About 15 years or so ago there seemed to be a raging debate about whether genetically modified food was going to solve the world’s hunger problems or destroy mankind. I was living in England at the time, a place that seemed to have a particularly acute preoccupation with food safety, no doubt due to the presence of both mad cow disease and Paul McCartney.
I was never really that concerned about genetically modified foods. I always figured something else would kill me long before genetically modified canola, so I never really paid that close attention to the debate, but I was always at least vaguely aware of its existence.
In recent years, as I became a father to a couple of kids and started taking a serious interest in food, I couldn’t help but notice that there didn’t seem to be anyone talking about the dangers of GMO foods anymore. It seems that for most people gluten is a much bigger worry than GMO foods. Organic and locally grown foods, which tend not to be genetically modified, are growing in popularity, but most of the interest in those foods more to do with the lack of toxic pesticides than alterations to the food’s genetic makeup.
To be honest though I don’t really understand what is different about organic fruits and vegetables other than that they are more expensive and have more spots on them. I wonder if scientists were to someday be able modify an apple such that the apple actually developed the ability to eat its pests, thereby eliminating the need for pesticides, would the apples then be considered organic? But I digress…
Did the opponents of GMO foods simply give up or were they just soundly beaten by the giant food companies? I suspect it was some combination of the two. Large multinationals have an admirable track record when it comes to doing battle against concerned citizens, so the result was probably never really in doubt. But after a couple decades of eating all these GMO foods, humanity doesn’t seem any worse for wear, so perhaps the right side won that war.