Risk Experts Who Predicted 2008 Financial Crash: GMOs Riskier than 2008 Crash … “The G.M.O. Experiment, Carried Out In Real Time and with Our Entire Food and Ecological System As Its Laboratory, Is Perhaps the Greatest Case of Human Hubris Ever”

 Do We Have a Right to Know If Our Food Has Been Genetically Modified?Painting by Anthony Freda: www.AnthonyFreda.com

Risk analyst Nassim Nicholas Taleb predicted the 2008 financial crisis, by pointing out that commonly-used risk models were wrong.  Taleb – a distinguished professor of risk engineering at New York University, and author of best-sellers The Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness – Taleb became financially independent after the crash of 1987, and wealthy during the 2008 financial crisis.

Taleb noted last year that most boosters for genetically modified foods (GMOs) – including scientists – are totally ignorant about risk analysis.   Taleb said that proliferating GMOs could lead to “an irreversible termination of life [on] the planet.”

This month, Taleb – and tail-hedging expert Mark Spitznagel, who also made a hugely profitable billion dollar derivatives bet on the stock market crash of 2008 – wrote in the New York Times:

Before the crisis that started in 2007, both of us believed that the financial system was fragile and unsustainable, contrary to the near ubiquitous analyses at the time.

Now, there is something vastly riskier facing us, with risks that entail the survival of the global ecosystem — not the financial system. This time, the fight is against the current promotion of genetically modified organisms, or G.M.O.s.

Our critics held that the financial system was improved thanks to the unwavering progress of science and technology, which had blessed finance with more sophisticated economic insight. But the “tail risks,” or the effect from rare but monstrously consequential events, we held, had been increasing, owing to increasing complexity and globalization. Given that almost nobody was paying attention to the risks, we set ourselves and our clients to be protected from an eventual collapse of the banking system, which subsequently happened to the benefit of those who were prepared.


We were repeatedly told that there was evidence that the system was stable, that we were in “the Great Moderation,” a common practice that mistakes absence of evidence for evidence of absence. For the financial system to be viable, the solution is for it to resemble the restaurant business: decentralized, with mistakes that stay local and that cannot bring down the entire apparatus.

Indeed, a Nobel prize-winning economist and many other experts say that too much centralization destabilizes economies and other systems.

Taleb and Spitznagel by pointing out that the GMO-cheerleaders are making the same anti-scientific arguments as those who said the financial system was stable prior to 2008:

The financial system nearly collapsed, but it was only money. We now find ourselves facing nearly the same five fallacies for our caution against the growth in popularity of G.M.O.s.  [Nearly 80% of all food produced in the U.S. contains GMOs.]

First, there has been a tendency to label anyone who dislikes G.M.O.s as anti-science — and put them in the anti-antibiotics, antivaccine, even Luddite category. There is, of course, nothing scientific about the comparison. Nor is the scholastic invocation of a “consensus” a valid scientific argument.

Interestingly, there are similarities between arguments that are pro-G.M.O. and snake oil, the latter having relied on a cosmetic definition of science. The charge of “therapeutic nihilism” was leveled at people who contested snake oil medicine at the turn of the 20th century. (At that time, anything with the appearance of sophistication was considered “progress.”)

Second, we are told that a modified tomato is not different from a naturally occurring tomato. That is wrong: The statistical mechanism by which a tomato was built by nature is bottom-up, by tinkering in small steps (as with the restaurant business, distinct from contagion-prone banks). In nature, errors stay confined and, critically, isolated.

Third, the technological salvation argument we faced in finance is also present with G.M.O.s, which are intended to “save children by providing them with vitamin-enriched rice.” The argument’s flaw is obvious: In a complex system, we do not know the causal chain, and it is better to solve a problem by the simplest method, and one that is unlikely to cause a bigger problem.

Fourth, by leading to monoculture — which is the same in finance, where all risks became systemic — G.M.O.s threaten more than they can potentially help. Ireland’s population was decimated by the effect of monoculture during the potato famine. Just consider that the same can happen at a planetary scale.

We noted in 2009:

It has been accepted science for decades that when all the farmers in a certain region grow the same strain of the same crop – called “monoculture” – the crops become much more susceptible.


