Friday, June 01, 2012

GMO: To Do or Not To Do

"The protestors, thinking they’re attacking some Monsanto-like evil corporation, are so consumed with their hatred of GMO that they are spreading misinformation, refusing to allow scientists to even engage in the research into GMO, and rather than engaging the scientists in dialogue are threatening to just destroy their experiment. This is the worst kind of bullying, extremist, anti-science garbage out there. At least the creationists don’t show up in our labs and start spitting in our test tubes. The climate denialists might make a lot of noise but they aren’t threatening to blow up James Hansen’s computer."

I recently posted here about food, and included the link below to an article promoting laws that mandate that all GMO foods should be labeled. I still maintain that GMO foods should be labeled. People are entitled to know what they are eating, and to decide whether or not they will ingest GMO fruits and vegetables. It seems to me even ideological oppononents -  say, Newt Gingrich and Nancy Peolsi for example - would agree about this.

Then, there’s agreeing to disagree. I spent most of my professional career in administrative positions which supported basic and applied university research. I respect science, and like most Americans have directly benefitted from improved health care practices developed through medical research. I subscribe to the wisdom of distinguishing between  facts (which I loosely define here as empirically observable and repeatable results) and opinions (which, for purposes of this argument I define as conclusions based on often conflicting judgements and theories regarding the application facts). As the cliche says, you’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.

Which leads me to this. I distinguish between the right to know what’s in your food based on the label, and the right to choose what food you consume. To eat or not to eat GMO: that is the question.

There is still plenty of scientific wiggle room on the question of whether it is potentially harmful to humans to routinely ingest food that has been grown from genetically modified sources. My opinion is that I risk substantially more potential harm by gardening without a tetanus shot. But maybe that’s just me. Further research on GMO food is something both sides should support in order to arrive at any discoverable facts about long term effects on humans.

I subscribe to the whole local, organic credo and routinely shop at farmer’s markets. I can taste the difference between real food and processed foodstuffs. My heart wants to side with the farmers, the cooks, the people who still want their food to be fresh, delicious, nutritious and slow. But my head says that anti-science is more dangerous than good science. And facts should weigh more than opinions, no matter how appealingly old fashioned and “natural” those opinions. 

This article, with its appeal to science and reason, persuaded me to think twice about GMO food; and I recommend it: Environmentalism and anti-science, how GMOs prove any ideological extremity leads to anti-science.

1 comment:

Martha in Michigan said...

Frankly, I worry more about nano-particles in cosmetics and sunscreens than about GMO foods. I figure that it is conceivable, with a lot of patience, that one could eventually breed for most of the characteristics that are produced through genetic modification. (Whether it is wise to do so is another matter.) But those teeny things that laugh at cell walls are truly unnatural — and something that eons of evolution have not prepared us to deal with. They give me the creeps.

Thanks for the article link, though. I will read that and the earlier Utne reader one, and be better informed.