You might ask, “why all the fuss about agricultural genetically modified organisms (GMOs)?” After all, regulatory agencies have approved these technologies for widespread application and consumption, so they must be safe, right? Well, the truth is that there is no agency and no industry that works to protect our health. At best, the EPA, USDA, and FDA attempt to respond to our disease after the cause is widespread. At that point only risk reduction, rather than risk avoidance, can be achieved. This has been the case historically with radium paint, tobacco, particulate air pollution, water pollution, asbestos, lead, food-borne illnesses, and DDT. A number of the various 80,000 chemicals in production will likely be added to this list in the future while the majority of them that actually do contribute to disease (often in combination and in complex ways) will never be scientifically associated with disease. This is because science is far from perfect, scientific methodology is always biased and often manipulated, and scientific interpretation by stakeholders and decision makers is alarmingly inept (I’m not being political or condescending, these are well known and easily observed facts).
The situation with agricultural GMOs is unique compared to other technologies. While genetic engineering of food crops has been ongoing for 15 years, it is currently experiencing a major boom with the potential for widespread worldwide application. Yet, few people understand how a GMO food could really be so much different than a non-GMO food in regard to health and disease effects. GMO foods look like non-GMO foods and so we don’t experience the same hesitation and aversion to consuming them like we would, say, a clearly labeled bottle of virus and pesticide in tomato juice. Therefore, the quality of public education, consumer awareness, and informed public discussion about this technology has the potential to alter the future of GMO agriculture for better or worse.