5 Irrational Fears (Even Rational People Have)

#2. Genetically Modified Foods

Hey, speaking of sentient man-eating plants...

If there's one thing worse than cloning something, it's genetically modifying it. After all, cloning is all about just making copies, right? But freaking genetically modified food? The fact that they're "modifying" it is right there in the word!


The future of corn?

The mistrust of mutated munchies runs so deep that Zambia opted to freaking starve its own people rather than accept deliveries of genetically modified food. The country refused more than 27,000 tons of transgenic food aid and set off riots when some genetically modified grain was handed out by accident.

Venezuela and Hungary followed suit, both banning GM food and seed imports in the last five years.

Why It Sounds Rational:

This is damned mad scientist stuff, only they're asking us to eat their mutations. It's akin to chowing down on the three-eyed catfish caught in your local nuclear power plant's cooling ponds.


Shark man is delicious, though.

Environmentalist groups like Greenpeace are against it. And you can see why, considering some GM crops have been shown to be dangerous. One type of soybean had to be pulled off the market because they had spliced in genes from Brazil Nuts to make the beans more nutritious (they were used as cattle feed). At the testing stage they figured out that people who were allergic to Brazil Nuts would be allergic to the meat from the cattle.

Why It's Not:

Just as with cloning, you have to start with the fact that genetic modification of plants and animals has been going on for as long as man has been herding smelly beasts and shoving seeds in the ground. Seedless watermelon and your Aunt Nelly's yappy toy poodle have one thing in common: Nature had a lot of help in producing their modern incarnations.

There is the potential for bad results to slip through testing, just as there are with foods grown or bred the old-fashioned way (compare the number of people who have gotten sick from GM foods as opposed to good old-fashioned salmonella contamination from good old-fashioned poop). And so far, the World Health Organization says they've never found ill effects on human health from eating GM foods.

Now consider the benefits.

In 1970, Norman Borlaug won a Nobel Peace Prize for tinkering with wheat genes until he came up with bionic wheat, a plant that was better than it was before; growing more wheat which was better, stronger and faster. He introduced the wheat to Mexico, Pakistan and India, and is credited with preventing a billion people from starving to death as a result.

That's right. The genetic modification of a single crop saved a billion lives. We'll actually tolerate a few man-eating vines if it means a billion lives are saved.

#1. Bioterrorism

Everyone reading this remembers when America faced the dire threat of bioterrorism head-on, in Season Three of 24.

But before that, just after 9/11, there was an Anthrax attack where envelopes full of the stuff were mailed to targets around the country. Ever since then, the U.S. Post Office has been bombarding every piece of mail addressed to the White House, Congressional offices and federal government offices in the DC area with gonad shriveling levels of radiation in an attempt to destroy any potential pathogens.

2001 was also the year The Biowatch Program was created. Special filters were stuffed into previously existing air quality testing filters in 31 cities, and then monitored for signs of contamination. To date, the program has cost 500-million dollars and is still running--though so far the world's most expensive air filters haven't caught wind of so much as a Fed-Exed cold with a bad attitude.

Why It Sounds Rational:

Uh, we already were attacked this way. Duh. And it could happen again at any time, and maybe this time it will actually kill more people than if the culprit had just run around stabbing random dudes.

Why It's Not:

Wait a second. Why haven't we been attacked this way since then? Sure, it may be hard to get these deadly substances into the U.S. during the post-9/11 lockdown, but what about targets overseas? Why isn't it being used against the military in Afghanistan or Iraq?

Well, it turns out you can't just mix up this stuff in your basement. Creating and stockpiling biological weapons got outlawed by the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and was signed by over 100 countries.


The only weapons convention Charlton Heston didn't attend.

Yes, we realize terrorists don't abide by treaties, but breeding killer germs is the sort of thing that's really, really hard to do under the table. Weaponized contagions sound terrifying, but they are also rare, insanely expensive to produce and harder to spread than cold butter on Wonder Bread. The ability to genetically alter or weaponize pathogens is complex, time-consuming and requires access to advanced laboratories and serious cash.

And even if you do it, the results aren't that great as far as terror attacks go. The Center for Disease Control only lists six pathogens as "Category A" Agents, meaning they are the select few that can actually cause a major public health problem if some terror mastermind unleashed it on the public: anthrax, smallpox, bubonic plague, tularemia, botulism and Ebola.

Vaccines, antitoxins and treatments exist for almost all of them in one form or another, and others (like Ebola) aren't very contagious (Ebola only spreads via bodily fluids, and has only been a threat in extremely poor countries with bad sanitation).

Also, we would like to point out that tularemia is also called "rabbit fever." Seriously. We refuse to be afraid of damned Bunny Disease, especially since it's almost never fatal.

For more of Susan's work you can check out her blog at Capricia's Corner.

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For more "threats" we need to chill out about, check out The 5 Most Ridiculously Over-Hyped Health Scares of All Time and The 6 Most Over-Hyped Threats to America (And What Should Scare You Instead).

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