GM – Sense and Sensibility

In the GM debate you can see science and emotion playing for all sides. Yes – all sides – the debate is not necessarily dichotomised. One of the problems with the media is their insistence on setting up opposing views – the safety net of balanced broadcasting.

Think of it like this; if you were a reporter framing an argument, it might help the audience if you only hand out one ‘science’ badge! It’s easy to assume that promoters of Genetically Modified Organisms represent Science – after all, they are selling biotechnology. But when an environmental scientist criticises GMOs based upon scientific evidence and principles, that’s Science speaking too.

With the anti-GM opposition labelled as ‘scaremongering’ or ‘scared’ the emotional loading by the media is obvious. How can they be scientific in their arguments? Yet the pro-GM lobby hold sensibilities too. They have a lot riding on this – and not just academic pride. Investment risk is an emotive issue.

Who is GM helping?

Globalised pharmaceutical, petrochemical and pesticide companies did not pour money into GM research in order to feed the world. They did not patent and copyright genes to help the starving. Like the banks and the stock exchange they are gambling with huge investments and they must make it pay off at all costs. Owning genetic codes in the world’s food crops is about controlling the market. How perfect, when DNA becomes a self-replicating tool for investment risk reduction!

The Caution-to-the-wind Principle

This concept looks to become well established by Defra ministers according to some critics of their pro-GM stance. Dr Brian Johns summarised it neatly in a 2004 article titled “Approving GM Crops is Anti-science” by asking some simple questions:

“… Are GM crops needed? No. Do they taste better? No. Are they more nutritious? No. Are they cheaper? No. Are they better for the environment? No. Do they lead to greater yields? No. Are the management systems associated with their use easier for farmers? No. Do they reduce herbicide use? No.

As far as the consumer is concerned, there are therefore no perceived benefits associated with the use of GM crops, and that is why the consumer sees no need for them (29). Not only are they not needed, but the consumer also sees a whole host of problems associated with the introduction of GM technology. …”

In the same article Dr John points out plenty of reasons why we need to flex a healthy cynicism of the GMO masters and their approvers. Just reading part 6: Assurance and Lies is enough!

Benefits don’t stand up to scrutiny

Just look at the 10 reasons listed by Mark Anslow in The Ecologist for a bit of background to this criticism. Read about less than miraculous growth here and economic failure here. Not encouraging, is it?

Jason Ball
copyright © 2008 Jason P Ball


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2 Responses to “GM – Sense and Sensibility”

  1. natureheads Says:

    Biting at:

  2. GM Food Fight breaks out in media « the natureheads blog Says:

    […] Horizon set the scene for a red team/blue team argument, once again. Why does the media tend to present us with an apparently simple, stark dichotomy? (Frankenstein or Manna? You’re either for it or against […]

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