January 5, 2012

Update Re- Genetically-Modified Foods

As explained in a 2009 post and by others before me, "insect-resistent" GM plants have in fact been engineered to produce food that's literally full of poison.

Lately I'm hearing stories on public radio (the only traditional-media news product I regularly consume) about "good" GM – how spider genes have enabled silkworms to create stronger silk, and how sunflower seeds have been engineered to produce more cooking oil.

I hope this surfacing of the GM discussion results from an independent, journalistic initiative on the part of public radio – that seems possible, since I believe I also heard mention that the use of environmentally-hazardous pesticides or other chemicals has actually increased with the use of GM crops. Alternatively, the coverage may arise from a p.r. initiative on the part of the GM industry.

Regardless, I welcome the discussion, since I think genetic engineering is here to stay and does in fact offer the potential to help us build a better world quicker than natural selection might otherwise do.

But for purposes of the discussion, it would seem useful to distinguish between GMOs that deploy different kinds of strategies – e.g., for starters, to distinguish between poisonous and non-poisonous GMOs (since creating organisms that produce intrinsically poisonous food would seem more obviously likely to give rise to undesirable consequences).

To do that, we need new, clear terms – and we should expect that any terms the industry might propose will not be clear.

So let's propose some ourselves. Here's an initial attempt:

"Poisonous GMO": a GMO engineered to cause death or illness in any living organism, or to impair or inhibit the reproductivity or functioning of otherwise healthy, normal or typical living organisms.

"Non-Poisonous GMO": a GMO which is not a Poisonous GMO, as defined above.
Alternative or additional suggestions welcome.

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