I recently wrote an article, GMO Labeling: The Obvious Libertarian Solution. The gist of my article was that using voluntary GMO labeling as a marketing tool to give people what they want is a great libertarian solution that neither forces nor prevents private industry from communicating with its customers.
I also noted that I have long tried to determine if GMOs were bad for us and haven’t really been able to figure it out. I don’t know if they create some genetic problem for the consumer that we’ll be decades in discovering, if eating plants with high tolerances for insecticides and herbicides will poison us, or if GMO seed will crowd out heritage seed so no one could ever live off the grid…I just don’t know the answers!
There is so much noise in the discussion, the answers are hard to come by. Every argument seems to have a counter-argument on both sides. Often I’m urged to defer to the fact that many countries have banned GMOs, but I dismissed that argument when I discovered that most GMO patents, if not all, are American–maybe other countries banning them is just a clever form of trade barrier. So when I saw this blurb at the top of the Journal this morning:
Monsanto agreed to sell itself to Germany’s Bayer in a $57 billion deal that would create an agricultural giant and end the independence of one of the most successful firms in the US
I thought it would be an opportunity to test my trade barrier theory. I wrote along the margin (as I am known to do–to my husband’s continued annoyance!):
watch GMO bans end in Europe, maybe rise here….
The Monsanto snippet is the first blurb in the blurb column on the front page of the The Wall Street Journal…as I scanned the rest of the page, I saw this headline:
Farmers Reconsider GMO Revolution
I kid you not. First thing I thought when I saw Monsanto would no longer be a US company but a German one was that the US defense of GMOs and European attack on them would reverse, and there on that very page is an article saying US farmers are ending their love affair with GMOs.
Of course if the Journal was working on this article anyway, it would make sense to put it in the paper the day Monsanto announces it’s selling itself (the online headline for the same article connects the dots: Behind the Monsanto Deal, Doubts About the GMO Revolution Farmers are reconsidering the use of biotech seeds as it becomes harder to justify their high prices amid the measly returns of the current farm economy)–and perhaps Monsanto is selling because it sees the end of GMO profits coming soon, but that won’t affect European laws if they are truly designed to protect health and not to protect industry.
This is just one of those moments I like to flag and stay aware of, curious to see if over the next several years the anti-GMO movement gains ground in the US (perhaps paving the way for some new substitute product) and loses ground in Europe.
Sometimes the only proof we have is the pudding!
The problem with GMOs being introduced into the environment is that they are not good neighbors. GMO are fundamentally different from hybrid seeds (which don’t reproduce to the true first generation stock) or heirloom seeds, which are ancient reproducing seeds. GMOs are created by splitting off sections of genes from another species or even a different genus and using a virus to implant that gene fragment into the new plant. The issue is that the gene fragment doesn’t stay where it is put. It migrates into other plants, onto adjoining farms, lots of places. That is why Joel Salatin says that the answer for the spread of GMOs is an action in trespass. Of course, Monsanto, took the stance that the reason the gene is in the neighboring farmer’s plant is that the farmer infringed on Monsanto’s patent and stole its plant. Me? I think GMO should be grown only in screen houses until the farmer can deal with the gene migration issue.