This is an important point. “Safe” has two meanings. One is when you are speaking to scientists or those with a sophisticated understanding of risk. Nothing has ever been proven safe.

However, when we are communicating with the lay public I think we have to throw it around sometimes. Telling a mom that sugar from a Roundup Ready sugar beet poses no more risk than beet sugar obtained from conventional breeding — it leaves the door open for some negative effect, when we know that sugar is sugar. It plays into the “there’s a magical force in these foods” belief, and that’s not productive.

So your article is really spot on, but we should occasionally use “safe” when there is no plausible reason for harm and post-hoc analysis shows no evidence of harm. Good stuff.

*And Tim Schwab needs a lesson on what a scientific consensus is.

Written by

Land-grant scientist exploring ways to make better food with less input, and how to communicate science. All funding at

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store