Opposition to genetic modification (GM) owes more to superstition than to science and I am sorry to see Solidarity going along with this (Tony Jeffreys, 3/38). So public opinion is against it. Ninety-three per cent believe GM technology is driven by profit, not public interest. How does that differ from any other technology? Why don't we demand that it be applied to problems that affect poor people? In fact, many scientists in this field work in universities and are keen to see their discoveries benefit people. One group has come up with rice genetically modified to contain Vitamin A and is trying to make this available to populations prone to Vitamin A deficiency. The anti-GM lot think this is some insidious conspiracy to... what?
Eighty four per cent believe GM crops will cause unacceptable interference with nature. Have they visited the countryside recently? Conventional agriculture has turned fields into virtual deserts for wildlife. Urban gardens are now the habitat of choice for many birds and mammals.
The recent trials of GM crops appear to have shown negative effects, compared to conventional crops. But how significant were these effects? Adjacent crops might become 'contaminated'. What does that mean? It is already admitted that US citizens have been eating the stuff for years with no ill effects. Jeffreys adds that this contamination might lead in time to everything becoming GM. How? The selective advantage to added genes for herbicide resistance only exists when that herbicide is being used - a marvellous argument in favour of organic methods!
What opponents of GM technology do with a quasi-religious fervour is to lump all genetic modification together, categorising it as 'unnatural'. What we should be doing is pointing out the many good examples of GM (insulin genes in bacteria so that diabetics aren't reliant on pig insulin; growth hormone genes in bacteria so that people deficient in this don't have to rely on growth hormone from human cadavers, with the risk of CJD; maize with insecticide genes to kill the stem borer beetle; cotton with insecticide genes to kill the boll weevil; bacteria with the rennin gene so that cheese can be made without using rennet from calf stomachs; anti-body genes into people without these so they don't have to live in plastic bubbles; etc.). In fact, genetic modification has occurred naturally throughout life's history: it's called evolution.
We shouldn't be counterposing GM technology to democratic politics in terms of solving world hunger. And we should be asking the back-to-nature merchants what should be done with the 99% of the present population who would have no food in a hunter-gatherer society. Anti-GM is the modern-day 'socialism of idiots'.
Les Hearn, Notts