Resolving Arguments Against Genetically Modified Plants

Most of the people who are against genetically modified crops or in general the whole field of biotechnology don’t even have a clear understanding of what biotechnology is. They are driven either influenced by the mass propaganda or personal interests. I myself know people who assume Bt cotton is short for ‘biotech cotton’, unaware of the novel bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. And those who do know a bit suffer from the grievances of half-knowledge — acknowledged for long to be even more dangerous than complete ignorance.

How on earth can a gene which silences the messenger RNA of a nematode infecting the cotton plants cause any harm whatsoever to us humans?

I accept that the genetic code is universal, but no sane person with a little understanding of biology would expect it to do bizarre discrepancies. There is a myth in Singapore that walking through a field of GM rice would render a man impotent. That I would regard as the height of idiosyncrasy.Many groups claim that genetic manipulation is far from ethical. They need to revisit their understanding of ethics. Biotechnology is, in most lucid terms, the application of the language of life. Genes are in a divine way packets of blessings bestowed on us by nature and we may use them as we wish as long it is in the interest of mankind. If genetically modifying organisms is wrong, we humans have been wrong since the time we are civilized.

GMO Corn in USA. Picture source: Lindsay Eyink / Wikimedia Commons


We have for thousands of years derived crop varieties from their wilder counterparts and bred domesticated animals to the extent that thousands of breeds now exist of dogs.The modern (non-GM) wheat is unable to exist in the wild because it cannot disperse its seed. Interestingly, and of course unknowingly plant breeders have spliced in pieces of chromosomes from several other species. If this genetic manipulation is now performed with a scientific approach, why does it raise so many eyebrows?

Then, there are people who claim GM crops to be the sole reason behind farmers’ suicides in Maharashtra and other adjoining states. Those accusations are a severe case of disposal of one’s responsibilities. The suicides were just the outcome one would expect of a rotting public distribution system wherein the farmer does not even get a fraction of the market price of his produce.

Arguments against GM crops are not much unlike those that welcome any upcoming technology. But, the history has witnessed times enough when the people on being educated have gradually respected those scientific breakthroughs.

Any technology is morally neutral. It is how we use it that it becomes good or bad.


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