2015-04-21 – Every food that you eat has been genetically modified.
When Darwin came up with his idea for natural selection, his model was artificial selection. Humans have been genetically modifying food for thousands of years. Presumably, this was unintentional at first, but humans have been intentionally creating hybrid plants and animals for all of recorded history.
Chickens and cattle and dogs (yes, people eat dogs) and corn and wheat and oranges don’t exist in nature. They are all genetically modified organisms (GMOs). And it all came about centuries before Monsanto came into existence.
Techniques have changed, but results haven’t. Not all hybrids have been successful. Most haven’t. But some have. And we select the ones that are successful to propagate. (Hence the term “selection.”) Not all GMOs created by genetic engineering techniques are successful. But some are. The successful ones are propagated.
So when I see blanket condemnations of GMOs, I have to think WTF!
Yesterday, I read an interesting story about a genetically modified virus. (Is a virus an organism? Can you call a genetically modified virus a GMO?)
This GMV contains proteins from a hemorrhagic fever virus similar to Ebola. By being genetically modified, this protein was able to cross the blood-brain barrier (in mice) and selectively attack cancer cells while leaving health brain cells intact. Presumably, this line of research has a long way to go before it is used in humans.
But would you want to ban something like this because it is a GMO?
There are no guarantees of safety. All you can do is test these things and determine the probabilities.
That’s what we do when we test vaccines (which involve another type of GMO—yes, they’re all around us). Large numbers of trials let us know that the risk of not taking a vaccine is much, much greater than the risk of taking it.
Trial and error doesn’t mean there is never an error. But it is possible to know when the risk is high and when the risk is low.