It seems like an issue that is constantly there, genetically modified foods, and yet there is so much bad information out there, an informed decision is difficult to make.
Take for instance grafting. Grafting is a method of transferring one piece of a plant onto a plant of a different kind. Fruit has been altered in this manner for millennia and no one seems to have a problem with this method of altering plants. Yet the same people speak out against genetic modification. The argument that I have found from these people is that grafting does not alter genetics, yet many of the current research articles from a variety of journals say actually there is a change in genetics induced by grafting.
Despite this research there are plenty of anti-GM blogs that have been written recently that continue to say that grafting does not alter genetics, making it more "pure" than genetic modification.
Those who wish to go further tout the risks that supposedly come from eating GM foods. For instance, a popular article that came from an academic journal that is used in the anti-GM campaign is a study that "showed" that the stomachs of pigs that were fed GM foods were more inflamed than the stomachs of pigs that were not fed.
Yet the study that I just spoke of was not even performed properly. The pig stomachs were not opened up to determine if there really was any inflammation. The analysis was all done by visual inspection, which cannot truly determine if there was any inflammation. The journal was a new start up journal and the author was a clear anti-GM activist, and was receiving funds from anti-GM organizations.
Cancer has been a concern as well. Several articles (in legitimate journals such as Current Oncology) have found that there is no link between cancer and GM foods, and it has been shown that a research article that made the claim of the link of GM foods with cancer used cancer prone rats, was not subject to objective refereeing, and again the author had financial ties to anti-GM organizations.
One anti-GM group in Germany feels so strongly about their opposition that they have actually gone and torn up fields that were designated to research on GM crops. They have gone to jail several times, but once they are out, they find another field to tear up.
Both humans and nature have been at work cross-breeding plants to make them better at surviving the environment. We have an opportunity to accelerate the pace at which this is done through genetic modification.
Imagine farmers spending less money on tilling, pesticides and herbicides. This is what scientists are working on creating, plants that naturally resist pests, plants that don't require tilling before planting. Imagine increasing yield at a time when the world population is continuing to grow and food production is not keeping pace.
The backlash and poor science has slowed the production of GM foods perhaps at the worst time, when more and more people are going hungry worldwide. Increasing worldwide yield, especially in poorer countries, could alleviate the problem but fear of GM foods has kept the research down.
Of course most new technology and science has to survive a generation of doubt, so hopefully in the future genetic modification will be accepted.
Jeremie is a SUNY Plattsburgh graduate and Wilmington resident. Suggestions and comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org