Duncan – The front page article on June 6 questions widespread concerns over genetically engineered foods and there is a suggestion that these concerns originate in an anti-science and anti-progress element in society. I don’t think so.
While not an expert on biotechnology, I have read a lot of the original research supporting and questioning certain developments around GE foods and discovered that many well-qualified people have been doing likewise. I don’t see a general desire to stop scientific research and technological advancement in this area. Instead, there appears to be a need for more and better research.
It’s not the science and technology, but its inappropriate use that appears to be the problem. Development and patenting of crops resistant to herbicides sold by the same companies has caused further concentration of wealth and power in an already unequal society. This technological revolution initially was welcomed by many, especially farmers, who could now grow weed-free crops with minimum cultivation. Concerns that toxic levels of these herbicides, especially glyphosate products, could remain in the food supply were initially dismissed but now they are being detected in humans and livestock and raising a lot of questions about health effects.
Effects on ecosystems and biodiversity are equally concerning. Overzealous and almost complete weed control over large areas is severely reducing food supply and habitat for a lot of critters once thought inconsequential. Suddenly, we are realizing that we need wild bees, for instance. Loss of the monarch butterfly is now being blamed on too much herbicide use and loss of milkweed, its main food supply. Planting milkweed may make us feel good, but how many similar situations are out there? And guess who’s at the top of the food chain!