Are GMOs really the dangerous experimental foods that activists claim? Patrick Moore cuts through the hype and gives you the facts: how GMOs improve our lives, and how they can save millions of people in the developing world from hunger and disease -- if we only let them.
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We are all genetically modified organisms, all 7 billion of us and every other creature on earth produced by sexual reproduction. I point this out because "genetically modified" has become a loaded term that is misused to describe recombinant DNA biotechnology, one of the most important technological advances in the 10,000-year history of agriculture. Throw in bogus, Hollywood-inspired terms like Franken Foods, Killer Tomatoes, and Terminator Seeds, and you have the makings of one of the most groundless anti-science campaigns in the history of anti-science campaigns.
We have been modifying the genetics of plants and animals since agriculture and the domestication of animals began. The anti-GMO activists counter, "Nature never moves DNA from one species to another; therefore GMOs are 'unnatural'." Not so. Genes have been moving across species' boundaries since life began. Bacteria routinely carry fragments of DNA from one species to another, and that DNA is sometimes incorporated into the genes of the host species.
This random movement of genetic material has been one of the driving forces in the development of species. The human genome, for example, has 70 percent of its genes in common with the sea urchin. Why wouldn't we harness this naturally occurring phenomenon to improve the makeup of our food and fiber crops?
Today 18 million farmers in 28 countries are growing genetically modified crops on 448 million acres, 12 percent of the world's farmland, or about the same area as all US cropland. It would be at least three times that if not for bans and restrictions in many countries -- bans and restrictions that are irrational, anti-science, and terribly harmful to the world's poor.
Every credible science, health, and nutrition organization in the world says the genetically modified food available today is safe -- without reservation. This includes the World Health Organization, the European Commission, and the Society for Toxicology.
How many people know, for example, that the Durum Wheat used to make most of our pasta had its DNA modified by exposing seeds to high-level gamma radiation? And there is no labeling required!
But what about those supposedly evil seed companies like Monsanto? Aren't they trying to "control the world's food supply?"
First, let's remember that these companies are not weapons manufacturers or drug cartels; they are trying to make better seeds for agriculture. Second, the seed companies don't decide which seeds to plant; farmers make that decision. The fact is these companies have done massive good. Millions of people have nutritious food to eat thanks to their innovative work, work that has also reduced the use of pesticides.
Recently the first comprehensive study of genetically modified crop performance reported some surprising numbers. On average, GM crops increased yield by 22 percent, reduced pesticide use 37 percent, and increased farmer profits by 68 percent.
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