This week the House Agriculture Committee is expected to mark up and vote on a bill that would take away the right of states to label food with genetically modified ingredients, or GMOs. According to Environmental Working Group (EWG), the latest draft of the measure shows it to be a bad bill that keeps getting worse.
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The bill originally only prevented states from labeling products with GMOs. The version to be considered this week goes a step further, prohibiting state and local governments from protecting the environment and public health from the side effects of the production of GMO crops. The bill also allows companies to make “natural” claims on foods with GMOs and blocks state efforts to prohibit these misleading claims. These are more reasons that clean food advocates call the bill the Deny Americans the Right to Know, or DARK Act.
“This bad bill just keeps getting worse,” said Mary Ellen Kustin, EWG senior policy analyst. “The DARK Act has always been an infringement upon the well-established rights of states to regulate food labeling, but the most recent versions of the bill takes that overreach to a new level.”
Use of herbicides linked to cancer, especially glyphosate, has exploded alongside the increase in production of GMO crops engineered to withstand the application of these toxic chemicals. In the last 20 years, use of glyphosate, which was recently identified as a probable human carcinogen by the world’s leading cancer researchers, has increased 16-fold.
As glyphosate use has increased, weeds have started to develop resistance to it. In response, Dow Agrosciences has produced Enlist Duo, a combination of glyphosate and another herbicide, 2,4-D, which was recently labeled a possible human carcinogen. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved the use of Enlist Duo in 15 states, though the agency has not examined the safety risk of the two active ingredients when combined together.
“Because of the risks to human health posed by the widespread application of herbicides linked to cancer and other terrible diseases, like Parkinsons, of course local governments would want to keep farmers and farmworkers safe from exposure,” said Kustin. “If the federal government isn’t going to protect public health, responsible local officials will want to step up—but the DARK Act wants to make it impossible for them to do so. Backers of the bill keep adding more ways to keep Americans in the dark.”
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When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
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