News

GMO up for questioning

Christina Clark JPEGBy CHRISTINA CLARK
Columnist

Mark Lynas was a forerunner in the fight against genetically modified organisms (GMO), believing that food produced from the practices were not safe.

On Jan. 20, 2013, he appeared on the National Public Radio show “All Things Considered” to discuss his positions.

“When I started off as an anti-GMO activist, it was very much an ideological position. I was scared of the new technology, you know, it just seemed to be messing with the basic building blocks of life,” said Lynas.

This rings true for many opposed to GMOs foods and crops. But Lynas changed his mind, publicly apologizing for slashing GMO crops in the 1990s.

“[I fell] in love with the scientific method as a way of establishing knowledge about the world,” he continued. “It eventually dawned on me…that I was actually being anti-science in the way I was talking about GMOs, and that there is, in many ways, stronger scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs than there is about the reality of climate change.”

Being anti-GMO is now “anti-science?” Is being anti-GMO really in the same boat as being in denial about climate change?

Buying organic and local produce has always been something I enjoy, but it’s not something I can personally afford to do as often as I’d like. So I’ve often bit the bullet and continued buying “regular” (assumedly GMO) produce from the local grocery store. In fact, I haven’t sprouted a third arm just yet, but I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea of modifying crops so that they are resistant to pests in a way that is unsettlingly unnatural. I’m uncomfortable with the resulting “super bugs” that have evolved to be strong enough to overcome certain pesticide-infused plants. Some of these companies are so good at creating pesticides that they have dabbled in the chemical warfare aspect of things, resulting most infamously with “Agent Orange” in the Vietnam War.

GMO Maybe, however, what I’m more uncomfortable with about GMOs is the business practices that companies like Monsanto have adopted over the years. Monsanto, one of the most vilified manufacturers of GMOs, has also been wildly successful. From multiple documentaries I’ve watched, articles and testimonies found over the years, I’ve seen a lack of care for farmers, their practices and livelihood from large companies.

Sure, businesses need to be run efficiently and need to be self-sustaining. But creating seeds that produce a crop without viable seeds to store for next planting season, suing farms for “stealing” their seeds when they have blown across a road and sprouted, and testing for cross-pollination with a brand crop all seem like ugly business practices to me. Ignoring nature when one is in the business of producing seed to be planted in the earth seems like a recipe for disaster.  Depending on who you ask, you might hear that it has been a disaster.

Should GMO foods be labeled if the government sees no issue with them?  I should like to think people should have a choice about what they put in their bodies. If a technology isn’t trusted universally, then why not label it and let the consumer decide? If there is truly no harm in the product, labeling should just be a bit of a nuisance, not a business-breaking legislature.

Independent research and findings need to be pushed to the forefront of the debate on GMOs.  Research done by those with a profit to make may be well done, but the same results should be gleaned by those without the same incentive.

Regardless of the status of the produce you choose to purchase, educating yourself on your choices has never been more important

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