Choosing sides in the latest food fight

Choosing sides in the latest food fight

I like to give you both sides of a controversy, even if I think one side is charging off in the wrong direction, citing unreliable data, and issuing to the public horrific predictions of international disaster for the human race. Genetically modified (GM) food is one of the most important issues facing the world today. But most people aren’t sure whether to be for or against it, because they’re getting opinions-from experts-on both sides. So here is the case for the plaintiff.

“A conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, designed to calm fears about genetically modified food (GM), boomeranged when it was revealed there had been a safety cover-up by the FDA,” reported the UK Daily Express newspaper. “U.S. lawyer Steven Druker has revealed written evidence that the Food and Drug Administration had overruled its own scientists to claim that GM foods are safe.”

Druker claimed scientists had told him GM foods may have their own “as yet unknown” unique carcinogens and toxins “which are not being tested for.”

Added to the fears of GM food opponents is the revelation that most biotechnology is controlled by six multinational companies. Some see this as a monopoly of the world food supply.

Most people, whether a potter or a painter, a biologist or a botanist, won’t bother going beyond all this bad news to get the whole story before passing judgment. But, as I said above, I like to give you the pros and the cons, so let’s take a look at the flip side of the GM issue.

Do the benefits of genetically modified foods outweigh the risk?

Now about those “unknown carcinogens” Steve Druker is so worried about. In all fairness to the GMers, you can’t test for carcinogens and toxins that are unknown, can you?

And as for the monopoly question, if there are six companies duking it out for world markets, that hardly seems like a monopoly.

The evidence that GM foods are harmful is on shaky ground and just isn’t convincing-in spite of the lurid stories about the threat to our children and thickened stomach linings in experimental rats. GM foods are even being compared to thalidomide, and there are dark warnings of two-headed babies. I’m not sure I buy that.

Look at what happened with DDT: The “experts” told us it was dangerous to animals and humans alike. Everyone panicked, and DDT was banned worldwide. But all the “evidence” against it turned out to be totally false, and tens of millions of children have died needlessly in impoverished nations as a result. Even today there’s still confusion and misunderstanding about its safety.

So, taking all of this into consideration, I’m going out on a limb on this one. I think GM foods will be a boon to mankind by increasing life span and feeding the many hungry people all over the world. From the humanitarian point of view, there is no doubt that genetically modified foods can save millions of people from starvation. The bottom line is that too many people don’t have enough to eat, and they don’t CARE if a gene in the potato they’re eating was changed-all they care about is having the potato. RH


“Lawyer’s challenge to U.S. over GM safety claims,” The Guardian, 2/29/00

“Cover-up over GM food safety exposed,” UK Daily Express, 2/29/00

“U.S. accused of suppressing GM food fears,” Daily Telegraph, 2/29/00

“GM controversy intensifies,” BBC News (, 10/15/99