Why Bill Nye Is Not A ‘Science Guy’: What He Gets Wrong About GMO’s
-By Kalee Brown
When I first found out that ‘Bill Nye the Science Guy’ was making a comeback, I was stoked! My inner child surfaced and I immediately started reminiscing over watching episodes of his old show in my science classes in junior high school. I could see the potential for positive change by having someone so many people knew and loved during their childhoods host a show on science. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that the new series was less of a science lesson and more of a political propaganda piece.
Instead of presenting his viewers with science, he takes a biased, unscientific stance on many subjects. Not only that, but he blatantly makes fun of spirituality, other cultures, and ideas that have been scientifically proven as well. His tone is condescending and many of his “scientific claims” are simply incorrect, which begs the questions: Who is funding this propaganda campaign, and where did the science in this once iconic show go?
Because of these misleading statements, we were inspired to educate the public on the truth behind the subjects about which he is so misinformed. This article will be one of several that focuses on his new series, Bill Nye Saves the World. These articles aren’t meant to attack Nye’s character or his fans, but rather to inform the public on these subjects in a factual, scientific manner.
This first article will focus on human health and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which is the subject discussed on episode four of the series.
Bill Nye’s Stance on GMOs
The episode begins with him explaining his personal journey on deciding whether or not he thinks GMOs are safe to consume. After what he felt was a “skeptical” analysis, he concluded that “the positives outweigh the negatives” and “science shows that GM crops are not riskier than other farmed crops.” He even claims that there are no studies that prove they are unsafe to eat. All of these statements are incorrect, and the science shows it.
Nye says, “I have been eating genetically modified foods for decades and I’m fine, look at me.” This is a poor argument when it comes to human health, as everyone’s bodies are different. Just because you consume lots of refined sugar and never get cancer doesn’t mean that refined sugar isn’t linked to cancer. The same can be said about GMOs: Just because Bill Nye isn’t visibly sick and he eats GMOs doesn’t mean that GMOs won’t negatively affect other people’s bodies. Plus, human health is not the only issue when it comes to GMOs anyways.
Nye then goes on to compare “naturally genetically modified” foods to Monsanto’s creations in our supermarkets. He uses a sweet potato as an example, which was, in a way, “genetically modified” thousands of years ago. This type of artificial selection (or genetic modification, if you want to call it that) is not the kind we are concerned with in this particular article, as it is completely different. That was a natural process; it wasn’t completed in a lab but occurred in nature itself, and does not pose the same threats to the ecosystem and our bodies as mainstream GM foods do, which is why Nye’s comparison makes no sense.
The sweet potato argument has been made by many corporations who benefit off the widespread use of GMOs, including Monsanto. People hear “natural” and “GMO” being used in the same sentence, and so it’s easier for corporations to convince people that GMOs are natural because consumers don’t understand the science behind them.
As Dr Lieve Gheysen, a researcher involved with the recent study on sweet potatoes being “natural GMOs,” explained, “The natural presence of Agrobacterium T-DNA in sweet potato and its stable inheritance during evolution is a beautiful example of the possibility of DNA exchange across species barriers.”
“It demonstrates that genetic modification also happens in nature.”
The study suggests that the bacterial DNA may have allowed sweet potatoes to naturally adapt for thousands of years, but this process is very different from current GMO technology. It didn’t require monoculture, excessive pesticide usage, a science lab, or seriously risking human health, meaning that it greatly differs from conventional GMOs in our food system.
What Nye Gets Wrong About Glyphosate and the Risks Associated With GMOs
Nye also discussed glyphosate in the episode, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, but failed to address any of the health and environmental risks associated with it. In order to understand the relationship between Monsanto, glyphosate, and GMOs, we’ll need to explore the history of GMOs and the food industry first. The original purpose of GMOs was to generate super crops with superior traits (for example, drought resistance) to increase efficiency and solve certain issues such as the growing global food demand as population rises.
Nye actually brought this up, using population growth as an argument to support GMO usage. Public interest attorney Steve Druker perfectly sums up why this is a myth in a National Geographic article, explaining:
Several studies by the UN and World Bank also concluded that genetic engineering is not needed to meet the world’s food needs. One of the directors of these studies was asked, “What role do you see for GMOs in the future of food?” He said, “Actually none. They aren’t needed. They haven’t been boosting yields. Small scale, agro-ecological methods are what’s needed in the Third World.”
In 2008, the UN Conference of Trade and development supported organics instead of GMOs, saying that organic agriculture can be more conducive to food security in Africa than most conventional production systems, and is more likely to be sustainable in the long term. You can read that full report here.
Nevertheless, Monsanto used this argument as an opportunity to monopolize the farming industry, so now most GMOs only carry one “superior trait”: resistance to one specific and extremely toxic herbicide, Monsanto’s Roundup. Roundup is now used all over the world, which is why Monsanto holds so much control over the global food system. This “resistance” allows farmers to spray their GM crops with Roundup without harming the crop.
