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Thursday, June 30, 2011


I was having a conversation recently with a friend who had a complete misunderstanding about the use of pesticide resistance genes in crops. Apparently, they had this idea that you can just sprinkle on genes on plants, and thus, they can poison people who eat them. A great deal of the fear mongering around the use of transgenics (including the recent legislative move to block the US Food and Drug Administration from approving the marketing of transgenic salmon).

You get a lot of comments repeated over and over again, about all the potential risks of using transgenic technology (more commonly filed under the broader and inaccurate term genetically modified organisms - GMOs), despite repeated refutation of these claims. Over 30 years worth of unfounded claims, and yet, the political machine that runs on this dogma can sway whole governments.

This recent NPR interview is worth a listen. You can hear the exasperation in the voice of the scientist. While the idea of "genes leaking out" is indeed so preposterous, it belies the hubris that somehow an ignorant misunderstanding of genetics and evolution can serve as an political equal to informed scientific study.

Fact is, one day we'll have to deal with feeding 9 billion people on this planet. And transgenic technology will be part of that.

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