Genetic Literacy Project

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Genetic Literacy Project
Genetic Literacy Project Logo.jpg
TypeNon-profit organization
HeadquartersCincinnati, Ohio USA
Region served
Executive Director
Jon Entine[1]
Managing Editor
Tim Barker
Parent organization
Science Literacy Project [2]
AffiliationsEpigenetics Literacy Project
Gene-ius Project [2]

The Genetic Literacy Project (GLP) is an organization that describes itself as dedicated to promoting public awareness and discussion of genetics, biotechnology, evolution and science literacy.[2] It was founded by Jon Entine, a science writer and consultant who serves as its executive director. The staff produces articles focusing on human genetics as well as on food and farming issues, including genetic engineering, the use and impact of crop protection chemicals and pollinator health. It also aggregates articles from various published sources.


The Genetic Literacy Project was launched in 2011 by Jon Entine, the author of the 2011 non-fiction, Scared to Death: How Chemophobia Threatens Public Health published by the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH).[3] In an interview with Gerald Baron, CEO of Agincourt Strategies about "chemophobia and erosion of trust". Entine raised concerns about the rise in hysteria that was fueled by media, including television and the internet that we are under assault by chemicals. He said the anti-industry consist of narratives in which "black hats"—the "evil villain"—such as a "CEO of a corporation"—guilty of "corporate malfeasance", are pitted against white hats, like Erin Brockovich the whistleblower.[4] Entine said that fear tactics that equate Exxon Valdez and BP oil spills, Bhopal, thalidomide with common chemicals used in households. He said that the media promotes an illusion that "chemicals are either "safe" versus "unsafe".[3] In the Genetic Literacy Project's 2017-2018 annual report, Entine said the catalyst for his interest in genetics was the 1989 NBC News documentary he co-produced Tom Brokaw on race and sports. The documentary entitled Black Athletes, "sparked a constructive public discussion on misunderstandings about genetics and human differences."[5][6]


Topics covered include genetically modified organisms (GMO) in agriculture and epigenetics, the expression of genes in humans and animals in the context of their environment (GLP has a companion project, the Epigenetics Literacy Project, launched in 2016). The staff also produce articles on human and animal genetics topics such as gene splicing, CRISPR, government regulation, bioethics, use of stem cells, transhumanism, nanotechnology and synthetic biology. The GLP's articles and staff are quoted and interviewed in a number of publications and websites.

The section on agricultural biotechnology's frequently asked questions includes fundamentals, farming & food, health & safety, sustainability, labeling, and regulation.[7] The site presents articles on the fundamentals of agricultural biotechnology including a definition of GMOs, a list GM products and animals that are already approved in the United States. There are articles that compare attitudes towards GM foods versus GM drugs, explain the difference between GM and conventional breeding, and describe CRISPR and other New Breeding Techniques (NBTs).[7]

Articles related to farming and food discuss the impact of genetic engineering on crop yields, and the role of GMOs in responding to food security globally. Others investigate superweeds, nutritionally enhanced Golden Rice and mass suicides of Indian farmers.[8] Is glyphosate (Roundup) dangerous?

In the section on health and safety, the safety of GMOS and glysophate (Roundup) is investigated. This section includes the February 7, 2016 GLP article "What are we to make of the 'Séralini studies' claiming GMOs and glyphosate are dangerous?",[9] debunked the work of French molecular biologist Gilles-Éric Séralini—head of the Committee of Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN). Séralini controversial September 2012 Food and Chemical Toxicology article had concluded that there was an increase in tumors among rats fed genetically modified corn and the herbicide RoundUp.[10] The GLP article described Séralini as the "most visible and arguably most notorious scientist associated with the global anti-GMO movement."[9] Séralini had begun investigating genetically modified organisms in 1997 and had called for the precautionary principle to be followed.[11] He had served in various roles with the French government, the European Union and the European Commission[12] where he evaluated GMO allowances for French ministries from 1998 to 2007.[13] He had undertaken numerous related studies on Monsanto, GM maize, and tumors, including one in 2007 that was funded by Greenpeace.[14][15][16] The 2012 publication resulted in ongoing heated debates that became known as the Séralini affair, pitting those who say that GMOs and glyphosates are dangerous and those who oppose that view.[9]

