#54: Tom Philpott on GMOs

Tom Philpott of Mother Jones Magazine

This is episode 54 of Evil Sugar Radio. In this episode, we’re interviewing Tom Philpott. Currently, Tom is a Food & Agriculture writer for Mother Jones Magazine, having written for Grist in the past.

He has recently been involved in researching and writing about GMOs and brings a balanced approach to the topic, avoiding much of the hyperbole of the pro- and anti-GMO camps.

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Episode 54 Overview

Here’s an overview of what we’ll be talking about in this episode:

  • 1:20 – Who are you? What do you do? How did you get interested in this topic?
  • 4:10 – Both sides are really heated and balanced discussions of GMOs are hard to find. What’s going on from the pro- and anti- sides of the debate?
  • 13:05 – So GMOs aren’t helping us use less herbicides and pesticides?
  • 16:50 – What are the some common arguments for GMOs that are incorrect?
  • 19:30 – What about arguments for Golden Rice and how it will help children get sufficient vitamin A? I’ve read that a child would have to eat several pounds a day to get enough beta-carotene. Thoughts?
  • 23:25 – What are the some common arguments against GMOs that are incorrect? (Includes a brief history of Monsanto and problems with how they operate)
  • 28:05 – Who else is involved in this conversation other than Monsanto/Dow/etc and Food Babe/Mercola/Mike Adams? How can people know what information and who to trust?
  • 33:35 – Do you think GMOs can be used to help mitigate some of the effects of climate change?
  • 39:35 – Do you know of any human health issues with GMOs?
  • 45:00 – Do you have any political or ecological conflicts of interests/concerns? For example, legislators and judges who formerly represented GM corporations have been in positions to decide cases or vote on legislation concerning GMOs and/or business practices of the companies?
  • 50:35 – Are GMOs partly or wholly to blame for Bee Colony Collapse? What do we need to know?
  • 57:15 – Other concerns that are not being talked like land rights, land use, patenting/ownership of the food supply, large-scale land acquisitions and land conflicts at the expense of small-scale food producers and their families.
  • 1:01:35 – Is it fair to say that many of the issues GMOs are intended to fix are a result of our farming practices? What are some simple farming solutions that can help us avoid some of the issues?
  • 1:05:55 – Bottom line: are GMOs a panacea or a poison?
  • 1:06:15 – You recently wrote an article about almond milk with one of the best headlines in the history of the internet. I think it was something like “Lay off the almond milk, you ignorant hipsters.” What is the main problem with almond milk and why did people freak out? What was the funniest response you got?

Show Notes

The Risks and Rewards of Genetically Modified Organisms ( http://tinyurl.com/ocnbf8d )

Panic-Free GMOs Series by Nathaniel Johnson ( http://tinyurl.com/kk5ubka )

More Frankenfood Paradox! ( http://tinyurl.com/nwcxo5a )

Core Truths: 10 Common GMO Claims Debunked ( http://tinyurl.com/oncfkkx )

The Precautionary Principle: Fragility and Black Swans from Policy Actions ( http://tinyurl.com/mgzyu4f )

Small farmers squeezed onto less than 25% of the world’s farmland, study finds ( http://tinyurl.com/mdysl8d )

G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition raises human rights concerns ( http://tinyurl.com/pysq3g7 )

New Report: Putting the Cartel before the Horse…and Farm, Seeds, Soil, Peasants ( http://tinyurl.com/q95dtrb )

Sugar Rush: Land rights and the supply chains of the biggest food and beverage companies ( http://tinyurl.com/msergla )

Coca-Cola dragged into Brazilian Indians’ land struggle ( http://tinyurl.com/n58enkd )

Small fruit and vegetable farms booming in the U.S. thanks to the local food movement ( http://tinyurl.com/l494otf )

Organic Agriculture and Food Security in Africa ( http://tinyurl.com/l74orxn )

Switch to organic farming may boost yields and incomes ( http://tinyurl.com/k3jnq3c )

Farming needs ‘sustainable intensification’ says report ( http://tinyurl.com/lw54l7g )

Family Farmers Hold Keys to Agriculture in a Warming World ( http://tinyurl.com/px2u5pb )

‘Multinationals seeking to control global farming’ ( http://tinyurl.com/olbxxb7 )

Our Bees, Ourselves ( http://tinyurl.com/k7wtfu5 )

Lay Off the Almond Milk, You Ignorant Hipsters ( http://tinyurl.com/k9bx85l )

Additional Sources

Michael Pollan ( http://michaelpollan.com/ )

Food & Environment Reporting Network ( http://thefern.org )

Union of Concerned Scientists ( http://www.ucsusa.org/ )

Dr. Charles Benbrook

Bill Freese

Music Credit

Intro music from Baba Brinkman’s Revenge of the Somatic. Purchase any of Baba’s music at http://bababrinkman.bandcamp.com/


  1. Outstanding interview! Learned a lot!