How to find sources you can trust on controversial topics – like GMOs



Today the Washington Post introduces a new feature in its Food Section that will tackle controversial food-policy topics, like genetically modified foods.  It’s called Unearthed and in the inaugural column the writer proposes a test for finding information about GMOs that can be trusted.  That’s a question I often ask when I’m reading about gardening subjects that inspire opposing views, and not just plant origin (natives v. nonnatives), a topic that draws record numbers of comments, but also compost tea, sphagnum moss and, of course, Roundup.

I hope you read the whole article but briefly, the author asserts that if a source ONLY mentions the benefits of GMOs (in this example) or ONLY the risks, then don’t trust that source.  She names some sources that fail that test (the Union of concerned Scientists and the American Association for the Advancement of Science), but lots more that pass.

She also concludes that among nonbiased sources there’s a consensus:  that there’s no evidence that GMOs are bad for us.  Okay readers, your turn.

I have no strong feelings either way about GMOs – because I don’t know enough – but I do worry that her standard for finding trusted sources could sometimes suffer from the problem of false equivalency that causes the news media to utterly fail to educate the public on so many controversial topics.  Sometimes the facts are the facts – the Earth really IS round – so quoting both sides on the issue just distorts that reality.


  1. To the pro/con test I would also add the logical fallacy test. People should acquaint themselves with logical fallacies. If the source has a tendency to rely upon them when presenting an argument, it probably isn’t a very credible source.

  2. There’s no evidence that GMO’s are harmful to us, because no prior studies were done and/or released. We are the study – we are the biggest bunch of lab rats in human history, and I for one didn’t agree to participate. Fifteen years ago when I went back to college, I did a short report on GMO’s, and what I was finding in the course of my research was that either no testing was done, or if it was, bad results got swept under the rug. Some of what I read was truly frightening. And I’ve always felt that it was no coincidence that diabetes and obesity began cropping up in the population within a few years of GMO’s entering the food supply. All most of us are saying is, if it’s so effing safe, label it as such and let consumers make an informed decision about eating it or not!

    • You may want to go back and look at the hundreds of studies on GMOs that form the basis of the conclusions of the AMA, WHO, and EU commission.

  3. I agree that there is not enough research about the actual food grown by GMO seed. However, that food was sprayed with tons of Roundup which I don’t want to eat and I don’t want to continue being put into our environment. I have the biggest issue with the vast amount of chemicals that come with GMOs.

  4. I think the issue has to be that there just hasn’t been enough testing done on the long term effects of GMO’s on humans and the environment. I personally eat organic and think that in the long run this is a better choice for eating, gardening and farming. I am for labeling and don’t believe for one second that there are any ‘benefits’ in eating, growing or farming with GMO’s.

    • “enough testing done on the long term effects”

      How much would be enough testing? hundreds of different studies?
      How long would be long term enough? 15 years or more?

      Because that’s what’s been done already, more than 600 different studies over 20 years show no detriment for eating GM food, and no realistic way they could possibly be a detriment.
      This is the same thing that happened with mobile phones, lots of people assumed they would cause cancer after years of use due to nothing more than a fear of new technology (and lots of people making money by encouraging that fear).

  5. People lock themselves into attitudes. So once you have their number, you know what to expect they will argue for. (or against). Truth (wot that?) is always hard to find. Xx

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