To me, anyway. Consider two news items that did not stir much reaction.
First, the decision on RR alfalfa:
Roundup Ready (RR) alfalfa will be granted non-regulated status under a decision USDA announced Thursday. This follows weeks of debate in a host of areas over USDA's potential decision.OK, opposition will continue but it looks like the stuff will get planted, which has tended to be a fat-lady-singing sign of eventual debate closure. In fact, deployment starts the building of a mountain of real world data. At the same time bad things aren't happening, public interest wanes.
"After conducting a thorough and transparent examination of alfalfa through a multi-alternative environmental impact statement (EIS) and several public comment opportunities, APHIS has determined that Roundup Ready alfalfa is as safe as traditionally bred alfalfa," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "All of the alfalfa production stakeholders involved in this issue have stressed their willingness to work together to find solutions. We greatly appreciate and value the work they've done so far and will continue to provide support to the wide variety of sectors that make American agriculture successful."But the decision won't end the legal issues for this matter. The Center for Food Safety has pledged to seek a court order to reverse and void USDA's decision. "We will be back in court representing the interest of farmers, preservation of the environment and consumer choice," said the group's Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell. [More]
This one could be trickier, however.
As carriers for diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and yellow fever, mosquitoes are the deadliest creatures on the planet, responsible for millions of human deaths every year. And as the planet warms, the insects are broadly expanding their turf and bringing their diseases with them; thousands of cases of dengue, a tropical disease, have appeared in the U.S. in the past five years. DDT was long used to control the mosquito population, but it is now widely banned, and in any case, many scientists believe that mosquitoes quickly build up a resistance to the insecticide. That, in part, is why the battle against mosquitoes has gone genetic.I'll agree it's a different puzzle dealing with fauna compared to flora, but the results are impressive. An 80% reduction isn't chicken feed.
Generally speaking, the goal of gene-based mosquito-control projects is either to kill the insects or make them benign. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University, for example, are studying mosquitoes that were made malaria-resistant through the activation of a gene responsible for a protein that blocks the infection. And the British company Oxitec has engineered a strain of mosquito that cannot survive without regular doses of tetracycline; in the wild, these mosquitoes would survive just long enough to mate and pass on their tetracycline-junkie genes to their doomed offspring. In a trial in the Cayman Islands last year, Oxitec-modified mosquitoes were able to cut the overall population by 80 percent in just six months. [More]
There will be some risks, and some too great to face, but I have growing confidence researchers themselves will issue the vetoes on such new ideas when necessary. We now know more weaknesses to look for and possible problems from previous efforts.
I simply have yet to see the killer prob among the growing list of GM projects that are pushing the acceptance of this technology forward.