GMO notes


  • There is a small minority of biologists raising questions about GM safety
    • Inserted genes can be transformed by several different means, and it can happen generations later, resulting in potentially toxic plants slipping through testing.
    • Funding for plant molecular biology comes mostly from companies that sell GM seeds, and favors researchers who are exploring further ways to use GM tech
      • biologists who point out risks associated with GM crops have their credibility viciously attacked, which leads to silence on the subject
  • Concerns over health risks so far remain theoretical
  • GM crops has lowered the price of food; increased farmer safety by allowing them to use less pesticides; raised the output of corn, cotton, and soy by 20-30%
  • GM crops could grow in dry and salty land, withstand high and low temperatures, and tolerate insects, disease, and herbicides
  • GM acceptance elsewhere
    • Nearly all the corn and soybeans grown in the US are GM crops, but only two crops—Monsanto’s maize and BASF’s Amflora potato—are accepted in the EU, but 10 EU countries have banned Monsanto’s maize
      • several new GM corn strains have been voted down
    • Much of Asia (including India and China) has yet to approve GMOs
    • Several African countries have refused to import GM food despite lower costs
      • Kenya has banned them altogether
    • No country has definite plans to grow Golden Rice, despite its potential to prevent death and blindness
    • only a tenth of the world’s cropland includes GMOs; four countries—US, Canada, Brazil, and Argentia—grow 90% of it
    • European resentment of American agribusiness influences global perspective
  • Humans have been breeding crops—and therefore altering their genomes—for millenia
    • wheat has long been a strictly human-engineered plant
    • for 60 years, scientists have been using “mutagenic” techniques to scramble the DNA of plants with radiation and chemicals, creating strains of wheat, rice, peanuts, and pears that have become agricultural mainstays
    • difference is that breeding and mutagenic techniques result in large swaths of genes being swapped or altered, while GM tech enables scientists to insert a single gene from another species of plant, or even bacterium, virus, or animal
      • viruses have been inserting their DNA into the genomes of crops, humans, and other animals for millions of years, and deliver the genes of other species too (human genome is loaded with sequences that originated in viruses and nonhuman species)
      • Changing a single gene, on the other hand, might turn out to be a more subversive action, with unexpected ripple effects, including the production of new proteins that might be toxins or allergens.
  • Some scientists say that objections to GMOs stem from politics rather than science, motivated by an objection to large multinational corporations having enormous influence over the food supply

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