Genetic Engineering in Agriculture. Part 1: Let’s move this unproductive conversation forward

 
 
Genetic engineering of foods arouses great passion. Those who are either for or against will ardently seek to convince others of the inherent propriety of their viewpoints. The GMO discussion and all the words it has devoured is like a three-act pirouette. It just spins in place, going nowhere endlessly.
 


Genetic engineering in agriculture is a subject that arouses passion.  Gobs of it. Proponents and opponents alike have written a tsunami of words devoted to convincing us that we should or shouldn’t approve of the technology.

These discussions often provide considerably more heat than light.  The reasons are many but two stand out in my mind. The first is the fraught issue of labelling which is always at or near center stage in our discussions.  The second is that our focus is on the technology itself rather than how it is used.  Turning to the labeling issue, we find ourselves deep in the weeds never popping our heads up to ask and answer the crucial questions:  What matters to me and why?

We face a very uncertain food future. It is good that we consider the proper role for genetic engineering in food production amongst the myriad considerations we must address as we build our future food supply. I don’t think, however, that we address the profound questions until the more urgent and less important labeling issue is solved. (I find it pretty unlikely that national legislation recently signed into law that allows food packages containing QR codes linked to web site-based genetic modification information will address NGO and consumer group needs for transparent labeling.)

In the first of a short series on how we think about genetic engineering in agriculture, I’ve written an article today at the Global Aquaculture Advocate about how we might get past the labeling issue.  This will allow us to move onto the questions of:  What outcomes do we want to see in developing our food supply and what role does genetic engineering play?  Today’s article begins like this:

Genetic engineering of foods arouses great passion. Those who are either for or against will ardently seek to convince others of the inherent propriety of their viewpoints. The GMO discussion and all the words it has devoured is like a three-act pirouette. It just spins in place, going nowhere endlessly. 

You can read the rest of the article here. If you have reflections or comments, I’d love to hear them in the comments section below.


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