Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Tyson on GMO

Neil deGrasse Tyson had an interesting but realistic take on GMO foods. Here is part of his comment:

"I'm amazed how much objection genetically modified foods are receiving from the public. It smacks of the fear factor that exists at every new emergent science, where people don't fully understand it or don't fully know or embrace its consequences, and therefore reject it. What most people don't know, but they should, is that practically every food you buy in a store for consumption by humans is genetically modified food.

There are no wild seedless watermelons; there's no wild cows; there's no long-stem roses growing in the wild — although we don't eat roses. You list all the fruit, and all the vegetables, and ask yourself: Is there a wild counterpart to this? If there is, it's not as large, it's not as sweet, it's not as juicy, and it has way more seeds in it. 

We have systematically genetically modified all the foods, the vegetables and animals, that we have eaten ever since we cultivated them. It's called "artificial selection." That's how we genetically modify them. So now that we can do it in a lab, all of a sudden you're going to complain?

If you're the complainer type, go back and eat the apples that grow wild. You know something? They're this big, and they're tart. They're not sweet, like Red Delicious apples. We manufactured those. That's a genetic modification."

A lot of people got mad at his stance, so he clarified his point:

"Had I given a full talk on this subject, or if GMOs were the subject of a sit-down interview, then I would have raised many nuanced points, regarding labelling, patenting, agribusiness, monopolies, etc. I've noticed that almost all objections to my comments centre on these other issues," Tyson told his Facebook followers on Sunday. 

"If your objection to GMOs is the morality of selling non-prerennial seed stocks, then focus on that. If your objection to GMOs is the monopolistic conduct of agribusiness, then focus on that. But to paint the entire concept of GMO with these particular issues is to blind yourself to the underlying truth of what humans have been doing -- and will continue to do -- to nature so that it best serves our survival. That's what all organisms do when they can, or would do, if they could. Those that didn't, have gone extinct," he added."In life, be cautious of how broad is the brush with which you paint the views of those you don't agree with." 

"Since practically all food has been genetically altered from nature, if you wanted labelling I suppose you could demand it, but then it should be for all such foods. Of course new foods should be tested for health risks, regardless of their origin. That's the job of the Food and Drug Administration (in the US)."

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