Debate Magazine

Can Genetically Modified Food Save Lives?

By Reasoningpolitics @reasonpolitics

gmofoodSlate has posted a compelling case for genetically modified foods. In the last 12 years, over 8 million children have died of vitamin A deficiency. The culprit is white rice, itself a result of ancient genetic engineering, and its lack of vitamin A. Three billion people rely on rice as their primary cereal grain, putting millions at risk of malnutrition. Rice, like corn, only supplements a diet; you will die of malnutrition if you fail to diversify your diet.

Scientists have since created something called golden rice containing vitamin A. This crop has not made it to places like the Philippines, where it is most needed, because of the anti-GMO movement:

Finally, after a 12-year delay caused by opponents of genetically modified foods, so-called “golden rice” with vitamin A will be grown in the Philippines. Over those 12 years, about 8 million children worldwide died from vitamin A deficiency. Are anti-GM advocates not partly responsible?

After taking on many specific arguments from Greenpeace against golden rice, the author gives us a summary of the evidence:

Of course, no technology is without flaws, so regulatory oversight is useful. But it is worth maintaining some perspective. In 2010, the European Commission, after considering 25 years of GMO research, concluded that “there is, as of today, no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms.”

Now, finally, golden rice will come to the Philippines; after that, it is expected in Bangladesh and Indonesia. But, for 8 million kids, the wait was too long.

This continues to be a topic that I’m personally evolving on. My nature is to look at GMO with the utmost skepticism. I prefer ‘natural’ foods to ‘modified’ ones. That does bring up the question of which foods are which? Most everything you and I eat never existed in nature in the first place. They were modified by our ancestors through selective breeding. Cows, pigs, goats, sheep, chickens are all the result of domestication. Corn is engineered to such a degree it cannot reproduce without humans.

If basically everything I eat is ‘engineered’ then how can I oppose GMO in its entirely? That is the question I need to answer for myself. The more I research this topic, the more my opposition wanes. I will always feel the need for intense oversight of this technology, but to oppose it entirely seems to be based on irrational fears derived of my own ignorance, not on the reality of evidence.

I do not wish to look back and be seen in the same light as climate change deniers who ignore evidence. Confirmation bias is a powerful force inside of us; the desire to support our pre-existing beliefs runs deep inside our biology. Only by challenging our most cherished beliefs will get us close to the truth in these matters.

More on GMO’s here and here. For balance, Greenpeace’s opposition to golden rice is worth a read as well.

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