Understanding GMOs and the Future of Food

A scene from “Food Evolution” directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy. Photo courtesy of Black Valley Films.

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About This Episode

What’s in our food? Where does our food come from? Should we be worried about the future of food? Neil deGrasse Tyson and co-host Chuck Nice are here to dive into the science of GMOs, Genetically Modified Organisms, and the future of food with plant geneticist Pamela Ronald and documentary filmmaker Scott Hamilton Kennedy, the co-writer and director of Food Evolution, which is narrated by Neil. Discover how long GMOs have been a factor in agriculture and where Scott thinks the anxiety surrounding GMOs started. You’ll hear why Pamela believes “GMOs” is not a very useful term for advancing discussions on sustainable agriculture. Learn more about genetic engineering, and the relationship between organic farmers and genetically modified foods. You’ll also find out about the development of Food Evolution, Neil’s involvement in the film, where Scott got funding for the project, and the film’s mission to present science communication and data correctly. Explore the Seralini study, the banana blight in Uganda, the papaya crisis in Hawai’i, the eggplant crop in Bangladesh, and how the outlook on each event shaped the world’s view of GMOs. All that plus we’ll investigate the legality of pollen being spread from farm to farm, and Scott explains why the discussion of genes in our food is a distraction from the real problem.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: Understanding GMOs and the Future of Food

In This Episode

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  • mem_somerville

    Well, that’s a great line up. Glad to know about this episode. Will listen tonight instead of my usual podcast.

    • mem_somerville

      Two important tidbits about “extinction” might be helpful for this discussion. The American Chestnut was destroyed by blight–but now there’s a GMO solution that exists (including a sample planted in NYC, where the blight began).

      The other thing: we are about to lose our citrus. No orange juice, no lemonade. Citrus greening is already hurting growers, but there’s a chance GMO can save them. I’ll be pissed if GMO haters take away lemonade from me. I’ll never forgive that.

      • patzagame

        Come on,Mary. You call others fear mongers ,and here you are doing the same.

      • SageThinker

        I love the American chestnut. It was a great food source for animals and people until the blight.

        There is a backcrossing project by the American Chestnut Foundation, and i have heard of the GMO project to save the chestnut. Whatever works. Whatever saves the American chestnut is fine by me.

        What i don’t like about GMOs is that the dominant market share is privately owned intellectual property that has been tested for safety by the company who profits from the sales. And the Roundup Ready trait that is used with glyphosate.

        Have your GMO organisms if it pleases you, and i will have my non-GMO food as well. We can co-exist.

        • mem_somerville

          Yes, I know that you are largely unable to distinguish the IP issues from GMOs and non-GMOs, and from non-patent GMO. Maybe some other film will help you to learn about that.

          • SageThinker

            The issue with both GMOs and agrochemicals is generally that the industry that profits from them does the research to determine safety, and also invests in PR to affect public perception and to lobby governmental regulators.

            Some GMO crops never made it to market due to dangers found in the research. But how sure are we about the ones that make it to market, given the profit-motive bias present to a high degree?

            I’ll leave this little tidbit for NdGT to ponder. Glyphosate is used on Roundup Ready GMO crops and it seems to inhibit the growth of some bacteria greatly, even in the presence of external aromatic amino acids. So how is it we know that it’s not disrupting the gut microbiome? We don’t know it, that’s how. We do not know that and it’s pretty likely.

            Thanks, Mem. I’ll need some more films to teach me about how IP works.

          • mem_somerville

            We know that scientists have explore this–and if you had followed the National Academy of Sciences report there was a whole presentation on glyphosate (which, once again, is not a GMO), and they saw that there was no evidence of any issues at all.

            And people who keep trying to flog this obviously have no grasp of dosages either.

            Yeah, you certainly won’t get the IP issues from this film, because the projects focused on here we academic, and had nothing to do with your glypho-hate.

          • SageThinker

            No. Nobody has explored or researched effect of glyphosate on the gut microbiome. Not a single research article have i found in three years of searching.

            Show it. You’re bluffing.

            To be clear, I’m looking for anything that examines effect of glyphosate on mammalian gut microbiota. Produce the corpus.

          • mem_somerville

            I told you the NAS looked at this. I know since this isn’t your field it’s hard for you to keep up. But your ignorance is not the same thing as it not existing.


          • SageThinker

            Whoa can you cease being so extremely toxic, Mem?

