The future of Frankenfood

rice field

As a scientist and a food advocate, genetically modified organisms infuriate me. Common use of GMO seed — particularly for pesticide resistant staples like corn and soybeans — is a lazy way out of addressing the root problems of large-scale agriculture, poor soil management, and crop monoculture.

But I can’t stop thinking about this editorial from yesterday’s New York Times on golden rice, a variety that has been genetically altered to produce vitamin A with the hopes of preventing two million deaths from malnutrition each year.

One bowl of the stuff provides 60 percent of the daily requirement of vitamin A for healthy children, and patent rights included a condition that “the technology and any improvements to it would be made freely available to poor farmers in the developing world.”

Humans understand so little about the consequences of making permanent genetic alterations to an ecosystem that it terrifies me to move blindly forward, even when the intentions are noble.

But it’s easy to make arguments about slippery slopes from my comfortable home with its well-stocked pantry. Definitely a thought-provoking article that’s well worth a read.

What do you think about using GMOs to eliminate malnutrition?

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