Organic Is Overrated: For safe, sustainable, and healthy food, there’s only one way to go- genetically modified.
The critics of genetic engineering in agriculture—also known as “genetic modification” (GM) or gene-splicing—for decades have relied upon and promulgated The Big Lie: that food from genetically engineered crops is untested, unsafe, unwanted, and unneeded. All of these assertions, made by radical anti-technology organizations such as the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Environmental Defense, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Center for Food Safety, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Greenpeace are demonstrably false.
The benefits of genetically engineered crops are proven. According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, from 1996 to 2010, the use of modern genetic engineering technology increased crop production and value by $78 billion; it obviated the need to apply of 443 million kg of pesticide active ingredients to crops; in 2010 alone, it reduced CO2 emissions by 19 billion kg, the equivalent of taking approximately 9 million cars off the road; it conserved biodiversity by saving 91 million hectares of land; and it helped alleviate poverty by increasing the agricultural productivity and food security of 15 million small farmers who are some of the poorest people in the world.
Tomatoes from an organic farm in Cyprus (photo credit: George M. Groutas).
Are genetically engineered products safe? There is a long-standing consensus in the scientific community that the newer techniques of genetic engineering are essentially an extension, or refinement, of earlier methods for genetic improvement. As long ago as 1989, a National Research Council analysis concluded, “Crops modified by molecular and cellular methods should pose risks no different from those modified by classical genetic methods for similar traits. As the molecular methods are more specific, users of these methods will be more certain about the traits they introduce into the plants.”
And according to the Society of Toxicology, “There is no reason to suppose that the process of food production through biotechnology leads to risks of a different nature than those…created by conventional breeding.”