The GMO debate and the lightning conductor

Genetically modified crops generate intense anger on both sides of the debate.

Those who oppose it, such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, cite the risk of some kind of unpredictable disastrous effect on Nature.

Those who argue in its favour point out that millions of children could be cured of blindness if genetically-modified rice were used to feed people in the third world. In fact, vitamin A-enhanced rice could prevent up to a third of the world’s child deaths. And that’s just one example of the benefits.

The stakes couldn’t really be higher on either side of the debate. It’s imperative that the world makes the right decision about this issue.

So here, I’m asking, “How do we make the decision?”

In 1783, the forward-thinking Monsieur de Vissery of Saint-Omer, France put up a lightning conductor on his house. Unfortunately his neighbours were more conservative in their beliefs and decided that the device would attract lightning, and was therefore a fire hazard to the district. They demanded its immediate removal.

What was to be done? In this case, the outcome was decided by a legal process. Experts were called and the Council of Arras, on hearing the evidence, decided in favour of permitting the lightning conductor.

But what about GM crops? Who should decide that? Protestors? Scientists? Politicians? Or lawyers?

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6 responses to “The GMO debate and the lightning conductor

  1. It’s an interesting question. Since the world is ever-evolving, subject to the vicissitudes of things natural and not-so-natural, it strikes me that GM crops merely represent another evolutionary step. Rice has evolved previously … no doubt it will continue to evolve. I’m not sure that mankind’s interference could ever be all positive, nor could it be all negative … in the middle is probably the truth, it’s part of the muddled evolutionary process. Perhaps, as an American, I’ve always assumed that we were being fed altered corn, enhanced wheat, enriched this and enriched that … it almost feels natural to me. Mind you, the first time I REALLY tasted a strawberry was … in France.

  2. This issue has the problem that the jurisdiction is the whole earth and no human authorities control this jurisdiction. Genetically modified pollen sees no political boundaries just like carbon dioxide, CFCs, or viruses. Màybe the aliens are waiting for us to figure out how to get along before they speak to us 😉

  3. I am a consumer who is educated on the subject. Well, as educated as I can be. 🙂 I believe that there are huge upsides to certain genetic modifications, like vitamin enriching and other crop strengthening but I also know that that comes with risks. Risks that I and you and everyone else should get a choice in taking. I think that there is an absolute place for GM crops in the market and they should be there. What I would like to see is required disclosure. We should know if the products we are buying/consuming are modified and what the modification(s) are. great post!

  4. Also… If GM rice is the only rice you can get and you are starving without it OR are seeing increased disease from vitamin deficiency than the positives far out weigh any potential GM negatives.

  5. Man has been modifying and trying to improve plants and animals since we first set down roots and began cross-pollinating plants and selectively breeding animals. I have serious doubts as far as GMOs are concerned- that enhancing a plant with a completely foreign plant, animal or fish gene is progress. As an example, there is some speculation that the current weakening of the world’s honeybee population may be due in part to the introduction of nicotinoids into crops for the purpose of pest management. The other issue is that the cost of these GMO seeds are out of bounds for most of the farmers these crops are intended to benefit – and they can’t save the seed – so new seed has to be continually purchased. The only party benefiting there is the company who owns the rights to the patented seed… We don’t really know what the impact of these seemingly innocent tweaks may be… at a minimum we should be proceeding with caution.

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