On the way into work this morning, I heard this story on NPR about GMOs. While I don't always agree with the slant on every story run by NPR, I generally expect their stories to be fair and insightful. But, in this case, I think they missed some critical nuance.
After a "woman on the street" interview in which a some of typical unsubstantiated claims about GMOs were made, the reporter followed up with the following statement (about the 2:20 mark on the recording):
That's a highly misleading claim for several reasons. First, there are many GMOs that have nothing to do with pesticides. Arctic apples, golden rice, low linoleic acid soybeans, and many others have nothing to do with pesticides use or carcinogens. In fact there is now a GMO potato explicitly designed to reduce carcinogens. Moreover, some GMOs, like Bt corn and virus resistant papaya reduce the use of insecticides.
Even if we move to herbicide resistant, Roundup-Ready corn and soy, the question isn't whether Round-up is carcinogenic, but rather: what has been the overall change in toxicity from the move toward Round-up and away from older herbicides that were more toxic? Several USDA reports suggest that overall toxicity has gone down with the adoption of herbicide resistant crops.
After the above statement, the reporter followed up by making an important point but then following it up with another misleading statement. She said:
She's right that non-GMO can use just as much pesticide as GMO. In fact, as was pointed out by Andrew Kniss, Chipotle's move to remove non-GMOs from their supply chain may have actually led to adoption of crops (sunflowers) that use pesticides with higher toxicity than was the case for the GMO crops. However, when I first heard this story on air, I mis-interpreted the reporter as saying GMOs (rather than non-GMOs) were "doused with pesticides." My reaction was, first, that no farmer "douses" with such expensive products and second that non-GMOs don't mean no-pesticide. That latter point is, of course, the one that she was making, though I didn't get that in real time.
The second statement seems to imply organic means no pesticides. That's patently false.