Sunday, February 17, 2013

GMOs

A few articles caught my eye about GMOs.

Let me say first that I personally am in favor of GMO crops. People have been breeding animals and crops for hundreds of years in attempts to isolate desirable traits, so why shouldn't we do it faster when we have the technology to do so? Why put labeling restrictions on, for example, highly productive varieties of wheat? After all, if we use less productive methods, we have to cultivate more land. Shouldn't we limit the amount of land being cultivated? Still, the GMOs on animals make me nervous for some reason. See the specifics after the jump.


Here are some articles on GMOs. The first, about "golden rice," advocates for getting people in developing countries to produce rice that's genetically modified to include some vitamin A. I am suspicious of this like the critics described in the article, probably because I heard Vandana Shiva talk at Johns Hopkins a few years ago. She said that the real problem is monocropping: that farmers are encouraged to produce one crop at a time instead of intercropping. Farmers who alternate grains and pulses (say, producing lentils in between crops of wheat, assuming those crops work in the same conditions) heal the land and provide themselves with a lot more nutrients than those who just produce grains all the time. Makes sense to me, but I guess it doesn't make sense to farmers, since some are choosing to monocrop. I suspect that they make more money that way, or they wouldn't do it. Global demand for wheat is large, so maybe farmers sell their crops to make money, and then don't buy good food with their money, so they end up eating more poorly than if they produced lentils and wheat. Do we condemn them if that's their choice? What if they choose not to grow or not to eat golden rice? They already choose mostly to eat white rather than brown rice. I'm skeptical of golden rice's claims.

The second article is about new genetically modified beef. I don't eat beef so this isn't something I'd be consuming anyway, but it doesn't sound good. On the other hand, if it makes beef cheaper (if more tasteless) then it makes beef more accessible for the poor.

Finally, this reminds me of the controversy over GMO salmon. I figure that an article from HuffPo and one from the Washington Times should give us some different points of view. Read both, class, and see what you think!


(This is the first blog entry for the second reading quiz, and no, it's not on the quiz tomorrow!)

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