In Your Food: A Few Links

Been a busy week.  Lots of reading.

I haven’t had time to check out all these articles.  Interested in the GMO discussion, because of my friend’s problem with GMO corn.  Don’t know which if any of these are good articles, but I did notice the kerfluffle about the French study.  A conservative site says it’s all bull.  What do you think?



In Your Food: A Few Links — 4 Comments

  1. Pati, I browsed one of these, the (obviously poorly named) Responsible Technology. It’s wall-to-wall howlers that would be funny, if they weren’t fearmongering. Perhaps the worst is their assertion that “GM food continues its influence after we eat it because it transfers its genetic material to our intestines.” These people don’t know basic biology.

    The Monsanto issue is not the GM foods are dangerous, but that they’ve modified many of their seeds so that farmers need to buy them every few generations. It’s worthwhile noting that all our foods are genetically modified, and can cause allergic or intestinal reactions to people. Dangers from hormones and fertilizers are far more front and center than GM modifications.

  2. Honestly, it’s difficult to come to a single conclusion on GMOs since they have essentially nothing in common other than at least one genetic modification. On the French study, I’d suggest as a more reliable report (and certainly not a conservative one).

    In addition, there are significant differences between the technology and its application. Comparing roundup-tolerant crops with (e.g.) golden rice is essentially nonsensical, because the purpose and development methods are so different (or, as another way of putting it, you can be in favour of the use of genetic engineering in agriculture without being in favour of the ways that for-profit corporations use genetic engineering in agriculture).

    With respect to roundup-tolerant crops, I tend to think of it as a poor idea, because it increases the use of herbicides rather than decreasing it, and it puts you into a battle against evolution which you’re likely to lose (which is a good point made by the first article above). BT-expressing plants are a better idea, because when used properly they *do* reduce the use of pesticides, and when grown sensibly (i.e. not as a monoculture) they’re less likely to result in increased resistance (long digression of an explanation snipped for the moment, and summarized as ‘evolving resistance to a particular environmental factor generally makes you worse at competing in the absence of that factor, so only in a monoculture can a resistant strain evolve to dominance’ (simplistic and wrong, but not bad as a first pass)).

    Engineering crops to withstand harsher conditions is another entirely different process, and an entirely different question (as is engineering crops to improve their nutritional content). In addition, it’s probably the aspect that attracts the most support and funding from non-profit groups of all sorts, so it’s less likely to be mixed in with corporate agriculture. That said, it’s also the hardest problem (as the worthwhile ones often are).