            That presentation is not mainly about human gut microbiome. It’s about endophytic bacteria in plants, which i am well aware of, and which is HUGELY affected by glyphosate. Here is the paper on that:

            Kuklinsky-Sobral, Julia, et al. “Isolation and characterization of endophytic bacteria from soybean (Glycine max) grown in soil treated with glyphosate herbicide.” Plant and soil 273.1-2 (2005): 91-99.

            I suggest you read this paper.


            Endophytic bacteria are ubiquitous in most plant species influencing the host fitness by disease suppression, contaminant degradation, and plant growth promotion. This endophytic bacterial community may be affected by crop management such as the use of chemical compounds. For instance, application of glyphosate herbicide is common mainly due to the use of glyphosate-resistant transgenic plants. In this case, the bacterial equilibrium in plant–endophyte interaction could be shifted because some microbial groups are able to use glyphosate as a source of energy and nutrients, whereas this herbicide may be toxic to other groups. Therefore, the aim of this work was to study cultivable and noncultivable endophytic bacterial populations from soybean (Glycine max) plants cultivated in soil with and without glyphosate application (pre-planting). The cultivable endophytic bacterial community recovered from soybean leaves, stems, and roots included Acinetobacter calcoaceticus, A. junii, Burkholderiasp., B. gladioli, Enterobacter sakazaki, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas oryzihabitans, P. straminea, Ralstonia pickettii,and Sphingomonassp. The DGGE (Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis) analysis from soybean roots revealed some groups not observed by isolation that were exclusive for plants cultivated in soil with pre-planting glyphosate application, such as Herbaspirillum sp., and other groups in plants that were cultivated in soil without glyphosate, such as Xanthomonas sp. and Stenotrophomonas maltophilia. Furthermore, only two bacterial species were recovered from soybean plants by glyphosate enrichment isolation. They were Pseudomonas oryzihabitans and Burkholderia gladioliwhich showed different sensibility profiles to the glyphosate. These results suggest that the application at pre-planting of the glyphosate herbicide may interfere with the endophytic bacterial community’s equilibrium. This community is composed of different species with the capacity for plant growth promotion and biological control that may be affected. However, the evaluation of this treatment in plant production should be carried out by long-term experiments in field conditions.

            I will watch the presentation when i am home and able to focus on it. I prefer written information, but i see that they speak to gut microbiome.

            I see slides saying “Evidence?” whereas it’s just simply not been tested. I also see it leaving open that it may be having an effect so i’m obviously not out of line with the NAS on this topic.

          • mem_somerville

            Calls me a liar, says I’m too toxic. You have no grasp of what toxic is. But I do enjoy you face-planting in the face of evidence.

          • SageThinker


          • SageThinker

            Yeah so, um, this is the company we’re talking about that you want me to trust about a chemical in our food. Yeah right.

            <b?Monsanto continued selling PCBs for years despite knowing health risks, archives reveal


            Good luck with that one, Monsanto. You’ll need more PR than Ketchum can deliver.

          • Aaron King

            Thank you for mentioning the human gut microbiome. It is a key, overlooked, extremely crucial point to bring up. A very complex system that is already disturbed greatly by the crap we are fed and when gone unchecked causes a number of ailemnts and diseases.

          • Charles Rader

            “The issue with both GMOs and agrochemicals is generally that the
            industry that profits from them does the research to determine safety,
            and also invests in PR to affect public perception and to lobby
            governmental regulators.”

            Sage, have you looked at all at the research that has been described as showing problems with GMOs? You have every right to be suspicious about research that supports the claims of an industry that will profit. But that goes both ways!

            Take, for example, G. E. Seralini, who has found numerous problems with all sorts of GMOs. How does he make is living, Sage? How is he funded?

            How about Dr. Charles Benbrooke? How is he funded?

            There’s also a body of research that has failed to find any GMO problems but cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be labeled as industry supported. For example, while the European Union was defending its GMO moratorium against a US complaint to the World Trade Organization, they funded a whole series of research studies on GMO safety. Surely they were hoping to get some justification for the moratorium, but they found nothing.

            Here’s something you might try when you don’t know the science and are reduced to choosing whose research to trust. If somebody has a completely consistent position on GMO safety before doing the research, did the research change his mind? Or did the research support his preconception? A changed mind must have been an open mind.

            Of all the dozens of research papers that support the GMO fearmongers, I can only think of one case where the research modified the researcher’s preconception – Pusztai and his lectin potatoes.

