We have two things potentially “polluting” the scientific study of GMOs. The first thing is a profit motive for scientists funded by corporations who stand to profit from the use of GMOs. The second thing hasn’t been mentioned yet.
We are, to varying degrees, nervous about putting anything artificial into our bodies. We feel that artificial things have a greater potential to harm us than natural things. This is an emotional belief. We possess it prior to looking at any specific evidence about the safety of an artificial thing, and this emotional belief may prevent us from changing our mind about the artificial thing after we do look at evidence.
This emotional belief may not be misguided. Natural systems are complicated enough that the effects of any new thing are quite unpredictable, and it may be very hard or time-consuming, or even impossible, to really verify that a new thing did no harm. In some sense and to some extent, the bias against artificial things is a positive bias. However, taken too far, it can pollute the scientific process. Think, for example, of the people who believe that vaccines cause autism.
So we have these two biases at play. We have the profit motive bias, of which we can accuse the majority (but far from all) of the scientists studying GMOs. And we have the fear of artificial things bias, of which we can accuse the opposers of GMOs.
In a sense, any dismissal of the other side on the grounds of bias simply cancels out. If pro-GMO calls anti-GMO biased, then anti-GMO can turn it right back on pro-GMO and call them biased. “The other side is wrong because they are biased” is a totally symmetric argument which neither side can win, because both sides are potentially biased.
In a situation where both sides are potentially biased, the only fair thing we can do, as I see it, is to look at what the science says and agree to believe it. Individual scientists and individual studies are often wrong; but the scientific process, on a large scale, has a great track record of producing truth. The past few decades have seen a lot of studies on GMOs cranked out by people biased towards GMOs, and by people biased against GMOs, and (I imagine and believe) by people not biased either way. The overarching conclusion of that research has been that GMOs are safe.
I read the story of Irina Ermakova, and others’ attempts to bully her and suppress her ideas. Let’s go ahead and assume the story is true. It doesn’t surprise me, though it is saddening.
This goes back to what I said earlier, that science is not necessarily pure on the level of individual scientists. I think it is pure on the level of broad scientific consensus developed over many years; but on the level of individual scientists it demonstrably is not. This is an unfortunate example of that.
The fact that GMO supporters did something unethical does not mean they are wrong about GMOs. A person can be unethical and still have true beliefs. A person can be ethical and still have false beliefs. In fierce controversies both sides might try to bully the other side and suppress their ideas; the people who are ultimately wrong might do this, and the people who are ultimately right might do it as well.
But the worry you are attempting to convey, I guess, is that information condemning GMOs has been so suppressed that it creates an illusion of clear evidence that they are safe, when if the condeming information had not been suppressed there would be a picture that was ambiguous, or clearly showing GMOs to be unsafe.
This, while possible, would as far as I know be literally unprecedented in the modern history of science. There are plenty of cases of smaller-scale suppression or ignoring of correct ideas. But I believe there is nothing in the history of science on such a grand scale as this. It would be an entirely new and as-yet unseen level of corruption of the scientific process.
Though such a phenomenon would be unprecedented, it is actually quite common for people to think that things like this are happening. There are plenty of people who are dismissed by the scientific community, and subsequently develop the belief that their ideas are being suppressed and there is a conspiracy against them in academia. But in almost every case these people are actually wrong, both about their idea and about the existence of a conspiracy. It’s just a psychologically easy explanation for people to leap to. Mainly because it’s an alternative to changing one’s mind.
It’s generally good life advice that if one thinks there is a conspiracy against one’s belief in the scientific community, then one should seriously stop and double check the train of thought that led to the belief. As soon as one starts thinking that science is conspiring against oneself, one is in a category which contains all of these people and which historically contained only a handful of right people. From the outside vew it’s not a great place to be, most of the time.
Note carefully that I’m not saying that everybody in this position should change their mind to the consensus view. Sometimes these people, with whom all of science disagrees, really are right. It’s just that most of the time they’re not. So a person in this position should double-check their thinking really really carefully.