Monday, April 21, 2008

Rising prices pushes people towards genetically modified foods

There is nothing like cash to help focus the mind.

While in Britain, I saw first hand the public distrust of Frankenfoods, or genetically modified crops. The continent was much more suspicious than Britain about the foods, but there were some outspoken critics (like Prince Charles) in Britain as well. I was doubly mortified when some African countries started to reject genetically modified donations, because they reasonably assumed that what was bad for Europeans is bad for Africans. However, there is no indication that genetically modified foods are harmful, and while Europe is rich enough to reject genetically modified crops, Africa is not, and rejection of the crops yields starvation.

Fast forward to the food crisis of today, and an article in the New York Times shows that with grain prices doubling and tripling, the less expensive genetically modified grains are gaining in popularity, or at least objections to them are declining. I am pleased to see that irrational fears fall away when cash is at stake.

The key word there is irrational. No one has shown popular genetically modified organisms to be harmful, and they can help feed multitudes more. To the people who object because we are "playing god," that ship has sailed. Wheat is the most crossbred organism in existence, not because we've turned our microscopes at it (indeed, it is one of the more difficult crops in a lab), but because we've been manipulating it for the last six thousand years. We've been doing the same with cattle. Ever seen a cow on a hike in the forest? That isn't natural.

I do hope that this allows people to get past their reservations for the "new."