transgenic
DNA they consumed would still amount to less than a needle
in a haystack.
Then Beingessner asserts, “It is a bold leap of logic,
based on the claim that science, and hence all scientists,
are united in the position that GM foods are harmless. Nothing
could be further from the truth.” Which is a common
anti-technology tactic -- the demand of consensus.
Fortunately, science does not work that way. It works on
strict adherence to the scientific method, through double-blind
studies, good lab practices, etc. and the ability to replicate
results. To demand absolute consensus is not necessary, and
results in the politicalization of the process.
However, if one desires large consensus, I would again direct
them to the above list (particularly the “Society of
Toxicology,” representing over 5000 toxicologists) and
invite them to check their well-referenced position paper,
“The safety of genetically modified crops produced through
biotechnology.” It details Beingessner’s loathed
“substantial equivalence” concept -- which is
only a starting point, not an ending one as he would have
Which brings us to a statement that shows a complete ignorance
of the regulations: “Genetically engineered foods classified
as substantially equivalent are spared from extensive safety
testing on the assumption that they are no more dangerous
than the corresponding non-GM food,” writes Beingessner.
The health Canada website clearly shows that all GM foods
undergo health risk assessments for chemical, physical, microbiological
contaminants, toxicants and allergens. [These assessments
are] done by evaluators with expertise in molecular biology,
toxicology, chemistry, nutritional sciences and microbiology.
This is the case with regulatory bodies worldwide.
The truth is that no other agricultural process technology,
or the foods derived from it, has ever been subjected to this
level of analysis or regulation before.
Then there is the “tryptophan” red herring. The
deaths were traced to impurities in the manufacturing process
of both GM and non-GM versions. Lobbying by the (surprise)
health food industry has resulted in legislation tying regulators’
hands when it comes to evaluating all “dietary supplements”
like vitamins, minerals, herbal products, and amino acids
I agree that “saying it, does not make it so.”
Facts are vital. The problem with those engaged in the anti-GM
jihad is that they have little more than science fiction and
emotion to go on. When it comes to actual evidence they are
all bark and no bite.
Rolf Penner farms 1,700 acres of various grains and oilseeds,
as well a hog operation in southern Manitoba. He is a graduate
of the University of Manitoba agriculture program and has
a keen interest in economics, politics and philosophy as well
as in animal rights, biotech, and environmental issues. He
regularly writes editorials for two Manitoba farm papers,
the Manitoba Cooperator and the Southeast Agri-Post. firstname.lastname@example.org