Dan Charles of #NPR’s The Salt published a wildly controversial piece denigrating Chipotle’s decision to step away from GMO products on April 30, 2015. Of over 500 comments, I liked this one the best: “Oh sure, they’re doing something ~ but they’re not doing, you know, everything….”
A comment by jefg calls the Salt’s article “a shallow and infantile response.” I agree. Too often companies who make some effort to improve food quality or safety get slammed with cynical sarcasm because they don’t do everything. How utterly ridiculous. Change is messy and rarely accomplished in a tidy little package.
As I read Dan Charles’ piece I kept rechecking the website, mostly because I expect better journalism from NPR. Take a moment to read the article. then let me know what you think. I address each of the 5 arguments posed by Mr. Charles below.
1. Soda sweetened with HFCS will continue to plague our health as long as we have access to highly subsidized cheap corn. Adam Drewnowsky of University of Washinton maintains that obesity is an economic issue. Shame on our government and politicians who write the farm bill. They leave it to private enterprise to untangle the mess they create.
2. Dan Charles and too many of the 500+ commenters dismiss concerns regarding GMO’s, pesticides, & superweeds. Notably absent is any discussion of glyphosate and microbes–to my thinking probably the most problematic issue regarding the widespread use of glyphosate in agriculture and genetic engineering. Studies show evidence of harm to microbes in soil, on plants and in the microbiome of animals and man. This issue deserves much more attention.
3. Salt. Sodium remains a very controversial issue, yet many scientists concur that sodium restriction is a waste of time for everyone but those who already suffer from high blood pressure. Even then, I typically find adjusting quantity and quality of carbohydrate intake far more effective at reducing blood pressure than sodium restriction.
4. No harm from GMO‘s? The author states, “There’s no such evidence about GMOs”, but he conveniently forgets that no evidence of harm is not the same as evidence of no harm. Many of us choose to practice the precautionary principle in our lives, even if the Monsanto scientists, the USDA, the FDA, and the EPA would rather not. Science doesn’t exactly have a great track record in this arena, as I discuss in a previous blog
This author poses a rather petulant argument. Organic feed is very pricy and only 5% of the US beef supply is currently grass fed. I don’t expect companies to go out of business to make more ideological thinkers comfortable. Good people with good intentions change as they can. Condemning the process sounds like journalistic bullying. For more thoughtful insight, consider reading Defending Beef by Nicolette Hahn Niman.
As for NPR, maybe it would be a good idea for journalists to get feedback from more than one source. A point/counterpoint discussion may be the only way to discuss the fuller range of controversial topics.
We all need to accept that science is messy, and so is change. GMO crops may be safe, but we know too little about increased use of pesticides that actively compromise microbes. Genetic engineering profoundly impacts the use of glyphosate in agriculture, and frankly I’m surprised more of us aren’t concerned.