Thursday, May 9, 2013
The Case for Genetically Modified Organisms
Today there is a lot of argument about genetically modified organisms and if they are safe for consumption. A lot of the counter argument is based on “what if’s” and not solid scientific foundations. The method of modification seems to be the biggest point of contention to those opposed to GMO. The fact is we need these GMO if we are to continue to grow our population. Some of these GMO’s can actually benefit not only people but economies. So while the voice of contention is loud I want to try and show why GMO’s can be a good thing.
When you hear the argument against GMO the largest complaint is that we don’t know what will happen when we play with the code of life. This point is silly, scientists are not playing Dr. Frankenstein and just throwing things together. A lot of research is put into finding exactly what part of the genome controls the desired allele in question. Drought resistant vegetables are an easy example, once the organism has it’s genome mapped we can find what part controls the amount of water needed and modify that one portion so that it can grow and flourish where it’s non-GMO cousins fail. To modify the genome of an organism is not playing God as much as prescribing an antibiotic is. We now have the knowledge of the chemistry of these organisms and this is nothing more than a chemical reaction.
There are many GMO’s that we already consume that most are not aware that they are in fact GMO. Banana’s are an example of a cloned GMO. There is only one version of the Cavendish and it is continually cloned. It was artificially selected for the size and easy of growth. Seedless fruits are also GMO, they may not be chemically altered but they are artificially selected for and produced. There is no real difference between artificially selecting and forced manipulation of the genome. Scientists are not forcing a mutation upon an organism that is not biologically possible. Every mutation is possible but the probability may be very low and not fiscally viable.
The growth of GMO’s is important so we can find ways to feed our continuing population. As people are living longer and longer land space is shrinking and making the most of the available area is paramount. Why should we worry about a crop possibly not coming in when we can plant a crop that is more efficient in its environment? If we are heading for Global Warming then shouldn’t we find ways to ensure our crops flourish? And if we can find ways for developing countries to become self sustaining don’t we owe it to ourselves to ensure everyone can eat? GMO’s offer the solution to world hunger, so shouldn’t we take action?
The only part of the GMO argument that is valid on scientific merit is the patent fiasco. How a genome can become patentable is a farce that needs to be readdressed. But if we can put aside unfounded prejudices and see GMO’s as the great invention they are maybe we can get to the business of taking care of each other. I am not a pro-GMO person but I find it interesting what people have issues with when they don’t truly know what the process is.