Where are the facts on GMOs?

Thomas Bonan, Writer

Last month, the state of Hawaii passed a law that banned biotech companies from growing any new genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from the island.

This law is just part of a series of backlashes against GMO practice, which consists of altering the DNA of an organism—usually a crop—to produce a certain desirable trait. Many opponents of GMOs, especially in Hawaii, cited them as an unethical inversion of nature and reported that they caused cancer among rats in the lab, have increased the prevalence of childhood allergies, and are responsible for some of the out-of-control super-weeds that have impacted the island in recent years.

The opposition to GMOs is just a subset of the larger left-leaning health-food movement that has grown in the United States over the last decade. This movement has spurred the gluten-free and paleo diets, helped increase the demand for organic and sustainably grown foods, and seems to be trying to return food production in the United States to a time before large corporations dominated the industry.

At a fundamental level, the movement is misguided. The scientific community unequivocally opposes the ideas that these people support–including the efficacy and healthiness of the gluten-free and paleo diets, but especially their views regarding GMOs.

Politically, this is the only issue where liberals do not side with scientists (whereas on issues such as stem-cell research, climate change, evolution, and abortion, liberals have been invaluable allies to the scientific community). Many have gotten so entrenched in the organic and natural labeling of food they have become intolerant of anything less, creating a severe disconnect between science, health, and ethics.

In reality, organically grown food resides in an ambiguous legal grey area. In fact, up until two years ago, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had no guidelines regarding what could be labeled as natural or organic.This led to a dramatic rise in large, “organic” agribusinesses whose practices are no more sustainable or healthy than any other large farm. Thus, the hope of having a food industry revolving around locally grown food is nothing more than wishful thinking. Because of opposition from a large group of scientifically-minded people, there is limited national discourse regarding how we should deal with impending food sustainability issues, even though GMOs present a viable solution to both issues of production needs and economic stability on farms.

Due to the wide critique and general misunderstanding of the practice, any internet search or news reports on GMOs will yield overwhelmingly negative information. It is easy to fall in the trap of dismissing scientific inquiry into agriculture as antithetic to growing food in more natural way. At present, GMOs present our only real method of making food healthier and more affordable in the foreseeable future.

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