Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mini Rant: GM Food

 Being politically liberal myself, I have lots of politically liberal friends. Sometimes they don't seem to understand how science works (a mistake that is, frighteningly, one of the few truly bipartisan things in this country) and I see things like this on my newsfeed:

The tinfoil-hatted ignorance that inspired this post! How
many logical fallacies can you spot?

We've been genetically modifying food since we started farming. Not only our food, but our decorations (plants, trees) and companions (pets) as well. The only difference between what we did then and what scientists are doing now is that it's infinitely more efficient and precise, with much broader a scope. However a plant is modified to resist pesticides or to grow larger results in zero physical effects on the human body because that's not how science works. Altering the DNA of an organism does not in and of itself make it poisonous, or carcinogenic, or dangerous, it just makes it different. In a very simple example, scientists switch out a red LEGO block for a blue one. They add another green one. They don't expose the entire LEGO castle to radiation.

I've mentioned this documentary before, but it bears repeating:

The ethics of the leading GM pioneers like Monsanto is a separate issue entirely. Likewise the interaction of GM crops with the surrounding ecosystem is something that needs careful and controlled study. These are legitimate issues with GM food: should you be allowed to patent and claim intellectual ownership over a genetically altered lifeform? How can you prevent GM crops from negatively affecting the local ecosystem?

But the genetically modified tomato itself is not poison. It's not carcinogenic. It won't give you Alzheimer's. It offers us a potential for more efficient food crops. It can feed more people, using fewer resources. Don't let crunchy granola hippie fear-mongering tell you otherwise.

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