GMOs or GE Crops are seeds, animals or even bacteria that have been altered by human technologies to manifest specific traits. They are highly controversial. Glyphosate’s linkage to the most widely used GE seed, Round Up ready (tolerant), is a major cause of this controversy. However, it is not the only concern. Issues of seed patent ownership and genetic drift into non-GE crops are of grave concern to many. For smaller segments of society there are concerns about allergic reactions, but there is scant scientific evidence that allergenic reactions are a significant problem, particularly as compared to the large numbers of people allergic to nuts, shell fish and other common foods.
It should be noted that citizens, activists and scientists are very concerned about the use of the latest gene editing tool CRISPR on human embryos. A rogue Chinese scientist used CRISPR on embryos in 2017-18 with potentially tragic consequences for the edited children being born. We agree with the world’s leading CRISPR scientists who are calling for a moratorium on human editing of inheritable genes.
Beyond that our position is nuanced in relationship to GE crops. We believe the science must be pursued in the age of global warming and its myriad impacts including sea level rise. We may need GE crops to sustain food production in the extreme conditions developing in various regions of the world. We believe that the traits developed using gene editing should be used to enhance biodiversity, promote regenerative and climate smart agriculture, not sell more pesticides and herbicides that support industrial monocultures.
We believe the precautionary principle must be applied to prevent harm. We believe that GE crop companies must share the wealth derived from engineered products with the cultures or communities providing the DNA that has been used to create products.
We also believe that not all genetic tools or engineering are bad. Critics of GE crops must acknowledge the fact that we accept the use of genetic engineering in medicine to create drugs and treatment like insulin for diabetics and for creation of yeast that most every family uses to bake. Hawaiian papaya would not exist without genetic engineering used to stop a terrible disease. There are also good examples of projects in which cutting edge genetic typing tools are used to identify many desirable traits for different environmental conditions. Non-controversial traditional breeding methods are then used to propagate plants with those varied desired traits to create seed supplies.
We believe that the most serious concern about genetic engineering of food is that patents could mean control of seeds and animals. This means that if a large proportion of seeds and animals were to be genetically modified and then owned by corporations, those corporations could control much of the food supply for extended periods of time. This must be prevented.
We further believe that the candy company, Mars Inc, has modelled how GE crops should be developed, their generated wealth shared and products used to enhance the lives of people, not the profits of chemical companies. To hear a podcast about Mars’ Orphan Crops of Africa and Nitrogen-fixing Corn projects, hit this link.