Skeptico has been posting recently on GM Food, his stance is a little more radical than mine but for the most part I’m in agreement with him. I decided to take a look at some of the common “complaints” about GM food and try to imagine the same arguments applied to manned flight:
It’s “playing god” or unnatural.
Man wasn’t supposed to fly! Those Wright Brothers are playing God by trying to give us wings!
The playing god argument has been used for so many things that it has become meaningless. It assumes the existence of a god and it ignores all the other times that we as a species have “played god”.
It’s wrong to mix genes from radically different organisms.
It’s wrong to be suspended in mid-air!
If you’re going to say that something is wrong, you really should give a reason. Just saying that something is wrong doesn’t make it so.
Religious and vegetarian groups would object to genes from some species.
Hot Air balloonists will object to these new-fangled winged chariots!
There will always be a group of people who object to something. If you object to planes, don’t fly in them. If you object to GM foods, don’t eat them (This brings up the labelling issue. Yes, I think labelling needs to be carefully handled).
Do we really know what we’re doing?
Do those Wright Brothers know what they’re doing? Someone could die in that contraption!
The Wright Brothers probably weren’t entirely sure what they were doing, that’s why they were experimenting. Unless we experiment, we won’t get any closer to knowing what we’re doing.
Have we evaluated the risks sufficiently?
People high in the air seems risky to me, they could all die if something goes wrong!
Well yes everything carries a risk. We can only hope that the risks have been evaluated effectively and that the worse-case scenarios have been considered.
Do we need genetically modified food?
Do we need aeroplanes? People managed for thousands of years without them.
We don’t need planes, but they sure are handy. We probably don’t need GM foods, but there’s a big chance it could solve a lot of problems, especially as our population grows and food resources become more scarce.
It is just going to provide luxuries for rich, and won’t feed the Third World.
Planes are just for rich people, the poor won’t be able to fly!
Commercial airlines, for the most part, service the rich. But look at all the other flight industries. Air ambulances, bush pilots, disaster relief, military backup, search and rescue. Flight has benefited the rich, the poor and the threatened. GM food can do the same.
Agriculture is already too technological. This will only make it worse.
Travelling is already too complicated, flying will just make it worse.
Surely only a Luddite would object to something purely because it is “too technological”. What does that even mean? Ever since agriculture began, tools have been developed to make it easier. Technology is not inherently evil, nor is it inherently good. It just is.
There are better ways to improve resistance and reduce chemicals on the land.
There are better ways to travel!
Better is very subjective isn’t it? Someone I work with prefers trains to planes, but I’d much rather get to where I’m going as fast as possible. Whether GM food is better or worse than any alternative is just an opinion unless there is hard evidence one way or the other.