What is in this article?:
- Agriculture rapidly moving toward acceptance of GM crops
- GM benefits carry the day
- Zero contamination
- GM cat is out of the bag
- Coexistence between conventional and organic growers ought to be possible, but it will take both sides to make it work.
- Organic consumers and producers need to separate the physical from the cosmological. Quackery is quackery. Promulgating medieval nostrums about plant nutrition is constitutionally protected religious expression, but it is not science.
- The United States can remain in the top tier of countries in carrying out responsible and useful GM crop research, including research into the risks presented by this new technology; or we can abdicate our place, and let other nations and individuals do as they please.
Philip Bowles, Bowles Farming, Los Banos, Calif.: "The future of agriculture is not a return to the 17th century. New technology will be required to feed the billions coming, and this progress cannot be stopped. The cat is long out of the bag."
GM benefits carry the day
Serious environmentalists, like Stewart Brand, realize that the potential benefits from GM technology far outweigh whatever risks might arise from its use.
Asking, or requiring, other growers to modify their behavior to accommodate the legitimate business interests of other growers is acceptable. Turkey farms agree to mutual isolation distances that protect their animals from infection, for instance. This issue becomes more tricky when growers are asked to modify their behavior because of the religious beliefs of other growers and/or their customers. Should a pork producer not be allowed to operate near a Kosher poultry plant, lest the proximity of an unclean animal affect the poultry operator’s Kosher customers? Most people would suggest that the Kosher producer should find a more congenial location for his business. A similar shift in balance is appropriate when objections to field practices are based on the feelings of the complaining party, rather than their competing commercial and property rights.
There is no reason to believe that organic, export or other GE-sensitive alfalfa production will be destroyed by GM alfalfa. People around the world are rapidly losing their fear over GM crops. I’m not aware of one case, one time, anywhere when someone got so much as a bellyache from exposure to or eating GM plants. There have been billions of meals eaten, over more than a decade, and no one has gotten ill from DNA poisoning. Ever. But as long as there are consumers who want food grown without pesticides and herbicides, there will be growers eager to meet that demand, and more power to them. Many organic growers find an inherent virtue in practicing the ancient methods, the same way some fine woodworkers eschew power tools. This is a principled and disciplined approach to life we should admire. I often buy organic produce, not because of any safety concerns, but because of the more interesting varieties, and sometimes higher quality. Farmers working near homes or public parks can find it less trouble to just farm organically. Organics is a big business, and those of us who practice IPM can learn a great deal from successful organic farmers. Growers who do not supply that market should be required to take all reasonable precautions to ensure that the organic industry can continue to serve its customers, such as controlling spray drift and managing pesticides in drain water, and in managing pollen drift from GM crops. But they cannot be expected to remain in a time warp, and abandon tools just because someone, somewhere, might detect the presence of something that makes them unhappy, but not unwell.