GMO 논쟁의 사회적 결과

댓글 0

농담/씨앗-작물

2019. 9. 10.

읽고 생각해 볼만한 문제이다. 알아야 비판할 수도 있는 법이다.  

------------------------------

GMO 논쟁은 20년 동안 계속되고 있지만, 사실 이 논쟁은 GMO에 관한 것이 아니다. 오히려"GMOs"는 여러 가지 매우 실질적 우려들에 대한 입장이 되었다. 먹을거리 공급을 통제하는 건 누구인가? 우리의 먹을거리를 안전하게 보장하고 환경을 보호할 수 있는 사람은 누구인가? 소농에게 주의하는 건 누구인가? 먹을거리와 꽁꽁 묶여 있는 건강과 경제적 불균형은 무엇인가? "GMOs"에 대한 두려움, 분노, 불신은 이러한 훨씬 깊은 질문들로부터 우리를 혼란스럽게 만든다.  


대개 GMO에 대한 두려움은 과학과 관련이 전혀 없다(과학은 우리가 논의했던 주제이지만). 하지만 "GMOs"에 대한 기사 댓글들을 보면 현대의 재조합 DNA 기술의 장단점을 논의하는 사람을 찾아볼 수 없다. 유전공학의 상대적 안전성에 대한 과학적 일치에도 불구하고, 우리의 먹을거리 체계의 안전성에 대한 불안과 두려움을 볼 수 있다. 이러한 두려움은 "GMO"가 대표하는 사회경제적 불안에 뿌리를 두고 있지만, 불행히도 "GMO"를 그러한 두려움과 동일시하는 건 먹을거리 체계의 복잡성을 극복하는 데 방해가 되고 있다.  

주의: 우린 "GMO"란 용어를 여러 이유로 따옴표로 묶었다. 이러한 문제에 대한 많은 경험을 바탕으로 "GMO"란 우산 아래에 무수한 현존하는 잠재적 특성을 묶으면, 유전공학의 이질성을취하여 산업형 농업을 무슨 수를 써서라도 반대하거나 방어해야 하는 전형으로 삼는 일을 줄일 수 있다. 이런 경향은 SciMoms이 추구하는 뉘앙스와 상반된다. 


사회경제적 문제가 "GMOs"와 잘못 동일시된다 

"GMOs"가 여러 경제적, 사회적, 정치적 문제로 흔히 비난을 받고 있지만, 이러한 문제는 유전공학에만 국한되지 않는다:


"GMOs"를 피하면 "대규모 농업"의 지위가 강화된다 

GE 작물의 위험보다는 그 육종 방법으로 인해 더 높은 수준의 규제를 준수해야 한다고 요구하면, 소규모 기업과 신생 기업이 계속하여 경쟁하기 어렵게 만든다. 예를 들어,  Okanagan Speciality Fruits는 미국 농무부에 2010년 갈변하지 않는 사과에 대한 첫 문서를 제출했지만, 2015년까지 결정을 받지 못했다. AquaBounty는 1995년 빠르게 성장하는 AquAdvantage 연어를 상업화하려는 응용 프로그램을 시작했지만 2018년 여전히 규제로 인한 지연에 직면해 있다. 

눈물을 유발하지 않는 양파와 글루텐이 없는 밀 같은 잠재적 GE 응용은 사실상 극복할 수 없는 규제란 장애물로 보류되었다. 이것이 오랜 시간과 수백만 달러의 규제 과정을 통과해 새로운 작물을 얻을 수 있는자원을 가진 거대한 기업만 존재하게 하는 악순환의 근원이다. 

Okanagan과 AquaBounty 모두 생명공학 기업은  have now been purchased by the biotech company Intrexon에 인수되었다. 우린 소규모 회사가 실제로 이런 규제의 장애물을 뛰어넘어 주요한 농기업들과 경쟁할 여력이 되는지 궁금해진다.  

