KickStarter Quietly Adopts an Anti-GMO Position

If you’re a regular contributor to popular crowd funding website KickStarter, then you can now sleep a little bit more less soundly.  In wake of a recent petition requesting that bioengineered organisms be restricted from the site, KickStarter owners have updated their terms of service to include the following parameter:

Projects cannot offer genetically modified organisms as a reward.

Sigh.  The anti-GMO ‘scientists’ have scored another point and have successfully created yet another ludicrous and harmful barrier to scientific progress.

The petition itself was prompted by a recently successfully funded KickStarter project created by a Silicon Valley research team attempting to produce glowing plants as a new, sustainable form of lighting that requires no electricity.  Here’s the awesome part of the story: the project garnered a substantial $484,013, over seven times its initial goal of $65,000.  Backers who pledged $40 or more to the project received glowing plant seeds of their own, luckily before the owners succumbed to the anti-GMO activists’ pleas and adopted the new policy.

Isn’t there some irony in anti-GMO activists fighting sustainability research?  I have no doubt that a large chunk of the anti-GMO camp–take Greenpeace, for example–is also concerned with developing sustainable energy sources, and lighting that requires no electricity, in theory, could be a promising part of that development.  There’s a weird sort of split in the environmentalist movement illustrated here, in which the demand for the emotionally- and ethically-charged “all-natural” aesthetic is clashing with the actual scientific quest for making a better planet.  The anti-GMO lobby is beginning to point its pistol at its own foot.

Luckily, the science is fighting back. Anthony Evans, one of the creators of the glowing plant project, has started his own petition to persuade KickStarter to rescind their new ban on GMOs as rewards.  And while it may seem a bit trivial, this is an important battleground for this fight.  Crowd funding has grown rather rapidly since its online birth just a few years ago, and websites like KickStarter represent beautiful opportunities for small research teams to acquire funds for their projects.  It also allows laypeople to get excited about new science like the glowing plant and facilitates an enthusiastic dynamic that wouldn’t come with government funds.

But the doors need to remain wide open in order for crowd funding sites to be instrumental in scientific progress.  Anti-science activists have a knack for lobbying industries and fearmongering for their causes, and KickStarter may not be able to resist their siren songs.  Interestingly, another popular crowd funding website, Indiegogo, is quite minimalist in its restrictions.  Unlike KickStarter, Indiegogo does not have supervisors screening projects, deciding what comes in and what stays out.  In addition, there are virtually no restrictions on what may be given as rewards–the items just have to be lawful.  At this stage, KickStarter is measurably larger than Indiegogo, but the latter may end up proving to be a better market for independent research scientists in the long run.

Until we see how KickStarter will respond to Evans’ petition, that anti-scientific clause will simply fester in their guidelines, a little spider bite on the arm of scientific progress. But c’mon, guys.  I’m not going to wait forever for a smartphone made out of corn and bamboo.


Special thanks to Salon for providing many of the details for this article.

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Hi, I'm an atheist named Christian. I'm a science-loving college student at the University of Rochester, currently focusing on Neuroscience. When I'm not engaged in academics, I'm almost certainly being lazy and watching shows/movies on my laptop or reading (on a good day). I have an undying admiration for Penn Jillette and Carl Sagan, which I indulge in by rewatching Bullshit! and Cosmos over and over again. My sibling interest to scientific skepticism is most definitely civil liberties, and I am constantly consolidating those interests in my head somehow. Talk to me!

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