The Four Horsemen, or Science?
Posted by hyperpat on December 4, 2006
Seems that many people have a strong aversion to any form of genetically modified crop. Most of that aversion seems to be based on poor assumptions: that such crops have a high potential to be unhealthy to eat, that the modified plants will run wild and take over the world, destroying all other types of plants in the process, or that the whole idea is ‘unnatural’, against God’s will. While there are some risks associated with directly modifying the germ plasm of plants, the risk factors are on the same order as those that have existed ever since farmers have been around and ‘crossing’ various plant species. Today’s corn is a far cry from the types that existed when European settlers first hit the American shores, and almost all of that change is due to careful cross-breeding and culling for the desired qualities.
Now, with global warming of some degree almost certainly on the near horizon, studies are showing that existing types of food plants can be expected to have decreasing yields, in a world with a still all-too-rapidly rising population. Genetic modification offers at least some hope of keeping yields up, and farming’s impact on the overall ecology within bounds. Unless we want to see huge famines and even more of the world’s population with only marginal amounts to eat, we either have to use such methods, or figure out a way to reduce the world’s population. Of course, we know how to do the latter, but I don’t think most people really want to go that route.