Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson made waves last week with a video and Facebook letter aimed at critics of genetically modified organisms in food. His argument spun the idea that the process to achieve a GMO is exactly the same as traditional agricultural techniques.
There were writers who called him out on enmeshing genetically engineered organisms (transgenics) in crops with traditional practices of selective breeding. In "round three" of Tyson's statements he continues the enmeshment. Jeffrey Smith, founder of Institute for Responsible Technology, has challenged that basis below.
To use an analogy from Brandon Turbeville in Codex Alimentarius: The End of Health Freedom:
...This argument would be akin to claiming that breeding of humans of different ethnic backgrounds is the same as breeding between humans and horses.
Obviously, you can see that "genetic modification" holds two completely different meanings in that context. But Tyson wants everyone to believe it is all the same practice "for tens of thousands of years." That people concerned about the GMO method are rejecting all of history's agricultural gains due to lab-phobia.
Tyson is still arguing on this false basis, focusing more on readers' negative reactions and nit-picky points - not on what people originally called out in his statements. In this respect, he should receive not only a PhD for his keen ability to further manufactured false-paradigms, but an honorary black-belt in verbal Aikido.
On his Facebook page, he released his final comments on the topic, which you can read in full here:
I maintain the sense, thrust, and meaning of my comments.
Furthermore, I never said GMOs were safer or more dangerous. I implied that if you think GMO-laboratory is **inherently** more dangerous to human life than GMO-agriculture you are simply wrong. They both can be bad for the environment. They both can be less healthy. They both can disrupt the local flora and fauna. But both methods wield an awesome power to improve food in every way that matters to humans: yields, appearance, vitamin content, sweetness, resistance to insects, resistance to weather extremes, and so forth.
Imagine if today, scientists showed you the Aurochs Wild Ox, and said -- "Give us time. In just a few years, we will genetically modify this wild animal, turning it into a different sub species whose sole purpose is to provide vast quantities of milk for humans to drink. They will produce 10x as much milk as did the original animal. But they will require vast grasslands to sustain. And some of you will get sick because you won't be able to digest the lactose. But no need to label this fact. People will just figure this out on their own. The rest of you will be fine. We'll call the result a Holstein Milk Cow."
What would anti GMO-laboratory people say this story? Would they embrace it or reject it? Of course, over the past 10,000 years, this is exactly what we've done to that Ox - or whatever is the agreed-upon origin of the domesticated Cow. Call it GMO-agriculture. If you reject GMOs you fundamentally reject it all. [emphasis mine]
He conveniently concluded by saying he would now move on to other topics.
Author Jeffrey Smith, founder of Institute for Responsible Technology, however, was not going to let the issue "lie." He does not pull punches when he demonstrates the actual harm posed to humans, animals and the environment by the process of transgenics. In other words, he's not hooting and hollering about labeling or rejecting technology, which is the impression Tyson paints while chiding "If you reject GMOs you fundamentally reject it all."
And of course, at the core is the explanation that Big Biotech's gene altering is a completely different process than traditional breeding!