            On the other side, it’s easy to find examples of a researcher who was pro-GMO and by research found a problem. The main reason you don’t hear about them, though, is that other pro-GMO researchers take the problem seriously and work on fixing it. Example, Steve Taylor found that a certain GMO soybean could cause an allergy. So the GMO researchers developed new protocols to prevent such GMOs from getting onto the market. They are glad when the research reveals a problem because that means they can either fix it or withdraw it. But the anti-GMO group really hates to see a GMO problem that can be fixed, because it makes lousy propaganda.

      • Aaron King

        if its genetically modified, its no longer “The American Chestnut” its “The American Chestnut #2”

    • grinninglibber

      This one is a well known Big GMO operative

      • mem_somerville

        This one is a well known conspiracy theorist.

    • grinninglibber

      This one is a perpetual Big GMO operative

      • gskibum

        You are unable to argue based on the facts and the science, so you resort to making baseless accusations about people who disagree with you and correct the widespread misinformation that spreads throughout the media & internet. Even if your shill gambit were true, in now way does that address the argument.

  • Morten Lundquist

    Chuck NIce… How big is your house?? 🙂 If you have all the things your sponsors sell. Then you must allmost live in ” Castle Grayskull”?? 🙂

  • SageThinker

    This is pretty disgusting propaganda. Get that ugly orange masked man out of here. For people who overuse the word “fearmongering” about “anti-GMO” people, you sure are fearmongering about critics of the biotech and agrochemical industries. So sad NdGT used his voice to “lend a certain credence to the subject matter, because you’re a scientist and everyone knows your voice” as Chuck Nice says. The mocking of the motivation being for money but then only mentioning grants from the NSF is so extremely disingenous for an industry that has billions of dollars of profits on the line just like the fossil fuels industry does. Pamela Ronald is someone who as “@pcronald” on Twitter is always pushing propaganda memes without integrity, and in this very interview she begins with saying that the FDA says that the term “GMO” is meaningless because “everything is modified!” oh my… the same old stupid meme intended to obfuscate the reality of transgenetics and specific modern techniques from traditional breeding. Wow… so many propaganda deflections and distortions just in the first 10 minutes. This is rich.

    • Jason

      It’s hilarious how worked up you get when no one agrees with you.

      • Aaron King

        I’d say most agree with her, including myself. I came to this comments section to see if anyone heard what I heard, and I’m glad I did. The argument “well its already kind of being done” is not a substantial argument for anything. Also “to save one business or remote industry” is not a substantial argument. We are talking about changing the genetic makeup of organisms we consume, we need decades and decades of testing on this before wide spread implementation. The world can already be fed by the mountainous amounts of food waste we have, also take a look at LED farming, no propaganda or loop holes or fighting about that, it just works and well.

        • Jason

          Sage is a he, not a her and most certainly do not agree with him. His views are quite radical and the scientific community at large does not share his opinions. If you do, then I’m sorry for you.
          Whatever your opinions are about what is and isn’t a good reason to do something has no impact on whether or not that something is any riskier than other methods, nor does it make it ok to spread lies about that something.

          • Aaron King

            My “opinion” is not an opinion, but fact. Let the record show that you didn’t refute any point that I made, and only responded with what I’d say is complete gibberish, lacking any base of reality.

          • Jason

            Ok…so now providing a personal review of a film is considered fact? Got it.

            And if that’s what you consider to be gibberish, next time I’ll dumb it down to one syllable words only. You can thank me later.

        • Charles Rader

          Aaron, I have a question for you. What do you mean by “changing the genetic makeup of organisms we consume”?

          I’m asking because almost anything, except cloning, changes the genetic makeup. There has to be some particular kind of changes that you want to know about.

          You talk about “decades and decades of testing on this before wide spread implementation”. Can you give me even a single example of a food we now consider safe which was subjected to even a single decade of testing before it was allowed to be introduced? On the other hand, are you aware of some dangerous but non-GMO foods that were introduced to the market and then later found to be unsafe?

          I have said many times that the main reason why GMO foods are safe is that they have been tested in so many ways. Without such testing we would have had several unsafe foods.

          • Aaron King

            This episode was bashing organic and promoting GMO outright, no debate, which is wrong, especially for a “science” based podcast. I deeply respect NDT and a lot of his views on many subjects outside of the realm of just astrophysics, but this episode put a bad taste in my mouth and made me question all that I have learned from listening to Star Talk.

