I have long advocated a posture of listening, explaining and patience in the public opinion battle over genetically modified plants (GM) in agriculture. Here is why: every day, every hour generates hard data on the safety and efficacy of these products. Simply waiting for this mounting evidence to sway doubters one by one may not make corporate boards reach their profit curves as rapidly as possible, but it does make the profit curves higher and longer.
Getting out of consumer's faces, stopping the acrimony against alternative foods (and their to date questionable benefits) costs less, allows room for consumers to change their minds with without appearing to cave, and generally raises the level of public conversation on this sensitive issue. Time is on our side - why not use it slightly better?
I was reinforced in my belief by this article in the Boston Globe - hardly a mouthpiece for GM adoption. While proponents could start linking and touting this in press releases, I think that lessens its power. Why not show some faith in the much doubted ability of people over time to eventually embrace rational solutions?
For anyone worried about the future of global agriculture, the story is instructive. The world faces an enormous challenge: Its growing population demands more food and other crops, but standard commercial agriculture uses industrial quantities of pesticides and harms the environment in other ways. The organic farming movement has shown that it is possible to dramatically reduce the use of insecticides, and that doing so benefits both farm workers and the environment. But organic farming also has serious limits - there are many pests and diseases that cannot be controlled using organic approaches, and organic crops are generally more expensive to produce and buy.In short, take a look at how fast self-serving boasting palls from NCAA competitors and choose instead to celebrate with farmers and consumers a powerful tool to advance agriculture.
To meet the appetites of the world's population without drastically hurting the environment requires a visionary new approach: combining genetic engineering and organic farming. [More]