What We're Talking About

GMO Hysteria Ignores Science

BY: Jonathan Nivens | DATE: March 06, 2014

USA - There is a growing concern within the scientific community that popular politics do not reflect the available evidence concerning genetically modified (GM) crops.

In a recent study published by the NPD Group, Chicago, entitled, Gauging GMO Awareness and Impact, of primary grocery store shoppers, 25% said they thought that there were no benefits to GMOs. Only 44% said they thought there were benefits to GMOs, and 31% said they didn't know.

Why can't we have more of an open dialogue about this technology? Does the average consumer understand the science of genetics? Biotechnology has been utilized by the pharmaceutical industry for decades and has saved many lives, yet it has mainly only become controversial in regards to food. Mass media usually makes judgments about the ethics of genetic engineering by lumping together all genetic modifications, instead of examining each on a case by case basis. That's unreasonable, because the answer depends entirely on how it is utilized.

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Dr. John Labavitch, Professor of Plant Sciences at University of California, Davis tells AndNowUKnow, "A major general concern that I have is that opinions (often self-serving and/or uninformed) expressed by people in technologically well developed nations where there is, for the most part, no danger of food shortages and starvation, may have a devastating impact on food availability and safety in places where crop failure and having enough food for the family tomorrow are continuing issues. Many GMO crop improvement approaches, if they are developed to the point where they reach farmers, can reduce those threats. As the world's population continues to increase and agricultural soils, water etc. continue to deteriorate the demand for additional crop options will increase."

In the late 1980s, papaya production was under threat from the papaya ringspot virus and the University of Hawaii developed a resistant cultivar which was genetically modified. GM papaya production is now widespread in the tropics, and nearly all papayas on the market in the US are GMOs, according to the MIT Technology Review. Currently, another disease situation may require a similar fix: citrus greening disease, also known as huánglóngbìng, is transmitted by the Asian citrus psyllid, and it threatens to devastate citrus groves in Brazil, Mexico, Florida, and possibly California.

Click Here to View MIT Technology Review Article

In addition to disease resistance, there is strong potential for GM crops, especially in the developing world. Crops can be improved by imparting drought resistance and increasing nutritional content.

Crop biofortification is part of a global effort to end hidden hunger caused by the nutritional deficiencies involving a lack of essential vitamins and minerals. Golden rice is a biofortified GM rice crop that has added beta-carotene content, a precursor to Vitamin A. The first field trials of golden rice were conducted by the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center in 2004.

Syngenta, a leading biotechnology company, produced golden rice 2 in 2005. This new cultivar has 23 times more carotenoids than the original golden rice.

Society in general tends to make reductionist arguments about complicated issues. Positive progress will be stifled if mass media continues to make sweeping judgements about all GM crops without considering the specifics. Certainly there are real-world impacts both positive and negative, but we need to move beyond generalized fear and hysteria.

In order to be taken seriously by the scientific community, the popular politics of transgenic crops need to reflect the available evidence.

Link to full article:  http://www.andnowuknow.com/headlines/gmo-hysteria-ignores-science/10900/jonathan-nivens?blast=10942&utm_source=ANUK&utm_campaign=d0160a1455-ANUK_Newsletter_030714_2_3_7_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_05a0621836-d0160a1455-14926369

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