Commentary  Ditch the GMOs – they’re unsafe

Re: “Tampering with the genetic code” | Sci + Tech | March 29

Alexander Kunev appears to want to have his bioengineered cake and eat it too when he supports the prospect of a GMO future while concluding that nature’s genetic diversity is our common heritage. The goal of the biotech industry is the commodification and privatization of our genetic diversity. Kunev claims that with GMOs we can now “enhance desired traits of crops” such as disease and pest resistance and nutritional value. Were farmers selecting for undesirable traits before we had biotech? I think not. And the evidence to support increased yields and nutrition from GMO is debatable, to say the least.

Communities were breeding plants suited to local conditions and resistant to pests, diseases, and climatic conditions long before the biotech companies appropriated this right (and they did it without artificial fertilizers). Kunev acknowledges humans have “domesticated numerous species” but this statement does not reflect the incredible diversity of crop varieties and animal breeds once commonly raised. Biotech companies sit ready to privatize these varieties’ genetics, repackage them with other genes, and sell them back to farmers along with the appropriate chemicals and technology.

Kunev’s assertion that GMOs can be incorporated into “highly sustainable practices” shows he has bought the bio-technocrat’s sales pitch of a hunger-free, environmentally-friendly dreamworld hook, line, and sinker. How an agricultural system divorced from the natural processes of seed reproduction and married to a biotech industry lab technician can be called sustainable I do not know.

Kunev asks for “unbiased, multinational testing” of GM products. This experiment is already underway in the bodies of just about every citizen of the GM countries and those that accept their exports. Rather than more inconclusive lab work, let’s call it quits on GMOs until we see how our current experiment turns out 20 years from now.

Jesse Pratt
U2 Agricultural Economics