            The truth is the science is NOT complete for GMO’s, it is relatively new and what life it has lived is very basic. To openly promote any and all genetic modifications at any scale, and to refer to it as simply “GMO’s” and “good” is irresponsible on so many levels. I would expect this from some tabloid or Reddit, but an episode of Star Talk with NDT…man. This is my problem with the episode…its propaganda and not scientific discussion…I have no real quarrel with the root arguement behind GMO’s, but to blindly follow GMO’s and just open your arms wide and welcoming to big companies modifying the very organic make-up of a crop….simply irresponsible and short-sited.

            To answer your question, I can give you an example of many many foods…anything organic and truly organic, they have been tested since homo-sapiens walked the planet. Unfortunately, the masses view crap in the grocery stores as “normal” and “good” when in fact, it is proven to be poison to the human gut and is deemed remotely safe for human consumption by big food studies (Nabisco, Pepsi). The FDA, USDA, AHA are all companies that base their science off of studies completely funded by big food. It is wrong. Organic food is the only truly proven food that is acceptable. Take out the human intervention and you have healthy food.

            Everything non-organic has been modified in some way and is no longer natural, and it messes your body up on so many levels. Check out Dr. William Davis’s work

            I have said many times that you should go back and read who funded those “studies”. You will be surprised at who, but I won’t.

            The things I say are not conspiracy but facts that are right under your nose, just look.

          • Charles Rader

            So Aaron, if I may paraphrase your reply, organic food has been tested by people eating it for thousands of years. But you didn’t answer my question at all.

            First, you implicitly assume that all organic food is unchanged from how it has been for those thousands of years. Almost nothing we eat, organic or not, resembles its original farmed form. You know that if you bother to think about it. Organic standards make no discrimination for foods developed by such breeding methods as mutations, polyploidy, hybridization, etc. etc. etc. You have not given me any examples of foods which were safety tested before they were made available. Exactly the opposite – by lumping together all”organic” foods and referring to their thousands of years of use, you have given us countless examples of foods NOT tested before they became available. Yes, some of them were developed and made available long ago (but hardly all of them). None of them has been subjected to any safety testing before they were tried out on human guinea pigs.

            I asked you {What do you mean by “changing the genetic makeup of organisms we consume”?} In your rather long reply, you completely ignored that question.

            I gave you the opportunity to say that there was something particular about the GMO breeding process that makes its genome changes more objectionable than others. The closest you came to that was to mention that most GMOs are developed by corporations, e.g. you aren’t really concerned about genome changes at all.

          • Aaron King

            I didn’t realize this even needed to be elaborated on. You are looking at, {What do you mean by “changing the genetic makeup of organisms we consume”?} as if we live in a fairy tale world of nothing but good, warm-hearted people. The “something particular” is the studies and where the propaganda comes from (just read on) I’ve said this, many times.

            “mutations, polyploidy, hybridization” are all naturally occurring phenomena, so I would eat these. For this to happen, no human interaction is necessary, although we do this on purpose, it isn’t NECESSARY to occur. Genetic modification at the degree that is being discussed absolutely requires human interaction and we are talking mixing salmon genes with corn genes, etc…this does not and will not happen in human history, in nature…. This is a massive leap into new UNTESTED territory that shouldn;t be pushed to market so fast based solely on studies funded by thsooe who profit from the idea…wake the hell up.

            I haven’t said anything “bad” about GMO’s (the idea), I said the motives behind it at this point are greedy in large part and the cult-like following behind it because “it will save the hunger crisis” is ignorant at best (read my other comments). The problems with greed and the following, have nothing to do with a problem with the science behind GMO’s. The science behind GMO’s could be spectacularly amazing for human growth, but we do not live in a world regulated enough to allow 0.001% of people decide what goes into 90% of everyone’s bodies. Why are we to trust these people. The people who stand to profit from GMO’s are pushing the propaganda which is a very bad sign, and you all are taking the bait, disgusting.

            AGAIN, the argument “we already do this in other foods” is not sufficient to start using GMO’s. What we already do is wrong on many levels as well, lets not take the “wrongness” to another level. Simple.

          • Randy


            I’ve had this discussion several times before and with varying results. You seem like a person who might be able to change their mind if sufficient evidence were produced so I invite you to join the tail end of one of my old discussions.


  • writelady

    I think you need to reevalutate the so-called documentary
    “Food Evolution.”

    This HufPo article gives information about the background of
    people involved in the movie as well as some facts that appear to have been
    ignored in the discussion: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/food-evolution-gmo-film-showcases-chemical-industry_us_5942b09ce4b024b7e0df49db

    Contrary to your assertion that the movie talks to “both
    sides,” it seems that “both sides” were in fact backed by the same side, and
    not truly opposing arguments.

