March 12, 2014
His full explanation is presented in this public paper which describes how even a small risk per crop species can still result in global ecocide if pursued with abandon. As Taleb explains, “The risk of ruin is not sustainable, like a resource that gets
depleted in the long term (even in the short term). By the ruin theorems, if you incur a tiny probability of ruin, as a “one-off” risk, survive it, then repeat the exposure, you will eventually
go bust with probability 1.” (Where “probability 1″ means a 100% chance.)
Rational thinking automatically leads to skepticism of GMO safety
This sober, scientific conclusion is of course entirely rational and founded in clear thinking. Self-deluded GMO zealots and paid Monsanto trolls predictably try to gloss over these risks in their quest for profits and power, but that does not mean such risks do not exist.
In fact, as Taleb convincingly argues, genetically engineered crops are specifically designed to have a survival advantage over conventional crops, allowing them to better resist droughts or infestations of pests or weeds. This survival advantage — if it’s as real as seed manipulators claim — means genetically engineered plants can out-compete non-GMO crops in open fields. The genetic pollution which is already underway across North America will only get worse, therefore, and there’s no reversing it because all living systems — even genetically engineered ones — have a natural drive to spread, multiply and survive.
The result is that GMO crops will out-compete and thereby displace non-GMO crops over time. Why does this matter? Because the rise of GMOs is nearly synonymous with the collapse of genetic diversity in seeds and food crops. You don’t have to go back very far in history to find examples of mono-cultured food crops failing due to lack of genetic diversity, either:
- The Irish Potato Famine of 1845-1852 was caused by over-reliance on a genetically narrow food crop. Shockingly, one-third of the Irish population relied on a single crop, and when potato blight (a fungal microorganism) successfully attacked the crop, over one million people died from starvation.
- The current crisis in world banana production is caused because nearly all commercial banana trees are genetically identical clones.
- The near-collapse of Florida citrus due to disease is also caused by a striking lack of genetic diversity across citrus orchards.
A loss of genetic diversity is a pathway to global disease and starvation
Any legitimate scientist in the fields of anthropology, genetics or agriculture will warn you that low genetic diversity is the first step toward crisis and collapse of any given population. When genetic diversity is lost, the entire species becomes vulnerable to being wiped out by epidemic disease.
This principle is irrefutable and widely recognized as truth among nearly all scientifically-literate thinkers… except those pushing GMOs, of course. Those denialists selectively edit “scientific truth” to exclude any concerns that might question the wisdom of displacing the world’s treasure of seed diversity with corporate-patented seeds. The Precautionary Principle is gladly thrown out the window when corporate profits are to be realized from doing so.
Transgenic GMOs could cause catastrophic ecocide
Beyond the loss of genetic diversity, Taleb is also concerned about the possibility of catastrophic transgenic effects which could somehow weaken the world’s food crops in ways human scientists never intended or anticipated. Murphy’s Law — which states that if something can go wrong, it will — is widely recognized as a frustrating truth across physics, medicine, computer science and space exploration. Yet it is magically and irrationally declared null and void only for GMOs, where the roll of the dice quite literally threatens the sustainability of future life on our planet.
As Taleb explains, even if the chance of any single genetically engineered crop going wild and unleashing global crop failures is very small, the fact that companies like Monsanto and DuPont seek to dominate the global seed supply by perpetually releasing more and more genetically engineered crops means that sooner or later, a genetic catastrophe is all but inevitable.
If you play Russian Roulette every weekend, in other words, and there really is a live round in one of the gun’s chambers, sooner or later you are bound to blow your brains out. This is true even if the revolver has 1000 chambers (with 999 of them empty) so that the odds of losing seem incredibly small each time you play. (Interestingly, Taleb uses this exact same illustration in his paper…)
As Taleb also explains in his paper, the cost of losing is so great that even tiny odds of failure may not be acceptable. After all, we’re talking about the entire future of life on our planet.
GMOs may unleash mass global crop failures followed by starvation and disease
I warned about precisely this issue two years ago in my “Murdered by Science” series of articles which discussed how careless applications of science are putting the very existence of the human race at risk. (And for the record, I am not anti-science. I am 100% pro-science when the Precautionary Principle is honored.)
