Point/Counterpoint pt1

Tony Cox

Genetic modification of foods is best

Of all the head-up-ass causes that stinky protesters and limousine liberals have espoused, opposing genetically modified food probably takes the taco.

As with every other radical cause, those who oppose genetic modification of food have a canned litany of reasons why you should join the revolution. One of the main criticisms of GM food is that it is unsafe, but the simple fact is that GM foods are at least as safe as — and probably more safe than — organic foods. A number of international scientific associations, including the World Health Organization, have stated that GM food is a perfectly acceptable and healthy alternative to organically grown food.

Indeed, 3,500 scientists, including 20 Nobel Prize winners, have signed the AgBio World Foundation’s Declaration of Support for Agricultural Biotechnology. Agricultural cross-breeding began in the earliest days of civilization, and GM food is just the next step in culinary evolution. Today, according to Paul Driessen of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, more than 34 percent of U.S. corn is genetically modified, as well as 78 percent of soybeans and much other grocery produce. Yet there have been no harmful effects to any person or ecosystem because of GM food.

While critics of genetically modified foods are usually so anti-corporate that they won’t use any product that wasn’t grown in somebody’s back yard, they haven’t had any scruples about joining forces with big business for this cause. National grocery store chains like Wild Oats Markets and Whole Foods Market, along with the über-hip outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia, are die-hard contributors to the anti-GM effort.

Contrary to what the neo-hippies in Seattle and the Park Avenue yuppies at the organic food store will tell you, the benefits of GM food are being seen throughout the world. Genetic modification makes low tillage possible, and less acreage is necessary for growing crops, so more food can be produced with less effort. Also, genetically modified foods eliminate the need to use copious amounts of chemical pesticides. Scientists are currently working on developing crops that can be grown in inhospitable climates, such as those where drought and crop failure are some of the leading causes of low crop yield.

Don’t try to tell this to the whack-jobs at the Earth Liberation Front, however. ELF is an association of eco-terrorists who sabotage the equipment and research of scientists and corporations whose work stands in contradiction of their “socially conscious” agenda. One such instance is when ELF ransacked the lab and destroyed the test crops of Florence Wambugu, a Kenyan agronomist who was attempting to develop a virus-resistant sweet potato. This crop, according to Forbes magazine, had the promise of feeding “some 800 million chronically undernourished people in the world.” So while children are starving in the third world, self-righteous leftists are destroying technologies which would potentially save millions from starvation.

I have to admit that “playing God” with the building blocks of life is a bit troublesome to my Catholic sensibilities, but the potential benefits from genetic modification are too great to ignore. One would hope that those who claim to espouse agendas that will help the suffering people of the world will open their eyes to the scientific miracle of genetically modified food.

Tony Cox is a junior philosophy major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].