    Please consider broadcasting a follow up to your review.

    Sharon Graham

    • Can you find me a good Peer reviewed scientific or journal supporting this?

      • writelady

        Here’s a 4-year old article: https://www.organicconsumers.org/essays/us-and-monsanto-dominate-global-market-gm-seeds

        Until recently Monsanto held over 90% of the patents on seeds. I know a couple of farmers who were forced to buy Monsanto seeds only, because Monsanto puts pressure on suppliers to only sell their seeds. These GMO seeds, by the way, don’t reseed after maturing. So the farmers had to buy seeds every season, which is very expensive. I’ve lost touch with those guys, but my understanding is that many of the patents are now in the public domain, but Monsanto is still dominant. I have a problem with large corporate entities bullying their own customers. In fact, ha ha, if it weren’t for Monsanto’s dominance and bullying tactics, I would probably support GMO wholeheartedly because I haven’t seen any science which is anti-GMO.

        • Jason

          I get your concern, but your information is WAY off. Monsanto holds nothing close to 90% of the patents on seeds. That’s just nonsense. And I can speak from personal experience having worked at a company who sells Monsanto products for nearly 20 years. They put no more pressure on companies to sell their products than any other supplier. Yes… they offer incentives to sell more of their product, just like every one of our other genetics providers did.
          The “don’t reseed after maturing” thing is an absolute myth. GM seeds produce viable seed just like any other crop does. In fact, I’m sure you’ve heard stories about their suing farmers who held back patented seeds. Obviously that would not be possible if they did not produce viable seeds.
          At last I checked, Monsanto had about a 1/3 share of the US corn seed market and less than that in soy. As for other crops, their share is far less.

          • writelady


            You’re right about reseeding. I guess I misunderstood why farmers must buy seeds every year. Here’s a Vanity Fair article about the bullying tactics Monsanto uses against farmers and distributors: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2008/05/monsanto200805

            Here’s a more recent Bloomberg article about a more subtle version of Monsanto bullying: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-09-01/a-soybean-killing-pesticide-spreads-across-america-s-farm-belt

            If Monsanto was so invested in helping humanity (vs protecting its patents), they wouldn’t use such vicious tactics so harmful to farmers.

            My whole point is that the movie is a selling point for the public to accept GMO’s without revealing the profit motive. Had it addressed Monsanto’s greed, I would be more likely to accept its alleged message of preventing worldwide hunger, which is truly a huge issue. I just want more honest discussion. Here’s info from Sourcewatch about the top 6 producers of GMO seed: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/%22Big_6%22_Pesticide_and_GMO_Corporations .
            According to this article, the concentration of agricultural control by these corporations “has far-reaching implications for global food security…”.

          • Charles Rader

            writelady, I suggested a few emails ago that we ought to be avoiding the obviously slanted sources. You don’t seem to want to do that, or perhaps you can’t tell that they are slanted.

            Let me tell you a good way to do that. Look at the article in question. See if it is balanced. For example, if it mentions Monsanto, is everything about Monsanto presented as evil, greedy, etc.? If it is about GMO safety, does it say that they are intrinsically safe, or that it is the most accurate breeding method known? Or does it say that they are unsafe in so many different ways that nobody could ever finish explaining why they were all wrong?

            Very few controversial issues are so clearly one-sided. If an article is thoroughly one-sided (as each of your posted references have been), it must be slanted.

            Let me give you a relevant example. There’s been a lot of recent coverage of the possibility that glyphosate is a carcinogen. I’m not a specialist in the right science to take a side in that controversy. But I know a slant when I see it. A whole lot of articles which say that glyphosate is carcinogenic point to a recent decision by the IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) saying that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen. IARC is a sub-agency of the World Health Organization, which rejected the IARC claim. Any article that mentions the IARC claim without also mentioning that WHO rejected it is obviously slanted. You can do better. You owe it to yourself to do better.

          • Jason

            I get that many people aren’t real happy about their practice of protecting their patents. I’ve actually lived through that process and see it a bit differently, but to each their own. I’m not really sure how your second link supports that, however.
            As for the point of the movie, why does the profit motive matter? The movie is about the science of genetic engineering as it relates to our food. How does making a profit impact whether or not the science is sound? Whether or not you consider them greedy, does that make a difference on whether or not the science behind the technology is sound??
            Every business wants to make a profit. That doesn’t mean that the product they make isn’t safe. I assume you willingly use cars, computers, phones and may other things people are making a profit off of, yet I bet you consider most all of them to be safe.

