How much proof is proof?

The term \”genetic modification\” provokes widespread fears about the corporate control of agriculture, and of the unknown. However, results from 25 years of EU-funded research show that there is \”no scientific evidence associating GM plants with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms\”. This of course does not prove GM methods are 100% safe, but makes clear there is no evidence to the contrary.

Seems a fair enough summation.

But how much proof is proof?

How far can we go in showing that there\’s no danger from GM…..possibly not far enough to stop Greenpeace digging up controlled trials as they just did in Australia?

Which is the problem of course. Not just that it\’s near impossible to prove the negative in this case, but that the most vocal opponents aren\’t actually interested in either proof or evidence.

For they already \”know\”. Always the problem with zealots……

5 thoughts on “How much proof is proof?”

  1. It’s not too bad, but it doesn’t address the corporate control issue which is a matter of considerably greater concern than anything that has emerged from the safety trial.

  2. The corporate control issue is a bit bogus, so far as I can see. Farmers already buy conventional seed from seed companies because they’re treated before planting. There are cooperative mobile seed treatment facilities but they’re a minority. What’s the difference between buying conventional seed from suppliers and buying GM seed from (probably the same) suppliers?

    What strikes me most about this, though I’m not claiming it as an original insight, is that whereas there really is consensus about the safety of GM plants, there’s significant scientific doubt about global warming alarmism (not about CO2 being a greenhouse gas, contributing to the planet’s energy balance and being released by humans).

    The same people who talk about AGW consensus seem less persuaded by consensus in areas like GM. This is often more a balance of doubt issue than anything else, as demonstrated by Unity above.

    It’s inconsistent.

  3. The corporate control issue isn’t really bogus as such, its just not quite as straightforward as its put over by the anti-GM lobby.

    The anti-GM lobby is, for the most part, driven by irrational and unscientific fears – the old ‘Frankenstein foods’ nonsense – and as such, what it has to say on the subject of corporate control rarely, if ever, goes beyond the ill-thought and reflexise ‘capitalism is bad’ level.

    There are, nevertheless, legitimate economic and political concerns to be raised and addressed in relation to the commerical development of GM arising out the technologies potential to give rise to artificial monopolies and conditions under which hydraulic despotism becomes a possibility. These are not arguments against the development and use of GM technologies, however, they’re questions about how best we can go about ensuring that there is adequate competition in the marketplace so as prevent excessive concentrations of economic and political power arising as an indirect consequence of the development of GM.

    One of the issues that I think received too little attention is the inflexibility of the existing patent system, with its fixed 17 year life span across all patents. This neither takes into account the pace of technological development is different fields – it is, for example, absurd to grant 17 year patents in many fields of information technology where innovations will often become obsolete long before the patents that relate to them expire, while in other fields, such as GM and the pharmceutical sector, the time and expense involved in establishing safety, just to be able to bring a product to market, distorts market prices and pushes up the costs of innovation by placing unnecessarily severe limitations on the timescales the companies have to recoup their investment and turn a fair profit.

    Those are the issue that I personally find much more interesting – as far as safety goes that’s just a matter of science and if the science is telling us that GM is safe then lets cut the crap and get things out into the marketplace.

    That’s not inconsistent, I should add, its merely a reflection of the strength of the evidence base – there’s no question that AGW is real and that’s well supported by scientific evidence. What is open for legitimate dispute is how far the consequences of AGW will go – its extremely difficult to make accurate predication about the future behaviour of a complex, non-linear system as big as the global climate – and how best to address those potential consequences.

    In that, I’m not great fan of the ‘everyone gets to wear a hairshirt’ approach favoured by many environmental campaigners but nor am I keen on the ‘let’s just ignore it and get on with business as usual’. There’s a middle ground to found in this which combines a modest degree of self-restraint, in the interests of not making things worse, with support for innovative technological solutions to some of the problems that are already evident – its just a pity that things have become so polarised that relatively few people seem to want to pay attention to that line of argument.

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