Misunderstood scientist of the people or semantic sorcerer bought and Paid For? Recently I posted a video of Tyson’s word on selective breeding. Well here is his follow up that he posted on Facebook. What is your input disinfonauts?
In fact — apart from my “chill out” quip in the video, which clearly deserved further explanation — I didn’t really vote one way or another on GMOs. You want to distinguish how genes are modified? Okay, then label everything, and create two subcategories of GMO. One that indicates laboratory and one that indicates agriculture. I said this explicitly in my Facebook post.
Furthermore, I never said GMOs were safer or more dangerous. I implied that if you think GMO-laboratory is **inherently** more dangerous to human life than GMO-agriculture you are simply wrong. They both can be bad for the environment. They both can be less healthy. They both can disrupt the local flora and fauna. But both methods wield an awesome power to improve food in every way that matters to humans: yields, appearance, vitamin content, sweetness, resistance to insects, resistance to weather extremes, and so forth.
As in all new foods, transgenic or otherwise, they should be tested for safety. [how many times do I need to say that?] And they should be tested for their effect on the environment. If the regulatory system is failing at this then it should be modified. And if the tests indicate a risk to the health of some humans and a benefit to others, then this should appear on the labeling. By the way, we already do this for peanuts, to protect people from peanut allergies. But there’s no talk of banning them.
I note, of course, that we don’t do this for wheat – a fully domesticated, genetically modified food. Yet many people suffer from wheat (gluten) allergies. Meanwhile foods that contain gluten display no explicit warnings at all. You just know that you’re not supposed to buy and eat that baguette if you suffer from this condition.
Imagine if today, scientists showed you the Aurochs Wild Ox, and said — “Give us time. In just a few years, we will genetically modify this wild animal, turning it into a different sub species whose sole purpose is to provide vast quantities of milk for humans to drink. They will produce 10x as much milk as did the original animal. But they will require vast grasslands to sustain. And some of you will get sick because you won’t be able to digest the lactose. But no need to label this fact. People will just figure this out on their own. The rest of you will be fine. We’ll call the result a Holstein Milk Cow.”
What would anti GMO-laboratory people say this story? Would they embrace it or reject it? Of course, over the past 10,000 years, this is exactly what we’ve done to that Ox – or whatever is the agreed-upon origin of the domesticated Cow. Call it GMO-agriculture. If you reject GMOs you fundamentally reject it all.
Finally, I found it odd that people presumed I was taking sides. As an educator, my priority is to make sure people are informed — accurately and honestly. For the purposes of general enlightenment, but especially before drawing policy or legislation that could affect us all.
I have nothing more to add. Or to subtract. On to other topics for me.
-Neil deGrasse Tyson
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