Neil deGrasse Tyson Tells GMO Critics to “Chill Out”

The Cosmos star says we’ve been genetically modifying our food for “tens of thousands of years.”


Cosmos star Neil deGrasse Tyson is known for defending climate science and the science of evolution. And now, in a video recently posted on YouTube (the actual date when it was recorded is unclear), he takes a strong stand on another hot-button scientific topic: Genetically modified foods.

In the video, Tyson can be seen answering a question posed in French about “des plantes transgenetiques”—responding with one of his characteristic, slowly-building rants.

“Practically every food you buy in a store for consumption by humans is genetically modified food,” asserts Tyson. “There are no wild, seedless watermelons. There’s no wild cows…You list all the fruit, and all the vegetables, and ask yourself, is there a wild counterpart to this? If there is, it’s not as large, it’s not as sweet, it’s not as juicy, and it has way more seeds in it. We have systematically genetically modified all the foods, the vegetables and animals that we have eaten ever since we cultivated them. It’s called artificial selection.” You can watch the full video above.

In fairness, critics of GM foods make a variety of arguments that go beyond the simple question of whether the foods we eat were modified prior to the onset of modern biotechnology. They also draw a distinction between modifying plants and animals through traditional breeding and genetic modification that requires the use of biotechnology, and involves techniques such as inserting genes from different species.

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