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Monday, November 2, 2009

My least favorite argument against GMOs

My colleague, Yasmin Cardoza, just forwarded a link to an NPR story about a Penn State researcher's work on the consequences of gene drift from GMO crop plants. The research is well thought out and certainly work that should continue, but that's not the point of this post. I was drawn more to comments section at the NPR website which were full of the typically polarized statements that go along with the GMO discussion. I am always amazed when I read comments about how "farmers can't save GMO seeds". Well, no, but most farmers cannot or do not save seeds as is...seeds (0r reproductive parts housing them) are what farmers sell, saving them isn't the point, selling them is. The harvested part of corn, watermelon, apples, cotton, and most of the other crops we grow are or contain the seeds. Even if farmers wanted to save their own seed to avoid buying it, weather in many of areas of the country render this impossible. There is a reason why our seeds come from California's central valley and southern Arizona. They have the longest field seasons, which allow plants to complete their entire life cycle, unlike most agricultural systems.

None of this is to imply that I am wildly in favor of GMO crops. My personal opinion is complicated, but simply stated, I think GMOs make sense in some situations and not in others and that the risk they raise in terms of gene flow should be weighed against other benefits to the systems (reduced pesticide use, etc). When I have the choice, I buy food from small, local growers and prefer them to mass market options. However, I don't do this to avoid GMOs. There are many well reasoned arguments against (and for) GMOs, and I dislike when misinformation clouds and interesting discussion.

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