The anti-GMO (genetically modified organism) movement gained another boost on Thursday as North Vancouver, BC, Canada voted unanimously to make the city the 62nd municipality in the province to go GE (genetically-engineered) free.
Why are people these days so dead-set against GMOs? I suspect the answer lies in the companies making headlines with them, such as Monsanto and Myriad Genetics, and I do feel comfortable calling them dirty companies. The problem is that this is a strawman; the companies are not GMOs. To understand what's happening here a little better, we need to look at a man named Norman Borlaug.
Borlaug (1914-2009), known variously as "The Father of the Green Revolution," "Agriculture's Greatest Spokesperson" and "The Man Who Saved a Billion Lives," was one of only seven people to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Honor and the Congressional Gold Medal, among other awards. He was a microbiologist, plant pathologist and geneticist, and as previously noted, his work in genetically modifying plants is estimated to have saved well over a billion lives. How many lives have you saved today?
GMOs save lives. Increased crop yields, better disease and pest resistance, more tolerant crops that will grow in more areas; all of these factors combined prevent massive starvation in those parts of the world that are hit hardest by it. We feel the impact too, although we often don't realize it; try to imagine, in the middle of this economic crisis, the consequences of our cheapest foods skyrocketing in price because they can no longer be made from the most efficient crops.
Washington is gearing up right now to vote on I-522, an initiative to establish mandatory labelling requirements on GE foods, and the battle is raging all across the nation, every day. Don't be surprised to see the issue of GMOs become increasingly addressed in political campaigns through 2013, and moving forward.
So what's the problem? Labelling products as containing GMOs doesn't seem harmful, but according to Michael Eisen, a biologist at UC Berkeley, "They don’t want the 'genetically engineered' label to merely provide information. They want it to be a warning – the equivalent for GM food of the cancer warning on cigarette boxes." He unequivocally explains that, "The problem is there is no justification for a warning. There is no compelling evidence of any harm arising from eating GMOs, and a diverse and convincing body of research demonstrating that GMOs are safe."
He is not alone in his opinion. Scientists have been stating for years that GMOs are not dangerous, not harmful, more nutritious than natural alternatives and save millions if not billions of lives, but people would rather follow the anti-GMO cult than listen to doctors, biologists and geneticsts -- the sort of people who have spent 10 to 20 years in university learning to understand how GMOs work.
What this comes down to is that the other side -- those who do believe in the science behind genetic engineering -- need to take their own stand. Right now, the anti-GMO crowd have very loud voices because they are shouting the loudest and it seems as if the entire country, perhaps even the entire Western Hemisphere is against genetic modification -- they even launched a massive online anti-GMO rally today. If you're not one of them, take the time to let your lawmakers and policy setters know that anti-GMO is not the only side in this issue.
I have some very fanatic acquaintances who are solidly anti-GMO, who often spend a lot of time and effort trying to convince me of the rightness of their position. When they ask me why I support GMOs, my answer is always the same: because I want to live in a world where billions of children don't have to starve for our terrible arrogance.
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