Sometimes when people are so committed to their cause and so myopic in their perspective, they do and say things that defy rational thought and just look silly to the rest of the world. This has happened to groups opposed to biotechnology and animal agriculture in the opening days of 2014. They were so desperate to gain attention that they just made fools of themselves and, in the long run, hurt the credibility of their cause.
A coalition of groups opposed to biotechnology called GMO Inside produced a series of blistering and one-sided press releases slamming General Mills for not offering GMO free Cheerios to US consumers. The company does offer a GMO cereal in the EU but, in the US, labels the popular breakfast cereal as “natural”. Absent from the release was the fact that there are no GMO oats produced in the US and that the only ingredient in the product that might have any biotech elements in it is the small amount of corn starch used. The fact that almost all the corn produced in the US uses biotechnology and that a source of GMO free corn starch would be impossible to find in the US, even if General Mills wanted to use it, was also never considered in the attack. What was mentioned in the release is that General Mills is a major contributor to a campaign designed to inform consumers about the truth of biotechnology. It seems to me that could be the real reason GMO Insider went on the offensive against Cheerios.
But the silliness did not stop there. Last week General Mills announced they would change their source of corn starch and only use a biotech-free source. The company stopped short of saying they would label Cheerios as GMO free. GMO Inside is claiming victory and says because they collected 40,000 likes on a facebook petition, they were able to change corporate policy. Groups are now targeting Kellogg’s demanding they also remove biotech ingredients from their cereals. The group GMO Free now claims over 20,000 signatures on a facebook petition. Considering the number of people who buy and consumer breakfast cereal, a few thousand names on a social media site is laughable and does not indicate a groundswell of public support.
GMO Free claims in their release that, “The FDA currently does not oversee the nature or extent of testing of these GMOs, nor does it require ingredient labels for foods containing GMOs.” This is true, the fact not mentioned is that oversight and regulation of biotechnology is done by the EPA and USDA, not the FDA. Also not mentioned is that years of testing and continuous oversight is required before a biotech crop or crop protection product can be brought to market. Again, Kellogg’s is also a major financial contributor to efforts to educate consumers about the truth of biotechnology, most likely the reason they are being singled out for criticism.
Not all the action by these activist groups and their supporters is silly, some are just plain disgusting. Protect the Harvest reports that a 25-year-old, Italian woman, Caterina Simonsen, recently came under attack from animal rights extremists for a facebook picture she posted giving thanks to the advancements made in the pharmaceutical research industry that have allowed her to stay alive. She wrote, “I am 25 thanks to genuine research that includes experiments on animals. Without research, I would have been dead at nine. You have gifted me future.” According to PTH, “She received over 30 death threats and 500 insults from animal rights activists – That’s Insane!” PTH went on to say “Protecting animals is one thing, saving a human life is another.” This demonstrates that there is a darker side to the silliness of these organizations. While many actions of animal activists seem silly, like the mayor of New York trying to ban horse drawn carriages from the city; the silly can turn seriously dangerous in a hurry.
By Gary Truitt