Other related articles on health and safety investigate potential industry funding of GMO safety studies, examine the lack of "long-term GMO safety studies or studies on humans", and whether there are more health benefits in organic foods compared to conventional foods.[17]

The Project presents content on sustainability with articles that compare organic, non-GMO, and GMO farming in terms of sustainability. Articles examine GMOs and monoculture, bees, the Monarch butterfly, |insect-resistance, the overuse of glyphosate and agrochemicals, and plant-based fake meat.[18]

GLP examines labeling GMO foods and examines how and why GMOs are or are not labeled in different countries including the United States where the FDA opposes GMO labeling. For example, many GMO products such as "cheeses, wines, beers, vitamins and oils" are labeled or banned in some places but not others. They cover topics such as mutagenized crops that are neither labeled nor regulated?[19]

GLP is against GMO labeling [20] In his 2015 GLP article, Doug Van Hoewyk said that the FDA does not require labeling of GMO foods "because it does not pose a risk to consumers...The absence of GMO labeling on food products does not pose as a health risk, thus does not necessitate their labeling and could in fact mislead consumers."[21] The US 2016 National Academy of Sciences report concluded that there was "no substantiated evidence of a difference in risks to human health between currently commercialized genetically engineered (GE) crops and conventionally bred crops, nor did it find conclusive cause-and-effect evidence of environmental problems from the GE crops."[22]

There are a number of articles related to the regulation of GM products that deal with issues such as the process involved in introducing new GM products to the market, and governmental oversight of CRISPR and New Breeding Technologies (NBTs). An article reponds to concerns that "Monsanto and Big Ag control crop research and world food supply" and that Monsanto sues "farmers who save patented seeds or mistakenly grow GMOs." Another asks if "genetically engineered seeds" should be patented. The question of FDA labeling non GMO and GMO foods as 'substantially equivalent' is covered in another article.[23]


The GLP is a non-partisan non-profit organization founded in 2011 and funded by donations from non-profit foundations and individual donors. It operated initially as an independent organization within the non-profit Statistical Assessment Service, which was based at George Mason University. STATS provided accounting services for the GLP before it dissolved in 2015. The GLP became its own 501(c)3 under the name Science Literacy Project in 2015.[citation needed] The SLP oversees the GLP and the Epigenetics Literacy Project, founded in 2015. Its banner logo says "Science not Ideology",[2] in reference to the gulf between scientific consensus and public perception.[24]


In the 2015-2016 fiscal year, top donors to the Genetic Literacy Project were:[25]

  • John Templeton Foundation, Gene-ius Project (for GLP): $92,225[26][27]
  • John Templeton Foundation Epigenetics Literacy Project: $151,985
  • Searle Freedom Trust, GLP: $150,000
  • Winkler Family Foundation,[26] GENeS Project, $50,000
  • Academics Review Charitable Association, (pass through support for University of California-Davis Biotech Literacy Bootcamp from BIO, UC-Davis and USDA): $5,000
  • Individual donations: $9,647.12[2]

Relationship with biotechnology industry[edit]