Because any bug (insect or germ) which happens to like that particular strain could take out the whole crop on pretty much all of the region’s farms.

For example, one type of grasshopper – called “differential grasshoppers” – loves corn. If everyone grows the same strain of corn in a town in the midwest, and differential grasshoppers are anywhere nearby, they may come and wipe out the entire town’s crops (that’s why monoculture crops require such high levels of pesticides).

On the other hand, if farmers grow a lot of different types of crops (“polyculture”) , then a pest might get some crops, but the rest will survive.

Taleb and Spitznagel conclude:

The G.M.O. experiment, carried out in real time and with our entire food and ecological system as its laboratory, is perhaps the greatest case of human hubris ever. It creates yet another systemic, “too big too fail” enterprise — but one for which no bailouts will be possible when it fails.

In the real world – using statistical analysis – GMOs are inferior when compared to other types of food, because GMOs are associated with:

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  • Sunny

    Monsanto Has Known Since 1981 That Glyphosate Promotes Cancer!!!
    …must read.

    • Christian Abel

      Enough BS.

      Glyphosate is one of the most studied chemicals; it has extremely low toxicity.

      • kimyo

        Lobbyist claims Monsanto Roundup ingredient Glyphosate safe to drink, then refuses to drink

        In it, Dr. Patrick Moore tells the host that glyphosate, an active ingredient in Roundup that was recently linked to cancer by the World Health Organization, is not linked to Argentina’s increasing cancer rate.

        “You can drink a whole quart of it and it won’t hurt you,” says Moore.

        “You want to drink some?” asks the host. “We have some here.”

        “I’d be happy to, actually,” replies Moore. “Not really. But I know it wouldn’t hurt me.”

        “If you say so, I have some,” says the interviewer.

        “I’m not stupid,” says Moore.

        • Christian Abel


          Just don’t drink Roundup. Nobody is telling you to drink herbicides.

          • kimyo

            if only it were so simple.

            start your day with a tall glass of soy milk? drink the occasional beer? you’re drinking roundup.

            Herbicides found in Human Urine

            To determine if only individuals who are in direct contact with contaminated feed or glyphosate laced compounds are at risk of glyphosate poisoning a study was conducted in December 2011 of an urban population in Berlin. The urine of city workers, journalists and lawyers, who had no direct contact with glyphosate, was examined for glyphosate contamination by a research team at the University of Leipzig. The study found glyphosate in all urine samples at values ranging from 0.5 to 2 ng glyphosate per ml urine (drinking water limit: 0.1 ng / ml). None of the examinees had direct contact with agriculture.

            Determination of Glyphosate residues in human urine samples from 18 European countries

            In this study, 182 urine samples received from 18 European countries were
            analyzed for Glyphosate and AMPA residues using a new GC-MSMS method
            (see table 2). With a LOQ of 0,15 μg/l, on average 44 % and 36 % of the urine
            samples analyzed were found to contain quantifiable levels of Glyphosate and
            AMPA, respectively.

          • Christian Abel


            Roundup is the least toxic herbicide.

            You fear TRIVIAL amounts of Roundup?

          • kimyo

            avoiding a probable carcinogen is common sense, fear doesn’t enter in to the equation.

            if roundup is the least toxic, i’d hate to see what else is present in our food.

            Glyphosate is deemed probable carcinogen by U.N.

            Experts said there was “limited evidence” in humans that the herbicide
            can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and there is convincing evidence that
            glyphosate can also cause other forms of cancer in rats and mice.

          • Christian Abel

            It is not a carcinogen. There are no evidence that suggest it is one.

            Roundup is not toxic at even high doses as Séralini has proven.

        • Christian Abel

          Toxicology studies by drinking a glass?

    • Thanks for posting the link.

  • tom

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it”.

    – Upton Sinclair

    • Tom You wrote « • a day ago

      “Cet animal est tres mechant; quand on l’attaque, il se defend”. («This animal is very dangerous; when attacked, it defends itself”).”

      Puzzling behaviour indeed.


      Putin sings Scottish.


      Russia the brave.