          • Charles Rader

            Jason, in the interest of full transparency, when you say {Monsanto had about a 1/3 share of the US corn seed market and less than that in soy} you aren’t counting the Monsanto practice of licensing the patented genes to other seed companies.

            But writelady, why don’t you pretend that you are a farmer and go to the online websites of a few seed companies besides Monsanto? You will find that there are many ways to get many varieties of corn and soybean seeds. You’ll also find, with corn, that an overwhelming majority of the corn seeds are hybrid seeds. Hybridization has nothing to do with genetic engineering and all farmers know that saving the seeds of hybrid corn for subsequent reseeding will result in a very bad crop.

          • Jason

            You’re right.. they license traits & genetics. I don’t generally count that as “controlling the patents” because any seed company can make the decision tomorrow not to continue offering those traits or genetics anymore. And given that most patents on seeds are genetic patents, Monsanto’s share, even with licensing, is far, far less than 90%.

    • Jason

      Have you seen the film?

    • Charles Rader

      Sharon, shouldn’t we be equally concerned that the Huffington Post article you referenced is written by a reliably anti-GMO person, Stacy Malkan, who is funded by a reliably anti-GMO organization, the Organic Consumers Association?

      • writelady

        I understand that the HuffPo article is also slanted. But there is one tidbit that really struck a nerve: Alison van Eenennaam is a former Monsanto employee, plus she holds some patents on GE. Is this mentioned in the documentary? Is it explained that her past affiliations gave her the scientific knowledge, and she understands the benefits of GMO? What are her patents, and might they actually be purely beneficial to humanity? If this is not divulged, then I have to question a lot of what they say. Look, I adore NDT. I have my dvr set to record ANYTHING with his name in it. But even the most brilliant among us, with the best intentions, can be deceived by someone who is not entirely forthcoming. P.S. I am not paid by anyone to trash anything. My only relative background is that I am a liberal progressive. And I am a wanna-be writer who loves scyfy with just a few published fiction pieces.

        • Jason

          How would holding a patent or having a particular previous employer have any impact on whether the science behind the technology is sound?

        • Charles Rader

          writelady, why do we have to be satisfied with slanted coverage of a topic, any topic? We are regularly deceived by articles saying things that are not true, or even worse, true but really mean the opposite of what you think.

          I haven’t seen the Food Evolution movie, but it can’t possibly be as slanted as some of the anti-GMO movies have been.

          You self-identify as a liberal progressive (and so am I). But look over the comments section on just about any news story and see if most of the comments remind you of Donald Trump.

    • mem_somerville

      Neil is really familiar with this film, and I’m quite certain he knows better than you do.

      Also: that writer is paid by the organic industry to trash scientists. That’s not really nice, and you spreading that kind of nonsense around is also an act of anti-science. Please stop.

  • Rob Bright

    Great… an astrophysicist who knows nothing about genetic engineering trying to “educate” on the technology. Stick to what you know, Neil, and stop acting as a corporate meat puppet for the agrochemical/ biotech industry. You just lost whatever credibility you thought you had.

    • Jason

      Did you even listen to the podcast? That’s why he brought a credible crop geneticist onto his show to speak about GMOs. He started the podcast by saying he brought her on board because he himself is not a geneticist.

  • RTiberius

    I think most reasonable people of average intelligence should be concerned about what they’re eating and what they’re feeding they’re children. If the only reason to do this was to insure the survival of endangered “food species”…very few would have a problem with that approach. However, in a world and society motivated primary by greed and profit combined with some “HUGE” agricultural science mistakes of the “Present” (massive alga blooms) the “past” ( DDT and other pesticides) combined with the reality that some bonehead in a lab could unknowingly unleash total agricultural collapse, or devise some sort of mutant organism that turns out to be something that we humans or the rest of the food chain are not GENETICALLY compatible of coexisting with.

    • Aaron King

      completely agree. Don’t forget how our gut microbiome is incredibly susceptible to these modifications. In there attempt to “save humanity” could actually hurt us more than we ever thought. This is currently the case with over consumption, or even THE consumption of grains. A lot of the studies out there for GMO come from government agencies that push unhealthy eating habits on the American people and are backed by large food corporations like Nabisco and Pepsi. Read your studies people, and read who backs them. USDA and FDA get a lot of things wrong because they listen to big business. Profits are definitely the motive with GMOs.

  • There is enough Documentaries talking about GMO’s and this is another thing to consider when forming your opinion.

