Friday, 11 April 2014

Truth And Fiction When It Comes To Genetically Modified Foods (GMO).
Truth And Fiction When It Comes To Genetically Modified Foods (GMO).
"Debate" is a nice name for it. Sometimes it's more like a melee-- a meme-driven, name-calling free-for-all. Hackles, and voices, are raised. Rotten fruit is thrown. And all kinds of things pass for truth. Did you hear that Monsanto doesn't serve genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in its snack bars?

It's not just genetic modification. We're saying about organics, honeybees, factory livestock, fishery exhaustion, aquaculture, yields, chemicals, antibiotics and monocrops. Some of these can be as polarizing as the most difficult social problems; there's as deep a schism in the food community as there is in Congress. On the right, there's the insistence that biotech is the only method to feed a growing population, and the reluctance to admit the drawbacks of industrial agriculture. On the left, it's just the opposite. Monsanto, the avatar for Big Ag, is evil incarnate.

Unearthed is an attempt to work out the schism and nail down the difficult, cold truths. The challenge is that, too often, truths are warm and slippery; evidence has a maddening method of being equivocal. Look at any present scientific question-- any at all-- and you can cherry-pick evidence to support the position you occur to like.

Case in point: the effect on human health of genetically modified crops, Unearthed Issue No. 1. Are they safe to eat?

There's a lot of research on the topic, but parsing the hundreds of researches done on GMO safety requires more time and knowledge than the majority of us have. Instead, we look to someone else, someone we trust, to do it for us. And so the question of whether GMOs are safe becomes an extremely different question: Whom do you trust?

The majority of us are already leaning one method or the other on GMOs, and it's natural to trust the source we agree with. And there's the issue. We speak to people who share our worldview (it's a nicer word than predisposition), dig our heels in deeper and before you know it we're shutting down the government.

To figure out how we all may make better decisions about charged problems, I spoke with James Hammitt, director of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis and a professor of economics and decision sciences. "Risks that are unpredictable and feared tend to be more feared," he said. GMOs are fairly new, poorly understood by numerous consumers, and in infraction of our sense that food should be natural. Not only are those dangers unpredictable and feared, they're visited on people trying to feed their families healthfully and safely while the benefits accumulate to farmers and biotech companies. All of that adds up to an atmosphere that makes a reasoned debate difficult. You can read more about this Genetically Modified Foods (GMO) article at WebMedTalk

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