Sunday, 4 March 2012

GMO - my 2c

Amazing how the conspiracy theories come out over this issue. And also amazing how they only cite conspiracy theory sites as evidence in favour of their arguments. Since I've actually got a degree with biochemistry, I must say I can't really see any harm in it. It's no different to what we do with conventional breeding techniques, except sped up. Plus it undergoes stricter scrutiny because of public fears. GM could help with things like drought-resistant crops, for example.

People have all kinds of fears around it. What do you think it is going to do? Give you cancer? Not unless it contains a carcinogen or makes one as a side-effect of being genetically modified. GM means the DNA has been tampered with. Most plant cells are surrounded by a wall of cellulose, which we can't break down except mechanically - ie by chewing or boiling or something. So it's hard to get at the contents of a plant cell anyway unless you process it in some way. Moreover, even if you do digest GM DNA, well, it's composed of the same chemicals as your own DNA - so by definition it must be harmless. The difference is just the sequence of chemicals (GTCA) that make up the DNA. Hence it's a plant's DNA rather than a human's. (Well there are also different numbers of chromosomes, codons, etc., but it's the same chemical structures that make it up). So I can't see how it's going to be poisonous or carcinogenic. People are really neurotic out of ignorance. They need to look at the studies in academic journals before assuming that there's a problem because they don't understand it. It's the same as any other technology: it looks like black magic till you understand it.

The 'organic' food people are usually living in first-world conditions and can afford to pay for hand-grown, hand-manured, hand-picked food, but not all of us live in such countries.

As for patenting - I think companies have a right to patent their research work. I fail to see the problem with that. If people think it is "evil" or "capitalist", maybe they should ask how and why it is that their evil capitalist countries are so cushy and comfortable compared to the rest of the world.

If someone does have a problem with GM recipes being secret, well, then, get a PhD in biochemistry (no easy feat), go work for a university, and opensource your research. Simple.

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