By Dean Carroll
Judging by the fierce discussion around the use of genetically modified crops and animals in Europe, the matter continues to be an emotive one. Debate is polarised and shrill voices from both the pro and against camps refuse to meet in the middle for any sort of meaningful discussion. Whether you believe in ‘Frankenstein food’ horror stories and regulatory corruption or feel that GM is necessary to bring about food security in an overpopulated world – there are a plethora of lobbyists and campaign groups out there just waiting for you to join their cause.
Membership is conditional though, you must promise to stick to the organisational line and under no circumstances enter into a reasonable talk with the other side. No conciliation, no empathy and no compromise – just brickbats and bruises. Firms like Monsanto are not much better than the entrenched anti-campaigners. On a number of occasions they have refused to talk to the media in any great detail about what they are doing, why they are doing it and what it could mean for society in terms of risks and rewards.
When taking on the freshly created role of European Union chief scientific adviser in 2012, Anne Glover spoke of her desire for a “better debate around GM, based on evidence and not emotion”. Now, nobody can deny the fact that Glover is somewhat of a GM evangelist – having used the technology expansively during her research career as a molecular biologist at Aberdeen University, in Scotland. But she was right to say that a proper debate should be heard.
Glover, who reports directly to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, said then of the stalemate: “The lobbyists and pressure groups have almost been responsible for it by causing this withdrawal from evidence and this acceptance of the emotional argument. It really is not fair to use terms such as ‘Frankenstein foods’. We should be a bit more cautious in Europe here. By turning our backs on the evidence, there is a question over whether we are still going to be as competitive. We need to seriously look at GM crops when we tackle to the global problem of climate change and being able to feed the population of the world. It links into food security as well and we do need to think about that.”
So whether it is a barbed comment on GM mosquitoes or a post in praise of GM honey we would like hear your views – as long as you are willing to listen to your counterparts on the other side of the argument. Join the debate now so that we can have a grown-up discussion about our future. Not doing so will simply mean that the loudest and best-connected self-interest group will decide for us. You have a choice so take the plunge and get involved in the conversation.
Dean Carroll is editor of Policy Review