Introduced more than a decade ago, genetically modified crops are now planted on millions of acres throughout the world. But the fundamental questions about them remain â€” both about their safety and their long-term impact on global food security and the environment.
For the past dozen years, Iâ€™ve been writing editorials opposing the introduction of genetically modified crops. When I began, genetically modified corn and soybeans were still just getting a foothold in American fields. Now, of course, hundreds of millions of acres â€” here and abroad â€” have been planted to these new varieties, which are usually engineered to withstand the application of pesticides â€” pesticides usually made by the same companies that engineer the seeds. Even wheat and rice producers â€” latecomers to the genetically modified table â€” are feeling the pressure to convert.
There has been a frenzy in the grain markets in the past couple of years â€” a new volatility in futures and in prices on the ground â€” that seems to favor genetically modified crops. It makes sense. The cost of conventionally-grown grain goes up and up because there is less and less of it. This leaves the world open to the nearly unchecked proliferation of genetically modified varieties.
After a dozen years, I still oppose genetically modified crops. This may sound like sheer truculence on my part â€” a Luddite reluctance to accept the future. It is certainly dispiriting. Like many people, I feel, as I did a decade ago, that genetically modified crops were introduced with bland assurances of safety based on studies from small test plots, a far different thing from the uncontrolled global experiment we now find ourselves in the midst of.