Science in the field

High tech versus low tech

August 29, 2011

Earlier this month, scientist Nina Fedoroff published a New York Times op-ed arguing that genetically modified organisms are the only way to feed the planet. She’s been here before, notably in a Times profile from 2008. This time around, however, reader response was sharper, with numerous letters to the editor picking apart Fedoroff's op-ed.

Most prominent was Anna Lappé's refutation on Civil Eats:

With all due respect, Nina Fedoroff’s New York Times op-ed reads like it was written two decades ago when the jury was still out about the potential of the biotech industry to reduce hunger, increase nutritional quality in foods, and decrease agriculture’s reliance on toxic chemicals and other expensive inputs that most of the world’s farmers can’t afford. With more than 15 years of commercialized GMOs behind us, we know not to believe these promises any longer.

Back in March, Tom Philpott published a column on Grist declaring that our culture’s reverence for science and technology lay behind our acceptance of the pro-GMO arguments, and cited numerous studies in support of organic instead of industrial agriculture.

He concluded with a call for prominent commentators (such as Fedoroff) to stop accepting the status quo and start demanding that science be science — in other words, that scientists should follow the scientific method, not just corporate priorities.

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