Could humor be the secret weapon in the GMO debate?

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi quizzes Jeffrey Smith over Simplot's GM potatoes, which the FDA recently judged to be safe
Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi quizzes Jeffrey Smith over Simplot's GM potatoes, which the FDA recently judged to be safe
Attacking biotech companies and spurning ‘artificial’ ingredients will usually generate some positive PR for your business, even if food scientists wearily point out that there are greater threats to our health - and the planet - than GMOs and dough conditioners you can’t pronounce. 

But not this week.

First, we watched anti-GMO activist Jeffrey Smith​ dig himself a large grave and slowly climb into it over six tortuous minutes in a Daily Show sketch in which his arguments against Simplot’s low-acrylamide GE potatoes​ were calmly demolished by a plant scientist at Cornell University.

Next we saw Chipotle​ - which unveiled plans to eliminate GMOs from its menus - slammed by the Washington Post for taking "righteous chowing-down to a troubling new level​", while others queued up to brand its move hypocritical​ given that it still sells soft drinks with sweeteners from GE corn, and meat and dairy from animals likely fed GE grains.

And finally, we saw Panera​ announce plans to axe assorted ‘artificial’ ingredients by 2016, only to find itself under attack from the CSPI, which observed that just because something is “hard to pronounce, doesn’t mean it’s unsafe”.  

And if that wasn’t enough to kill Panera’s buzz, the CSPI went on to observe that a 1,000-calorie Panera panini laced with “a day’s worth of sodium” ​washed down with a “460-calorie soda” ​was arguably more likely to send you to an early grave than ‘innocuous’ food additives such as sodium lactate.

Jeffrey Smith, IRT
Jeffrey Smith: “If we eat the potato, it might regulate our own gene expression, causing serious problems, possibly death…”

So could this spark the beginning of a more rational debate about the pros and cons of genetic engineering; or the importance of judging food additives based on evidence, rather than how easy they are to pronounce, or whether they are ‘natural’ or not?

Probably not, but one thing we did learn from Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi is that when it comes to the GMO debate (a PR battle which the food industry has been losing, despite the fact that it has more cash, and arguably more compelling data, on its side), the most effective weapon may be humor. Watch the Daily Show sketch here:

Related news

Show more

2 comments

The Data they like to ignore

Posted by Mari Ann Lisenbe,

What about the CDC's own data that shows a DIRECT correlation between the release of GMO's in the mid 1990's and an exponential increase in neurological diseases such as Parkinson's and ALS, and cancer. In my opinion, that is nothing to laugh about.

Thankful that the public is not being fooled by the "scientific data" on this one. As inconvenient as it is for the food industry, people are waking up to the fact that we are being poisoned by our food.

Report abuse

Science presented humoriously is easier to hear

Posted by DFB,

Maybe with humor the public will listen to the science. It is easier to digest and by it's nature it has to be done in simpler terms or punch lines.
Humor wins out over mostly baseless gloom and doom.

Report abuse

Follow us

Products

View more

Webinars