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Debunking the ‘GE Crops are Bad’ Myth

As I noted in last Friday’s Around the Blogs post (and for a day put up the wrong link), Pamela Ronald has an article up for anyone interested in the pro’s and con’s of genetically engineered or genetically modified crops. In 10 Things About GE Crops to Scratch from your Worry List, there are brief but succinct explanations of why common arguments against GE crops are without merit.

The first two myths are the most critical to set straight. For instance, the notion that GE crops require more pesticides – the opposite is actually true – “In China, cotton farmers were able to eliminate 150 million pounds of insecticide in a single year by using GE varieties.” (Just for a significant example)

Or the notion that corporate control of GE seeds forces poor farmers to buy seed each year – “Although the US seed industry is dominated by large corporations, this was the case before GE came into play. In some less developed countries, such as Bangladesh, national breeding programs distribute seed (GE or conventional) freely to farmers who can then self their own seed. For example a flood-tolerant gene cloned in my lab and used to develop new varieties in collaboration with colleagues has been distributed to Bangladeshi farmers through national breeding programs. The farmers are now saving the seed to share with neighbors.”

The key message though that I would emphasize, and I’m sure experts in the field such as Pam Ronald would agree with, is that GE crops should be judged on a case-by-case basis. And indeed they are, going through appropriate technical and regulatory hurdles before widespread dissemination to farmers.

If you like this topic, check out Pam’s blog, Tomorrow’s Table on a regular basis. As an expert in Plant pathology and genetics, she’s poised to discuss the merits and drawbacks of various GE crops, and the directions that forthcoming GE crops are taking.

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