Hot Air

GMO Dialogue

Just got some great new links from former Indiana University research biologist and faculty member Martha Crouch.

Crouch at Franklin

Marti Crouch Lectures At Franklin College, Fall 2013

If you’ve been following this communications colossus the last couple of weeks, you know that I happened to meet Crouch at the Book Corner and immediately leaned on her to convince me that GMOs are icky. My stance on genetic engineering can be found in various posts in these precincts (see links below).

I hate to be wedded to any particular train of thought, by and large, because there’s always something new I can learn and it just might contradict that which I’ve previously believed. Bertrand Russell’s old line — I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong — fits quite nicely, thank you.

Russell

Russell

Anyway, Marti, as she’s known to friends and acquaintances, has graciously agreed to set me straight. She wondered why I might be interested in the GMO thang these days and so she wrote in an email she sent me yesterday:

I realize I don’t really know why you are interested in genetically engineered crops.  Health reasons?  Environmental concerns? Philosophical musings about the relationships between humans and other organisms?  And I also don’t know why you are looking for arguments against GMOs.  Are you unhappy for some reason with your current position “in favor” (I assume)?

Fair enough. Here’s my response to her, in toto:

M:

Thanks for asking. You might check some of my previous writings on the GMO controversy in the Electron Pencil. In fact, here’s a link to that category.
My overriding motive is to get at some kind of reasonable, informed understanding of genetic engineering. I want to do so because I love science and knowledge, pure and simple. My secondary motive is to try to get people to stop thinking as a group. It’s always been one of my goals as a writer to upend groupthink, to hold the line against hysteria, and to point out that opinions are meaningless unless they’re built upon strong intellectual foundations.
You’ll note, if you delve deeper into my blog, that I poke fun at Bloomington’s food culture a lot. I came here from Chicago in 2009 (after a two-year sidetrack to Louisville) and was amused by how seriously B-towners take their food. It seems everyone’s got some diet or regimen that will ensure fabulous health and happiness for the rest of their lives. It also seems everyone here is certain corporate America is trying to poison us to death simply for the fun of it.
Now I don’t doubt that corporate America doesn’t give a good goddamn about my health or yours, as long as its shareholders are happy at the end of the year, but I also don’t think that scientists employed by the big agribusiness firms are sitting around a conference table and planning to wipe out a percentage of the population.
As I’ve written, for example, Monsanto is a bad guy — we can all agree on that — but that doesn’t mean the company is doing everything in its power to destroy the planet.
I speak in hyperbole here because 1) that’s part of my style and voice and 2) because I feel as though the food fetishists (as I describe them) do so themselves. By shopping at Kroger, I’m not going to die any earlier than I would were I to shop at Bloomingfoods. The argument often is couched in those life and death terms.
I might also point out that I spent five years teaching the public and my fellow employees about natural and organic foods as a member of the Whole Foods Market education department. I learned and taught that individuals’ health and that of the planet can be enhanced by striving for a natural way of eating. I also learned that a huge number of folks within the natural foods community hold apocalyptic views that have little to do with reality.
For all the wonders of natural and organic ways of eating and food production that WFM’s customer base subscribes to, I’ve never seen a more ailment-wracked bunch of people in my life. People who shop at other natural grocers, both national chain and local, in my experience, also have been equally Camille-like. Are they canaries in a coal mine or are they simply obsessed with themselves? Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between.
In any case, I want the goods on GMOs, which are today’s bête noire among the natural foods crowd. I’ve been told you’re the real thing when it comes to that topic so that’s why I want to tap your knowledge. I’ll either buy your arguments or I won’t but if I don’t I’ll be able to say I heard all you have to say. Whichever way I go, my opinion will be based on a strong intellectual foundation.
Thanks,
Big Mike
Marti recommends I read the book, The GMO Deception, a compendium of articles and essays edited by Sheldon Krimsky and Jeremy Gruber and issued in June by Skyhorse Publishing. She says some of her trusted colleagues have essays in the book. That’ll take some time so I’ll report back on that later this summer. She also sent along a copy of one of her seminal works on biotech, a chapter she’d contributed to the 2001 book, Redesigning Life?, edited by Brian Tokar. Her piece is titled “From Golden Rice to Terminator Technology: Agricultural Biotechnology Will Not Feed the World or Save the Environment.”
Book Cover

Can’t get a much clearer position than that. I’m eager to delve into the chapter. Again, it’ll take time but I’ll give you my impressions as soon as I can.

Looks like the dialogue is in full swing. Stay tuned.

Dialogue (Part I & II)

Fitting, no?

 

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