French Protesters Attempt to Destroy Genetically Modified Corn

Hundreds of French protesters tried to show how much they cared about the environment ignorant they are of science and ecology by trying to destroy a field of genetically modified corn.

French police arrested three people after hundreds of protesters including anti-globalisation icon Jose Bove tried to destroy a field of genetically-modified maize.

Between 250 and 300 anti-GM protesters invaded the field in the Lot-et-Garonne area of southwest France on Saturday afternoon.

It goes without saying that they were unsuccessful; the concept of fire likely goes over their heads.

Of course, anyone with even a modicum of knowledge about the history of agriculture knows how deceiving the phrase “genetically modified maize” is. That’s because, of course, all maize (or corn, or whatever you want to call it) currently existing for food production today is genetically modified. Maize is the product of centuries of selective breeding on the part of indigenous Americans. There’s nothing “natural” about it.

On a chemical level, what agricultural scientists do in the lab when they genetically modify food crops is no different from the selective breeding that farmers practiced for century. The only difference is that today, breeding is faster, more efficient, and it is now easier to create crops for the specific purposes desired. The outcry against genetic modification of foods in Europe (and in the U.S.) has a lot more to do with sheer ignorance than any real concern over the health and safety of food products.

Obviously, not all genetically modified foods are going to be great. It may even be that errors in the planning stages could lead to dangers. But these are risks, and they can be managed. So long as there are tests and controls, genetic modification is far less dangerous than most risks that human beings take every single day. Especially where food is concerned. After all, it’s pretty conclusive that a Vegan diet poses far more risks to health than diets that include meat, yet Veganism is marketed as being “healthy” and “natural.”

Clearly, some education about the food we eat is needed. There is no evidence demonstrating that genetically modified foods are, as a class, any more dangerous than the conventional foods already out there. Quite the contrary, in fact.

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Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. Wickedpinto says:

    Either today, or yesterday insty mentioned a nobel prize winner, who is a genius, and a real humanitarian.

    You can learn about the winner who is named Norman Borlaug a man who is so brilliant, so affective, he was credited with saving 1 BILLION lives 37 years ago, when he won the Nobel. A Man so brilliant that he didn’t need to hier al gore to represent him, all of the lives he saved are testiment enough that my first introduction to him was based on 2 lunatic entertainers on a show called bullsh!t.

    This is before genomic manipulation through viral rna whatchamacallits, yet it is still called franken food, even though it was built exclusively on the practices of easily manipulated natural botanical processes.

    The hyper tardolicious “organics” are starving people.

  2. Wickedpinto says:

    Not to mention, the TRUE father of evolution, in terms of botanical genetics, and herritage is a man called Mendel who was also the preceding scientist who understood the method botanical sexual procreation. He also, created most of the methods of genetic traits as they apply to the progeny, when created through sexual methods of procreation.

    so we have 4 genius’, 2 of them know what they are talking about, and 2 more are specialized in their field of entertainment and discussion making sure that we remember how these men are brilliant and changed the world, but the lunatic back to nature left is more right.

    I don’t think so.

  3. Wickedpinto says:

    CURSES!

    Can you guys dig up my first post? that was the referenced one.

  4. Uncle Pinky says:

    With the biography of Norman Borlaug coming soon, scenes like this make me a believer in the Greek god of Irony.

  5. HankP says:

    Sorry, but you are completely incorrect in saying that genetic modification is the same as selective breeding. Selective breeding would never get genes from completely unrelated organisms into the same genome. Selective breeding uses the inbuilt error correction and combinatorial functions of living cells to modify genomes, genetic modification bypasses them. I agree that some exaggerate the dangers, but the dangers are greater than you state, and with open air testing the release of dangerous organisms is much more likely than if stricter guidelines were in place.

  6. Phil says:

    What a pleasure to read such an intelligent, well-thought-out and considered statement. Your in-depth knowledge of genetic engineering shines through your scintillating prose, reminiscent of your President’s delightful and illuminating rhetoric. Clearly, your understanding of ecological issues and your deep environmental awareness qualifies you to speak out on the big political issues of our day. I look forward to reading more.
    In particular, I would be interested in hearing your opinion on the use of ‘terminator technology’ in GM crops, which forces poor, third world farmers to buy new seed each year from the likes of Cargill/Monsanto, rather than keep their own seed for re-sowing, which they have always done.
    And, perhaps, you might like to enlighten us on the matter of testing: please cite all the independent, peer-reviewed, published research that demonstrates GM food to be safe for human consumption.