The US Right to Know, a group that obtains and publishes source materials and communications,[28] raised concerns after the GLP ran a series of articles in 2014 supportive of crop biotechnology after the scientists had been encouraged to do so by American agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation Monsanto.[29] The scientists were not paid for their articles and the GLP had control of the writing and editing process.[24] GLP has taken positions against labeling GMO foods.[20][30][21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Our Team". genetic literacy project. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Mission, Financial Transparency, Governorship". genetic literacy project. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  3. ^ a b Entine, Jon (2011). Scared To Death: How Chemophobia Threatens Public Health. New York: American Council on Science and Health (ACSH). ISBN 978-0-578-07561-7.
  4. ^ Scared to Death: an interview with Jon Entine on chemophobia and erosion of trust. March 22, 2012. Event occurs at 10:28. Retrieved 2019-09-24.
  5. ^ Annual Report 2017-2018. Genetic Literacy Project (Report). North Wales, PA. p. 18.
  6. ^ Goodman, Walter (April 25, 1989). "Review/Television; Are Black Athletes Better, And Is It Racist to Say So?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-09-24.
  7. ^ a b "FAQ". Genetic Literacy Project. Fundamentals. nd. Retrieved 2019-09-24.
  8. ^ "FAQ". Genetic Literacy Project. Farming and Food. nd. Retrieved 2019-09-24.
  9. ^ a b c "What are we to make of the 'Séralini studies' claiming GMOs and glyphosate are dangerous?". GMO FAQs. 2016-02-07. Retrieved 2019-09-24.
  10. ^ Seralini, Gilles-Eric; Cellier, Dominique; Vendomois, Joel Spiroux (2007). "New Analysis of a Rat Feeding Study with a Genetically Modified Maize Reveals Signs of Hepatorenal Toxicity". Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. 52 (4): 596–602. doi:10.1007/s00244-006-0149-5. ISSN 0090-4341. PMID 17356802.
  11. ^ "OGM : Gilles-Éric Séralini, un scientifique engagé et critiqué". Le (in French). 20 September 2012.
  12. ^ Ces OGM qui changent le monde, Flammarion, 2010, quatrième de couverture.
  13. ^ "Pr. Gilles-Eric Séralini Président du Conseil Scientifique Enseignant Chercheur". CRIIGEN. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015.
  14. ^ Séralini GE, Cellier D, de Vendomois JS (May 2007). "New analysis of a rat feeding study with a genetically modified maize reveals signs of hepatorenal toxicity". Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. 52 (4): 596–602. doi:10.1007/s00244-006-0149-5. PMID 17356802.
  15. ^ "GM maize MON863: French scientists doubt safety". GMO Compass. 16 March 2007. Archived from the original on 30 December 2010. Retrieved 11 November 2010.
  16. ^ Ananda R (2010). "Three Approved GMOs Linked to Organ Damage" (PDF). Z Magazine. 23 (3). Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 October 2013. The data 'clearly underlines adverse impacts on kidneys and liver, the dietary detoxifying organs, as well as different levels of damages to heart, adrenal glands, spleen, and haematopoietic system,' reported Gilles-Eric Séralini, a molecular biologist at Caen University.
  17. ^ "FAQ". Genetic Literacy Project. Health and Safety. nd. Retrieved 2019-09-24.
  18. ^ "Sustainability". Genetic Literacy Project. Sustainability. nd. Retrieved 2019-09-24.
  19. ^ "Labeling". Genetic Literacy Project. Labeling. nd. Retrieved 2019-09-24.
  20. ^ a b Revkin, Andrew (November 2013). "A Risk Communicator Says Industry Should Embrace Labeling of Genetically Modified Food". New York Times. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  21. ^ a b Van Hoewyk, Doug (October 23, 2015). "If GMOs are safe, why aren't they labeled? Straight answer to a valid question". Genetic Literacy Project. Retrieved September 24, 2019.
  22. ^ Harvey, Chelsea. "People want GMO food labeled — which is pretty much all they know about GMOs". Washington Post. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  23. ^ "Regulation". Genetic Literacy Project. Regulation. nd. Retrieved 2019-09-24.
  24. ^ a b "How Monsanto Mobilized Academics to Pen Articles Supporting GMOs". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  25. ^ "Science Literacy Project". Citizen Audit. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  26. ^ a b "citizen audit search". Citizen Audit. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  27. ^ "Genetic Literacy Project/GENE-IUS Big Idea". Templeton Fund. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  28. ^ "GMOs". us right to know. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  29. ^ Lipton, Eric (2015-09-05). "Food Industry Enlisted Academics in G.M.O. Lobbying War, Emails Show". New York Times. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  30. ^ "search labeling". Genetic Literacy Project. Retrieved 8 March 2017.

External links[edit]