Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Just another Caen trick?

I'm always rather ion two minds about genetically modified (GM) food. On the one hand I feel that all that the genetic tinkering simply produces a new recipe for a tomato or ear of corn or whatever, and there's no way to tell from the end product whether food is or isn't GM: so what's the problem? Either the resulting food is nutritious, good tasting, and all the rest of it, or it isn't: they should be judged in exactly the same way as non-GM foods. There are arguments in favour of some GM products as being easier to grow in areas where food shortages are an issue. On the other hand, it's hard to suppress the suspicion that the main benefits of GM food flow to the huge pharmaceutical companies who produce and license them.

Don't get me wrong: I'm far from being an organic-only tree-hugger. Indeed, given my lingering doubts over the hygiene of some organic production, I'm pretty selective in my organic purchasing, and certainly don't see why I should pay a price premium simply for the "organic" label. At the end of the day, I choose my food by how I think it's going to taste, and if the organic or GM product wins, it wins.

So I read this report with a little alarm (not too much, as the proportion of GM food on sale in Europe is tiny compared that in with the USA). I also read it with a degree of scepticism: such studies are invariably paid for and conducted by those already opposed to GM, as here. That doesn't mean they can't be valid, but it does mean that my bullshit detector fires up. (I also read it with a slight wistfulness, as I remember the print edition of "The Grocer" always lying about the house when I was growing up, as my father was a commercial traveller for the firmm that made Ovaltine.) Anyway, I read the full report as released to the press, and it seemed OK to my layman's eye.

Anyway, it seems that there are methodological failings in the study which I wouldn't have expected to spot. I suspect the whole thing will turn out to be a non-event, though perhaps we should be concerned. Not so much concerned about health risks from GM food (though one should never be complacent) as by what may turn out to be yet another attempt to falsify or misrepresent scientific research for commercial or political ends.

2 Comments:

At 10 October, 2012 20:23, Blogger JoeinVegas said...

But reports like that are used to justify the European bans on GM products.

 
At 11 October, 2012 23:59, Blogger Rob said...

Very probably. Still, the European Food Standards Agency reckons this one's a dud, so even if they're sometimes swayed by dodgy science they're learning.

And of course in some cases there may actually be a good reason to ban a GM product.

 

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