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Neil deGrasse Tyson escalates defense of GMO products after YouTube video goes viral

Published time: August 04, 2014 19:37
American astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson (AFP Photo / Valerie Macon)

American astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson (AFP Photo / Valerie Macon)

After a short video clip went viral last month of American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson defending GMO foods, the scientist took to his Facebook page to publish a statement speaking further on the subject.

As RT reported last month, Tyson was caught on camera recently saying that critics of GMOs, or genetically-modified organisms, should “chill out.”

“I’m amazed how much rejection genetically modified foods are receiving from the public. It smacks of the fear factor that exists at every new emergent science, where people don’t fully understand it or don’t fully know or embrace its consequences, and so therefore reject it,” Tyson told a French interviewer originally.

“We are creating and modifying the biology of the world to serve our needs,”added the “Comos” host.“I don’t have a problem with that, because we’ve been doing that for tens of thousands of years. So chill out.”

Tyson’s diatribe garnered hundreds of thousands of hits on YouTube in a matter of days, and this week he writes on Facebook that a number of the responses he received were geared towards particular aspects of GMOs, such as labeling and food safety, while discounting the true meaning of his remarks.

“Had I given a full talk on this subject, or if GMOs were the subject of a sit-down interview, then I would have raised many nuanced points, regarding labeling, patenting, agribusiness, monopolies, etc. I've noticed that almost all objections to my comments center on these other issues,” Tyson told his Facebook followers on Sunday.

“If your objection to GMOs is the morality of selling non-prerennial seed stocks, then focus on that. If your objection to GMOs is the monopolistic conduct of agribusiness, then focus on that. But to paint the entire concept of GMO with these particular issues is to blind yourself to the underlying truth of what humans have been doing -- and will continue to do -- to nature so that it best serves our survival. That's what all organisms do when they can, or would do, if they could. Those that didn't, have gone extinct,” he added. “In life, be cautious of how broad is the brush with which you paint the views of those you don't agree with.”

With regards to those aspects, Tyson took the opportunity to weigh in as well. “Since practically all food has been genetically altered from nature, if you wanted labeling I suppose you could demand it, but then it should be for all such foods,” he said on the subject of regulating the way GMO products are displayed. “Of course new foods should be tested for health risks, regardless of their origin. That's the job of the Food and Drug Administration (in the USA),” he said of safety.

And if the scientist’s initial defense of GMOs didn’t attract the ire of enough opponents already, one quip in particular from his Facebook post is certain to spawn a fair share of further criticism:

“In a free market capitalist society, which we have all ‘bought’ into here in America, if somebody invents something that has market value, they ought to be able to make as much money as they can selling it, provided they do not infringe the rights of others. I see no reason why food should not be included in this concept,” Tyson said.

So far, Tyson’s Facebook post has been shared nearly 1,500 times and attracted comments from close to 1,000 social media followers.