Randomly Mutated Foods

I think I have posted on this subject before but this gruesome story from Kerry Howley at Reason about the damage done in Africa by the the western hysteria over genetically modified food leads me to comment again.

The most hilarious thing to me about the entire anti-GM food craze is that people seem perfectly content to eat foods randomly mutated by radiation and chemicals and that consequently contain dozens, if not hundreds, of randomly mutated genes whose effects have never been tested for.

Breeding, like all forms of selection natural or otherwise, begins with diversity in the gene pool. The greater the diversity the faster the change. To accelerate the development of new strains, researchers increase diversity by randomly mutating seed stocks with radiation or mutagenic chemicals such as mustard gas. This produces new genes, which code for new proteins, which in turn form the plant structures we eat. They then select the mutations exhibiting the gross traits they want and repeat the process.

Plant breeders just look for a small number of traits such as height, drought resistance, growing season etc. If a random mutation produced a gene that created subtle health problems in humans or problems for the environment, they would never know.

We have been doing this for over a century, and every plant and most animals you eat have been randomly mutated, even most of the “heritage” varieties. Until recently, we lacked the technology to even tell what new genes might have been created if those genes had no immediate or visible effect on the food produced by mutated plants. Even now, no one looks for such an effect.

To me, this demonstrates without a doubt that the anti-GM craze is a social/political phenomenon and not a scientific one. Clearly, randomly altered genes would pose a greater risk of unknown harm than would genes whose provenance and proteins are well known, yet we hear not a peep about them.

Frankly, I miss the good ol’ day’s when leftists were unrepentant technophiles perfectly willing to pave over entire forests to provide material benefits for the poor.

We’re going to have to fight for every technological advance from here on out.

2 thoughts on “Randomly Mutated Foods”

  1. You’re focusing too much on their words and not their actions. It’s not as if these tyrants are well-meaning benevolent despots seeking to improve their subjects. They’re malevolent, hate-filled, and murderous (to say too little about their character and regime).

    Food aid is often refused by tyrants who believe it will enable their enemies (to live, if not to prosper). These tyrants simply provided (what to Europeans) is a good excuse. The tyrants don’t actually believe GM foods are harmful. If you look at how food aid has been distributed in the past, in say Ethiopia, the PRC, or the Soviet Union during their government-enforced (and induced) famines, you’ll see any excuse that weakens the tyrants’ enemies will do.

  2. Tehag,

    No doubt in many places the dynamic you describe controls the rejection of GM food aid. However, the problem also exist in 3rd world countries with better government such as India.

    In any case, I just used this particular incident to highlight the base absurdity of the entire anti-GM fad.

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