Thursday, September 03, 2009

Genetically modified Crops: Critics of the GM Critics Gone Wild?

See this story in Nature on the backlash against an article published finding that
"...[caddis-fly larvae] fed only on Bt maize debris grew half as fast as those that ate debris from conventional maize. And caddis flies fed high concentrations of Bt maize pollen died at more than twice the rate of caddis flies fed non-_Bt pollen. The transgenic maize "may have negative effects on the biota of streams in agricultural areas" the group wrote in its paper, stating in the abstract that "widespread planting of Bt crops has unexpected ecosystem-scale consequences.""

I've said much on GM before, but as far as this article about the swift and forceful critical attacks--as attacks they can be described, when the scientists are charged of scientific misconduct by critics, as we were in an article on organic agriculture, when most would admit that the "misconduct" is usually, at most, from strident but perhaps valid disagreement on wording or analytical approach, my challenge to the types critiquing the GM crop critiques is:

1) Find studies that *find negative effects from GM crops* that you feel are well-conducted. The probability that all studies that critique/find negative effects of GM are poorly done is exceedingly low.
2) If you actually feel all the research finding negative effects are poorly done, for the sake of science and balanced analysis, point out how this is similar/dissimilar to problems in "pro"-GM articles. That is, while it's unlikely all "anti"-GM science is badly done, the probability that all of them are badly done and all of the studies supporting GM are well done (back of the envelope calculations here...) zero point zero percent. A synthesis of the methodological flaws in each body of literature would be far more helpful than systematically decrying all articles with contrary findings and pointing to all positive findings.

In essence, it would be nice for those advocating GM to stop pretending all the evidence against it is bunk, bad science, or politically motivated. The feeling that those opposing GM accuse you of the same is not an excuse, especially considering the attitude in the Nature article of some critics that "That's just science." Accusing people of intentional misconduct is not an everyday reaction, or it shouldn't be, and anyone categorically insisting that their side is rational and the other sides aren't (or otherwise assumes bad faith on an entire side of a discussion and not on the others*) shouldn't really be listened to.

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