Chuck Norris doesn’t write columns. He stares at words until they arrange themselves into sentences.
That’s a “Chuck Norris Fact”—one you haven’t heard before because I just made it up. But perhaps you’re familiar with the style of joke: a satirical, exaggerated claim about the supposedly superhuman powers of actor and martial artist Chuck Norris. Entire books and websites are dedicated to this sub-genre of humor.
Unfortunately, there was nothing funny about Norris’s recent online column. It was a fact-free rant about modern agriculture. Norris warned his readers that the genetically modified food they eat everyday—the kind that I grow on my farm here in Iowa—is “killing you softly.”
This is sheer nonsense. It’s like somebody roundhouse-kicked the sense out of Norris’s head.
I’m disappointed in the column mostly because it’s wrong, but also because I admire Norris. He grew up under difficult circumstances and went on to achieve great success in his chosen professions. He’s a military veteran and a man of faith, just like me.
And I’ve met him: When Norris traveled to Iowa with presidential candidate Mike Huckabee a few years ago, I attended one of their events and shook Norris’s hand. You won’t be surprised to learn that he has a strong grip.
His grip on the facts of 21st-century agriculture, however, is weak.
In his column, Norris suggests that GM crops may cause cancer and Parkinson’s disease. This is pure hogwash—a pair of completely unfounded claims. Norris turns even more provocative when he writes of the possibility of “novel epidemics.”
That’s a novel distortion of reality. This idea of ordinary crops causing a plague might work as the half-baked premise of a B-list fantasy film, but it’s simply not sound science. The American Medical Association and the National Academy of Sciences are just two of the many mainstream groups that support the health and safety of GM foods.
It makes sense to trust the expert views of the men and women who belong to the AMA and the NAS, but you probably wouldn’t want to watch them star in a Chuck Norris movie. Or maybe you would, but only to laugh at their antics, the way so many people laughed their way through “Sharknado 2” on the SyFy channel last week.
I might have laughed my way through Norris’s column, too—except that I’m concerned that a few of his readers will take his allegations seriously.