In the current issue of Modern Farmer magazine, there’s an article that addresses GMO issues. Yes, one more discussion of applying science to our dinner.
We all know that nearly all of the corn, cotton and soybeans grown in the US is from GMO seed, and it has cut the amount of pesticides used by 90 per cent in corn, while boosting yields. And we know that Papayas in Hawaii were saved by GMO science after being all but wiped out by a virus.
But the story of Eggplants in Bangladesh tells how anti-GMO activists were able to delay large-scale planting of a GMO variety for many years, even though it would have prevented very serious chemical exposure problems.
Eggplant is very popular in Bangladesh; its the 3rd most commonly grown vegetable. Due to problems with fruit and shoot borers the growers were using extremely hazardous pesticides, as much as 80 to 100 times a season, with few or no safeguards for workers or consumers. A GMO variety known as Bt Eggplant was developed which all but eliminated the problem with borers, and pesticide use was greatly reduced. However, objections by activists delayed the wide-scale use of Bt Eggplant until more studies could be done.
Other uses for GMOs? Scientists from a New York University have created a blight resistant GMO Chestnut tree – American chestnuts have been all but wiped out from a blight. In China, researchers with with American and Swedish scientists, have discovered a gene from the barley plant which, when injected into rice, can eliminate the rice crop’s methane emissions – which accounts for about 17 per cent of the world’s totals. In Africa, GMO crops can amp up micronutrients to help correct deficiencies in children and pregnant women.
We can’t ignore that as much as 70 per cent of American consumers don’t want to eat food containing GMOs, but we also can’t ignore that genetic engineering has important benefits without a substantial risk. Yes GMO products absolutely must be tested. However, hysteria and fake science can’t be allowed to rule the day.
I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View from AgNet West.