I wish Monsanto would go away. The anti-GMO activist obsession with them has queered the genetic technology discussion. It has clouded their thinking.
Common Dreams has a link to a pdf, which I won’t link to here, that is a history of Monsanto’s evil chemicals. The logic is since they created or helped create such poisons as Agent Orange, the fact they use GE technology means because of past work, this must be bad as well. It’s their main argument against GMOs. Argumentum ad Monsantum.
But even if they have invented some gnarly compounds, does that mean everything they do is bad? They were the first producer of bulk aspirin. They developed chiral hydrogenation catalysts. That made possible L-dopa, a breakthrough drug used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
Somehow the anti-GMO crowd (hereinafter referred to as “the crowd”) has to get by their hatred of Monsanto and look objectively at the technology itself. Instead, they look for any industry connection to a study to discredit it. They spend more time looking for industry connections than they do learning about the technology
It baffles me how people who consider themselves progressive can be so regressive when it comes to this issue. Again, it goes back to their hatred of corporations. It’s really blinkered thinking.
A big misconception of the crowd is that GMO is the answer. In a way, I can’t really blame them since there are companies and people out there who oversell GM as a silver bullet. It’s not. It’s just another tool. But companies are going to pimp their product no matter what it is. How many products are New and Improved! The crowd should be able to see beyond that.
But here’s where not thinking things through raises its ugly head. The technology of GE is safe and proven, or as safe as anything can be. It is a technology that can provide benefits if only the crowd would stop focusing on Monsanto. They didn’t invent it. They only use it.
At present, the only real benefit is to the farmer who uses the technology. They get better yields, crops that are more resilient and they don’t have to use as much herbicide/pesticide. Yet there are biotech seeds out there that are literally sitting in the refrigerators of universities and small companies, languishing due to the high cost and red tape of getting a crop approved. That is where the future of GMOs lie.
Anti-GMO site, GMWatch recently linked to a story from Cornell regarding the development of a disease resistant tomato. They used it to promote the idea that GM isn’t needed; that the same result can come from conventional breeding. Cornell plant breeder Martha Mutschler-Chu did come up with a solution, but that solution took ten years.
What if you don’t have the luxury of ten years? What if the threat is imminent? That’s one area where GM can be beneficial.
The Hawaiian papaya industry was on the verge of collapse due to a virulent disease, papaya ring spot virus. Nothing could eliminate or contain it. Enter Dr. Dennis Gonsalves, retired Professor Emeritus of Plant Pathology at Cornell and at the time, director of the USDA’s Pacific Basin Agricultural Center. He developed a genetically modified disease resistant papaya and gave it to the growers. It is now sold to them at cost. They didn’t have the luxury of ten years.
How big of a deal was it? The Governor of Hawaii. Neil Abercrombie declared April 6th of this year as Dr. Dennis Gonsalves Day
Dr. Gonsalves served for 10 years as PBARC’s director and recently retired. He is most noted for his efforts that saved Hawaii’s papaya industry from the ringspot virus. The transgenic “Rainbow Papaya” that he and his team developed and released to growers in 1998 helped to bring the industry back after ringspot virus had reduced Hawaii’s papaya production by 50 percent.
A few years ago, a plum pox virus was devastating the plum crops in the Adams County, Pa. In order to contain the virus and keep if from spreading across the U.S. the only method to stop it was to pull up the trees and bulldoze them before the disease spread. Then in 2010, through government research, they came up with the GM Honeysweet, a disease resistant plum that solved the problem. Should they have waited ten years for a more “natural” method while the disease spread and threatened the entire plum industry?
Then you have the idea that future GMOs can have increased nutrients, like Golden Rice or other beneficial health aspects. That is going to come, more than likely from smaller companies, universities and government research, not big corporations. But in order for that to happen, the crowd has to look past Monsanto. It has to allow a faster and less costly approval process.
Toss argumentum ad Monsantum to the sidelines, where it belongs.