Whenever I hear a scientist on TV claim that GMOs are safe—thousands of studies prove it—I don’t believe it, but I don’t disbelieve it, either.

Call me jaded, but when it comes to matters of health and nutrition, scientists often appear to me more as public relations specialists than as scientists. Sorry, all you good scientists out there, but more than a few bad apples have made me a skeptic. No longer, it seems, is our public discourse about THE truth, it’s about WHICH truth—and which truth the men behind the curtain pay for.

How can anyone say for sure that there are no health risks from all the GMOs in our food? They can’t. Nor can we skeptics say for sure that health risks exist from GMOs in our food. This, fellow lab rats, is something that only time will tell, I’m afraid. We’re all in it together at this point, like it or not.

But whether GMOs are safe to eat is absolutely the wrong question right now. If we really want THE truth, that is.

The GMO industry must love the current kerfuffle about the safety of GMO food for eaters. This hide-the-ball-in-the-beaker takes all the oxygen out of the laboratory, leaving no one with the breath to ask more useful questions about the unfulfilled promises of GMOs and, despite their ubiquitous use on our nation’s farms, the worsening problems that GMOs were supposed to have solved by now.

So in the interest of fullest disclosure, I have a few better questions from the farm that arise out of today’s facts.

Better question number one:

Why do we continue to hear the false premise that “without GMOs we will not be able to feed the world?”

We do not feed the world now with GMOs, and there is no evidence to suggest GMOs ever will—certainly not as global populations soar to 9.6 billion by 2050. Truth is, the world feeds itself—and will continue feeding itself—primarily from local, small-scale family farms just as it always has.

The GMO-industrial farming complex mostly feeds livestock and gas tanks—both of which Americans voraciously consume only to grow fatter and sicker.

The “feed the world” rationalization for rampant GMO use is nothing more than a profitable, hollow, and maddeningly effective habit of speech by industry mouthpieces. No need to provide details when this dogma shuts down all further questions. After all, no one wants to argue (or be perceived as arguing) against feeding the world. When one looks at the actual data, however, America is absolutely not picking up the tab at the World Diner.

As outlined in this GMOinside.org article by Michelle Kim, GMO crops don’t increase yields, they aren’t used to feed hungry people, and if the industry has its way, they will dangerously “diminish diversity and sovereignty in our global seed supply.”

Whenever you hear that we need GMOs to feed the world, ask to see the evidence.

Better question number two:

shutterstock_72680311GMOs were supposed to reduce poisons on our farms, weren’t they? So why are farmers using even more—and more potent—chemicals today?

Most applications of GMOs in agriculture are used toward one of two simple goals: Create toxic plants that kill pests that eat the plant, or create plants that are able to survive the poisons that kill their rival weeds.

The first part is sort of working—if you don’t mind eating food from plants that contain bacterial poison—but the second part, due to the emergence of superweeds, is a complete train wreck.

In fact, just last year the USDA, at the behest of the GMO industry, approved a newly-minted GMO supercrop variety designed to withstand a poison (2-4,D) whose destructive power descends directly from the Vietnam-famed Agent Orange defoliant. You know, the one that would melt all the greenery off of the jungle’s branches in a single B-52 spray-over and which caused health problems in involved U.S. soldiers and horrific injury and deformity to Vietnamese jungle dwellers. This we are now spraying on our farmlands because the existing poison, glyphosate (Roundup is the brand name), can no longer kill the muscle-bound weeds it helped create. Oh, and glyphosate is still included in the 2-4,D cocktail. (You may have noticed a recent proclamation from the World Health Organization (WHO) that glyphosate is “probably” cancer-causing—that may not sound definitive, but it’s closer than any other study has come to saying “is.”) When it comes to effective poisoning in the open air, one can never be too careful. See for yourself.

It’s a losing, horrifying chemical arms race to the bottom, and GMO technology is at its center—in fact, it is the reason for its existence.

Better question number three:

Isn’t it super sleazy and downright unjust to purchase and rabidly enforce patents on seeds—Seeds!—and to, thereby, force farmers into inescapable servitude to the GMO manufacturers?

Used to be, farmers would store a certain percentage of their grain crops each year in order to plant them for next year’s crop. With GMO crops, this is strictly illegal. Farmers MUST purchase anew each spring or face the legal hammer from companies with large biceps, deep pockets and clever field spies. (You will not miss the attendant necessity for farmers to also purchase and spray the complementary suite of poisons from the same companies who manufacture the GMO seed.)

I am not making this up.cuffs

Since 1996, thousands of seed dealers and farmers have been pursued and hundreds sued in U.S. courts for saving GMO seeds for future planting—some as a result of inevitable and invisible (untraceable except through a genetic test) pollen drift that occurs when neighboring farmers use GMO seed.

The manufacturers of GMO seeds say they have intellectual property to protect and development costs to cover. Seems to me they have a growing, profitable advantage to protect. We all have questions of fundamental morality and democracy we must answer.

Wendell Berry, through his piece, The Idea of a Local Economy, in Orion, puts it best:

 A total economy is one in which everything—“life forms,” for instance—or the “right to pollute” is “private property” and has a price and is for sale. In a total economy, significant and sometimes critical choices that once belonged to individuals or communities become the property of corporations. A total economy, operating internationally, necessarily shrinks the powers of state and national governments, not only because those governments have signed over significant powers to an international bureaucracy or because political leaders become the paid hacks of the corporations but also because political processes—and especially democratic processes—are too slow to react to unrestrained economic and technological development on a global scale. And when state and national governments begin to act, in effect, as agents of the global economy, selling their people for low wages and their people’s products for low prices, then the rights and liberties of citizenship must necessarily shrink. A total economy is an unrestrained taking of profits from the disintegration of nations: communities, households, landscapes, and ecosystems. It licenses symbolic or artificial wealth to “grow” by means of the destruction of the real wealth of all the world…

 We may not know for a long time whether GMOs are safe to eat, but we know right now that the nirvana of GMOs is not working out as promised in real farm life, and GMOs have made America’s farms (and your food) more toxic while further endangering the meager existence of the family farmer.

Now there’s a fact that ought to give you plenty of heartburn.