View from the fence

Social, environmental and economic issues surrounding GM foods, and the latest news


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Genetic modification and inequality

My mother kindly alerted me to the fact that she’d be blogging for Blog Action Day (today). This year’s topic is inequality, something I believe should be close to the hearts of anyone interested in how genetic modification can benefit (or harm) society.

Firstly, a major manifestation of inequality is an unequal access to nutritious food. Theoretically, genetic modification could be used to change this. Golden rice is a prime example, in its attempts to improve the health of people whose sight and welfare is being threatened by poor diets. Continue reading

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Difficult green choices: our diet and our pets

The recent TalkScience event was so thought-provoking I had to spill over into two posts. This one is about ways to reduce consumption, possibly as an alternative to increasing production.

Having an economist on the panel provided interesting insights. Taxing foods based on their health or environmental impact could influence people’s choices. Policy interventions on public health issues, while valuable, are seldom game changers on their own (the change in social attitudes resulting from the smoking ban and the legal requirement to wear seat belts were the only examples of that Professor Tiffin was aware of, and even those were accompanied by public health campaigns). I’ve previously blogged about the challenges of health-related taxes. Continue reading


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GM is a distraction

This week I went to a debate at the British Library about ‘Biotech on the Farm’. A geneticist, an economist and a Friends of the Earth campaigner talked genetic modification, taxes and eating meat as part of the regular TalkScience series. There was far more which the panel agreed on than might have been anticipated, driven by the common understanding that we need to increase food production while protecting the environment.

The geneticist and Friends of the Earth campaigner found plenty of common ground, and plenty to disagree on. They both believe genetic modification is a distraction. Professor Sang believes the method of production is just a distraction – it’s the product that counts. She was keen to see regulations changed from process-based to product-based: if you produce a herbicide-resistant crop it should be assessed for safety in the same way regardless of how you produce it.

Vicki Hird from Friends of the Earth believed that GM is distracting us from the political issues preventing the distribution of the food we already produce. Continue reading