Quantcast

Is Bill Nye a Hired Gun for Monsanto?

GMO

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?

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An artist's rendering of the recomposition facility. MOLT Studios

Washington became the first U.S. state to legalize human composting Tuesday, offering residents a more environmentally friendly way to dispose of their remains, AFP reported.

Read More Show Less
Mr.TinDC / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

By Adda Bjarnadottir, MS

Many nutrients are essential for good health.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
albedo20 / Flickr

By Pat Thomas

Throughout the U.S., major food brands are trying to get rid of GMO ingredients — not necessarily for the right reasons, but because nearly half of consumers say they avoid them in their food, primarily for health reasons.

But the CEO of Impossible Foods, purveyor of the Impossible Burger, is bucking that trend.

Read More Show Less
People in more than 100 countries are expected to take part in well over 1,000 strikes on May 24 to demand climate action from their governments. @ExtinctionR / Twitter

By Julia Conley

Two months after what was reportedly the largest international climate demonstration ever, young people around the world are expected to make history again on Friday with a second global climate strike.

Read More Show Less
DoneGood

By Cullen Schwarz

Ethical shopping is a somewhat new phenomenon. We're far more familiar with the "tried and tested" methods of doing good, like donating our money or time.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Asian elephants frolic in Kaudulla Wewa at Kaudulla National Park in central Sri Lanka. David Stanley / CC BY 2.0

When it comes to saving some of the planet's largest animals, a group of researchers says that old methods of conservation just won't cut it anymore.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

A low-fat diet that prioritizes eating healthier foods like fruits and vegetables each day could lower the risk a woman's risk of dying from breast cancer, according to a multi-decade study published this month.

Read More Show Less
smcgee / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Several New York City Starbucks exposed customers to a potentially deadly pesticide, two lawsuits filed Tuesday allege.

Read More Show Less