Bioethics Blogs

Who’s Afraid of GMO?

The answer, it seems, is quite a number of people. The
question that we really need to address is why. Are these concerns rational,
are they science based, should they provide the basis for public policy? People
have been using selective breeding and hybridization techniques for thousands
of years to alter the genetic makeup of both plant and animal agricultural
products. Neil Tyson Degrasse 
made the point very clearly and effectively that almost
nothing we grow agriculturally has been unchanged from the plants and animals
living naturally. They have all been altered by the intentional action of human
beings. Selective breeding, of course, has significant differences from what is
currently characterized by the term genetic modification which is done using
the techniques of molecular biology to insert genetic material. But they do
establish the principle that most people are happy to eat food products which
have been genetically altered by people. That sweet red apple you had for lunch
or the fattened cattle which produced your juicy hamburger do not exist in
nature.

The techniques of genetic engineering which can be used to
insert genetic material into the genome of a cell permitted the alteration of
crops that resist pests requiring less use of pesticides. They allow selective
herbicide resistance allowing the use of minimally toxic or nontoxic  herbicides as well as no till farming which
diminishes erosion and reduces use of fossil fuels. They have also been able to
use these techniques to add essential nutrients to address widespread dietary
deficiencies. An example of this is the development of golden rice, the
genetic
modification of rice
to produce vitamin A. These are good things.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.