GMOs and Junk Science
In today’s media landscape, the scientific method should serve as a touchstone of reality. But scientists occasionally “go rogue,” forsaking the scientific method to produce propaganda and sow fear in a public that lacks expertise but is hungry for information.
Legitimate objections have been raised about the independence and integrity of the commentaries that Henry Miller has written for Project Syndicate and other outlets, in particular that Monsanto, rather than Miller, drafted some of them. Readers should be aware of this potential conflict of interest, which, had it been known at the time Miller’s commentaries were accepted, would have constituted grounds for rejecting them.
STANFORD – In today’s media landscape, where unfounded opinions, hype, and rumors are rife, the scientific method – the means by which we determine, based on empirical and measurable evidence, what is true – should serve as a touchstone of reality. Science enables us to gauge what we think we know and to identify what we do not. Most important, it discredits false claims made for personal or political reasons – at least it should.
But scientists occasionally “go rogue,” forsaking the scientific method – often for notoriety or economic gain – to produce propaganda and to sow fear in a public that lacks expertise but is hungry for information. This abuse of scientific authority is especially widespread in the “organic” and “natural” food industries, which capitalize on people’s fear of synthetic or “unnatural” products.
A recent example is the Indian-American scientist V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai, who, with Prabhakar Deonikar, published the much-ridiculed paper “Do GMOs Accumulate Formaldehyde and Disrupt Molecular Systems Equilibria? Systems Biology May Provide Answers.” (“GMOs” are “genetically modified organisms,” itself a misleading and often unfairly stigmatized non-category, circumscribing a universe of organisms modified with the most modern and precise techniques of genetic engineering.)