We know some people that are not very impressed by some of the most common arguments against genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Saying that we don't know what will happen once they are introduced in nature, that they could be invasive, disturb the food chain, that we're going against nature, etc. We're not saying they're not valid concerns, but it all seems a bit too speculative for some people. So as time went on, we've identified a couple of more pragmatic arguments that seem to get these people's attention and that are hard to argue against... These arguments do no apply to all kind of GMOs, of course (there are all kinds), but they do to some of the widely used kinds.The first one is that for
most a certain variety of GMOs, the big selling point is that they are more pesticide-resistant than natural crops. They were engineered to resist to certain chemicals. What that means de facto is that more pesticides and herbicides will be used, and thus that more poison will be added to the food chain (including what ends up on the shelves of the supermarket) and underground water wells. I doubt that many people are saying that we are currently using too little of these chemicals and that more should be sprayed on food.
The second argument is more socio-economic; it is based on the fact that GMOs are usually patented bio-technology and that, just like fertilizers and pesticides, they are very expensive (especially to third world residents).
Once the farmers have entered the cycle of using these things, it is very hard to stop using them; because large industrial monocultures are like magnets to pests (unlike polycultures), they don't have a choice to use some form of pest-control. Large monocultures also cause soil erosion and deplete nutrients, so there is no choice but to use fertilizers (usually nitrogen-based, made with natural gas). Since GMOs are patented and they often can't legally re-use their seeds, they have to buy new ones each year.
In the end, farmers have to sell more each year just to be able to pay for all that technology, so they end up buying more land and machinery to that end, and so they get into more debt, and so on. Soon after they enter into that industrial agriculture cycle, they discover that they are producing more, making less money and that their food and land is dropping in quality. A good parallel is the situation of the fishermen of South-Eastern Asia, but that's another post...
Nothing gets better for them or for the people who eat their food, but the big corporations that sell GMOs, fertilizer and chemicals make a fat profit.
It is no wonder that these sellers of industrial agriculture wares approach farmers (especially in Asia, India and Africa) and offer them freebies the first years: It's like a drug pusher that want to get you hooked up because he knows you won't have a choice but to come back later...
We're not saying that GMOs are intrinsically bad. Like all technologies, bio-tech is a tool. In this case, it is rather the implementation, the "business model" that is bad in many cases. We could imagine many scenarios where they would actually be beneficial, so don't get us wrong.
We would really like to know what are the arguments against GMOs and industrial agriculture that you find the most convincing (or arguments in favor). Please don't hesitate to let us know in the comments or blog about it.