This process does not come without extreme consequences, however. Since Roundup rapidly became the most popular herbicide used, weeds began to develop immunity to the spray, creating “super weeds,” an outcome that can significantly damage both the environment and the crop. This monopoly promotes the cultivation of a single, uniform crop, otherwise known as monoculture, which can lead to a decline in biodiversity, as it can greatly impact population dynamics and ecosystem roles.
In addition, Roundup is directly linked with numerous health concerns. Over the years, many studies have been published proving that the active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, can cause cancer, miscarriages, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and more.
Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT),revealed a disturbing fact: Glyphosate is possibly “the most important factor in the development of multiple chronic diseases and conditions that have become prevalent in Westernized societies.”Another study suggested that glyphosate can cause celiac disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, kidney failure, miscarriages, infertility, birth defects, obesity, autism, depression, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cancer.
A group of scientists put together a comprehensive review of existing data that shows how European regulators have known that Monsanto’s glyphosate causes a number of birth malformations since at least 2002. Regulators misled the public about glyphosate’s safety, and in Germany the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety told the European Commission that there was no evidence to suggest that glyphosate causes birth defects. (source)
The report read:
Our examination of the evidence leads us to the conclusion that the current approval of glyphosate and Roundup is deeply flawed and unreliable. In this report, we examine the industry studies and regulatory documents that led to the approval of glyphosate. We show that industry and regulators knew as long ago as the 1980s and 1990s that glyphosate causes malformation – but that this information was not made public. We demonstrate how EU regulators reasoned their way from clear evidence of glyphosate’s teratogenicity in industry’s own studies to a conclusion that minimized these findings in the EU Commission’s final review report.
Even though many of the studies performed on Roundup focus on glyphosate, the herbicide as a whole is even worse. A study published in the journal Biomedical Research International showed that Roundup is 125 times more toxic than its active ingredient glyphosate studied in isolation. The eye-opening abstract reads as follows:
Pesticides are used throughout the world as mixtures called formulations. They contain adjuvants, which are often kept confidential and are called inerts by the manufacturing companies, plus a declared active principle, which is usually tested alone. We tested the toxicity of 9 pesticides, comparing active principles and their formulations, on three human cell lines. Glyphosate, isoproturon, fluroxypyr, pirimicarb, imidacloprid, acetamiprid, tebuconazole, epoxiconazole, and prochloraz constitute, respectively, the active principles of 3 major herbicides, 3 insecticides, and 3 fungicides. Despite its relatively benign reputation, Roundup was among the most toxic herbicides and insecticides tested. Most importantly, 8 formulations out of 9 were up to one thousand times more toxic than their active principles. Our results challenge the relevance of the acceptable daily intake for pesticides because this norm is calculated from the toxicity of the active principle alone. Chronic tests on pesticides may not reflect relevant environmental exposures if only one ingredient of these mixtures is tested alone.
There are countless more studies that prove the dangers of GMOs, yet Nye chose not to include any of them in his episode. Who knows whether this was a decision made by him or by whomever is funding this propaganda piece, but it’s clear that he did not present all of the facts.
So, Why Hasn’t the U.S. Government Banned GMOs?
Numerous countries have banned the use of Monsanto’s Roundup as well as growing or selling GMOs, including Russia, Sri Lanka, and much of Europe. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich announced that Russia had “made the decision not to use any GMO in food productions,” but the U.S. has not followed suit.
As many of you probably know, the U.S. government is largely controlled by corporations and the elite, and the situation with GMOs and the laws surrounding them is no different. The EPA even has close ties to Monsanto executives, which was exposed in a recent court case (read more about it in our CE article here).
Jess Rowland, head of the EPA’s Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC), was specifically caught aiding Monsanto. A report by that committee was “accidentally” leaked to the public at a time that was favourable to Monsanto given its recent lawsuits, so there was significant debate over whether or not it was actually an accident.
According to court filings, the discovery “strongly suggests that Mr. Rowland’s primary goal was to serve the interests of Monsanto.” Rowland has yet to publicly address these allegations; however, he has since left the agency and retired.
Plaintiffs state that the litigation revealed documents proving that Rowland was “straining, and often breaking, ethics and rules to benefit Monsanto’s business.” Internal Monsanto communications exposed that the company pushed this report to be published immediately in order to “preempt other potential actions or inquiries about the dangers of glyphosate,” according to a court filing.
Further proof lies in the form of a letter from a former EPA scientist to Rowland stating that there were significant scientific grounds for the EPA to reclassify glyphosate from a “possible human carcinogen” to a “probable” cancer-causing agent, but clearly Rowland ignored this expert’s opinion (source).
This may not come as a surprise to many of you, as the EPA has held close ties to numerous companies that threaten the environment, not just Monsanto. For example, you can read about the head of the EPA’s close ties to various oil and gas companies here.
There has also been speculation that scientific literature on GMOs has been censored in North America. For example, the only long term study that has ever been conducted on GMOs was published in November 2012 in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology by Gilles-Eric Seralini and his team of researchers at France’s Caen University (source). The study found severe liver and kidney damage as well as hormonal disturbances in rats fed with GM maize in conjunction with low levels of Roundup that were below those permitted in most drinking water across Europe. Results also indicated high rates of large tumours and mortality in most treatment groups.
