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Transgenic foods and the value of the experimental test

Transgenic foods and the value of the experimental test

By Julio Muñoz Rubio

Those who have built this hegemonic Cartesian-positivist conception in science also start from assumptions like these: There is only one science and within each problem that it formulates there is only one way to offer proofs for or against. Science is outside of all kinds of interests "external" to it (political, economic, ideological).

Science is "superior" to every other form or tradition of knowledge. We can refute these assumptions if we cease to abstractly conceive of science and instead place it in its social context. To begin with, it must be considered that science is not a homogeneous activity, equally practiced by any member of a community, withdrawing from the character of the theories, methodologies and conceptions of the world that it supports and moving away from its location within the framework of power relations and of class. The criterion of "evidence" for or against a theory cannot be detached from these relationships and interests.

Part of the debate about transgenic foods has been to elucidate whether it is a "scientific" or a "political" debate. In this context, the scientist position has been held mainly by those in favor of the commercialization of these foods. Whoever opposes marketing these foods must show the proof, the universal evidence of their dangerousness. As long as this is not done, GMOs are safe by decree (not by scientific evidence).

Several questions arise here: when could the definitive evidence be shown to agree or disagree with one point of view or another about the effects of the release of GM foods? What is the valid scientific evidence and what is not? Can this be decided outside of power relations? Scientism managed from the offices and laboratories of Monsanto, Syngenta or Du Pont is cleverly anchored in an obsolete conception of what science is and its objects of study. It is what these companies should sustain even if it has no real value. It is a conception of the 17th and 18th centuries, of Newtonian physics, not of a science of complex systems: living beings, ecosystems, societies and cultures.

Complex systems are characterized by presenting numerous simultaneous variables, difficult or impossible to control all at the same time. This produces an increase in the randomness of the system; The outputs presented may be different for similar initial situations, the parameters are not always possible to predict. This leads to the conclusion that there is no definitive test (a crucial experiment, Popper would say) and universal that proves the reason for one of the parties in conflict and removes it from the other. One of the things that has been shown in various experiments on transgenic foods is that in certain specific conditions their effects on health and the environment have been harmful.


This does not necessarily mean that there is universal testing against GMOs, as required by the companies that manufacture them. The behavior of complex systems does not respond to universal, predictable rules, such as those of Galilean astronomy, and therefore the evidence criteria are never universal. Given the flexible nature of complex systems, the consequences of the release of these foods cannot be calculated or controlled step by step. However, this does not mean that there is not sufficient scientific evidence to affirm the existence, in various contexts, of a real and potential danger of transgenic foods released into the environment.

From its position of power, Monsanto cannot understand this, nor accept it: it would be its undoing. But sticking to a discussion about when the evidence of the harmfulness of GMOs is irrefutable is playing the game to a sterile and tricky ultra-scientific position. The evidence is already sufficient to break the trap of the definitive experimental test and bring the ethical element into the debate. Supporters of Monsanto and other similar companies have been ominously silent in this regard. Its science is wrong, its methodology erratic, and its ethics non-existent.

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Video: How to Make a Genetically Modified Plant (August 2021).