On GM foods, part 2: Let’s talk about what truly matters

With a focus on processes rather than products, discussions of genetically engineered foods miss the mark. Here’s how we can change those discussion for the better.

Those who have an opinion about genetic engineering in agriculture often have a strong one― dismay or delight.  Unfortunately, most of the discussion centers not on what is made but, instead, how it is made. A focus on process rather than outcome keeps us from posing two extremely important questions:  What do we want from our agricultural systems and, are we getting it?

To assess the proper role of genetic engineering in agriculture, we need a different discussion.   In a story in today’s Global Aquaculture Advocate, I show how a focus on outcomes can lead us to back to a fruitful assessment of genetic engineering’s role.

It starts like this:

At a time when we look for and emphasize our differences, one quite obvious thing unites us all. We eat.

Some of us pay more attention to food. Some less. If you’re in the more-attention group you’ve certainly noticed, as with everything in our world, that food is touched by technology. This is not new. As soon as humans started domesticating plants, we started manipulating them.

Through millennia our tweaking has become increasingly sophisticated. Breeders use genetic markers to help accelerate the inclusion of desirable traits in new plants and animals. Precision agriculture allows farmers to tailor and optimize water, pH and nutrient treatments at the resolution of a few square meters using GPS and other tools to map fields.

A recent entry into the highly technical world of agriculture is genetic engineering. For many, this results in an indifferent shrug. But for some, the subject evokes passion and the stakes are high. Depending on your point of view, we are either headed to Armageddon or we are on a virtuous path to feeding the world effectively.

You can read the whole story here.