GMO opposition is fierce, but not much of it based on science

A more sober assessment of the public GMO debate reveals that it’s not really about the science of the safety and impacts of growing GMO organisms, it’s more a backlash against perceived corporate control of agriculture and food as well as an anti-authoritarian stab at the endorsement of GMO and biotechnology by governments and institutions.

When it comes to the science, the only case that can be mounted against GMOs must be based on misrepresentations or misunderstandings of what GMOs are and how they work. Or, worse still, there is deliberate deception involved in spreading the anti-GM ‘science’ message.

There are deceptive uses of words so that “research” can place a Google search on par with a double blind, controlled experiment and even “science” itself can embrace vague claims and untested hypotheses. There’s a pervasive lack of appreciation for how many science-based institutions vouch for the safety of GMOs including The American Association For the Advancement of Science (or AAAS), World Health Organization and The European Commission.

Dig a bit deeper and five outright lies about GMOs can be exposed:

1. GMOs are unhealthy

A huge body of research has failed to find any unhealthy outcomes from the consumption of GMOs.

2. GMOs increase herbicide use

This one revolves around some GMOs that have modifications that confer some tolerance to some commercial herbicides. It appears that what has happened is that the amount of herbicide applied per acre of crop has declined but, because more acres are under crop, overall herbicide use has increased.

3. Genetic engineering creates dangerous side effects

Despite predictions of unpredictable side effects from genetic manipulations, none have been found.

4. GMOs harm the environment

The main concern here are things like GMO crops with built-in insecticides killing caterpillars. Well yes, that’s what they are designed to do, but only in the farm environment where the GMOs are grown. There is no escape into the wild and conferring insect resistance to other plants. There is no broader impact on the environment of GMOs.

5. GMOs do not increase yields, and work against feeding a hungry world

This one is a particularly nasty one because it’s at the pointy end of much of the benefits of spreading GM technology to the developing world. One review article found average yield increases for developing countries ranging from 16 per cent for insect-resistant corn to 30 per cent for insect-resistant cotton and an 85 per cent yield increase observed in a single study on herbicide-tolerant corn. Clearly GMOs have an important role to play in feeding a rapidly growing global population. But the scare-mongering of the anti-GM movement has led to some countries, particularly in the developing world, banning GM crops.

We’re trying to deal with some of the biggest questions confronting us in the world today: how do we feed an increasing population on decreasing arable land? It’s a battle we must fight using all the weapons at our disposal. Blindly pointing the finger at GMOs does not help.

Read the full, original article: Who’s afraid of GMOs?

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