Those articles, widely derided by prostitute scientists paid by corporations to troll the web and attack reason, are in fact even more urgent to read today, in 2014. In those articles, I pointed out that GMOs are in the most extreme class of pollutants because they are self-replicating. While chemical spills can eventually be cleaned up, and even heavy metals can be remediated over time, genetically engineered DNA that escapes into the wild can never be put back into a box.
Self-replicating pollution is the worst class of pollution, far exceeding even the risk of nuclear accidents wiping out humankind. “As humans, we are ill equipped to understand the mathematics behind such risks,” writes Taleb. And he’s correct: human brains are not hard-wired to fully grasp the long-term implications of self-replicating pollution. In the same way, most people are utterly incapable of accurately imagining the long-term outcomes of compounded interest – a phenomenon which eerily reflects the spread of self-replicating pollution.
How dishonest science fools the uneducated masses
Because humans are not hard-wired to grasp the long-term risks of self-replicating pollution (as posed by genetically engineered crops), it is all too easy for paid prostitute-scientists to pull the wool over the eyes of the public and falsely claim GMOs present no risks whatsoever. This is why every single scientist who is currently promoting GMOs is, in fact, a threat to the continuation of human life on our planet. By deceiving the public and glossing over the very real threats to life posed by GMOs, they directly contribute to the spread of GMO genetic pollution which may end in genuine catastrophe and massive loss of life.
Imagine the global collapse of all GM corn crops. Or imagine the collapse of global soy production. Every crop which is GMO has some risk of being wiped out in a catastrophic manner caused by the un-natural manipulation of the crop’s genetic code.
The history of scientific advancement, of course, is rife with huge failures to foresee unintended consequences. Perhaps the most important example of that is found in the current rise of superbugs across modern hospitals. Utterly unforeseen by the world’s top scientists and pharmacological researchers, superbugs have now risen to such prominence in our health care system that even the CDC has warned that the age of antibiotics is over.
Superbugs, in fact, were a product of antibiotics. As drug companies churned out the drugs to “beat disease” — and doctors prescribed those drugs to hundreds of millions of patients worldwide — the perfect environment was created for the nurture and spread of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, many of which are fatal to patients.
I personally knew three people who were killed in U.S. hospitals by superbug infections. Superbugs are the new death pandemic in America, and they are currently killing 48,000 Americans each year. They were unleashed by scientists who had no intention of causing death and destruction. Rather, those scientists working on antibiotics genuinely believed they were saving lives with no downside. At first, it all seemed true — antibiotics inarguably saved many lives early on. But now, antibiotics are in fact the reason why deadly superbugs have escaped the reach of modern medicine and genuinely threaten the human race with incurable infections.
Scientists are not immune to making catastrophic mistakes that cause massive death
The superbugs lesson desperately needs to be understood by the self-deluded prostitute-scientists currently pushing GMOs. Importantly, they need to swallow their arrogance for just long enough to understand that your INTENTION does not control the long-term effects of your ACTIONS.
Just because you wish for GMOs to “feed the world” does not mean they will. In fact, positive intentions can and do frequently blind scientists to the downsides of their own innovations. In example after example, scientists who believed they were pursuing technology for the betterment of humankind ended up inadvertently contributing to mass death and destruction.
The Manhattan Project, anyone?
But at least the dropping of atomic bombs on civilian populations in Japan was a catastrophe that could be contained. The damage, although immense, was limited and could not mysteriously multiply itself over time. GMOs, on the other hand, are like seeds of mass destruction because they can replicate, spread and conquer.
So controlling them may not be possible once they are unleashed. And they have already been unleashed. Genetic pollution is now widespread across our agricultural landscape, and the vast majority of organic farms in the USA have experienced some level of contamination from genetically engineered crops.
Why so few people are capable of rationally discussing the ecological risks of GMOs
In a very real sense, most human beings are cognitively incapable of participating in any rational discussion of these issues. This includes most scientists, by the way, who are themselves just as vulnerable to peer influences and false mythologies as anyone else. In the name of “science,” far too many scientists today merely embarrass themselves by pushing obscenely silly arguments in defense of GMOs, claiming utterly stupid things like, “humans have tinkered with the genetic code of plants for thousands of years. Genetic engineering is no different.”
