Good & evil: two articles on closing down the debate on GM crops

goldenriceIs it right to call opponents of GM crops ‘wicked’? In a recent interview, Owen Paterson denounced in starkly moralistic language people whom he sees as holding up progress on Golden Rice and other genetically modified foods.

In a piece for the Guardian’s Political Science blog, Andy Stirling argues in defence of scepticism and democracy in science.

“The issues go far beyond GM. What lies at threat more broadly, are both science and democracy – and their crucial interdependencies. […]

Rationality is not a kind of fairy dust that rubs off simply by invoking ‘science’. And science itself is not a cargo cult, magicking into being single self-evident ‘solutions’ that brook no question. The real issues are about choices – both within and beyond science-based innovations. And as any real respect for science must show, the most important factors to explore will always be uncertainty and ambiguity. Here, the greatest assets are scepticism and democracy.

Choices between technologies are not about ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to whatever the loudest voices assert uncompromisingly as ‘progress’.”

Meanwhile, in a piece for the New Humanist blog, I’ve suggested that the rhetoric may close down important debates on how food is produced and consumed.


“Are you in favour of “rolling out” GM crops, or do you want little children in Bangladesh to die? In an interview for the Independent, Owen Paterson, the UK Environment Secretary, has called opponents of GM technology “wicked”, and accused them of “casting a dark shadow over attempts to feed the world”.

[…] If you join the dots in the way Paterson has done, it’s almost impossible to see GM as anything other than a battleground for the life and death of the world’s poor, with Paterson on the side of the angels; and anyone who questions this narrative with feet firmly planted among the infernal legions of Satan himself.”

Read the full posts here:

Photo: Golden Rice grain compared to white rice (3)-19 by ricephotos on Flickr