Commentary: GMOs: How do I hate thee?
You know something’s arrived as an “issue” of substance when it has its own Top Ten list. With all the opponents—irrational and otherwise—that the science of genetic engineering has generated, the only question about a Top Ten Reasons to Hate Biotech is this:
What took you so long?
Well, thanks to the Food Consumer group (www.foodconsumer.org), we now have that list. Let’s explore it, shall we, and along the way, helpfully point out the group’s ignorance, bias and overall wrongheadedness.
In the spirit of dialogue, of course.
Here are their Top Ten Reasons Why We Don’t Need GM Foods:
10). GM crops won’t solve the food crisis. Probably not—at least all by themselves. To date, genetic engineering has been deployed primarily to develop crops that can withstand the application of broad-spectrum herbicides, which significantly simplifies cultivation and weed control. It also has the side-effect of enabling no-till farming, which helps the soil preserves moisture from rainfall, prevents erosion, dramatically reduces nutrient and pesticide pollution in rivers and waterways and helps minimize the consumption of fuel, since plowing is greatly reduced. So, yes—genetic engineering’s no panacea, but its full potential has yet to be tapped.
9). GM crops do not increase yield potential. Again, give the science a break. Genetic engineering is in its infancy, and since so much of the low-hanging fruit (pardon the pun) in food production has already been captured, incremental gains in crop yields and farm productivity have become harder and harder to achieve. But when really smart people, like the ones working on food security for the Gates Foundation, start investing in biotech as a pathway we need to travel if we hope to feed another two billion people in the next couple decades,
8). GM crops increase pesticide use. True and not true. Some studies have indicated that in terms of “pounds on the ground,” the widespread adoption of GM crops (ie, Roundup-Ready) has resulted in a slight (somewhere around 7%) increase in the use of herbicides. But Round –up is a relatively benign chemical; it readily biodegrades and has far less adverse effects, environmentally speaking, than many alternatives. And with cotton in particular, genetically engineered Bt cotton crops have dramatically reduced the use of some very harsh and ecologically detrimental pesticides. The bottom line is that biotech has been developed for other ends; it’s overall impact on chemical use is close to neutral.