Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Omni Future Almanac: Genetic Crops
Using genetic engineering techniques, scientists will craft new kinds of plants before the end of the century.
Yep. Or at least I'm pretty sure. What OMNI failed to predict, however, was the backlash that GM crops have created. We sometimes fail to stop and ask ourselves how humans, behaving humanly, are going to react to our predicted innovations (the "Sunny Side of the Street" fallacy). Would people trust genetic tampering with something as primal as food? Turns out it at least makes some people stop and think.
Of course this phenomenon isn't limited to genetically modifying foods; turns out that just irradiating them was enough to get people up in arms. I'm guessing that the fuss over GM foods will die down significantly over the next 10 years as more people get used to seeing them, but you have to question what kind of legacy science has left itself that people would fear such things.
I don't mean this to sound like I'm pro GM foods. I'm actually undecided at this point. It turns out that I have some concerns about modifying the basic things that we use to live every day, just like everyone else. My misgivings tend to arrive from the other end of the spectrum, however, where "alternative" herbal remedies keep popping up in the news has being discovered to interact harmfully with certain medications, or to cause sterility, or worse, increased cardiac risk. With the government so slow to make these things go through the same tests that "real" drugs have to go through, it leaves me concerned that the proper amount of caution and testing might not be applied to GM foods as well.
Best to wait a bit and see how these things play out over the next decade or so. After all, it would suck to find out that the cool nitrogen fixing modification we made to tomatoes also increases the rate of intestinal cancers in people who consume it regularly, wouldn't it?