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comment by thundara
thundara  ·  1287 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The Misleading War on GMOs: The Food Is Safe. The Rhetoric Is Dangerous.

Disclaimer, I have a degree in biochemistry and one of my dreams is of a world where we can rationally engineer new features in plants, as an artistic endeavor, the way one might design, grow, and prune the leaves of a bonsai tree. I was seriously debating going into GMO research about 1.5 years ago (ironically while also making large purchases of organic / non-GMO foods for an organization I was involved in), but have since turned back to the more traditional sciences.

That said, I think "GMOs" as a general term pose very few inherent risks beyond those already present in industrial agriculture. Crops will still be grown in a monoculture, farmers still can't save seeds, and corn will still make you fat. The lines of doubt only appear as you look into the specifics of each plant.

RoundUp Ready crops have their critics and their use has spawned RoundUp-resistant weeds, BT crops probably won't be the end-all solution to insect pests, etc etc. There was a recent GM wheat that failed in its field trials because hey, it's technology, and sometimes technology doesn't work as expected. I have my disagreements over the exact extent regulation should control GMO research, but on the whole, I think many of the crops offset the disadvantages of their non-GMO counterparts.

On top of that, the number of approved GM crops has more than doubled since my first memories of Hubski discussions on them. So the field is changing, with new advantages, new ways of implementing changes, and new players outside of the old guard of Monsanto. People are now working on re-engineering nitrogen fixation into other plants / microbes and making drought-tolerant plants that have very clear long-term benefits in the presence of changing climates and depleting energy reservoirs.

In a separate vein, I think it is also important to consider, as the consumer, what a technology means to you. Up front, eating GM food means I might be exposed to health risks, but I weigh that against the overwhelming evidence in favor of the safety of BT / RoundUp crops, as well as the regulatory approval they require. But do I take it further and decide to dictate what technologies farmers use on their lands? What if GM crops really are the most economical for them? If they weren't I would still lend them my trust that they know better than me what works on their lands. Agriculture is far too complex for me to know what plants grow best with the microbes and chemistry of their soil.

Environmentally, I'm usually in favor of more restrictions on run-off and water usage, but within the set boundaries of inputs and outputs, I would prefer letting farmers (slash agribusiness) be the one to choose.