Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Is Bill Nye a Hired Gun for Monsanto?

Food
Is Bill Nye a Hired Gun for Monsanto?

You may have heard that popular scientist Bill Nye has mysteriously revised his outlook on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Several years ago, the children’s show host advocated for the labeling of genetically modified foods, citing concerns about what GMOs could do to ecosystems. But now his position on the controversial technology has flipped. This development is the latest in a trend spearheaded by agribusiness giants to discredit the GMO labeling movement, and it’s especially hard to disassociate his reversal from this PR blitz since it coincided with Nye’s recent trip to Monsanto’s headquarters.

Companies like Monsanto hope that casting doubt on the GMO labeling debate will cause us to get caught up in the proverbial weeds of the issue. 

We’ll never know what actually went down during Nye’s visit, as Tom Philpott at Mother Jones notes, but we do know that Monsanto has poured millions of dollars into public relation efforts to sell the public on GMOs. Because that’s what you do when you are a corporation with deep coffers and a product that the public is wisely skeptical of.

Does this mean that it’s game over for the GMO labeling movement or that we should trust Monsanto’s word? Of course not. In fact, it means we should be more suspicious than ever.

Companies like Monsanto hope that casting doubt on the GMO labeling debate will cause us to get caught up in the proverbial weeds of the issue. So let’s get something straight: the debate over GMOs isn’t just about GMOs. It’s about the current and future state of our food system—who grows and sells our food, how it’s marketed, and what technologies were used to produce it. By selling seeds to farmers, peddling pesticides, forming corporate monopolies and funding academic research on GMOs, agribusiness giants like Monsanto have one goal in mind: controlling the food system. The millions of people calling for labeling of GMO foods have a problem with that. Furthermore, it is disappointing to see such beloved science advocates as Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson being captured by the industry.

As I outlined in my book Foodopoly, Monsanto’s roots in the biotech game date back decades, and they have a long history of subverting public policy. In effect, the company used its relationship with the Reagan Administration to create a weak regulatory process that would help the company bring its products to market quickly and smoothly. A 1985 U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruling that allowed for plants to be patented further entrenched Monsanto’s power in this area. Since 1999, the fifty largest agricultural and food patent-holding companies and two of the largest biotech and agrochemical trade associations have spent more than US$572 million in campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures, much of it to create a favorable political context to allow GMOs to proliferate.

Just because the industry has launched a charm offensive in the media when it comes to GMOs doesn’t change the basic facts: GMOs are largely untested, and their long-term effects on our health and our planet are still unknown; they promote the use of dangerous chemicals, and they pose a significant threat to organic agriculture. What’s more, consumers should absolutely get to decide whether the food they are buying carries these unknown risks or supports this system; GMO foods must be labeled.

Corporations and their hired guns love confusing people about the science behind their questionable products to help shape favorable public opinion (in the case of GMOs, asserting there is scientific consensus where none actually exists). But we aren’t buying their spin, nor should you.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

USDA Approves GMO Arctic Apples Despite Opposition

7 Reasons to Detox

Are Insects the Next Climate-Friendly Superfood?

The black cherries of Coffea stenophylla. E. Couturon / IRD, Author provided

By Aaron P Davis

The world loves coffee. More precisely, it loves arabica coffee. From the smell of its freshly ground beans through to the very last sip, arabica is a sensory delight.

Robusta, the other mainstream coffee crop species, is almost as widely traded as arabica, but it falls short on flavor. Robusta is mainly used for instant coffee and blends, while arabica is the preserve of discerning baristas and expensive espressos.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Sunrise over planet Earth. Elements of this image furnished by NASA. Elen11 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

On Thursday, April 22, the world will celebrate Earth Day, the largest non-religious holiday on the globe.

Read More Show Less
Trending
NASA has teamed up with non-profit Carbon Mapper to help pinpoint greenhouse gas sources. aapsky / Getty Images

NASA is teaming up with an innovative non-profit to hunt for greenhouse gas super-emitters responsible for the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less
schnuddel / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Jenna McGuire

Commonly used herbicides across the U.S. contain highly toxic undisclosed "inert" ingredients that are lethal to bumblebees, according to a new study published Friday in the Journal of Applied Ecology.

Read More Show Less
A warming climate can lead to lake stratification, including toxic algal blooms. UpdogDesigns / Getty Images

By Ayesha Tandon

New research shows that lake "stratification periods" – a seasonal separation of water into layers – will last longer in a warmer climate.

Read More Show Less