Just what makes a natural food? Anti-GMO advocates consistently bring up the idea that food should be ‘natural’ or ‘organic’. But when it comes to human-induced modification of genes, it turns out that most traditional crops are really far more modified (and far less tested) than feared GMOs.
Kevin Folta writes an informative opinion piece on this issue here. In it he creates a handy table for side by side comparison of traditional modifications – which points out the inconstancies in the arguments of many who advocate compulsory (misleading) labelling of GMOs. (Click the table to enlarge)
In what seems like irony, in the context of the GM vs. Organic food debate, a recent study has shown that genetically modified crops actually help organic crops grow. This paper explains that GMOs provide a king of ‘herd immunity’ which protects the entire ecosystem – in a very similar manner to vaccinations. Unfortunately it would probably be too optimistic to imagine the advocates of organic food deciding to plant GMOs next to their crops any time soon.
Because insecticides kill indiscriminately, they kill many species that are beneficial to farmers – such as spiders and ladybirds. These predator species feast on aphids. Thus, the chain of events goes like this: Bt cotton allows farmers to use less insecticide, which causes predator populations to increase, which then leads to a decrease in the population of aphids.
This is a win not only for farmers, but also for the environment.
Read more at biotech-now.
The picture above comes from anti-GM protests in the UK in 1999. More than 10 years later there are still anti-GM protests, but it seems like the political landscape has changed. Over the past month a large controversial protest called “Take The Flour Back” has been making headlines with its goal of destroying an open-field experiment of aphid resistant BT-Wheat, developed by scientists at Rothamsted Research. What made this event special however is the way the scientists reacted to the threat of years worth of work being destroyed – and it may have been a turning point for these discussions.