  • jadan

    This is genuine news, Black Swan vs GMO. It’s news to me, anyway. This is why I come to GW’s blog. Real thoughts are thunk here…

    • Christian Abel

      How are GMO dangerous?

      Why are non GMO not tested like GMO?

  • ConservativeDebt

    There is no doubt that playing God with life forms has risks that can not be predicted. Cdn farmers are finding weird growths on GMO canola this spring that were not seen in prior seasons.

    • Christian Abel

      Define “playing god”

      • ConservativeDebt

        Excess hubris.

        • Christian Abel

          Unsable definition

  • Christian Abel

    100% guaranteed fact-free, science-free, argument-free chicken little propaganda

    • Perhaps you’re the wrong person the ask — If there is nothing to fear from GMO’s — Why the reluctance to identify GMO containing food product with a suitable label.

      • Christian Abel

        Why should they be labelled? What would the label achieve? What useful information would that provide?

        If not to cause fear, why would anyone require labelling?

        Do you require a label a organic food?

        Do you require a label on man made plants?

        This is craziness.

        Anyway, who told you they cannot be labelled? Legally they can be labelled.

        • jadan

          You’re a raving idiot.

          • Christian Abel

            Impressive “argument”…

        • Ask an easy question and get 7 new questions and no real answer in return.

          The need for GMO identifying labels is perfectly natural, people have enquiring minds and need to know if their food products contain GMO’s –in order to make an informed choice when selecting food products — Many of us have allergies and or a number of other restrictions when it comes to food.

          The real craziness is simply not caring about GMO’s in your diet.

          The World Health Organization (WHO) had their research team test glyphosate and has labeled it a probable carcinogen.

          What effects will the consumption of an infertile food have on people planning a family Genetically modified foods can make people sterile, babies born with defects.

          Chances are more than great that GMO identifying labels will have the effect that consumers will immediately leave those products on the shelves, gathering dust to be thrown out by their use by date.

          For the corporations Its all about ensuring profits – your answer is nothing more than 100% guaranteed fact-free, science-free, argument-free chicken little propaganda.

          • Christian Abel

            So you admit you cannot answer any of my questions?

            Fine. I proved my point. You want to use fear to destroy a useful technology that is good for the environement. You are an anti-technology anti-science anti-environement bigot.

            I have humiliated you.

            You can now hide under a rock.

          • You’re not exactly making sense.

          • Christian Abel

            I have destroyed you.

          • Non Sequitur.


    There is much more to the “Irish Famine” than mono-culture agriculture.

    Bolshevist Engineered Bureaucratic Genocide by Starvation seems to be something of a specialty

    9th September 1845. Potato blight is first identified in Ireland. Britain quickly produced the famine by deploying food removal regiments and continuing to export Ireland’s foods to sell among the empire.

    *When a country is full of food and exporting it, there can be no Famine.*
    Official British intent at the time is revealed by its actions and enactments. When the European potato crop failed in 1844 and food prices rose, Britain ordered regiments to Ireland. When blight hit the 1845 English potato crop its food removal regiments were already in Ireland; ready to start. The Times editorial of September 30, 1845, warned; “In England the two main meals of a working man’s day now consists of potatoes.” England’s potato-dependence was excessive; reckless. Grossly over-populated relative to its food supply, England faced famine unless it could import vast amounts of alternative food. But it didn’t grab merely Ireland’s surplus food; or enough Irish food to save England. It took more; for profit and to exterminate the people of Ireland.

    Queen Victoria’s economist, Nassau Senior, expressed his fear that existing policies “will not kill more than one million Irish in 1848 and that will scarcely be enough to do much good.”


    The Irish Holocaust – Chris Fogarty

    Chris Fogarty The Irish Holocaust

    ✡ Nassau William Senior, an economist whose family were Sephardi Jews in ancestry,[note 1] during the Great Irish Famine of 1845 stated that it “would not kill more than one million people, and that would scarcely be enough to do any good.” This Jewish statement, was echoed by similar ones from The Economist of Lowland Scot, James Wilson, and other laissez-faire advocates which opposed any serious government intervention. Many of these were also Malthusian inspired, claiming Ireland was “overpopulated”.

  • This assessment is not an objective for a stable economy.



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