Opposition to GMOs is Neither Unscientific nor Immoral

Is the engineering of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) a dangerous technology posing grave risks to human and ecological health? Or are GMOs a potent new tool in the onward march of modern agricultural technology in its race to feed the world?

In a recent opinion piece -- Opposition to GMOs Isn't Just Anti-Science, It's Immoral-- Purdue University president Mitch Daniels offers an impassioned plea that we embrace GMOs in agriculture. Daniels’ argument runs as follows: The health and ecological safety of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) is unquestionable “settled science.” Therefore, it is immoral to deny developing countries the agricultural technology they need to boost food production and feed their growing populations. It seems an open-and-shut case: the self-indulgent anti-GMO fad among rich consumers threatens the less fortunate with starvation. A Daniels says, it is immoral for them to “inflict their superstitions on the poor and hungry.”

But let’s look at some of the assumptions that this argument takes for granted: (1) That GMOs are indeed safe, and (2) that GMOs and industrial agriculture in general allow higher yields than more traditional forms of agriculture


Read the rest of the essay on the Huffington Post --


  1. great article, thank you Charles. i appreciate you resisting the temptation to debate the establishment under the context of more is always better. if it was working, it might be useful to debate it, but its not. let’s move on to the next thing.

    I like what is happening in the urban farms of Detroit and other economically ravished inner city areas. Here is a great example just uploaded to TED yesterday: How urban agriculture is transforming Detroit

    I got to see some of this transformation as a guest of Drew Philp, author of “A $500 house in Detroit” last October. Great things are blooming there.

  2. Hi, Charles,
    Great clear writing laying out the two visions. One challenge is replenishing the agrarian population that the truly biological approach needs to succeed. I am 64 and was raised when in the Midwest when there was still a substantial agrarian population in the 50’s and 60’s. 200 acre farms each with a family still blanketed the Midwest when I was young. My farming father and his farming brother had ten children between them. Only one farms – thousands of acres of rented land growing corn and soybeans with immense machinery and great inputs of chemicals. Two of my brothers live on ten acre hobby farms as a lifestyle choice. Those countless families are no longer on those farms. In my family the agrarian tradition goes back to the 1600’s. The chain was broken, traditions and customs lost. Has our culture moved on? Where will that missing 8% of 10 % come from. to revive the rural population? Is there a workable in between compromise place between your two opposing visions ?

  3. Would climate change not fall prey to the same skepticism evinced when you say “To oppose them, one must also question the impartiality and soundness of scientific institutions: universities, journals, and government agencies. Opposition to GMOs only makes sense as part of a larger social critique and critique of institutional science. If you believe that society’s main institutions are basically sound, then it is indeed irrational to oppose GMOs.”

    I deeply enjoy your work, and would like to know your thoughts on this logical inconsistency. The common thread is the mechanization of the technological paradigm yielding unforeseen consequences, but in citing the above as your primary logical foundation for questioning GMOs, it begs the extension of the premise to other arenas.

  4. I appreciated this article! I am wondering/hoping you might do a follow up at some point on the glyphosate and health aspect of GMO’s.

    The glyphosate thing is of extreme interest to me because I had a serious illness that glyphosate exposure was a major risk/contributing factor in the overall picture. My assessment is that it is an ongoing risk factor for my own system and my concerns extend to others.

    I am living a low-to-no glyphosate (and other chemicals as far as can be avoided) life. Which is trickier than it might sound. And an adventure into rewiring my domestic conditioning of how to run a household, food budget, meals, social life, etc. Steering clear of conventional food is considered a bit overblown and an imposition on others in many of our family, business and even some social circles. We have traveled with an ice chest for years, but this is a whole new level of organization and degree. This lifestyle change to a slow food household has called forth much learning and growth for our family. I question making the relative from scratch-ness and contamination level of food so important in my life, and yet to do otherwise given current evidence on the topic seems like madness, even if I hadn’t been ill. I am doing terrific these days and grateful.

    Thanks for the article- just was made aware of your site and very much appreciating the topics, speakers and comments.

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