The controversies surrounding GMOs are numerous and extremely divisive. With so many groups of people to be affected, it is no wonder the arguments are passionate. From the US consumer to the EU consumer, populations of third worlds, farmers, activists, scientists, legislators, corporations and small businesses – all with a chip in the game, it has become a virtual maze of confusing and conflicting arguments.
Some of the controversies include: food safety; food sustainability; food labeling; the role of government; impacts of GMO crops on farmers and corporations; the owning of ‘the stuff of life’ by persons or corporations, seed contamination and impacts of GMOs on the environment. These will be taken point by point and further in depth in successive posts.
Food Safety: there is no doubt that much of the GMOs are done via methods that ensure the product could never occur in nature. However, the word ‘natural’ doesn’t automatically mean “safe”. There are many poisonous ‘natural’ foods out there. The question if not one of ‘natural’, but rather safety. Are these crops safe? Do they or can they cause harm to humans or animals? Do they create new allergens?
Food Sustainability: many have said that we are better able to feed the world’s population with these new engineered crops. People like Bill Gates have pointed to GMOs as a way to feed starving nations. However, many representatives from those starving nations have gotten together to address the UN and say that they believe GMOs create more harm than good for their people.
Food Labeling: anti-GMO activists feel it is the right of the people to know (which I agree with BTW). The other side tells us that labeling is deceptive in that some foods, when processed (ie: many oils, HFCS, etc) contain little if any GM material and labeling as a GMO food falsely informs the consumer. Also, if labeling is not universal, consumers can look at two products side by side, one labeled ‘may contain GMOs’ and one not. Because the product not labeled is in a state not requiring labeling, the consumer will assume that product does not contain GMOs.
Role of Government: it is getting harder and harder for government to be the arbiter of what is safe and what isn’t. Also, with so much corporate money funding government, there is now an inherent distrust of what government says or does.
Impact of GMOs on farmers and corporations: the fight between farmers and corporations is heating up and the very livelihood of small farmers is at stake. And what of the organic farmer? GM material spreads – it is impossible to prevent this.
Owning the Stuff of Life: while hard to imagine that this is legal, it is actually legal to own genes. There is much to this debate, but it is my view that the pattening of genes is repugnant – but more on that when I address this controversy.
Seed Contamination and the Impact on the Environment: There are large impacts to the environment regardless of the arguments as to whether those impacts are positive or negative. Both sides agree that there are impacts – just not on what they are.
Tremendous amounts of money, effort and time is devoted to furthering the arguments of activists on both sides. From legal battles to biased publications, the controversies themselves have seemingly become an industry in and of itself! To any person interested in learning about GMOs, and finding answers to their questions, it is harder and harder to find information that is not biased in some way.
It is the opinion of this blogger that both sides are doing the general public a disservice. The anti-GMO activists devote a lot of energy pointing to flawed studies and hyperbole and the pro-GMO activists only want to put out propaganda.
Next week, we’ll start looking at each controversy one by one – all while I try to maintain a neutral position!