Since Sunday I happened to see the opinion piece praising the planned easing of the restrictions on gene editing farm animals and plants in the United Kingdom posted on The Guardian, or more exactly on The Observer, before the comments were closed, I ended up writing a pretty lengthy comment… Which was promptly removed. I did ask why and was somewhat surprised to receive a response, letting me know that the reason was the part about the COVID-19 vaccine, since it’s a contentious matter and wasn’t mentioned at all in the article, so in such cases they must enforce the “keep it relevant” part of the community standards more strictly than they usually do in order to prevent replies from focusing on this other topic, so it didn’t matter that I used it as an analogy that people should know well, pointing out that even when the technology is, in itself, clearly proven to be safe and effective, other immense problems arise when private corporations are allowed to control and profit from it. And I do appreciate the fact that they did explain the decision, but still disagree with it, especially since the discussion was closed for comments less than an hour later, so there wouldn’t have been much time for those off-topic comments they were worried about.
Either way, seeing as I put some effort into that comment, I decided to add it here, so it won’t get lost. Not that, with the exception of that analogy, it really says anything I didn’t already say when I posted about GMOs back in 2011 and 2013, and those posts may actually explain some elements of my stance somewhat better. But they were posted about a decade ago, so I guess this also counts as a quick update, and a way to say that my stance remains unchanged, and the main reasons for the opposition are also the same, so any assurances about safety, even if they’d somehow be entirely trustworthy, don’t respond to them in any way.
The comment was:
“While seeing something like this is and will always be disturbing in itself, seeing it in a supposedly leftist publication is just another frankly terrifying piece of evidence of the Overton window.
While private corporations will always put profits over their customers’ safety, consumer safety of GMOs may be the least potential problem and the one most likely to be solved in a satisfactory manner, eventually. But economic matters, fairness and environmental impact? Those are a different story, and the major reasons why GM food created by corporations should never be allowed.
You just have to look at the COVID-19 vaccine for recent evidence. Safe and effective? Absolutely. But it’s making tens of billions for a few corporations who initially, when demand far outstripped supply, limited availability only to the wealthiest and most ruthless states, now hold governments of wealthier states to contracts requiring the purchase of far more than necessary at high prices while still leaving poorer states without, block the generic production and widespread availability that would actually be for the benefit of public health worldwide through patents, and now that they see that the demand in the wealthier states diminishes are taking it easy on the development of variant-specific ones, which we were initially supposed to have in spring, while pushing for further boosters of the same old versions that they have in stock, even though some sections of the population would be far better served by variant-specific ones.
Now extrapolate that to food, something that everyone needs on a daily basis and which (for some reason…) isn’t guaranteed as a basic right and provided free of charge by governments either, and which can also spread and contaminate the environment and cause hardship for the organic agriculture we should be switching more towards.
Now if the development of GMOs would be placed in the hands of scientists and international organizations that would be under heavy scrutiny and required to not patent their work and leave it fully open to verification and reproduction, and the use would be contained in order to prevent spreading into the environment or interaction with organic agriculture, the matter would be open to debate. But handing out control of the world’s food supply to Big Ag legally as well, when it already has it economically, is only a recipe for (even worse) disaster.
The one thing the article got right is that the world is overpopulated and overheated. So let’s work on those things, starting with the places where the per capita environmental footprint is the highest. The best thing one can do for the environment in the long run is not have children, while the best things to reduce the current impact are to not fly or drive and adjust dietary habits. So government policies should be aimed in those directions and not towards pipe dreams of allowing business as usual to continue thanks to techno fixes from the profit-minded private sector.“