Common Error No. 92

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common-error-no-92

92. "Genetic modification is dangerous and should be banned."

The reverse is true. Genetic modification offers the opportunity to solve problems in ways that are far less dangerous than what we already do. GM crops, for example – often demonized as 'Frankenstein foods' by NGOs looking for a good scare campaign – can enable us to produce more food and safer foods in environmentally friendly and less intrusive ways.

To produce enough food at present we have to make extensive use of pesticides and fertilizers which leach into the environment, and we have to use energy intensively to protect our crops from adverse weather. Genetic modification is bringing us crops that incorporate natural pest-resisting properties without the need for chemicals. They bring crops that can fix atmospheric nitrogen to fertilize their own soil. They offer crops more resistant to adverse weather, better able to resist excessive cold, heat, drought, floods, or salinity. In each case GM makes use of something nature has already developed, and applies it to more useful crops. The result is more food production, particularly on marginal land, and with less environmental impact. It can also give us foods that last longer, stay fresher, and are less likely to carry diseases.

But genetic modification is making much more possible. We can now get crops and animals to produce large quantities of cheap vaccines, enabling us to protect millions of children in poorer countries from life-threatening or disabling diseases. The 'golden rice,' genetically modified to incorporate vitamin A can save millions of children from the blindness which results from its deficiency. And genetic modification can enable us to modify anopheles mosquitoes so they no longer act as hosts to the plasmodium which causes malaria, the biggest killer of all.

The mindless scare campaign against GM foods has already cost the lives and the well-being of countless children across the world. We should embrace the technology that offers a better future for all.