Sunday, May 24, 2015

Ban the Thing Keeping Us All Fed!

I continue to be perplexed by the anti-GM (genetically modified) food groups, who were out yesterday in force in 48 cities across the world, including Toronto.

A lot of these groups specifically target Monsanto, a giant agricultural and biotechnology firm which has some shady history and legal issues, as well as being accused of "playing God" or population decline or something. It is the bogeyman of the anti-GM movement, and I'm sure the little children everywhere are frightened by the campfire stories of Monsanto and the cancer-giving corn.

The reality is, as always, much more complex. Monsanto surely does have some predatory corporate practices, but it is also, you know, a for-profit corporation. I won't pretend to understand the legal issues underscoring some of their patent claims, but I'm also not surprised - they have to make their money somehow, and losing control of their patented seeds probably isn't a good thing.

What they do not make money off, however, is trying to kill people. GM crops and foodstuffs are among the most widely studied products on the planet, and the science behind them is well researched and understood. We are not playing around with some new-fangled technology that was just recently discovered, and the issues surrounding the use of GMO seeds and their consumption are documented. The science is already in, and GMs are safe.

On the other hand, what isn't documented is the arguments from the anti-GM crowd. Their opposition comes mostly from ignorance of the science, and when they try to do studies to back their stories up, they turn out to be poorly-done mockeries of scientific inquiry. We're supposed to trust them because, oh, they're not in it for the money - yet meanwhile, they remain silent or cheer on while anti-GM personalities like Kevin Trudeau make millions by defrauding people; or when the "Health Ranger" Mike Adams uses legal trickery to silence critics; or while corporations use their opposition to GMOs as an advertising gimmick.

Plus, here's the other caveat never mentioned by the anti-GM crowd: how are you going to feed 7-billion people? GM crops are made to withstand circumstances would normally kill off harvests, they're modified to resist disease, insects, and weather. They've also been modified to provide more nutrition per unit, so as to reap greater efficiency from every crop yield and thus every product shipped to market.

In other words, they're modified to ensure people have better food security, and in a world with a rapidly increasing population, its a necessity. Yet the ignorant continue to cheer when fields containing GM crops are burned or protested against, with nary an alternative proposed.

Think about their position now - they oppose a scientifically-backed, well-documented and life-sustaining product on the basis of oooh its not natural! What utter nonsense - dangerous, ignorant, murderous nonsense.

GMOs are safe, end of, so shut up and eat your giant mutant strawberry already.


  1. Educate yourself
    A good video on GMOs

  2. I caught part of a documentary on this that aired last night. The focus was not on nutrition or safety but on the risks of mono-culture. If, for example, the world begins to grow one variety of corn (as is apparently happening) and some blight or disease evolves that is lethal to the DNA of that single-source crop, catastrophe ensues. The argument was presented by agronomists, botanists and geneticists and they uniformly warned we're setting ourselves up for collapse. We need to return to a world in which there are hundreds of strains of any particular crop in production to avoid a disastrous outcome.

    I have done three online courses in global food security and, overall, our future is rife with obstacles that may undermine both production and distribution. Bear in mind that grain shortages were instrumental in the Arab Spring uprisings and the Syrian civil war. Why compound those challenges with mono-culture agriculture?

    1. Therein lies the true issue of GMOs, but again, it isn't one that goes unnoticed by scientists, producers and consumers - there is no quest to create a grand mono-culture, and I know that they're looking at ways to mitigate the issue and maybe even diversify what we have. That still doesn't mean we need to "ban" GM crops or any of that nonsense - it means we need to find solutions within science.

  3. I'm far from convinced we're not just hearing Monsanto's variant of the big energy companies' endless assurances that carbon capture and sequestration is just around the corner, the story they've been peddling for two decades. Looking for ways to mitigate the issue and achieving these ways aren't the same and I would prefer to adopt the "precautionary principle" given what could be at stake and put the onus on Monsanto et al to come up with viable (effective and affordable) solutions before this goes any further.

    1. The fact that we've had GM crops for decades and we still have a massive diversificafion of crops tells me that they're aware of the problem and have been pretty cautiounary - but that's just me.

      In the meantime, we *still* need to feed a lot of people, and GM crops offer the best solution to global food security concerns. No one isn't saying that we need to rush in without thinking about the potential consequences, not even Monsanto who have been acutely aware of criticism for the last while, but that doesn't mean we sit back either.

  4. No, Kyle, you don't understand the principle. It goes back at least as far as Adam Smith. When a party proposes a course of action with apparent risks you resolve that question before going further. The party that wishes to do something potentially precarious must first demonstrate that the action will be of negligible risk. Your position is the rash and hazardous course because you choose to simply assume. The greater the potential threat, the greater the burden on the proponent. It's called "survival" - and "sanity."

    1. I've not assumed anything - those that creating, producing, and planting GM crops are not doing so without understanding the risks associated with their product, and ones they seek to mitigate. Again, we've had this technology and these products for decades, so the argument can be made that not only has the risk of GM crops been demonstrated to be "negligible," but opponents have yet bring up any significant counter-argument that has not been accounted for.

      You say the burden is on the proponent, and I agree. Its a burden that GM crops and their supporters have met. Meanwhile, the opposition, so far as I've seen, has yet to provide any arguments that cannot be dismissed as addressed, irrelevant, or downright fabricated. You may disagree, but that is how I've come to view the argument.