  • Michael Johnston

    Ugh. Wanted a scientific discussion. By 10 minutes, it was clear that everyone other than Chuck had already made the permanent mental decision. Feeding mice?

  • Joe

    Can “GOOD” insects eat from GMO Plants without harm?
    And Thanks for your Reply. Joe

  • Randy

    I was just talking to a conservative friend about the antiscience
    sentiment in his party and he rightly pointed out that the Dems have
    some antiscience people of their own. The difference is on the left we chastise and mock our antiscience people because they’re an embarrassment to us, while on the right, they simply design and cater a message to manipulate them and call it a day. On this particular issue the right seems far more pragmatic than the left because changing peoples minds once they’ve already made them up is extremely time consuming and often fruitless.

    To all the antiscience or pseudoscientifically susceptible Dems out there: If you find yourself in disagreement with the majority of scientific experts in a given field, assume you are wrong until you’ve convinced someone much smarter than you and much more qualified than you that you’re right. Take care to make sure you understand all the basic science surrounding the subject as well as the specifics of the particular field before allowing yourself the luxury of believing in your contrarian view.

  • Victor

    I believe in the scientific method. There exists evidence that the people using the scientific method make mistakes. Although mistakes are remedied, they are still made.

    In my point of view, it is OK for nature to make mistakes with genes, it isn’t OK for humans to make mistakes with genes. Because when a person does something bad, then many people feel that the mistake could have been prevented.

    There is a clear reason to be afraid of GMOs. People don’t understand what is happening to their body. They are getting fat, they are dying of cancer and suffering from many other illnesses. Companies have successfully convinced people that the problem could be in the food they eat.

    This could be true. What is clear is that science has not really helped in this issue. I think people are confused when they are told to eat less and exercise. It’s easy to say. I think some of us have to work at it harder than others. However, I think there is a considerable lack of results with regards to getting the population fit.

    Where science has helped, however, is to make food production more efficient in a magical way. Or sometimes it isn’t magical at all, such as feeding anti-biotics to chickens. Scientists warn of anti-biotic resistance and nothing is done to ease the worry of a super-bug in the future. This communicates lack of consideration for the well-being of the people.

    On top of this, bringing in GMOs now is like throwing a wrench into an already big problem. If people don’t know what’s happening to them and they are worried it might be in the food, they are looking for a solution first before throwing another wrench into the system. This is standard troubleshooting practice of any system.

    It could very well be that it isn’t at all the food that make people sick. It could be the environment that Republicans protect so dearly. It could be the culture. We’re still in the same place of not knowing though, and food makes more sense as it is certainly has a direct effect on weight, heart disease, and other illnesses.

    If we need the efficiency of GMO, then that really just a band-aid to problem that we’ll eventually have to deal with: a lack of food replicators. ; )

  • mich

    I was looking for an objective discussion when I hit play on this podcast. It wasn’t going great but there were some points raised that did make sense. My ears really perked up when about 25 minutes into the podcast the funding for the film was mentioned. I listened attentively to find out what will be disclosed. The question was dodged for more than 5 minutes and no real answer was given. There was only a mention that IFT approached the director to make the film. Scott then goes to describe them as an “organization of mostly food scientists”. At this point I’m thinking to myself; how did whole bunch of poor scientists get money to fund such a major documentary? No other meaningful answers were given. Fortunately, thanks to the internet you can easily find out who the contributors to the IFT are and the truth comes out. This movie is sponsored by big food companies and pro GMO entities. I’m just disappointed that NDT didn’t pursue the full and objective perspective on this subject. Sigh…

  • Gennaro Oliviero

    Dear Mr. Tyson, I am a great admirer of you and all you do to spread scientific knowledge and method around the world. I was really enchanted by you version of Cosmos and I’m a regular of your Star Talk podcast. When I heard about your show about GMO I was a bit surprised, no much of astrophysic there, but I was curious so I carefully listen to your program, as I always do. While I agree with pretty much everything you say, I must say, I think you completely missed the main point. The problem is not GMO, the problem is Monsanto and similar private, for profit big corporations who, I believe, have not the moral standard necessary to handle such a delicate matter. I believe the public would have no problem if GMO was handled by a public scientific institution like NASA. All the problems we have today can be traced to corporate greed and this cannot longer be tolerate. Every day we hear how private corporations, especially the big, huge ones, abuse our system in name of profits often with deadly consequences for the public and almost none for them. They talk about competition but they tend to create monopolies and cartels. They have the money to buy our democracy and they do it every day… actually they already did it.
    Communism doesn’t work, socialism doesn’t work, capitalism doesn’t work so we have to come out with something else or we’re doomed. Direct democracy? Maybe, today we have the tools, internet, blockchain, etc. There is an interesting experiment actually done on Italy called Rousseau by M5S, if you are not aware of it, I would take a look. I say public matter in public hands and private matters in private hands and please, no more exponential growth. We have entrusted private interest to handle public matters and this huge mistake is costing us our planet. So, yes to GMO, NO to Monsanto.

