Class Warfare Blog

March 31, 2020

Even More on GMOs

Filed under: Economics,Politics,Science — Steve Ruis @ 12:51 pm
Tags: , ,

I recently read that “Liberals are skeptical of well-established science when findings clash with their political ideologies, such as GMOs, nuclear power, genetic engineering and evolutionary psychology.”

I am a scientist and I am very cautious about GMOs. The existence of GMOs and some of their behaviors are “well-established science.” That is not what I am arguing about. Human beings have been artificially selecting traits of plants to serve us for thousands of years. We started by selecting which seeds to plant and went through a grafting-hybridizing stage and then into gene manipulation.

My quibble with GMOs is that the modifications skip over many, many viability tests that nature used to use to weed out problems (a snappy metaphor, no?). A plant geneticist might have to make dozens of not hundreds of “crosses” to get the outcome she wanted. Each step of the way, nature chimed in. If a cross-fertilization of two strains of plants was non-viable, there would be no seeds or plants to test in a subsequent generation of that approach. That was a dead end, so we had to back up and try a different route.

So, GMOs skip over some of these tests/road blocks, which could be a good thing or even a very good thing, but . . . and you knew a but was coming, didn’t you . . . when something goes wrong with a GMO it has the possibility of going very, very wrong.

And, yes, I said “when” because it is never “if” something goes wrong, because something always goes wrong. Help me count the ways! A virus could insert some of its DNA into a GMO’s DNA and voila, we have something very, very new on hand. The GMO could propagate with other plants in ways unsuspected. GMO animals, when they come around, might take over ecological niches we were unaware of and create situations we are unprepared to respond to.

There is an old saw that says “short cuts are always longer” which is an admonition of a craftsman to take the tried and true way and not some shortcut to a supposed better or just as good ending. Just as there was no Royal Road to geometry, there were no shortcuts to quality. Well, we have discovered that there are such shortcuts, but they are incredible hard to find and don’t always work as expected.

Since our food supply is under considerable pressure and we have created monocultures for much of “big” crops, a disaster will be a big, very big disaster when it happens (again, when, not if).

So, I am not anti-science, quite the contrary, I am pro-prudence. Especially when the primary efforts are made chasing profits and not meeting urgent needs. And as evidence for which I give you: Monsanto Crop System Damages US Farms.

1 Comment »

  1. There’s also the problem of secondary effects. For example, fields of Roundup ready corn get sprayed with Roundup which, as it turns out, does not kill every weed. The resistant ones are left to breed with each other resulting in super weeds, much the same way that we have created antibiotic resistant bacteria via the overuse of antibiotics. Then farmers must use more toxic or problematic things for weed control since using Roundup no longer works. https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/10/19/herbicide-resistant-super-weeds-increasingly-plaguing-farmers

    Like

    Comment by Jon — March 31, 2020 @ 1:23 pm | Reply


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