More in SEED Magazine on GE crops

posted in: News | 6

Maywa Montengro has a commentary on Seed Magazine about the opposition to genetic engineering that’s worth taking a read, and it’s right on-topic with what we’ve been talking about with anti-science. Here is a taste of A Natural Obsession.

When delegates from 192 nations arrive in Copenhagen in December for the UN COP15 summit, they will confront a 181-page draft negotiation text, 2,000 bracketed passages still in dispute, and just 11 days in which to come to some sort of consensus. To power them through these discussions, Denmark has promised a smorgasbord of ecologically minded fare: All water will be tap (not bottled), tea and coffee will be fair trade, and the food menu will be no less than 65 percent organic.

Though undoubtedly well-intentioned, this last provision is troubling, but not because anyone really cares about the provenance of Ban Ki-Moon’s turnip greens. Rather, it suggests a willful and dangerous ignorance about the tenuous state of global agriculture, and the prospects for feeding 9 billion people while also addressing biodiversity loss, water shortage, and, yes, climate change. Organic foods are enjoying skyrocketing popularity in the US and Europe, as are their ill-defined sidekicks, “natural,” “whole,” and “real” foods. Yet popular notions that these foods—and the agriculture that begets them—are at once better for people and for the planet turn out to be largely devoid of experimental support. Worse still, “organophilia” tends to go hand-in-hand with technophobic skepticism towards the very sorts of scientific approaches most likely to supercharge an ailing food system while leaving our planet intact.

How did this movement get this way?

Unfortunately, what may have begun as a revolt against fake food or, for many, the horrors of concentrated animal feed lots, has given way to a culture that increasingly fetishizes organic, natural, and whole foods with little agreement on what such terms even mean, outside of an emphatic devotion to what they are not: They aren’t in any way related to industrial-scale farms or big-box grocery chains; chemical herbicides or pesticides; biotechnology or its subgenre, genetic engineering. And by those criteria, they are deemed to be safer, more nutritious, and less damaging to the environment.

Someone else has noticed that Organic has been identifying itself by what it is not, rather than what it is. So is organic automatically better? Read the rest and come back!

I particularly liked the part about the rat feeding study… Definitely going to look that one up.

Follow Karl Haro von Mogel:

Karl earned his Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics at UW-Madison, with a minor in Life Science Communication. His dissertation was on both the genetics of sweet corn and plant genetics outreach. He recently moved back to his home state of California. His favorite produce might just be squash.