The study was retracted in North America, but then republished in multiple journals in Europe, one of them being Environmental Sciences Europe (source). The North American retraction was largely due to strong commercial pressure from North American biotech companies, like Monsanto. The republished studies in Europe were even more up-to-date and settled any concerns that were raised about the retracted study, yet North America chose not to republish it.
The retraction was likely a political decision, which unfortunately is a huge issue when it comes to modern science in North America. Scientists no longer have the same freedom they once enjoyed to study and publish whatever they want because of significant pressure from the government and corporations.
This fact was also made clear by WikiLeaks documents:
Resistance to the advent of genetically modified foods has been pronounced across Europe. The continent features some of the strictest regulations governing the use and cultivation of GMO products, and public skepticism about biotech goods is quite high—a fact not lost on American diplomats. In a lengthy report dating from late 2007, a cable issued by the State Department outlined its “Biotechnology Outreach Strategy,” which, among other things, recognized the European Union’s “negative views on biology” and committed as a national priority to limiting them (O7STATE160639). . . .
Initial attention paid to the State Department’s part in pushing industrial manufactures on its allies obscured the even bigger role it played in assuring a place for genetically modified agricultural products (GMOs) in a region that largely wanted nothing to do with them. The American campaign promoting biotech products was a worldwide effort. In all, some 1,000 documents from the Cablegate cache address this effort, a significant number of which originate in Europe. U.S. diplomats on the continent gave considerable attention to insuring the interests of American biotech firms in Europe—whether through “education” programs, government lobbying, or outright coercion—as well as stripping down European Union regulations designed to act as a bugger against them. Available cables published by WikiLeaks suggest that the United States invests considerable time, effort, and expense in its operations on behalf of the American biotech firms.
Read more about it from The WikiLeaks Files: The World According To U.S. Empire
It’s quite clear that Monsanto is responsible for many of the environmental effects and health risks associated with GMOs, which is why it was so shocking that Nye asked the Chief Technology Officer of Monsanto, Robb Fraley, to speak on the show. Instead of including an unbiased panel of scientists to discuss the subject, he chose a higher up from the main company that’s responsible for all of this controversy.
Nye actually asks him, “Why does everyone hate Monsanto?” As if he’d provide an honest answer. When it comes to GMOs, Monsanto is only concerned with profit, not the environmental or health risks that come along with them.
“At a time when fake news is prevalent in our society, communication about science and restoring trust in the field has never been more important,” Fraley explained. “I was excited and honoured to be part of the show to help distinguish fact from fiction when it comes to GMOs. The fact is that GMOs are safe, effective and benefit the environment.”
So, now Bill Nye has associated fake news with questioning the safety of GMOs. This is precisely the issue with science in North America: We can no longer question it without being associated with fake news or conspiracy. However, isn’t that the point of science, to question everything in order to find the truth? Any scientist with integrity could look at these studies and admit that GMOs require a lot more testing in order to be deemed safe, if ever. This begs the question: Who is funding this episode of Bill Nye Saves The World?
Though the answer to this question is unclear, I’d like to point out that infamous investor and businessman George Soros reported at the end of 2015 that he owns 317,534 Netflix shares, which has an estimated worth of $32.79 million. If you’ve never heard of Soros, he is a key member of the elite, or the shadow government, disguised as a philanthropic billionaire.
Soros is well-known for financing and donating heavily to “left” groups in order to create further division and political turmoil, as he played a hand in creating the Black Lives Matter and Women’s March movements. Soros started making strategic political donations to essentially fund revolutions in different European countries and made a fortune amidst the chaos, and now he’s doing the exact same thing in the U.S. He also made a killing off European forced migration and other colour revolutions.
This isn’t the first time that Netflix has produced something that appears to be more propaganda than fact; for example, when Netflix launched The White Helmets, a fake documentary on the Syrian war. You can read more about that here. Though it’s unclear if Soros holds any ties to Nye’s show, it certainly makes you wonder whether or not the series falls under the elite’s agenda. Given the subject matter of many of the episodes and the extremely biased, unscientific stances Nye holds, this wouldn’t be surprising.
If Nye had presented a scientific argument on why he supports GMOs, that would be far more acceptable. Instead, he chose to only explore one side of the story, not giving his viewers the full picture. I hope that, if anything, this article taught you to critically think about everything you are watching or listening to. We can no longer simply trust news stations, scientists, doctors, and other people with “high-ranking” statuses. We need to learn to think for ourselves and to do our own research, because often times we aren’t being presented with both sides of the story.
To be clear, this article is not meant to vilify Bill Nye. For all we know, Nye could have no idea that he isn’t presenting all of the facts; he may truly believe he’s taking a scientific stance. At the end of the day, he’s also an actor and his show is doing pretty well, so he could see that as being successful. There’s no way to know what his motive here was, so there’s no point in hating on him.
What’s important is that we continue to spread knowledge, and seek the truth. Be open minded and critically think about everything, regardless of who’s presenting the information. Bill Nye may not be a ‘science guy,’ but the good news is that you can be! Educate yourself and keep an open mind — that’s the only way we can raise consciousness together.