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:

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1 comment

humor is the GMO Lobby

Posted by Marco,

What's really funny is the GMO lobby and their paid politicians telling the public that they(we) don't have the right or intelligence to choose, whether or not to eat GMO foods, by not allowing labeling.. More funny is the FDA asserting that GMO foods are "substantially equivalent to natural", when the combinations of DNA engineered into the food are near impossible to have occurred in nature. I dont believe that the safety of GMO argument rests on the intellect of Jeffery Smith and is largely unproven, which begs that a choice be mandated!

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