Opponents of GM food understand that diminished understanding and lack of knowledge is the key to obstructing biotechnology. —American Medical Association
“The GM debate is over. It is finished. We no longer need to discuss whether or not it is safe. … You are more likely to get hit by an asteroid than to get hurt by GM food.” So said Mark Lynas, the British environmentalist, who helped launch the anti-GMO movement in the 1990s.
Lynas went on to say that “people who want to stick with organic are entitled to—but they should not stand in the way of others who would use science to find more efficient ways to feed billions.”
We could not have put it more succinctly ourselves.
Organic activists are on the attack at the local level in a bid to influence global acceptance of genetic engineering. For years we’ve been asking why those leading the organic industry are so dead-set opposed to genetically modified organisms. GMOs are already cutting down drastically on pesticide use, fuel consumption and the amount of land devoted to agriculture. Aren’t these the stated goals of the organic movement? This 20-year-old technology will also soon lead to drastic reductions in agricultural water-use, and genetically engineered crops capable of pulling their own nitrogen from the earth’s atmosphere are already on the drawing board. Innovations like these will further reduce the amount of energy farmers use, along with the overall amount of energy humankind requires as it continues to produce more food on less land for more people.
And yet, a fierce either-or (and we must stress one-sided) debate ensues between a minority activists who want the entire world to “go organic”, and scientists and humanitarians who are using genetics and biotechnology to improve our food and medicine. If science makes the human race more efficient in the areas of transportation, communication and housing, then surely it can, and should, also help us in the vital arena of food production. Shouldn’t it? The world’s premier national and international academies of science have reached an unqualified consensus that GMO crops are good for the poor and hungry. Even the president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences stated recently, “Genetically-modified food represents a step forward in evolution.”
Crop biotechnology 2.0
While most people think only of commercial crops like Monsanto’s Roundup Ready canola or Bt corn when they hear mention of GM food, the three of us (two academics and a former organic inspector) are left to wonder why an entire discipline is being rejected by “organic” anti-GMO activists when this discipline holds such promise beyond the commercial realm. Commercial crops, which farmers can freely choose to grow, are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to debating the two competing philosophies of food production before us.
GMO crops that fix their own nitrogen would drastically reduce energy consumption on conventional farms by eliminating the natural gas used in synthesizing ammonium nitrate and the fuel burned in trucks that deliver that fertilizer to farms. Such technology could eliminate the current organic practice of planting legume cover crops, which are subsequently plowed down to trap nitrogen in the soil. This could cut an organic farmer’s fuel bill by as much as 50 percent! If only the organic industry would consider accepting GMO crops on a case-by-case basis, there could be the possibility of a more rational approach to the new technology of genetic engineering.
Read full article here.
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This article hooked me instantly and I hope it does the same for others. I like the “in your face” style of writing that does not mince words nor hold back. It brings into full focus the far reaching consequences of the developing ‘war on GMOs’ waged by the organic industry.
There are firsthand stories of how fear-ridden public officials and their constituents, bolstered by anti-GMO psuedoscience, flat out reject the good science that is presented to them only to go on with their business of policy making. In some cases, decisions had been made long beforehand and what appeared to be an attempt to understand the science side was just an empty exercise and a waste of everyone’s time, not to mention travel expenses.
The other behemoth of a topic touched on in this article is how unregulated the organic industry actually is, on all levels, and how many documented cases of ill health and even death have resulted from eating certified organic food. A whole separate article could and should be written about this alone.
There is also an underlying assertion woven into this article that the organic industry purposefully and willfully blurs the lines of its own regulation by shining a spotlight on GMOs and that if the industry succeeded in banning GMOs outright, that the spotlight could then turn on themselves and what would they do? Keeping the public grossly misinformed and undereducated helps the cause, it would appear. I don’t know if the organic industry deliberately set this scenario into motion or if it is just the result of how events unfolded. The possibility does exist that ‘Big Org’ could one day be hoist by its own petard.
In any case, I, Julee K, fear this same muddled confusion is repeating itself all over the world as we sort out this messy but oh-so-important debate.
I will close with this quote – also found in the piece.
If we waited for scientific proof of every impression before deciding to take any consequential action we might avoid a few mistakes, but we should also hardly ever decide to act at all. In practice, decisions about most things that really matter have to be taken on impressions, or on intuition, otherwise they would be far too late…. We have to live our lives in practice, and can very rarely wait for scientific verification of our hypotheses. If we did we should all soon be dead, for complete scientific verification is hardly ever possible. It is a regrettable fact that a demand for scientific proof is a weapon often used to delay the development of an idea.
~ Lord Walter Northbourne, one of the preeminent forefathers of the organic movement/1931
For a comprehensive list of scientific agencies worldwide that attest to the safety of GMOs, see Is GM Food Safe? Experts Around the Globe Answer
This article was updated on 10/16 at 9:56 PT