The G.M.O. debate

gmo-genetically-modified-organism_50290d5e92a11_w1500An article in the New York Times Sunday Review section from October 25, troubled me this morning, an opinion piece by Mark Lynas titled “Europe Turns Against Science.”

The context is the continuing argument over genetically modified seeds, or GMOs. European countries “announced bans on the cultivation of genetically modified crops.”

I’ve watched this argument, GMOs vs. non-GMO foods, and cannot find a reasonable answer. My nephew, an organic farmer, is vocally opposed to GMOs. I understand and appreciate his position. Here at our house, we buy organic produce and organic chicken and good quality meats. We rarely go out to dinner, but we eat well.

My problem with the furor is two-fold. 1. It reminds me of the furor over immunizations for children and the ensuing measles and whooping cough outbreaks; and 2. my dad was planting GMOs back in the 1950s with NC+ seeds. In other words, GMOs have been in our food chain for sixty years.

Which is not to say there isn’t a problem. But the problems are wide spread and complicated in our complicated world.

From the article: One study found that G.M.O. cultivation has led to a 40 percent reduction in insecticide spraying worldwide.

That’s huge. Insecticide use produced ecological problems throughout the world. Think honey bees and their decline. Weed spraying is also reduced by GMO use. Think monarch butterflies and the milkweed pods they need. Although the reduction of milkweed also has to do with the increase in corporate farming. Drive along most country roads and you’ll see what I mean. Uncultivated fence rows rarely exist anymore. As I said, most answers to problems are complicated.

Following Europe’s lead, no country in sub-Sahara Africa, except for South Africa, permits GMO. cultivation. Lynas writes, “Yet from drought-tolerant maize to virus-resistant cassava, many biotech traits are being developed that could quickly improve the livelihoods of poorer African farmers.”

He goes on to write of visiting malnourished children in Tanzania whose families were hungry because the cassava “were wiped out by brown-streak disease.” Modified cassava has resistance to that virus.

But here’s the line that got to me: because of the ban, “we are witnessing a historic injustice perpetrated by the well fed on the food insecure.”

My family is well-fed. I’d rather not make those who are “food insecure” less secure.

I understand the argument against Monsanto’s wide-reaching dominance, but the argument against G.M.O.s leads me to remember the 1950s yellow NC+ sign, proudly guarding our country farm’s lane.

Our farm family never had much money, but we always had food.

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