GMOs: Are We Paying Attention To The Risks?

Research field

GMO corn field, Yellow Springs, Ohio. – Wikipedia

Interesting comparison between our financial system and an agricultural system that is increasingly reliant on GMOs:

Another ‘Too Big to Fail’ System in G.M.O.s, New York Times, 13 July 2015

The authors say that our financial system was fragile and unsustainable, which led to the financial crisis that started in 2007. They say that an agricultural system flush with GMOs has a similar unsustainability and may be even more dangerous because there is no way to bail it out if it fails.

They listed 5 fallacies (or weaknesses?) used in arguments against people who warned of financial collapse, and they applied those fallacies in arguments against people who raise a red flag over GMOs. Here were the GMO fallacies:

First, there has been a tendency to label anyone who dislikes G.M.O.s as anti-science. … The scholastic invocation of a “consensus” is [not a] valid scientific argument. … According to scientific practice, scientific consensus is used in telling us what theory is wrong; it cannot determine what is right.

Second, we are told that a modified tomato is not different from a naturally occurring tomato. That is wrong.

Third, the technological salvation argument we faced in finance is also present with G.M.O.s, which are intended to “save children by providing them with vitamin-enriched rice.” The argument’s flaw is obvious: In a complex system, we do not know the causal chain, and it is better to solve a problem by the simplest method, and one that is unlikely to cause a bigger problem.

Fourth, by leading to monoculture — which is the same in finance, where all risks became systemic — G.M.O.s threaten more than they can potentially help. Ireland’s population was decimated by the effect of monoculture during the potato famine.

And finally, there’s no Plan B:

Fifth, and what is most worrisome, is that the risk of G.M.O.s are more severe than those of finance. They can lead to complex chains of unpredictable changes in the ecosystem, while the methods of risk management with G.M.O.s — unlike finance, where some effort was made — are not even primitive.

The G.M.O. experiment, carried out in real time and with our entire food and ecological system as its laboratory, is perhaps the greatest case of human hubris ever. It creates yet another systemic, “too big too fail” enterprise — but one for which no bailouts will be possible when it fails.

They single out GMOs, but I’m coming to see the real risk is an agricultural system increasingly dependent upon chemicals. That would place GMOs as a subset of risk, since they invite the use of chemicals.

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