Bennett's Blog

Genetically modified crops - what's the big deal?

Bennett R. Coles | February 7, 2011

This topic might sound sound a little out in left field, but it has relevance to VIRTUES OF WAR in that it's one of the issues humankind has to deal with as we strain Earth's resources with an ever-growing population and one day start to consider colonizing other planets.

So, genetically-modified (GM) crops. Why do people in the Eastern hemisphere (and people on Saltspring Island) hate them so much? And I mean hate. In Europe there's a strong movement to force any GM foods to be prominently labelled as such - kind of like cigarette packs. Some African leaders have said they'll refuse food aid if it's been "tainted" by GM. There seems to be this very strong and very pervasive opinion that GM crops are both dangerous and immoral. Why? This is an honest question from a puzzled North American.

Humans have been genetically modifying their food for thousands of years - it's called selective breeding. And the reason for GM is inevitably to make better food - corn that need less water; wheat that needs less pesticide; strawberries that can grow in colder climates. These sound like good ideas to me. If we can grow food by using less water and pollutants, and do so in areas that were previously marginal to farming, why would we not want to?

Is it because modern GM is done in a lab instead of the field? Is it because we can control the process more specifically than we used to and this raises fears of playing God? That kind of fear doesn't seem to raise much issue in other scientific endeavors these days - why is this one so different?

So I'm sincerely asking for feedback here. I do not understand why millions of people are opposed to a science-based, peer-regulated industry that is dedicated to improving the production and availability of humankind's most valuable resource: food.

Please, enlighten me.

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