A Poker Analogy for GMO Foods’ Existence

We have verbally duked out our opinions in public before and gotten nowhere. So, this time, my friend requested my thoughts by texting me a link to an article entitled, “All of our food is ‘genetically modified’ in some way – here are the different types of GM technology.” I, naturally, decided to take my sweet time responding… and write a blog post.

I would like to begin by admitting that I can see the logic in this type of reasoning. The argument is sound in its own way. The problem for me is that it fails to adequately address the fact that the mere existence of genetically modified foods is the underlying concern of opponents like myself, because they represent an entirely new level of risk. While making a plant better able to resist pesticides (or repel the bugs itself) might be a scientifically similar process to increasing the plant’s ability to survive a drought, the potential for undesirable consequences is plainly far greater.

Pesticides are poisons. They kill bugs. They harm things. Is it really possible for them to harm one type of being and not another?

GMO crops are not confined to laboratories or grow rooms. Pollen and other plant particles blow in the wind and spread naturally. How can one say that proficient cautions were taken when these new crops are allowed to corrupt all others that surround them?

The author of the aforementioned article says that the chance of risk with GMO crops is low, then links to this article which discusses a fail-safe that might someday exist because it has been developed. The need for this scientific breakthrough is backed up with a quote from George Church, a Harvard Medical School genetics professor: “I don’t want to be alarmist or anything, but I think the point is that these organisms do spread.”

So, please tell me, how is the fact that we are developing protections now supposed to calm my fears about the effects of changes we have already spurred into motion?

To me, it’s as if I just caught you with an extra Ace in the deck and you refuted my accusations of cheating by saying that you were merely trying to encourage the continued evolution of a deck of cards as we know it and, subsequently, the game of poker. While it is true that the precise number of cards in the deck has changed over time – Jacks were once Knaves, and Queens and Jokers were admitted shortly before playing cards took their modern form – none of these changes were done covertly. The cheater (or evolution proponent) with the extra Ace gained a distinct advantage over those around him by asserting the desires he now claims were for the good of all involved. Whether the game continues with or without the extra Ace is not the issue I’m most concerned about. I want to know what we are doing to ensure that all are aware of and agree upon the rules of the game going forward and how we are going to repay those who were directly affected (aka cheated out of something) by the changes that began prior to unanimous consent.

In poker, when you catch someone changing the rules during the game, you kick them out and confiscate their money. Conversely, thanks to U.S. patent laws, when traces of GMOs are found within neighboring crops, the corrupted seeds are confiscated and given to the patent holder. Without the ability to use the seeds that their own crops produced, the farmers must buy seeds from somewhere in order to stay in business. Thus, merely letting the GMO farmers continue to play their game as they designed it fuels the market for GMO seeds and the goods they produce. It’s as if the cheater is allowed to both keep his chips and steal the chips of any who didn’t notice the extra Ace in the deck. It is infuriatingly wrong. Any questions?

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