The Case for Genetically Modified Crops
The advent of plant biotechnology was hailed as the engine of a Second Green Revolution, capable of providing farmers with the hardier, higher-yielding, disease-resistant and more nutritious crops needed to sustain a burgeoning world population. Plant scientists argue that modification is really nothing new; using tools such as selective breeding and hybridization, humans have been influencing the genetics of food crops for millennia. Indeed, present varieties of corn, they say, bear little resemblance to their historical progenitors. The contribution of biotechnology is that the process can be sped up enormously and new traits incorporated from virtually any species. These proponents insist that their new varieties have been more extensively tested than any in history and that their safety as foodstuffs and in the environment is well proven.
The Case Against Genetically Modified Crops
Opposition to genetically modified plants comes from many fronts. It ranges from those like biotechnology gadfly Jeremy Rifkin, who oppose gene splicing on religious and moral grounds; to environmental and consumer rights groups, including Greenpeace and the Union of Concerned Scientists, that fear unexpected consequences to the environment; to health and pure food advocates, who see the new products as adulterated; and to small farmers and organic growers, who see the products as a sign of big chemical makers, seed merchants and commercial farmers trying to force them into buying these goods or going out of business. These groups charge that there has been insufficient testing, that the benefits have not been adequately demonstrated and that there is a clear potential for ecological disaster. Moreover, they argue that the same forces that stymied earlier crops, such as acquired resistance to pesticides by insects, will also triumph over the laboratory feats of the gene splicers.