  • Sunday Harrison

    Glad to find such fulsome discussion along the lines I was thinking after hearing this podcast. I haven’t read all the comments, but just wanted to add 2 things if they have not yet come up: first, the example given of the GM Papaya being developed by a native Hawaiian and distributed open-source to Hawaiian farmers shows that the pro-GE crowd is sensitive to the patent issue, and looks for good counter-examples to prove that they have not just an uber-capitalist heart but care about farmers. Second, it was stated that no farmer has been sued for planting GE crops without a license agreement – please. Isn’t Percy Schmeiser’s case known in the US? http://www.plant.uoguelph.ca/research/homepages/eclark/percy.htm

  • SamuelMartin

    Very disappointing podcast; a lot of ambiguity, conversations stuck in a loop, poor coverage of key topics, presentation of beliefs as facts. I’m surprised, but not in a good way.

  • Shorty_dammit

    You’re entitled to your own opinions. You’re not entitled to your own facts. Facts and science show there is nothing to worry about. If you want to worry about it, go right ahead. The rest of us will move to the underside of the flat earth to avoid having to see you anymore. 😀

  • Joseph Black

    I know I’m a little late to discussion here but it’s well-known by small niches of people that the problems that they supposedly need GMOs to help solve are problems that they create themselves and refuse other answers for.

    For instance, to solve world hunger: It’s clear that the meat and dairy industry is horribly inefficient. Here’s something http://inhabitat.com/infographic-the-true-environmental-cost-of-eating-meat/ that shows by way of a graph and bar what I’m trying to get across. If you didn’t look at it: It says that 33% of the world’s farmed land is used to feed livestock. Then it says an additional 26% of the world’s farmed land is used for livestock grazing. Put those together and you get that 50% of the world’s farmable land is directly for livestock purposes. And yet meat feeds like 5% of the total consumption? Get where this is going? Another info: https://www.peta.org/living/humane-home/pays-vegan/ and http://www.earthsave.org/environment.htm The older charts disappeared listing 16 pounds of grain going to feed for each pound of egg, milk, or chicken; 30 pounds of grain going to feed for each pound of beef, etc. But this newer one is at least still available. For every pound of meat we produce, we could’ve used the 30, 15, or 5 even pounds of vegetables and grains to feed people. We’re easily using close to half the world’s farmland to feed pigs and cows and others which end up a fraction of the amount back to us in food. We could easily feed the world’s population by just flipping the table of the meat and dairy industry. (Of which more and more information is coming out showing the superiority of proteins and calciums in vegetables, legumes, and grains than in meat and dairy.)

    Second: Most of the problems of blight and diseases are directly caused by your western, industrialization, monoculture. You grow fields of fields of wheat in a row and expect it not to be a breeding ground for wheat-loving pests? So instead you shower it with poisons? And then of course the problem that monoculture creates of drawing the same nutrition out of the soil every single year until the soils deader then dead and you need chemical fertilizer which even worsens the soil every year after that. No fungi, no bacteria, no microbiome left to recycle the world’s soil into healthy soil. What a strange problem. Many tribes of Native Americans knew how to grow productive crops on American soils and not a single one of their ways were monoculture. There was always diversity in crops and wild-plants that helped to redistribute the ecological health.

    Really, I hate the western way of doing things. The capitalist way of producing food is to produce as much as possible at once and then stock in on a shelf until it sells. If it doesn’t sell, toss it out and make sure no one can use it because then they won’t buy the one left on the shelf. Really, with a system like that, it’s no wonder your greed hasn’t starved you to death already. I understand the radical Islamic for wanting you gone from this Earth. For that matter, as I’ve said before about meat and dairy, but for that matter your society produces cakes and pies, chips and burgers, all kinds of unhealthy things with your crops that could go towards feeding people real, healthy food. Instead of growing millions of corn to make high fructose corn syrup, why not grow squash, beans, and maize good for protein use? Idiots. I hate you.

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