I had the opportunity to work with a journalism student from Sheridan College. She asked some really great questions about genetically modified organisms and I provided some answers.
Q.1 Why are people worried about GM foods? Are these concerns overhyped?
Safety seems to be the most quoted reason for people’s concerns over GMOs. But, these concerns (and the arguments) are often unscientific and unsubstantiated. So, yes, most of these concerns are overhyped and controversy is created where often none exists.
We live in a (first world) where we have the luxury (most of us, anyway) of not worrying where our next meal comes from. So, we seem to have more time to dwell on things and our relationship to food has evolved from one that was (at one time) wholly ‘functional’ to one that is more ‘aesthetic.’
We are also generationally and geographically removed from the farm. Only 2% of North America’s population live and work on farms. That’s a huge (cognitive) divide. And that’s a huge problem because that 2% is responsible for the food security of the other 98% plus others in the world. Almost a billion people every day fight to just get 300 calories a day. We are not only dealing with a urban-rural divide, we are dealing with a north-south divide where we are completely dissociated from what’s happening in less developed parts of the world.
Here’s the deal on GM foods and genetically engineered crops. The scientific consensus on genetically engineered crops and foodstuffs is overwhelming. They are as safe or safer than any other food stuffs on the market. Many, many studies attest to this (see this and this). They have been in our food system for almost twenty years and there are REPUTABLE and INDEPENDENT organizations from all over the world that have made statements that attest to the safety of GMOs and genetically engineered crops. The problem is is that one-off studies often come up that use anecdotes or ascribe causal links between GMOs and disease where there is only correlation, at best. These studies gain a great deal of traction in the media because they are “scary”… and those kind of headlines sell (check out an editorial piece I wrote in the Western Producer on this). And, make no mistake, they have political agendas driving them. Those that publish these kinds of studies do so to manipulate the media and the public. I find that unconscionable.
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