Thursday, March 20, 2008

Organic Biotechnology

Given all of the environmental and health benefits from biotech foods, you would think that more supporters of organic production and 'sustainble agriculture' would be supportive of biotech crops. I'm not here to bash organic production, because I think that there is a market for everyone. However, research indicates that one shortfall of organic food is its exclusion of biotech/GM crops.

A recent Boston Globe article makes this point:

  • Link

  • Europeans are very skeptical of biotech crops but accept nanotechnology. They also are very supportive of organic production. I wonder how most organic consumers view nanotechnology? Even if it benefits the environment?

    On another note, most people probably don't know that even organic wheat varieties used for making organic pasta come from germplasm that was developted using mutation breeding i.e. introducing genetic variation by mutations casued by gamma rays. I wonder how they feel about that? What is more radical or more unnatural? If we really wanted 'all natural' corn, we'd have to eat the grass-like plant - teosinte- that's ultimately where we got modern corn.


    Sara DownToEarth said...

    Good point re:mutation breeding and genetic selection. So many technologies that are common place now (artificial insemination, cross-breeding of inbred lines, etc.) were greeted with skepticism and/or fear when they first appeared.

    s.d. savage said...

    "Natural" is a poorly defined concept. For instance, where in nature do tons of plant material and manure get mechanically tilled into the soil each year? In nature soils are built quite well by root growth with associated microbes and by decomposition on the surface. That is also how it happens on a biotech, no-till farm

    agEconomist said...

    That is an awesome point! Thanks for your comments.

    s.d. savage said...

    Actually, there is a professor at UC Davis who wrote a book advocating the use of Biotechnology in Organic (Pam Ronald, "Tomorrow's Table")

    It won't ever happen though. The Organic Consumers Union vigorously opposes any changes regardless of the science