Wednesday, June 10, 2015

GMOs; the Fear is Not Backed by Good Science

It's trendy these days for food companies and even restaurants to label their foods as free of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) wherever possible. Some states are passing laws requiring that all foods containing GMOs be labeled as such. It's happening not because there is good science to show that GMOs are bad, but because there is a perception that they are bad. According to a recent article in The New York Times, the antipathy toward GMOs "reflects a poor public understanding of the science behind them, along with a rebellion against the dominance of food and agricultural conglomerates."

The article goes on to list some of the facts about genetic modification and genetic engineering, and then points out some of the successes of the technique, including a rice that produces the precursor to vitamin A which could significantly reduce blindness in some countries. But then the article suggests something new; perhaps genetic engineering could be used to remove specific naturally-occurring genes from certain foods, such as peanuts or shellfish, that cause serious life-threatening allergies in some people. By the way, no GMO food has ever been proven to cause a life-threatening allergy.

It's unfortunate that the first two major GMOs were corn and soybeans that were genetically engineered to be resistant to insect pests or to a commonly-used herbicide - both of which primarily benefit large agricultural seed companies and big farmers. Would there still be objections to GMOs if the very first ones had prevented certain nutritional deficiency diseases or severe food allergies? I wonder.

I'm not necessarily in favor of some mega-farm farming practices or of the unnamed seed company that has a near lock on the GMO seed market, either. But these are a whole different set of issues from the safety of GMO foods. 

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