View from the fence

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

My views

When I was an undergraduate I wrote what I believe was a powerful essay about why we shouldn’t grow genetically modified crops. But that was (scarily for me) almost 10 years ago, and now I’m open to different possibilities. Two things have caused me to reassess my position.

Firstly, there is far more evidence available than there was then, and secondly I have started to question some of the environmental ideals I held as a teenager. During my PhD at Rothamsted Research I found that the evidence didn’t always point in the direction I had been led to believe. I also learnt to ask many more relevant questions that are needed to make an informed judgement.

One argument I had against growing GM food was that we’re in a very scary situation if we need to resort to risky technologies to feed the world’s population. Yes, it is scary, but we have a projected population of 9 billion and we have to feed them. I want to make sure that choices I make and promote ensure we fulfil our potential to feed people now and in the future.

To do this I am going to have to take a closer look at the evidence, and that’s my motivation for starting this blog. Lots of people want to believe that organic ‘natural’ agriculture is the best thing for the environment, and others want to believe that GM will solve our problems. I see the appeal of both view points, but I’m pretty certain that neither is true. I want to find the situations when GM is and isn’t appropriate, what the alternatives are, and how we can overcome the inevitable problems.

I thought of the name ‘view from the fence’ a few months ago, and was worried that it wasn’t accurate – I asked myself whether I was already in favour of GM technology. But I think this is a product of the way we have seen the debate. If you’re not anti GM then you must be pro. I’m not inherently anti GM, and think any ideological reasons of ‘this isn’t natural’ are misguided (I’m on a warm sofa using a laptop, I have no moral high-ground on ‘natural’). When people say ‘GM will bring environmental benefits and increase yield’ I’m in there. I definitely like the theory, I just need to discover if and when the practice lives up to the promise.

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3 thoughts on “My views

  1. Pingback: What is evidence? | View from the fence

  2. Hi Rebecca, I have to say that this is a very refreshing and constructive blog on the GM debate! As a molecular geneticist, my natural stand on this has always been GM pro but agree with the fact that we simply have not accumulated sufficient hard evidence to either dismiss or accept this technology as an absolute way forward. I guess the ‘against’ debaters have pushed scientists to consider the cons of the technology more objectively, which can only expedite our quest for answers. From another perspective, until we carry out sufficient field trials to comprehensively assess the risks and benefits posed by GM crops, we cannot progress! In any case, keep up the good work!

  3. Thank you very much! I agree, all too often activists stop field trials with arguments that include ‘we don’t know enough’.

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