Sunday, January 5, 2014

Hawaii GMO Debate Highlighted in the New York Times

This Rainbow Papaya is a common GMO crop in Hawaii.
Photo by Forest and Kim Star.  Click for Credit.
Check out this interesting article from the New York Times on the Hawaii GMO debates.   The big island of Hawaii, home to a significant number of agricultural enterprises, voted to ban GMO crops recently, with exceptions made for the Rainbow Papaya.  The article is a fascinating look at the science and policy issues surrounding the GMO debate.

The challenge for us in the sustainability education biz is how to capture the truth in the midst of this debate.  GMO crops have saved important agricultural industries such as the papaya in Hawaii as noted in the article.  There is no doubt that there is limited science showing health impacts from eating GMO foods or environmental impacts from growing them.  However, much of the science on GMO crops is funded by organizations promoting them, which calls into question the types of studies that are conducted on their safety.  The science that is done on GMOs funded by agricultural industry is sound, but there just are not many research projects that test the types of hypotheses suggested by the anti-GMO activists and scientists.  There are also ethical issues associated with GMO's that are often not fully part of the discourse in this era of scientific wonders.

I think that the best thing we can do as educators is to present the arguments made on the pro and anti GMO side and allow our students to form their own opinions.  There are so many resources on the pro and con side that teaching GMO issues to students is really quite easy.

If you recall, I was part of the organizing team that put together an important GMO debate on the Hofstra Campus.  You can see the debate here.  It would be a good outside of class viewing assignment.

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