John Block: GMOs Under Assault

By John R. Block We can’t seem to silence or satisfy the loud scream of opposition to GE crops. The reason probably is that up until now we have ignored them. It’s time to stand up and set the record straight. GE food is safe and even beneficial according to 88% of scientists. We have conducted more than 1,000 studies. We have been eating GE food for more than 20 years – no one has gotten sick. The fact is that for thousands of years, farmers have been improving crops through selective breeding. That process alters genes. We have found that in the laboratory we can do it faster. Never mind the facts, the critics are beating the drums. Three states have passed labeling laws. Vermont is in the lead as they begin to implement their law. It sounds simple. Just label the food if it has GMO products in the food. It’s not that simple. Vermont has a long list of exemptions. Animal products are exempt – beef, pork, chicken, dairy. But keep in mind the animals were fed GMO corn and soybean meal. Trying to get out ahead of everyone, Chipotle recently announced that it has gone GMO free. But it’s not really free. The soft drinks are made with GMO corn sweetener. The burritos have GMO corn-fed beef, pork, chicken, and GMO sour cream. The U.S. Congress is considering as many as 30 bills to deal with the GMO debate. You may wonder where all of this noise is coming from. Yes, there are individuals that sincerely are concerned about GMO safety. However, the organic companies (some of them are huge) are helping to push the false argument about risk. If they succeed, they can sell more product and make more money. This debate is not over. You will soon read about the next step in plant technology – gene editing. Gene editing is a more precise way to alter plant traits. The leading critics of GMOs are totally inconsistent. First, they support the science on global warming, but ignore the science on GMOs. Next, they pretend to care about the poor, but genetic engineering helps the poor by keeping the cost of food down. The world will not produce enough food without new technology. Finally, if they want to reduce the use of chemicals and energy, GE also does that. Stay tuned. John Block was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill.

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