March 21, 2013
It was reported that Whole Foods national corporation has decided to label all foods either GMO (genetically modified organism) or non-GMO. According to the article, this is expected to boost non-GMO sales from 15 percent to 30 percent. Obviously, Whole Foods is doing this for commercial, rather than ideological, reasons. Regardless, I wish to point out that there is no rational reason for rejecting GMOs.
There are no intrinsic, biochemical differences between GMOs and non-GMOs: DNA is DNA, protein is protein etc. Many high-level scientific studies have shown that there is no risk to people, in terms of disease, nor to the environment from GMOs. Rejection of GMOs is essentially pseudo-science. On the contrary, GMOs represent advances that should help humanity.
For example, “Golden Rice,” which is rice that delivers vitamin A, could prevent 1 million-2 million cases of blindness and 1 million-2 million deaths per year in children and women. It is being offered free to countries that need it, but has been emphatically rejected because it is a GMO. In the future, we may be able to get all our vaccines from a single bite of a banana.
The public’s short-sighted rejection of GMOs is the result of ignorance of biology. Every living thing on Earth, including ourselves, is a GMO. All living things are the products of about 3 billion years of evolution, which is dependent upon genetic change. If there was no genetic modification (mutation), we would still be in the primordial soup.
Moreover, for millennia, agriculturalists have genetically modified organisms by selective breeding to improve crops and livestock. This is even mentioned in the Bible (in a primitive way), when Jacob keeps the spotted and speckled goats to his advantage. Many of the fruits and vegetables at the supermarket are the result of selective breeding: for example, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, cabbage, etc.) are derived from wild mustard. The domestic dog is the result of similar processes. Human manipulation of genes is not intrinsically dangerous.
There are some risks associated with the process, particularly that monoculture can make crops susceptible to a single pathogen. However, these are not intrinsic to the GMO process. There are so many genuine dangers to worry about in the world today, why focus on an empty issue?