Shoddy journalism boosts anti-biotechnology activism

Washington Post article, “The Future of Food,” discussed the methods we use to breed food crops, but the piece suffered from “pseudo-balance” commonly seen these days in journalism: seeking out clueless commentators to contradict advocates of superior modern genetic modification techniques. We hate to break it to the author of the article (who holds a bachelor’s degree in “magazine journalism, international relations and Spanish”) but, in spite of what they teach you in journalism classes, not every issue has two sides and benefits from point-counterpoint.

Because most of society is between two and six generations removed from farming, that subject is largely terra incognita, literally and figuratively. This lack of knowledge makes the public very susceptible to fear-based marketing of food.

Humans have been modifying the DNA of our food for thousands of years. We call it agriculture. Early farmers (>10,000 years ago) used selective breeding to guide DNA changes in crops to better suit our needs. Approximately a hundred years ago plant breeders began using harsh chemicals and/or radiation to randomly change, or mutate, the DNA of crops. These mutagens caused innumerable changes to the DNA, none of which were characterized or examined for safety. Problems were rare. Today more than half of all food crops have mutagenesis breeding as part of their pedigree.  Read the article.

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