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Who's Afraid of GMOs?

As the letters in your fall 2005 issue [in response to “Who’s Afraid of GMOs?” spring 2004] demonstrate, many people—far from being terrified—are simply concerned about the safety and necessity of genetically modified organisms. As students passionate about fostering responsible agriculture, we applaud these letter-writers’ opposition to corporate farming tactics that place profits before environmental and social costs.

However, we also assert that GMOs don’t have to be accomplices to the crimes of industrial agriculture. Appropriately tested and responsibly used, GMOs could instead play a vital role in a multi-pronged, integrative approach to sustainable agriculture.

Due to global climate change and a still-expanding global population, agriculture will have to become more adaptable and efficient in the next 50 years. A single approach to this problem will not be enough. Use of GMOs cannot and should not replace organic farming practices and fair food distribution policies. But as champions of social justice and sustainable agriculture, we shouldn’t be so eager to reject technology that could potentially elevate yields, improve nutrition, increase food security in the developing world, and reduce the use of agrochemicals.

We absolutely agree that scientifically rigorous safety and regulatory policies must be established to address concerns about unintended effects of GMOs. But creatively applied and partnered with advances in organic husbandry and social justice, biotechnology may one day help to reform ecologically destructive, socially exploitative farming practices.

-Tracy Powell, Alexander Joes, Jenne Stonaker, Amy Harris, Michelle Garcia, and Dan Choffnes-Inada, Plant and Microbial Biology graduate students

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