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Why Is Grist Magazine Spouting Pro-GMO Propaganda?

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

Grist's new food writer Nathanael Johnson has replied to my deconstruction of the most recent article in his series about GM.

He admits he's wrong but at the same time implies that his willingness to admit this somehow elevates his articles above a "sterile", "airless" and "robotic" debate. Presumably, he means that those epithets apply to those who point out his mistakes.

But I've got news for Johnson. Being wrong on GM as often as he is, ignoring or twisting corrections to support his preconceived views, and in the process misleading the readers of a till now respected publication like Grist, doesn't make him exciting, creative, or cool. It just makes him an unreliable source.

Just how unreliable was recently illustrated on Twitter, when Johnson tweeted a link to a New York Times article with the comment, "Yet another example: will more delicious GM tomatoes be the thing that leads Americans to demand GMOs?" When Grist's former food writer, Tom Philpott, pointed out to him that the tastier tomatoes in question were not GM, Johnson said he'd only read the article quickly. The author and public health lawyer Michele Simon responded that since he had set himself up as the arbiter of whether GM food was good or bad, he had a duty to read with care.

But Johnson's error is also evidence of a predisposition to frame things in a GM-friendly way. Certainly it is noticeable on Twitter that Johnson tends to interact almost exclusively with a group of hard-core GM supporters who cheerlead and back-pat him over his articles and defend him from any criticism.

They also seem keen to form a protective phalanx around Johnson in the comments section under his articles, often aggressively attacking readers who challenge his arguments. Even what appear to be libelous and abusive comments are allowed to stand, in contradiction to Grist's own code of conduct.

For example, at the foot of one Johnson piece, the serial poster "mem_somerville" accused the biotech researcher Prof. Jack Heinemann of conducting "serial misinformation campaigns", ending one post with the threat of continuing hostile attention: "I'm on to your shtick".

A member of the public wrote in response to "mem_somerville": "Nathanael Johnson/Grist: This is a disgrace, you should be dealing with it." They did nothing.     


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