August 02, 2013

Skeptical about GMOs, yet accepting of climate change?

A new column in The Guardian, by Alice Bell, asks if that's possible. I say yes, even as another blog of many, from a GMO defender who says all Green types are anti-science on this issue, gets out the bashing club.

I "love" how everybody who has concerns about the politics and economics of GMOs in some way can be called anti-GMO. I also love that, just because some scientific studies that did have axes to grind have been refuted, it's assumed that there's no more legitimate scientific questions to be asked.

In other words, not every scientific question everybody asks about GMOs is an anti-GMO question. And, people like me also don’t like getting stereotyped over this issue. Call me an anti-GMOer-as-currently-marketed, if you insist on a label.

Some of us do, also, have legitimate science-related questions without believing in "Frankenfoods." I think questions about "degree of separation" of the source of the gene and the target food is a legitimate matter. I think the question of whether food allergies can "transfer" is legitimate, as some research indicates this is possible. And, given that "one gene = one protein" is dead, questions about "gene context" and also about epigenetics are legitimate. These may turn out to not be of huge concern, but some of them may still be of mild, or moderate, concern.

And, let's not trot out the claim the other way around that "we've been manipulating plants for millennia." Because, before GMOs, those manipulations were only within that genus, or often, within a species. But, such changes weren't done at higher biological levels than that of genus.


This all said, I know that nothing I say toutting a reasonable and principled skepticism on this issue can convince some pro-GMOers who want to pose as noble defenders of science and think the case is settled. Well, from what we know and have tested, the case is settled.

But, that cuts both ways.

As I've said before, Monsanto was warned by scientists that RoundupReady genetic engineering would promote Roundup resistance among weeds. And, what happened? It did!

So, Monsanto is doing new genetic engineering for resistance to other herbicides. And here's where the politics and economics come into the picture. New GMOs means new patents, even as the patent expiration clock ticks on old ones.

And, please, folks, don't accuse me of being conspiracy minded.

DuPont willingly got behind the Montreal Protocol to phase out CFCs in part because it had patents expiring and stood to make big bucks on new compounds. And, sadly, we find that some of those compounds are worrisome greenhouse gases.

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