AmericanFarm.com

Will GMO study change opinions? (Editorial)

(Jan. 19, 2016) Is it possible the passionate cultural clash over the safety of genetically modified crop processed into food might be coming to an end? We shall see.
Two decades after their introduction, genetically engineered crops remain a hot-button issue — especially when it comes to their use in food.  
Conflicting opinions and unanswered questions have created a confusing landscape for consumers and policymakers alike.
A soon-to-be completed study from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine is designed to address this lingering confusion and to bring an independent, objective voice to what has sometimes been a contentious debate.
A 20-person, multidisciplinary scientific panel has spent nearly two years gathering and analyzing information and will publish its findings this spring.
The group’s upcoming report will explore a wide variety of agronomic, environmental, health and socioeconomic factors, including whether initial concerns about the impact of genetically engineered crops have been realized and whether promises about their benefits have been fulfilled.   
Since the launch of the study last year, the National Academies committee has hosted numerous public meetings and webinars and has heard presentations from 80 experts — all recorded and posted for public access on the organization’s website.
Several areas of exploration by the study committee touch on agriculture.
They include, for example:
• Scientists have begun to explore whether RNA1can interrupt gene activity that confers herbicide resistance to weeds.
• Comparison of the environmental impact of genetically engineered and non-genetically engineered cropping systems, involving federal regulatory agencies and industry representatives.
So, after 20 years of study, an organization of unquestioned respectability and knowledge, is about to insert itself into the GMO debate and unveil, we presume, what could provide a capstone to the cultural debate.
That may be wishful thinking.
The passions of the anti-GMO activists run deep and no study — no matter how complete or authoritative or convincing — may quell their ardor.
Such is the temperament of our society today, and its eating habits.
We are spoiled. Our supermarkets have so much food that too much of the fresh produce and meats are unpurchased, and thus uneaten, and end up in the dumpster on the alley behind the store.
Yes, we are spoiled.
If some of our anti-GMO fellow citizens were to go hungry — if our farmers decided to halt production for a while and the shelves in the supermarket slowly became vacant — the vigor of anti-GMO crusade would wilt on the vine.