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Union of Concerned Scientists

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a buncha tree-huggers
Environmentalism
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Save the rainforests!
Watch that carbon footprint!
You gotta spin it to win it
Media
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Stop the presses!
We want pictures
of Spider-Man!
Extra! Extra!
They've been wonderful advocates on climate change for decades; they are media savvy, they train scientists to be media savvy, and they push the media and policy makers alike to understand the scientific consensus. When it comes to climate change, I trust them over just about any other source. Which is why it's so disappointing that they are so wrong on genetically modified organisms.
— Kevin Bonham[1]

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is an American environmental organization founded in 1969 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which claims 400,000 members.[2] The organization claims to focus on seven primary causes:

Promotion of Agroecology[edit]

Most frustrating to me, is when agroecology is used in this context: “We don’t need [insert technology here], because we have agroecology! In the agroecology program at the University of Wyoming, we teach that proper use of technology is an indispensable part of achieving sustainability. After all, if technology in crop production was shunned, we’d have succumbed to the Malthusian catastrophe many generations ago.
—Andrew Kniss[4]

Gurian-Sherman and UCS are perhaps best known in the GMO debate for a controversial 2009 report titled “Failure to Yield”, which claimed that crop biotechnology had not lived up to its promise to increase yields.[5] The report, and subsequent coverage by UCS, favored organics and agroecology as a superior production method. The piece was not peer reviewed and has been contradicted by dozens of studies. Per-acre yields of organic crops are significantly lower than those for conventional, with estimates ranging from 10-35%, and even higher among some grains and vegetables. These gaps have been established both by meta-analysis of published research and by USDA surveys.[6] In the most comprehensive study to date on the GMO yield gap question, PLOS ONE published A Meta-Analysis of the Impacts of Genetically Modified Crops in 2014, crunching data from 147 studies and finding that GM crops increased yields by an average of 22 percent.[7] A 2017 research led by Jayson Lusk, professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State University, suggests that the UCS analysis showing no difference in yields between GE and non-GE corn was wrong because it did not control for weather. “Once temperature and precipitation controls are added, GE adoption has significant effects on corn yields,” the study found.[8]

The study received many more criticisms for it’s limitations and flawed methodology.[9][10] [11][12][13]

Criticism[edit]

Back-and-forth with Mark Lynas[edit]

UCS criticized Mark Lynas over his recent speech in support of genetically engineered crops.[14] Doug Gurian-Sherman, a member of UCS, claimed on the organization's blog that Lynas is "attempting to discourage real scientific debate" and complained that Lynas' speech received "uncritical reception" by the media.[15] In response, Lynas called UCS "one of the most ideological of all the green groups" and took particular issue with the organization's casual dismissal of the position of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on GMOs, saying that UCS "has no respect for scientific consensus in areas where real scientists conflict with its biases".[16]

Genetic Literacy Project[edit]

Due to the obvious stance of the UCS on GMOs, The Genetic Literacy Project has compiled a number of scientific documentation refuting many of the claims made by the UCS.[17]

Media Bias/Fact Check[edit]

UCS’s rating went from pro-science to being just high to mostly factual. Now, their rating conclusion states:

Overall, we rate the Union of Concerned Scientists Left-Center Biased based on political advocacy that aligns with liberal policy. We also rate them Mostly Factual in reporting rather than High due to occasionally publishing misleading information regarding GMOs. (D. Van Zandt 11/19/2016) Updated (08/14/2020)

References[edit]

  1. Union of Concerned Scientists Failing on Farming
  2. Union of Concerned Scientists - About Us
  3. Ostensibly, UCS does not have a position, but they have participated in anti-nuclear fundraising and their pages on nuclear power are exclusively negative. Their pages on global warming do not contain any mention of nuclear power.
  4. Defining Agroecology
  5. Failure to Yield, Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Engineered Crops Published Apr 14, 2009
  6. USDA data confirm organic yields significantly lower than with conventional farming by Steve Savage (February 16, 2018) Genetic Literacy Project
  7. A Meta-Analysis of the Impacts of Genetically Modified Crops
  8. Adoption of Genetically Engineered Corn on Yield and the Moderating Effects of Weather, Soil Characteristics, and Geographic Location
  9. Are the reports conclusions that GM has largely failed to meet its promise accurate?
  10. Yielding to Ideology Over Science, Ronald Bailey (4/21/2009 3:00 PM) reason
  11. An analysis of “Failure to Yield” by Doug Gurian-Sherman, Union of Concerned Scientists Wayne Parrott, Professor. Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics & Genomics, and Department of Crop & Soil Sciences, University of Georgia. Updated 2 April 2010
  12. Do GM crops fail to produce more yield? by Klaus Ammann
  13. Down with the Union of Concerned "Scientists!" by Matt DiLeo (Monday, July 20, 2009)
  14. Mark Lynas: Lecture to Oxford Farming Conference, 3 January 2013
  15. The Equation: Science, Dogma, and Mark Lynas
  16. Mark Lynas: Response to UCS 'Science, Dogma and Mark Lynas'
  17. Union of Concerned Scientists: Advocacy group promotes unscientific views on GMOs