Letters to the Editor

GMO-free county? A laughable proposition | Letters

If this initiative passes, it would be “unlawful ... to ... raise or grow plants, animals, and other organisms that have been genetically modified...” Yeah, right.

Well, folks, I guess it’s time to kill all of the dogs, horses, cows, and sheep we’ve got, and to plow under and sterilize all of the hay, milo, corn, tomatoes, and other human and animal feed crops. Got a lawn? It goes too. Oh, and so do fruit trees.

There remains not one organism that we nurture, that has not seen the meddling hand of man. They have all been “genetically modified,” although it has previously been called “selective breeding.”

For example, when I compare the cows I used to milk when I was a teenager to the cows I see on dairy farms today, the differences astound me. Today’s “bags” are huge! Modern milk cows are the product of very careful, human-moderated genetic modification that has increased their, um, production to levels unimaginable 55 years ago.

Do you enjoy eating an ear of sweet corn? Well, if it were not for the guiding hand of man, selectively genetically modifying the original teosinte stock, there would be no ear, and no sweet corn upon it either.

Do you like the new “jazz” apple? It’s the product of human-moderated genetic modification, too. You see, apple trees do not breed true. Seeds from even the most “natural” apple will not produce a tree that will duplicate exactly the same apple. People have to select, graft, and direct apple trees, of they want to duplicate the special taste and texture of the “jazz” apple.

Gene transfer and splicing, on the cellular, or even on the molecular, level, is what genetic modification is frequently taken to mean. But genetic modification is not limited to such fiddling. It also includes ordinary, everyday selective breeding. Selective breeding transfers and modifies genes also, just as much as does any other form of genetic modification.

Genetic modification is not necessarily bad. As with everything else man does, it can be used for good just as well as for bad. By outlawing it wholesale, we would also outlaw the good that it has already done, and can continue to do, along with whatever bad you can imagine. That seems foolish.

“New” is not necessarily bad, and we should not forbid the new in a panic, just because it seems strange. I think, therefore, that the proposed initiative is a big step in the wrong direction.

Steve Henigson/Orcas Island


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