Environmental activists like to denounce conservatives as anti-science, but in many cases they ignore inconvenient evidence themselves. For a deliciously ironic example, look no further than genetically modified food. Environmental alarmists have baselessly proclaimed GMOs a hazard, but the same biotech executives who create GMOs have found a market opportunity in the junk science these groups peddle.
The story begins with the Non-GMO Project, a nonprofit organization that runs a popular verification program for non-engineered foods. Companies pay to have their food tested by a consortium of approved labs. Once the labs sign off that they’re GMO-free, the companies may advertise their goods using the Non-GMO Project’s iconic logo on their labeling.
That cute orange butterfly has become an ersatz Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for the GMO-phobic. But one of the top labs the Non-GMO Project uses is run by none other than the supposedly evil biotech executives who came up with food-engineering methods. Genetic ID is owned by the New York City-based global private equity investment firm Paine Schwartz Partners, which specializes in food and agribusiness investments.
You Knew the Big M Was Involved
The firm is led by David Buckeridge, a former CEO of Advanta, a global GMO seed company. Two of the firm’s current operating directors, John Atkin and Robert Berendes, were most recently employed as top execs at Synterga, a subsidiary of ChemChina—the world’s largest agrochemical and GMO seed producer. Operating Director John “Jack” Anton served as chairman, CEO, and co-owner of candy giant Ghiradelli Chocolate Company and in executive roles for such large food companies as Carlin Foods and Nabisco.
Big Ag! Big Food! Big Sugar! What’s next, Monsanto?
Yes! Former Monsanto executive Steve Padgette joined Paine Schwartz Partners as a partner in 2016. He didn’t just work at a GMO industry leader—he helped create the technology, co-inventing Roundup Ready, a tool that allows genetically modified crops to withstand a powerful weed-killer.
This amazing innovation helps farmers produce a higher yield on less land, which is great news for the environment. Yet the Non-GMO Project has demonized Roundup Ready technology, referring to it as “toxic” and saying it “can cause tumors, multiple organ damage and lead to premature death…”
Similarly, thousands of credible scientific tests have certified that GMOs are safe. So has basically every major health and medical organization, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, the European Union, and the National Academy of Sciences.
Capitalizing on Manufactured Ignorance
But environmentalist alarmists—like those at the Non-GMO Project—have been extraordinarily effective in persuading the public, regardless of what science says. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 57 percent of American adults believe GMOs are unsafe to eat. Those same wary consumers would doubtless be shocked that so many former biotech executives are the ones signing off on their beloved orange butterfly.
The Genetic ID execs haven’t had a Pauline conversion about GMOs. Instead, they’re savvy business leaders capitalizing on the market opportunity inadvertently created by the anti-science Left. They’ve realized that, largely due to the dearth of accurate reporting on GMOs, many shoppers want GMO-free food.
Maybe that’s cynical. Or maybe it’s just meeting the needs of the market, however irrational. Regardless, in this case, consumers are the ones paying the high price for meaningless and unnecessary food labels while others profit from their fear.