  7. Alex Knapp says:

    HankP,

    Even when you add genes from other organisms to the plant, you’re still relying on the internal regulators of the cells–that is, the new genes still have to work with the plants without killing them. And unless a dangerous gene is specifically added to the plant, there’s rarely any mechanism for danger to appear, except in the rare case of food allergies. Genes don’t spontaneously become dangerous to humans–they have to code for a protein that is dangerous.

    Phil,

    What a pleasure to read such an intelligent, well-thought-out and considered statement. Your in-depth knowledge of genetic engineering shines through your scintillating prose, reminiscent of your President’s delightful and illuminating rhetoric. Clearly, your understanding of ecological issues and your deep environmental awareness qualifies you to speak out on the big political issues of our day. I look forward to reading more.

    I presume you’re being critical here without actually offering up any criticism. Obviously, you think I’m wrong, but far too timid to actually drum up a reason why, so you dress yourself up in florid prose to sound smart without actually having to go through all that hard work of coming up with an argument. Way to go!

    In particular, I would be interested in hearing your opinion on the use of ‘terminator technology’ in GM crops, which forces poor, third world farmers to buy new seed each year from the likes of Cargill/Monsanto, rather than keep their own seed for re-sowing, which they have always done.

    Well, this has zero to do with food safety, which was my point. Personally, I don’t like terminator crops at all. However, Monsanto has every right to produce them if they choose, and farmers have the choice to buy them or not, as they choose.

    And, perhaps, you might like to enlighten us on the matter of testing: please cite all the independent, peer-reviewed, published research that demonstrates GM food to be safe for human consumption.

    There are several resources linked to this article produced by the American Medical Association, for starters.

    http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/category/13595.html

  8. Schiller Thurkettle says:

    The most amusing thing about the French incident is that the police had advance warning of the swarm of vandals, and were waiting for them when they arrived. Police seldom have such a prime opportunity to prevent crime–but the French police managed to arrest about one percent of the criminals available.

    Law and order in France have completely broken down.

  9. silverfish says:

    It goes without saying that they were unsuccessful; the concept of fire likely goes over their heads.

    I agree snark is fun. Seriously though: do you actually believe this statement? Do you really think the protestors expected to be able to destroy all the crops? Did you read the Yahoo news story you link to? I just read it and it sounded to me like this was a symbolic protest.

    The Yahoo story quotes the protestors as claiming:

    organic farmers in the area had uncovered evidence of “genetic pollution”

    If that is true, don’t you think that gives them some standing here? There is a market for organic food. People have the right to buy organic. Farmers have the right to grow it. Neighboring GM farmers do not have the right to pollute the organic crops, do they?

  10. Alex Knapp says:

    Silverfish,

    If the protesters claim regarding “genetic pollution” is true, I would agree with you that they have a valid grievance. Organic farmers have property rights that should not be violated by their neighbors.

    However, the proper solution here is to file a lawsuit alleging damages. Trespassing onto the GM property and destroying the crops on it is not civilized behavior and should not be tolerated.

  11. silverfish says:

    the proper solution here is to file a lawsuit alleging damages

    Agreed.

    I would add “file a lawsuit and mount a nonviolent protest to bring attention to their cause” 😉

  12. Alex Knapp says:

    You know, Silverfish, I don’t even have a problem with a protest. But I DO have a problem with trespassing and vandalism. There’s a distinct difference.

  13. Wickedpinto says:

    So a man who fed the world is being protested? or rather, 1/6th of the world, is being protested as vile?

    Priority’s.

  14. HankP says:

    Alex –

    The problem with GM is that we don’t understand the “grammar” of DNA well enough to know what exactly we are doing. We can ususally expect a gene for a particular protein along with a promotor to express a protein, but when the gene is completely foreign to the organism we don’t know what will happen a few generations down the line. Also, open air testing, especially for herbicide resistant and terminator genes is extremely foolish.