Thursday, July 26, 2012

Genetically Modified Food

Disclaimer: I am an old fart. I do not claim to be an expert in the field of genetically altered organisms and neither are 99% of the people that read this blog. I have however been around the block a time or two and have noticed some things while attempting an intelligent discourse on numerous topics.

I refuse to jump on the anti-Monsanto bandwagon. I see many flaws in the arguments against genetically modified agriculture. The first is that we have been randomly altering both crops and animals since we domesticated them. Even today they are being modified in ways that we do not know by nature. We do not know whether the results are harmful or not because we do not test naturally modified organisms before consuming them.

The anti-Monsanto movement seems to be motivated by gut feelings and prejudice rather than science. We live in a changing world that continues to grow in population every year. People are starving. Regardless of your opinion on population growth, it is inhumane to allow people to starve at the level that they are today.

Monsanto may be seeking a profit and may use unethical methods in doing so, but their research in the field of genetically altering produce is what mankind needs. If small alterations which can be duplicated and researched helps mankind, it is a plus.

Farmers have been genetically modifying their crops and animals since they started farming and domesticating animals. Nature does the same. No testing was done to ensure that their methods were safe. This is ongoing and continues even today.

Which is best? Random mutations that are not scientifically controlled and not tested or scientifically controlled mutations that can be duplicated and tested?

1 comment:

  1. Many, if not most, of the anti-GMO arguments are bad ones. However there are a few really good ones.

    The first is the patents Monsanto holds on a large (and growing) percentage of the world's food supply. Monsanto could use this as a means of extortion for profits. In fact Monsanto already employs field inspectors that randomly check fields around customers fields for cross pollination. This happens frequently and when a farmer's crop is inadvertently , and unavoidably to boot) cross pollinated from a Monsanto source crop the victim farmer must pay Monsanto or throw away the reserved seed for the next year's crop. Thus destroying farmers that have absolutely no desire to participate as a Monsanto customer.

    The second is that most of Monsanto's (and most others too) deal with creating herbicide and pesticide resistant crops. This leads to the over use and eventual dependence on the cides. Thus increasing weed/pest control problems through evolutionary resistance and cost.

    A third is the manner in which Monsanto modifies their strains. They use live virii that is then supposedly killed off before sale to farmers. Not all of the virii are killed though and some have been shown to have migrated (incomplete so far) snippets of the genetic code that gives the insects and plants resistance to the herbicides and pesticides.

    The fourth is that by concentrating on only chemical resistance Monsanto ignores the far more important natural drought, temperature, and other beneficial attributes that traditional cross-bred type GMO crops work towards that will continue the increase in farmland bushels per acre harvests with less resources.

    Hope this helps strike some balance for you. :)

    p.s. In India Monsanto has been found guilty through plea bargains for corruption of local officials that manage the seed supply in order to force the locals into using the more expensive Monsanto seed.

    p.p.s. I come from a family that worked a wheat/milo farm in Kansas. We have studiously avoided Monsanto over the years because of these issues. Fortunately we've been lucky to not have the cross polination problem.