An Interesting Video

Every once in a while someone sends us  a news story or a video to look at critically.  A couple of days ago Michael got in contact with us through Facebook and asked us to take a look at a video he saw recently and let him know what we thought of it.  This video was posted on Russ Bianchi’s website (he goes by the name Uncle Russ).  He includes a short note with the video which says “ALL Genetically Modified Organisms, Ingredients, Crops, Livestock, Food, Drugs, Cosmetics, Beverages, Packaging, Flavors, Fragrances, Colors! Soaps and Detergents are UNSFAE AT0ANY EXPSURE LEVEL and are proven to cause cancers, disease and premature DEATH”.  Wow.  All that from a video?  Must be a heck of a video.


Here’s the video.


As far as I can tell, The party responsible for this video is Media Roots which is defined as “a citizen journalism project that reports the news from outside of party lines while providing a collaborative forum for conscious citizens, artists and activists to unite.” Too bad they didn’t include scientists who know something about genetically modified crops.  According to Youtube this video has been viewed over 250,000 times.

I can’t tell you exactly what the other garden professors think of it (it may not be printable), but from my end, much of this video is absolute hogwash.

But, having said that much of this video is hogwash, I must give credit where credit is due.  The first part of the film which explains how genes are moved from one organism to another was, in my opinion, pretty well done.  Sure, there were parts of it that a serious molecular biologist would complain about, but for the average person I thought it was a nice explanation.  In fact, after seeing this first part of the film I was expecting to see some really serious and thoughtful critiques of genetically modified organisms – because there absolutely are some good critiques of genetically modified organisms out there.  Unfortunately I was sorely disappointed.  Let me go through the major problems that this video raised one by one and explain why they’re faulty arguments (I won’t go through all the problems, just the major ones):

  1. Genetically Modified crops show lower yields – Yes, this is sometimes true, genetically modified crops aren’t genetically modified to produce more, just to resist certain pests that might reduce yields (or resist certain herbicides that help control pests).   So the maximum yield for genetically modified and non-modified crops are usually pretty similar if the farmer growing the non-genetically modified crop controls pests with pesticides, or doesn’t see the pest for some reason.
  2. Genetically Modified crops have poisons in them – Yes, this is sometimes true.  Genetically modified crops may have genes from Bacillus thuringiensis in them (In the video this name was misspelled and the species was capitalized – which is a big deal to a scientist).  What the video didn’t mention is that this is an organic pesticide that has been used for years with, as far as we can tell, no adverse effects to humans.  The report about people being hurt in the Philippines is a complete red herring.  This supposedly occurred in 2003 and all of the data that we have points to a problem besides GMO corn pollen – in fact, the data points to a flu outbreak.   This conclusion is strengthened by the fact that GMO corn pollen hasn’t been implicated in a similar incident since then.
  3. Genetically Modified Insulin is bad! – This one does have a grain of truth.  GMO insulin is cheap and available, which is why it is used.  In the vast majority of patients there appears to be no difference between it and naturally acquired insulin.  But it does seem as though some people do have a negative reaction.  It terms of deaths, I can’t find much that is trustworthy to corroborate what was said on the video.

I have been chastised previously for being pro-pesticide, pro-GMO, pro-Monsanto, etc.  I don’t blame people for saying this because, let’s face it, I do end up defending these things sometimes because their opponents often use bad science.  But saying that I’m for these things is going a little far.  There is good science and information out there that calls into question the value of certain pesticides, GMOs, and even Monsanto.  Look up the new genetically modified Kentucky bluegrass that may be coming out soon.  Look up atrazine.  Look up how Monsanto protects its patents.  These are things I’m opposed to.  Another thing I’m opposed to is saying that something is bad without having a good understanding of it.  If you’re going to make a video that 250,000 people watch then do your homework and get as much of it right as you can.

10 thoughts on “An Interesting Video”

  1. Thank you for daring t
    o tackle this issue. In the gardening community, we need to have a lot more reality-based conversations about GMOs. This video is the tip of the iceberg.

  2. Thank you for daring to tackle this issue. In the gardening community, we need to have a lot more reality-based conversations about GMOs. This video is the tip of the iceberg.

  3. Kind of pathetic they chose the fish gene in tomato as an example, as it’s never come to market. Also disturbing is the way they describe pathogens being used to insert the genes into plant cells. That is true, but I wonder how many viewers know these are plant pathogens, not human pathogens.

