Quick Takes on GMOs

A couple of articles showed up in my feed today about GMOs.

The first from an Illinois farmer describes how seed corn is raised and the care that is taken to avoid cross-pollination with neighbours’ crops.

Growing seed corn (the seed that farmers will purchase to plant the following year) whether genetically modified or not, is a complex process.

Our first priority is working with our neighbors and learning what will they be planting in adjacent fields. Cross-pollination can occur, whether you are an organic or conventional farmer or plant GM seeds. It’s not “contamination”; it’s a fact of modern farming. Agriculture with and without genetic engineering must coexist side by side.

The right measures need to be taken so that GM pollen won’t drift into other fields and fertilize conventional cultivars. We are required to plant seed corn in isolation in order to lessen the likelihood of pollen from other fields entering ours or ours entering another field. The integrity of the hybrid and the traits of that hybrid depend upon this.

Farmer’s run businesses and the vast majority are very well aware of the short and long term consequences of their decision and activities. Growing crops for seed requires much more care than growing for food, regardless of the origin of those plants.

The second compares the promoters of anti-GMO activism to be the equivalent of the climate change deniers. No amount of research can change the minds of people so sure of themselves.

…there’s never been a study (that hasn’t been debunked) linking GMOs directly to any illness in humans. When you get down to it, GMOs are nothing more than scientists extracting a gene with particular quality, like resisting drought, or containing Vitamin A, or being resistant to a deadly bug, and inserting it into a crop that would benefit and thrive from this addition. Science-fiction fantasies aside, Cornzilla is not going to one day arise from the cornfields, “stalking” the population (Good pun intended!). The World Health Organization, FDA, National Academy of Sciences and other “objective” organizations have all concluded the same thing.

It’s way beyond the scope of this space to convince you otherwise, but I suggest you read this recent piece in the New Yorker, for starters.

The problem is, this is one of those issues, like evolution and climate change, where minds are made up and no amount of information seems capable of changing them. Any study that characterizes GMOs as safe is summarily dismissed by critics as a “hoax,” “conspiracy,” “media propaganda” and/or “funded by giant corporations,” etc. Basically arguments that “shoot the messenger” without refuting any of the evidence.

In the US, the bipartisan Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture subcommittee came to a conclusion on labelling foods containing GMO products.

The consensus of both the committee members and the panel of witnesses was that labeling would do more harm than good because the American public is willfully ignorant about the subject, insists on remaining so, and so splashing a “GMO” sticker on food would cause needless alarm among the public, causing reliance on “traditional” crops, resulting in more crop failures, water use, pesticides, and famine. In other words, the American public must be protected from its own ignorance.

I am not a climatologist, a geneticist, or an agrologist, but when the vast majority of science points in one direction, I tend to follow the lead of the experts. If and when the research shows something different, I hope I’m able to change my opinion.

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One Response to Quick Takes on GMOs

  1. Mitch says:

    It’s too easy to turn a deaf ear to good evidence.

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