When pseudoscience transcends politics: GMO opponents, Christian Evangelists, and bananas

September 21, 2014

Genetics, GMOs

Ray Comfort and Banana

What do Ray Comfort’s “The Atheist’s Nightmare,” and genetically modified food opponents have in common?

They don’t understand where the bananas they eat come from. 

In 2003 Ray Comfort released a video where he talked about the banana, which he declared the bane of atheists’ existence, since its convenient shape, nutrition, and coloring proved the existence (or at least suggested) an intelligent designer.

What he forgot to consider is: That designer is man. Bananas are a genetically modified food. They are not naturally seedless. Here is a wild banana, with a modern genetically modified banana for scale.

Wild banana and GMO

In fact, agriculture has relied for centuries on selective breeding of crops, which is a way of tampering with their genetics.

This is actually a pseudoscientific extension of the “appeal to nature” logical fallacy. 

Just because something is natural, that does not mean it is good, or better than something artificial. Yes, there are problems with some genetically engineered food products, but the simple fact that they are man-made does not make them inferior to natural foods.

To clarify the title, I am not saying that all Christians believe what Ray Comfort asserted. In fact, I was overjoyed to see that comments on his video derided him as an embarrassment to Christianity.

More importantly, the point is that misunderstanding of GMOs has become a widespread problem, since most people are simply unaware of what it means to genetically modify food.

Ray Comfort apologized for not properly researching the banana before releasing his video, stating:

“My apologies for not explaining myself more clearly.  I was not aware that the common banana had been so modified through hybridization.  However the truth remains that god gave man the knowledge and ability to modify it, so that it perfectly fit into his hand.  He did the same with big dogs so that they could fit into his car.  And with wild cats, so that they are perfectly fit for his wife.” (Source)

It’s not a great apology, but it’s something. Many GMO opponents still fail to recognize how many GMO products they consume, and the positive contributions they have made to the world.

In 2007, Senator Barack Obama made a vague campaign pledge to “let folks know whether their food has been genetically modified.” (Source) Although his administration has for the most part not acted on this, anti-GMO fervor picked up in 2014, and as of May there were 84 bills in 29 different states demanding that GMO products be labeled.

Here is the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences’ statement on GMOs:

“The science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe … The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society, and every other respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion: consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques.” (Source)

Yes, there can be problems with specific GMOs, but it in no way warrants the pseudoscientific scrutiny they have been receiving.

Here are a few other foods you may not even know are genetically modified:

  • Sugar beets
  • Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Tomatoes
  • Squash
  • Golden Rice
  • Soybeans
  • Oils
  • Animal feed
  • Salmon

(Source)

Let’s have an informed, intelligent discussion about this issue before pushing legislation!

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About jslachman381

I'm a Yale graduate who majored in History of Science, Medicine, and Public Health.

View all posts by jslachman381

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  1. “Why Politicians Need Science”: Politico’s poor attempt to put science on an a pedestal | The Science Writing Blog - April 11, 2015

    […] in unscientific behaviors frequently to this day whether we’re talking about climate change, genetically modified organisms, abortion, nuclear science, or almost any other area of science and […]

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