GM foods

By | Posted April 24, 2008
Posted in: Health Blog
Tags: , ,

Sunday, the New York Times ran a front-page article about food shortages forcing people and governments to embrace the genetically modified crops many have previously shunned. That article came hot on the heels of last week’s Economist magazine, which highlights the growing global food crisis. But in the shelter of the online comments for these articles, many people seem to feel they’d rather go to the brink of starvation than embrace GM foods. In that environment, I think we have reached the perfect point for food scientists to prove to the world that genetically modified crops are not inherently evil.

For every scientist working to genetically modify a foodstuff to grow only in a company’s proprietary soil there is a scientist working to produce a drought, or heat, or cold resistant strain of the same crop. Genetic modification could expand the range of important crops like corn or rice to environments that would otherwise be unable to support them, or make a plant species more nutritious. While crops modified to grow in harsher environments could provide the food tonnage needed to alleviate hunger and the pressure on global food prices, it would require a change in attitude by governments that initially distrust genetically modified food.

Genetically modified crops are like any other tool; their morality lies with the hand that wields it. Many people resist GM crops because they seem like monsters – seeds that grow into eunuchs, never to reproduce on their own, and plants that sweat poison and pesticides. But while some of those dire perceptions are true, they give the whole endeavor a bad name. Corporations like Monsanto and ConAgra that misuse GM technology to create these beasts, and the countries and organizations like the EU and Greenpeace that reject the use of GM crops wholesale, deserve some of the blame for GM crop’s PR problem.

While genetic engineering by itself won’t solve food problems across the world, I think it is important that we consider the possible benefits the technology can provide. The world can no longer afford to let the misuse of this technology obscure the great strides being made in marshaling genetic modification for the good of mankind. It is important that countries that reject GM crops take another look at their policies and that corporations refocus their research away from more destructive technologies and towards developing products that will actually help people in need.

But enough of what I think, what do you think? Are GM crops indelibly tainted by the many mistakes made with the technology? Or do you think advances in genetics have helped already, and GM foods are unfairly maligned? What do you think the role is, if any, of GM crops in feeding the world? As always, I look forward to hearing what you Scienceline readers have to say.

Posted in: Health Blog

Related Posts


comments

All comments are moderated, your comment will not appear on the site until it has been approved.

  1. Does ConAgra really make GM seeds? I thought they were more the TV dinners and peanut butter type. Also, what exactly is a eunuch seed? You mean terminator technology? Wasn’t that a USDA project? You say Monsanto misuses GM technology but then praise drought, heat and cold tolerant crops. Isn’t Monsanto making drought tolerant corn? Plants sweating pesticides? You mean Bt proteins? Isn’t the source organism for Bt proteins an approved “organic” pesticide? I understand this is an opinion piece, but why not do even a little fact checking?

    Delaware Hamster, April 25, 2008 at 12:20 am
  2. ANY FOOD THAT IS TAMPERED WITH BY SCIENCE, WHETHER IT BE ORGANIC OR LIVING ANIMAL, IT SHOULD NOT BE HAPPENING. PEOPLE WONDER WHY WE ARE HAVING SERIOUS HEALTH PROBLEMS. IT IS BECAUSE THESE COMPANIES HAVE SO MUCH MONEY THEY PAY THESE PEOPLE IN THE FDA AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS; COLLEGE PROFF’S, MEMBERS OF CONGRESS, AND DR’S; TO TELL YOU “EVERYTHING THEY’RE DOING IS OK. WELL GO TO JAPAN,UK, AND EVEN CHINA, AND ASK THEIR SCIENTIST, THEY WILL TELL YOU NOTHING IS OK WITH THAT. BUT AS LONG AS THEY’RE MAKING MONEY, THEY DONT CARE ABOUT YOU. THIS COMPANY, MONSANTO IS TRYING TO PATENT PIGS FOR GOD SAKE. IF THEY DO THAT THEN THEY CONTROL NOT ONLY THE FOOD IN THE GROUND, ALONG WITH THE FARMERS, THEY CONTROL ALL THE LIVE STOCK FARMERS RAISE : CRAZY STUFF LOOK INTO IT

    MADFLAVAS, April 30, 2008 at 3:31 pm
  3. I disagree that all food ‘tampered’ with by science should be avoided – because this doesn’t necessarily result in something bad for you. For example, the bread we eat today is the result of two grains that were cross-bred a long time ago, which is technically the tampering of a scientist.

    And like the main blog said, maybe it’s true that some companies are just in GM crops to line their own pockets, but there are GM scientists out there who genuinely want to use GM to help those who need food the most. And this is a pretty good time to start focusing on more food for the poor, you know? (Check out isaaa.org)

    Anna, September 22, 2008 at 12:40 pm
post your comment