I continue working through the “Technology” class of the Dewey Decimal System, with 660–669.9 being “Chemical Engineering.” It’s easy to forget this while I’m browsing the stacks and I wouldn’t have guessed that’s where I was when I saw this book about GMOs.
There are a handful of areas where my liberalism becomes a bit heterodox and one of these is with respect to GMOs. I’m willing to believe the arguments for the safety of GMOs (a far bigger problem, as far as I’m concerned is not the artificial manipulation of genetic materials, but rather the application of intellectual property laws to organisms and associated legal actions surrounding the escape of said protected genetic material beyond the initial customers).
Lynas was originally part of the anti-GMO crowd and took place in a number of actions to disrupt the development and distribution of GMO plants. Then, while trying to justify his actions, he did actual research and discovered that so much of what he believed was wrong. It’s notable that this project began with a book about being wrong.
As it turns out, there’s an over-romanticization in many instances of old ways of doing agriculture that reek of first-world privilege. Subsistence agriculture means that those practicing it can only subsist and not advance beyond bare survival. Meanwhile the first world is poisoning the earth and, through its burning of fossil fuels, changing the climate so that subsistence in the third world becomes that much harder. Many of the GMO innovations would allow farmers to go beyond subsistence to being able to prosper—the children, especially girls, would be able to attend school and the family would not be living harvest to harvest but would be able to have a financial cushion that would lift them out of poverty. But thanks to the demonization of GMO crops, these innovations are foreclosed and the agricultural ministries in these countries are unable to make improved crops available to their farmers.
And despite fears about health effects of GMO crops, it turns out that there is absolutely no evidence to indicate that they exist.