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.
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
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
Click Here to View MIT Technology Review
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
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
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