I really get frustrated by the so-called “greenies” who campaign against GM (genetically modified) foods, on the basis that they are unsafe, underresearched, and “unnatural”. Obviously, there is a chance that when you change some genes to get a desired result, you might produce unexpected side affects, but this isn’t really anything more than what might happen in evolution naturally – some genes mutate, it produces a favourable or unfavourable result(s), and natural selection kicks in from there. Most of the GM foods, crops and plants that we’ve created have resulted in very useful products (e.g., needing much less pesticide, being easier/quicker to grow, etc).
So, when I saw a news story about GM crops making mice sick, I thought that this would be just the fodder the greenies (and probably the media!) needed. But I was pleasantly surprised to see the spin that the researchers had put on it – that the safeguards and testing procedures around GM crops are working, and that any product which does make it to market is going to be safe. Very clever!
On the subject of environmental groups, I really wish there was a group run by scientists, or at least scientifically educated people. Greenpeace does some good work, but they also do some rubbish – protesting against GM foods on principle, their “nuclear power is evil” stance (I’m not saying it’s the solution to our power needs, but isn’t it better to have your waste stored in a single, controlled location, rather than spread throughout our entire atmosphere?) and so forth. They’re kind of extremist, and that really turns me off.
Anyway, the upshot of the news report was that a 10 year research project into genetically modified peas produced a crop that was almost completely resistant to insect attacks, but had the side of effect of giving some mice chest infections. Hence, the project is being scrapped – which is pretty amazing, given the time and money put into it. Good on the group for being ethically sound!