Should Organic Advocates Lighten Up Their Stance Against GMO’s?


Should Organic Advocates Lighten Up Their Stance Against GMO’s?

The presence of genetically modified crops (GMO’s) in our food supply is, and has been a topic of heated debate in the United States.  The risks and uncertainties of consuming genetically modified foods are many.  Unfortunately, however, GMO’s have been in our food supply for some time now and the chances of someone totally avoiding their consumption are slim to none.   
So the argument over whether or not GMO’s should be in our food supply is practically over.  


However, there remains one way to avoid the consumption of GMO foods, and that is to purchase products that are certified organic; organic certification precludes the use of genetically modified crops.  But of course, even that idea is not foolproof.  This is because as the use of GMO’s becomes more widespread, organic growers are at an ever increasing risk of having their crops contaminated through cross pollination with genetically modified crops.  


For example, grain traders in the U.S. claim that organic corn (a very promiscuous cross pollinator) contains a small percentage of genetic material from GMO corn and that this has been the case for about ten years now (Charles, 2011, March 1).  Therefore it is evident that it is continually becoming more challenging to completely avoid GMO’s.  The question then is, should advocates of organic agriculture lighten up their stance against GMO’s?  

There are certainly a number of benefits to incorporating GMO’s into the food supply, it is just a matter of whether or not the benefits outweigh the consequences.  Yes there are a number of risks and uncertainties as far as human and environmental health are concerned, but usually risks and uncertainties are attached to every new technological development.  One other thing people at times often forget is that traditional plant breeding involves the alteration of genes, which is exactly what genetic modification is.  So technically humans have been developing genetically modified crops for centuries.  

People must also not forget that like organic agriculture, one of the goals of developing GMO’s is to increase sustainable agricultural practices. A huge reduction in the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizes and increased food security, especially for poorer nations, are certainly benefits which organic advocates can relate to.  So since the avoidance of GMO’s is becoming more and more difficult and their implementation results in an increase in sustainable practices amongst larger conventional growers, why can’t advocates of organic agriculture lighten up on GMO’s?

Alex Plattes


References
Harvest of fear [Television series episode]. (2001). Nova/Fronline. PBS.
Charles, D (Producer). (2011, March 1). A growing debate: how to define 'organic' food [Radio series episode]. In (Executive producer), All Things Considered. Washington D.C.: NPR.

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