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Finding Neutrality in the Genetically Modified Food Debate

GMO debate IntentI’ve been heavily involved in understanding and tracking the GMO debate for many years.  As an expert for the natural products industry, the issue of genetic modification and the role it should or should not play in natural products is a heavily debated (and litigated) topic. You need look no further than the New York Times, the Dr. Oz show, or your Facebook feed to get a dose of the emotion and polarized positions on both sides of this subject.

Over the course of these years I have come to a couple conclusions that I believe heavily influence our ability to productively communicate about this issue: 1) Despite the rapidly growing debate on this subject, there is still an incredible lack of awareness about GMO and an even bigger level of ignorance about the various topics at play under the “GMO” label, and 2) the emotional intensity this topic carries with it makes improved education, understanding and rational dialog a seemly impossible task at times.

I confess that I also feel a lot of emotion about this subject and wish for more information and understanding. I am troubled by conventional farming practices, the petro-chemical use required to keep it going and the seeming disregard for the natural wisdom of nature. I worry about the global impact the spread of these farming practices into developing countries will have not only to the health of the soil and people but to the traditional farming wisdom that will no longer be passed from generation to generation.

On the flip side, I believe that as humans we are hard-wired to experiment, research and evolve our understanding of the world. Given what I know of evolution and farming, biotechnology seems like a logical place for exploration in science. It’s in the application of this science that things start to get complicated to me. My sense is that, like most things, the best scenario for people and the planet as it relates to GMO is toward the center from either side of the extreme.

Last week I came across a series of articles that are currently posting on Grist.org attempting to do the thing I’ve been hoping I would have the ability to do myself someday – investigate and dissect this issue without emotion and understand the impact of biotechnology in food crops on human and planet health.

Like me, the reporter, Nathanael Johnson, has been wishing for a rational dissection of this issue for many years. I’ve spoken to some of the same people he’s interviewed for this series and am impressed by the depth of his research. I’ve been reading and note taking as each of his articles are published and hope that if you’re also seeking to understand this complex issue, you will take the time to read his pieces as well.

You can find a link to the first article in his series here and can find links to subsequent articles in the series at the bottom of the piece.

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Image by Steve Rhodes

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