There’s been a huge Facebook discussion over my post on why genetically modified foods are not a big deal. As usual, the discussion revolves around whether we should take one or two studies here or there that show possible health problems as conclusive, or instead rely on the vast majority of studies that show no evidence of a problem. I want to know whether anti-GMO activists are willing to put their money where their mouths are, so I’m devising a bet! Here’s a draft of the terms of the bet I would like to propose.

If by 2028, there is a body of literature (>5 peer-reviewed papers, using randomized trials on human beings) on the link between consumption of any GMO food and any non-rare disease (affecting more than 1 in 1,000 individuals worldwide or in the U.S.) showing an average (across all papers on the topic) positive correlation equal to or greater than a lifetime odds ratio of 1.5 per standard deviation of the independent variable (i.e., an increase in lifetime relative risk of disease of 50% or more due to a one-standard-deviation increase in consumption of the GMO), then I will pay $1000 to the other bettor; otherwise, the other bettor will pay me $1000.

8 thoughts on “A GMO Bet

  1. I will take that bet. But I have one caveat. If the increased use of pesticides that these crops are exposed to is part of the reason that the GMO’d crops are causing disease, then it should be integral to the question of whether they cause disease – not separate. Because if the tech requires an increased pesticide load, then that it part and parcel of the tech and not separate from it.

    I will also say this – My entire chain of comments on FB said nothing about one study, or this study, or that study. It just proved one thing – that we don’t know anything about genetics, and are in fact just learning that it is far more complex than we ever thought. That alone should be enough to prove that GMO engineers don’t know what they are doing.

    1. Cliff – You’re right about what you are claiming in the FB thread.

      Anyway, I’m happy to accept the bet with your caveat, provided that the concentrations of pesticide tested in the relevant literature are within the plausible range actually consumed by humans.

  2. Hate to tell you this (well, actually, I don’t, since I could use $1,000, but I don’t have the $1,000 to cough up if you claim the wheat industry’s technicality that using techniques that include hybridization, repeating backcrossing, embryo rescue, and chemical, gamma ray, and x-ray mutagenesis does not constitute “genetic modification”), but you’ve already lost. The first GMO of note was transgenic wheat, which has been linked to increased incidence of Celiac disease.



  3. Oh, and do you want to talk corn?

    Corn modified to be RoundUp tolerant ends up having higher levels of toxins than allowed in drinking water:

    Oh, and here’s an interesting one:
    Debilitating allergies to proteins that are found in GMO corn, but not natural strains. Does that count as a “non-rare disease”?

  4. Pretty bold bet – if there are no problems with GMO – then there will be plenty of them – and most probably some of them would tern up problematic – and you lose, if there are problems with GMO – then you lose.

    1. Read the bet carefully. It’s about the average of studies using randomized trials on human beings. You can’t cherry-pick outlier studies to win the bet.

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