MARTHA R. HERBERT, PhD, MD: When Rights Collide: Genetic Engineering & Preserving Biocultural Integrity

To insist on access to non-GE food is not sufficient for dealing with the broad ramifications of a genetically modified food supply. The issues here go far beyond health effects and testing/labeling of new food products, and choice in the supermarket aisles. They reach into fundamental questions about how we evaluate technologies. The instrumentalist demon­stration that a technology appears to “work” is short sighted if the longer-term consequences and ripple effects of the technology are ignored. The issues also reach into questions about how we organize agriculture and how we keep our fellow living beings alive. Industrial farming, of which GE food is only the most recent example, has forced a transition from food cultivation to food production.5 The emphasis on production dismisses an enormous range of metabolic, ecological and cultural considerations related to food.

Proponents of GE food promise that genetic engineering will increase food productivity. But they ignore a host of other relevant domains which need their integrity to be maintained—including the metabolism of our bodies, farming communities and cultures with their complex local knowl­edge systems, and the cultural resonance of cuisine. . . . .

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