Although this is the most frequently-invoked argument by GMO denialists, it is blatantly idiotic and grossly deceptive from the start. Selective breeding of various phenotypes within the genetic pool of a given species in no way equates to cross-species DNA manipulation which combines insect or soil genes with plant genes. Any person who even attempts to equate these two concepts does nothing more than affix a giant “DUNCE” sticker to their own foreheads. (And yes, numerous scientists invoke this silly argument every single day, across the mainstream media.)
Taleb also addresses this same issue head-on in his public paper, explaining:
Top-down modifications to the system (through GMOs) are categorically and statistically different from bottom up ones (regular farming, progressive tinkering with crops, etc.) There is no comparison between the tinkering of selective breeding and the top-down engineering of taking a gene from an organism and putting it into another. Saying that such a product is natural misses the statistical process by which things become “natural.”
The abandonment of caution in the quest for profits
The next idiotic argument put forth by desperate prostitute-scientists is that GMOs aren’t dangerous because there’s no evidence they are dangerous. As stupid as this sounds, it is also the faith-based argument of the chemical industry which insists “all chemicals are safe until such time as they are proven dangerous.”
If this bass-awkwards logic sounds familiar, it’s because it is also invoked by the processed food industry in claiming that all food additives, preservatives and chemicals are inherently safe unless and until they are proven dangerous.
What all this non-logic has in common is an illogical presumption of safety. This has always been the argument of the mass poisoners of our world. Regardless of the poison being discussed — BPA, mercury fillings, pesticide chemicals, DDT, toxic heavy metals, triclosan, MSG and more — its corporate backers have consistently and predictably hired swaths of prostitute-scientists to declare the substance to be “safe until proven otherwise.”
The tragic lesson of lead arsenate pesticides
This presumption of safety sooner or later ends very badly. For over a hundred years, the heavy metals pesticide lead arsenate was “presumed safe.” Made primarily of lead and arsenic, it was indeed very effective at killing pests that threatened food crops. So farmers across North America and around the world sprayed it on their food crops, producing amazing quantities of food… at first, anyway.
Before long, the lead and arsenic bio-accumulated in agricultural soils, poisoning the trees that produced the food as well as the customers who ate it. To this day, soils across the world remain heavily poisoned by these deadly heavy metals, which is one of the reasons why so many superfood products sold today contain such high levels of heavy metals (see the Natural News Forensic Food Lab results for examples).
Lead arsenate — just like GMOs — was “presumed safe” because it didn’t cause immediate death to anyone. According to corporate-sponsored prostitute-scientists, anything that doesn’t kill you within seconds is automatically presumed to be safe. All long-term implications of the chemical or technology are willfully swept under the rug and ignored. Corporations lean on government regulators until the cover-up becomes policy. At that point, both government and industry become active collaborators in the mass poisoning of the human race.
And that’s the whole point of my breakthrough article, The Battle For Humanity is Nearly Lost which covers this collusion in more detail.
In conclusion: No self-replicating technology can be presumed safe if we hope to survive
I am of the opinion, by the way, that human civilization will not survive the next 100 years. Our species is too shortsighted, too driven by greed and too easily manipulated to survive its own corporate-led destruction. The quest for short-term profits blinds nearly everyone to long-term implications. The fact that the masses are already heavily poisoned by this very process makes it nearly impossible for the public consciousness to achieve sufficient lucidity to halt the quickening pace of self-destruction.
So in one sense, I only write this out of a fondness for galactic amusement, not out of any real hope that humanity can save itself from destruction via heavy metals, synthetic chemicals, pharmaceuticals and GMOs. But on the off chance that I am wrong in my prediction of humanity’s demise, if we are to survive as a species, such survival will necessitate the global embracing of the Precautionary Principle across all realms of science and technology.
Because even if we halt Monsanto and agree to have all the criminal biotechnology scientists halted from committing ecocide, we are all very likely going to be overrun by artificial intelligence before the year 2050, regardless of what else happens in agriculture or synthetic chemicals. Just as with GMOs, today’s most brilliant computer scientists are wholly incapable of understanding the long-term implications of the race for conscious machines and advanced AI tech. The result will almost certainly be that humans will invent the technologies that destroy humanity, and we will all go down in history as the race of sentient beings who were smart enough to invent amazing technologies but too stupid to restrain them.