  4. Appreciate this. When CA proposed Proposition 37 to label foods containing GMOs, I did some research and read the prop word for word. Most of the gardening folks on Facebook that I’m connected with posted lots of pictures of children and emotional statements that made me feel very lonely for not agreeing with them wholeheartedly. It just proved to me that spending time reading research based on actual findings instead of feelings is more important than ever.

  5. Well there is really to much to say about this subject to post everything, but clearly this is nothing more than Corporate economic benefit and not for “We just want to feed the world”. I agree with Geneticist David Suzuki who said that science doesn’t know enough about DNA to be doing what they are doing with GMOs. Anyone can watch his documentary “Silent Forest” and understand the dangers of genetic pollution once it gets out into the wild. There is seriously no way to correct this pollution. On point number two above I disagree. Yes they sprayed the plant’s on the outer surfaces with this pesticidal junk, but every single living cell within that GMO plant now manufactures this junk which makes it far more potent and toxic than it’s use as a spray before. The worst that it will do short term is create a food allergy. Long term remains to be seen, but no doubt, depending on the genetic make up of each individual, it may cause organ damage or any other type of health issue. The biggest problem is investors in this stuff are impatient and don’t want longer term responsible trials, they want return on dollar now. The only hope is that a handful of responsible scientists at universities do the long term studies. Still, all that genetic junk out there now cannot be reversed. Like I said, I don’t have the time to post everything, but there are more ideological reasons for this forcing of this particular biotechnology on the world. The 440 Scientists who have signed on with ENCODE for one, who have been attacked by some of the more Evangelical Academics ideologues for trying to further understand the functions of supposed Junk DNA for one. Personally, when a scientist admits by saying, “We don’t understand everything there is about this portion of DNA and it’s function, but we’re going to keep trying till we find out it’s purpose in the mechanisms. Ultimately, this will be more water off a duck’s back in the scheme of things. As for the opponents of GMOs, they often times are their own worst enemies. Sorry for any quick response spelling errors in advance. Just have very little time these days.

  6. Whenever I read these posts, I get the impression they were put together in 10 minutes in order to meet some time deadline.
    I can’t even find who wrote this above post.
    It strikes me the video is not all that bad. Your 3 “major” criticisms start with “yes, that is sometimes true; yes, that is sometimes true; and this does have a grain of truth”. That is about how I feel when I listen to Extension professors these days.
    Yes, there is good science out there. Instead of criticizing other people’s limitations, how about using these columns to actually bring the public some good science. Talk a little about what you are opposed to when it comes to Monsanto, the FDA etc. You are professors, after all.
    Regarding the FDA and safety, the FDA labeled GM food as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) allowing it to be commercialized without any additional testing. However, according to US law, to be considered GRAS, the substance must be the subject of a substantial amount of peer-reviewed published studies (or equivalent) and there must be overwhelming consensus among the scientific community that the product is safe. GM foods met neither of these criteria. The FDA maintained it had no information showing that GM food was different from conventional food despite the fact that its own scientists had written memos emphasizing that, in contrast to conventional methods, the new technology could produce unintended and essentially unpredictable new toxins, carcinogens and allergens. The scientists said GE food could not be considered safe unless it had undergone rigorous feeding tests. The 24 memos are copied here: A law suit exposed the FDA’s cover-up and the FDA was forced to disclose its files which consisted of 44,000 pages. The FDA admitted it had been operating under a White House directive to “foster ” the biotech industry. Information about the lawsuit is contained here Nine scientists became plaintiffs in Druker’s lawsuit against the FDA and one was Phillip Regal, professor of ecology, behavior, behavior and evolution at the University of MN. This is a quote

    “Regal is one of the plaintiffs in Druker’s lawsuit. Having a negative view of biotechnology, Regal warns, can cost a researcher his chances at tenure, future employment in industry, and certainly can dry up his resources for research funding. The sci
    entists joining Druker in suing the FDA have done so at great personal and professional risk.”

    Dr. Regal is also one of the scientist who signed on to the “Open Letter from World Scientists to All Governments” found here:

    You can read a great deal about all of this, including independent studies, at Institute for Responsible Technology.

  7. Hi Gail,

    The above was written by me. I’m sorry it doesn’t provide all of the information that you’d like to see. I had hoped that it would provide some insights into how scientists view these videos, but for you it seems to fall flat. I’m sorry about that. I do think that you need to do a little bit more reading into GMOs from other sources besides ones that are considered radical. Everything that you cite above is old (the organicconsumers link is from 2000) and is written by organizations that are strongly anti-GMO. We’ve written back and forth in the past, and I have to admit that I have yet to see anything from you that I consider a rational current criticism of GMOs.

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