The debate on Genetically Modified Organisms has been raging, largely unchanged, for some years – Frankenstein Foods are coming to your plate if they are not already there. Aficionados of science fiction may point out that Moreauesque foods may be a better term, since Dr Moreau did genetic engineering, whereas Dr Frankenstein merely assembled a living organism from body parts, all of the same species. But I digress.
Greenpeace lead the charge saying
While scientific progress on molecular biology has a great potential to increase our understanding of nature and provide new medical tools, it should not be used as justification to turn the environment into a giant genetic experiment by commercial interests. The biodiversity and environmental integrity of the world’s food supply is too important to our survival to be put at risk.
On the other hand environmental writer Mark Lynas says
I want to start with some apologies. For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.
But most important of all, farmers should be free to choose what kind of technologies they want to adopt. If you think the old ways are the best, that’s fine. You have that right.What you don’t have the right to do is to stand in the way of others who hope and strive for ways of doing things differently, and hopefully better.
Now according to your point of view, Lynas is either a sell-out, or is just applying the same scientific standards of evidence to genetic engineering and nuclear power, as most environmentalists are happy to do to global warming.
So who is right about the risks and the benefits?
Is there an ethical objection to “playing God” or “interfering with Nature” beyond the calculation of risk and benefit?
And the above is all about agriculture. What about industrial and medical uses of GM? What about alterations to the human genome?
Comments are open.
* Joe Otten is a councillor in Sheffield, and Friday editor of Liberal Democrat Voice