October 13, 2015

New #GMO ideas, even GMO #organic, could make #Frankenfood fearers' heads spin

I don't want anti-GMOers' heads to spin, though.

I just want them to rationally reconsider their irrational opposition to any and all GMOs in any way, shape or form.

So, I present for their thoughtful consideration two possible breakthroughs in the world of GMO crops.

The first is the possibility of GMO organic food.

The second is the potential for GMOs to reduce, maybe even eliminate, a fear of many modern parents, by a GMO peanut that won't trigger allergies.

On GMO organic food, this would certainly address a major issue of not just blanket anti-GMOers, but others who think today's Big Ag needs more overhauling. If GMOs let us have organic farming with better output than today's typical organic farm, or more adaptable than today's organics to rapidly varying weather, who wouldn't want that?

That said, "GMO" is actually a fairly narrow area, if one uses it technically. That first length, which is an in-depth story for rational, thoughtful reading, talks about things like marker-assisted breeding, which aren't conventional hybridization but aren't GMOs, either. A fair amount of the story threads in an interview with a husband-wife team of an organic farmer and a geneticist. A couple who just happen to have written a book about all this and more:
In Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food, Ronald and Adamchak argue that genetic engineering can help “develop biologically-oriented, sophisticated, and elegant approaches to address agricultural problems” and that “to maximize the benefit of GE [genetically engineered] plants, they would best be integrated into an organic farming system.”

That paragraph then goes on to note what I said earlier about organic farming being less environmentally stressful. It then focuses on the idea of something specific, like organic farming of Bt crops.

Sadly, it's currently "illegal" to use GMOs on a certified organic farm. But, as the story notes, originally it was OK.

This shows the power of lobbyists on labels; if the likes of the New York Times' Eric Lipton wants to write about lobbyists in agriculture, maybe he should tackle this one next. (Since neither he nor his paper's ombudsman has followed up on the complaints about his article about GMO lobbyists, though, I'm not holding my breath.)

The article’s author notes GMOs aren’t a panacea. He also notes that GMOs aren’t a one size fits all — and that “conventional” crops aren’t either. He proceeds from there:
For another perspective, I called up Mark Rasmussen, director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, which seeks to reduce the “negative environmental and social impacts of farming.” I asked him whether there is a space for GMOs in the kind of farming he promotes. “Yes and no,” he said. “I think there’s no uniform answer with regard to GMOs. We tend to lump them all together. Each needs to be considered on its own individual merits.”
Per the story, those merits include things like potentially rescuing orange trees from citrus blight. 

The second story talks how the magic of CRISPR - Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats — is already being used in an attempt to "edit out" allergy-triggering genes from peanuts, something that's already been attempted, and failed so far, with older breeding technologies.

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