GMOs and Unintended Consequences

A small British Columbian company named Okanagan has just received approval to commercially plant and harvest genetically modified apples that do not brown when sliced. These apples join a few other GMOs in a fairly tight circle of commercially produced frankenfruits:

The so-called Arctic apples — which will be available in the Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties — are genetically engineered in a way to suppress the production of an enzyme that causes browning when cells in the apple are injured, from slicing, for example. . . .

The apple will join relatively few other examples of genetically modified fresh produce, including papaya and some sweet corn. Most of the genetically modified food Americans eat is processed, containing ingredients made from engineered corn or soybeans.

A few groups are, again, bringing up the issue of unintended consequences. We don’t know what GMOs will actually do to the ecosystems they are grown in, how they will affect other “normal” fruits if there is cross-pollination, or how they will affect the human bodies that consume them. No amount of lab studies can predict any of these things with any degree of certainty, even if lab studies were unaffected by the huge amount of money flowing from Monsanto and its ilk.

Many people are concerned about crossing over a point of no return. What if GMOs become so popular, or so viable, that they completely overtake non-modified vegetables? GM soybeans are already well on their way to accomplishing this, with only 10% of American soybeans being the traditional variety. And most of us are consuming GMOs without knowing it, in processed foods.

I am wary of the hubris of technocracy. People who think they know well enough for all of us shouldn’t be trusted. That goes for the “white hats” in Washington as much as it does for the “white coats” in the lab.