GMOs Are Neither Good Nor Bad

Published on May 2, 2015

I came across How I Got Converted to GMOs via ma.tt. This is a response to that article.

I think it’s wrong to assume this is black and white or that the issue of GMOs is the centre of feeding the world. There are actual issues threatening how we feed everyone going forward. The UN has pretty much got it covered. But agriculture is not the same the world over, issues in America may not translate to Brazil.

I think we all need to be honest and not conflate the issues that differ around the world with each other. So, looking at America, many questions can be asked:

  • How many GMO crops are even grown for human consumption?
  • How many monocultures exist to feed cows? For ethanol? For tobacco? For alchohol?
  • Why is 30% of all food grown, wasted? (Jones, 2004 cited in Lundqvist et al., 2008)
  • How can we control pest issues?
  • How can we have crops adapt with climate change?
  • How can we prevent (even reverse) soil degradation?
  • How can we prevent (even reverse) nitrogen run-off?

My point is, instead of trying to determine if A) GMOs are good, or B) GMOs are bad, we should instead be looking at actual issues of agriculture. GMOs may end up being part of the problem, or part of the solution but on either side, GMOs will not be the sole culprit.

Converting crops to GMOs does not address all of the issues I mentioned above. And neither does converting all GM crops to non-GM.

This conversation is a waste of time when it comes to actually fixing issues of agriculture. Specific to GMOs, sure, let’s talk about labeling which is a social/political issue. Or, let’s talk about the precautionary principle which has specific implications with GMOs.

But there is way too much variability in the usage of GMOs to argue, at a global scale, that GMOs are good or bad. For instance, having a GM eggplant benefit a farmer in Bangladesh does not give a pass to GM rapeseed in Europe. Those are two separate cases with their own implications.

Oilseed rape can be described as a high-risk crop for crop-to-crop gene flow and from crop to wild relatives.

(From Genetically modified organisms (GMOs): The significance of gene flow through pollen transfer)

That issue of cross-pollination and biodiversity is specific to GM rapeseed and does not conclude much in terms of eggplants in Bangladesh.

I think we need to stop arguing GMOs and start addressing the actual problems facing agriculture around the world. There is and will continue to be a wide array of causes to those problems and probably even more solutions to consider.