Saturday, May 09, 2015

Uh,wrong: Chipotle can’t get rid of GMOs unless it stops selling corn

Quartz says,

In brief: maize has a hard time seeding itself naturally, so humans must have GENETICALLY ENGINEERED corn.


This line of "We've been genetically modifying organisms for thousands of years... [implication that we know what we're doing and it's 100% safe goes here]" annoys the living fuck out of me.

Getting teosinte to become maize is very clever, but it isn't cutting genes out of other plants and inserting them into corn. It's not 'genetic engineering' any more than getting a wolf to become a chihuahua is genetic engineering. It's impressive, certainly, but it's not gene manipulation.

So maize had a hard time breeding without humans. Here's another example of a plant with breeding difficulties similar to maize: Avocados have huge seeds and tasty flesh. They used to be spread by South American megafauna - giant tree sloths, mammoths and gompotheres. These animals were large enough to eat avocados whole and defecate the seed well away from the parent tree. When the megafauna went extinct 13,000 years ago, avocado seeds had to germinate in the shadow of their parent trees. They must have struggled, but they hung on long enough that Homo sapiens began to breed them for fleshier and more edible (to us) fruit.

How avocado (and similar large-seeded fruits like cherimoya and papaya) survived is a bit of a mystery mixed with a lot of luck. Our ancestors picked the seeds they wanted and let the rest die. But this isn't "genetic engineering". It's just gardening.

I'm not saying genetically engineered food is harmful - obviously it isn't, so far - but making claims it can't be harmful because we've been doing this for thousands of years is dishonest. A lie. 

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