A Majority of Uniformed Americans is a Whole Lot of Nothing

By , February 16, 2011 9:58 pm

About the only thing I agree with Mark Bittman on in this column is that GMO food should be labeled. The rest is, well, an argument built on perhapses and supported by a bunch of maybes. Here’s a whiff:

In one paragraph he writes,

[That a transgenic fish could escape and breed with a wild fish] is impossible, say the creators of the G.E. salmon — a biotech company called AquaBounty — whose interest in approval makes their judgment all but useless.

So AquaBounty’s judgment is almost useless on this subject. Fair enough. Their economic interest calls their impartiality into question. They could be–probably are–biased. Let’s not rely on what they say, Bittman says.

But then he writes,

The subject [of GMO food] is unquestionably complex. Few people outside of scientists working in the field — self included — understand much of anything about gene altering. Still, an older ABC poll found that a majority of Americans believe that G.M.O.’s are unsafe . . .

So, few people understand this stuff, but he’ll cite a survey of those who don’t to support his protest against GMO food. Uninformed people think the stuff is unsafe, and I’m supposed to care? Like AquaBounty, their judgment is probably useless–unless you’re Mark Bittman and need some maybes to support your perhapses.

Update:That Bittman didn’t cite the source for his “older ABC poll” bothered me, so I Googled “abc g.m.o.” and found at least three “older” ABC polls in the first five hits. My educated guess is that Bittman is referring to this one from June 19, 2001 (also found here). That poll says that 52% of the people polled says GMO food is unsafe, 35% unsafe, while 92% want it labeled.

But in quoting this poll, Bittman ignores a trend, one that works against him. A July 13, 2003 ABC poll says, “There have been gains in the belief that genetically modified food is safe to eat – up 11 points since 2001, to 46 percent.” Moreover, whereas in 2001, 55% said they would be less likely to buy GMO food if labeled as such, 52% took that position in 2003. In other words, the trend is against him.

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