Monday, 27 May 2013

Anti-GMO Protests: Righteous Cause or Lack of Information?

May 25 marked the international day of protest against Monsanto, with more than 100 cities globally having hundreds or thousands protest that company for various reasons ranging from its Agent Orange production and subsequent use during the Vietnam War, to current pesticide and GMO uses.
May 25, 2013 Monsanto Protest Paris
Brief History: Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are those species that have had their genetic code altered in some way or other as a means of increasing production, resistance to pesticides, reduce water required for growth, resistance to pests or diseases. GMO production combined with improved agricultural techniques helped to bring millions of people access to food, allows drought-resistant crops to be grown in food insecure places, and importantly, allows for greatly yield to be obtained with smaller land requirements. That is what pesticide and GMO production corporations proudly claim, but indeed there is a cloudy aspect of their uses: primarily that the impacts on humans after use and consumption are widely unknown, as well the impacts on the environment, certain pesticide/herbicides have been blamed for causing Colony Collapse Syndrome, in which entire bee colonies die off or disappear.

The Importance of Fact vs Opinion
 This is not a topic I have studied extensively, and as such am not making any claims of expertise: I believe, like with most technologies, there exist both positive and negative aspects that should be taken into consideration before forming an opinion. While at a protest against Monsanto on Saturday, I heard many fact-like claims, like Monsanto is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers because of increased seed and water prices. After brief research I came upon an article in Nature that proved otherwise. The research found that unfortunately the high levels of suicide existed before Monsanto entered the region. This is one example of common misconceptions that may exist, emphasizing the need for proper research to further understanding of often times complex issues. Seeing that the companies developing the new types of crops patent scientists are faced with considerable difficulty to test the impacts of GMO crops. I have no doubt, that like the climate change argument the "it's more complicated then a yes/no answer" given to the public by the scientific community is frustrating to a public that demands a direct answer, and will ignore anything but one.
Source: Gruère, G. & Sengupta, D. J. Dev. Stud. 47, 316337 (2011).
Why Protest? If I don't know much about the topic, why the hell did I go to a protest against Monsanto? Mostly because I'm perpetuating exactly what I've been speaking out against, taking uninformed opinions! A mega-corporation like Monsanto has its hands in many pots, producing chemicals, putting patents on advanced seeds preventing their widespread distribution, pushing small farmers out of business who don't use their seeds, and of course, widespread use of pesticides when their uses are truly unknown and likely negative. Are these things true? I believe them to be, perhaps from something I've read, or maybe be told by a bird in my ear, and after more research, will give a more decisive answer. Until then, watch for flying rumours, they could really hurt someone!

No comments:

Post a Comment