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Agriculture Update: Notes from the GMO Battlefront

Posted on February 19, 2013
Subject(s): Agriculture

The GMO (genetically modified organism) FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) needs to be addressed because we humans are at a cross roads in selectively improving our food sources to ensure that we have enough for a growing world population in the 21st century.

Humans have been improving what we grow since the beginning of the Neolithic Revolution more than 12,000 years ago. Early farmers tilled wild plants and then began selecting out the best of these by only planting their seeds in subsequent years. They learned through trial and error what provided the best yields, what plants grew best in wet and dry conditions, on clay or sandy soils, in mountains or valleys. Over time inventive farmers learned through observation to cross pollinate plants within the same species to improve crop yields. In times of drought, severe weather, insect infestations and other natural plagues these farmers struggled. But eventually they learned to recognize all the signs that nature provided. They learned beneficial insects from the bad, raising bees and releasing ladybugs to help make their crops flourish.

When Mendel in the 19th century made his observations about pea pods he revealed the mystery of selective breeding, establishing the beginnings of what would become genetic science. But it was Watson and Crick who uncovered DNA and launched us on the road to studying the genes of all living things.

Today we understand the impact of a single gene or groups of them within plants and animals. And we have developed technology that allows us to insert good genes to replace ones that defective. We can do this intra-species and also inter-species. This is the science behind GMO.

For many GMO just doesn’t seem natural. They see in these plants and animals a new Frankenstein. Do they see this when we use gene therapy to cure people of serious illnesses? Probably not, although maybe some do.

Many governments in the Developing World, and some in the Developed have legislated against any type of GMO. These governments point to studies that fuel the FUD factor. The most recent, a rat study involving GMO foods out of France has fueled anti-GMO legislation and bans in many countries even though the study has proven to be deeply flawed and bad science.

Read more: Agriculture Update: Notes from the GMO Battlefront | World Future Society.

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