미국 국립과학원(National Academies of Sciences)의 권고에 따라 "육종 과정에 기반하는 것이 아니라, 참신성, 잠재적 위험, 노출을 기준으로 고려하는 계층적 규제라는 접근법"을 미국이 포용한다면, 소규모 농기업과 비영리단체를 위해 운동장을 평준화하는 데 도움이 될 것이다.


"GMOs"를 줄이면 사치품이 된다 

There’s also the added cost of avoiding “GMOs.” A recent study which we reviewed in depth, examined the cost difference between non-GMO food items and other products. It found that non-GMO foods cost 10-62% more with no added benefit. As we’ve highlighted before, the non-GMO label does not mean that the food is healthier, better for the environment, or more sustainable. Worse, we’ve encountered even more far-fetched, implied or explicit claims about what “non-GMO” means, like better conditions for farmers and reductions in suicide rates, mitigation of racial health disparities, and even prevention or cure for autism symptoms. These dubious claims may persuade customers to continue buying this label, even when they may not be able to afford it, which means the non-GMO label and the GMO debate have real, negative consequences for individuals.


"GMOs"를 피하면 먹을거리 자치권을 위해 싸우는 개발도상국에 충격을 준다

Man bending down to select from a variety of fruits on a table. A consequence of the GMO debate has been the thwarting of efforts to develop local genetically modified crops in developing nations.
Fruit market in Lahore. Image from US Peace Corps.

Scientists around the world are using genetic engineering to solve or mitigate nutritional and agricultural challenges, but fears and anxieties about “GMO” stand in the way. Crops such as water efficient maizebananas resistant to wilt, and vitamin fortified cassavas are being developed by African scientists and tested in Uganda, Nigeria, and other nations, primarily through public funding.

Anti-GMO sentiment, often promoted by groups headquartered in the West, continues to thwart these efforts. For example, Kenya banned imported “GM” food in 2012, based largely on a discredited and fraudulent study linking consumption of these foods to cancer in rats. In 2015, Venezuela passed a GE seed ban despite protests from the nation’s own scientific academies, growing food scarcity, and hyperinflation. One assembly member asked “How can we feed 40 million people in 2050 if we cannot feed 30 million today?” This question remained unanswered by Western anti-GE groups who celebrated the passing of the law as if it marked their own success. At the same time, it’s worth noting that the protests within these countries against “GMO” crops are often interlinked with the not-entirely-misplaced distrust of foreign companies who have a history of interfering with these nations’ food sovereignty.

After India’s Bt cotton ban was lifted in 2002, following the discovery of thousands of hectares of illegal hybrid Bt cotton growing in Gujarat, India became the world’s leading exporter of the crop. It’s difficult to label India’s Bt cotton success as inherently “good” or “bad”: increased farmer income is certainly good, but is fueling a wasteful “fast fashion” textile industry a good thing?

Meanwhile, Bt brinjal (eggplant) remains illegal in India. Brinjal is undoubtedly less important to India’s economy than cotton, yet it’s deeply important culturally and is consumed widely by the largely vegetarian population. However, pest damage and overuse of insecticides to control the fruit and shoot borer has wreaked havoc on the health and finances of brinjal farmers. There is a stark contrast between the approval of GE traits in profitable crops, versus culturally important crops of low economic appeal.. 

The starchy banana known as matokeekitooke, and by other names, is another culturally important staple crop. Banana makes up around 30% of the average person’s daily caloric intake in regions of Eastern Africa. It has been devastated by Banana Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW), a bacterial disease that affects all banana cultivars, and is considered one of the most dire threats to banana productivity and food security in Uganda and eastern Africa. It’s particularly challenging to breed disease resistance into bananas, since most cultivated varieties aren’t fertile, so it’s frustrating to see a genetically engineered variety, identical to matoke other than the pepper gene that confers resistance, remain illegal in Uganda while subsistence farmers and their families go hungry

It’s important to note that while a couple of us have roots in Venezuela and India, we don’t purport to speak for the people of these nations or other nations we’ve discussed here. Their stories are compelling and we should seek them out and consider them in forming opinions and policy. For example, Ugandan farmer Patricia Nanteza writes:

Michael Pollan is quoted to have suggested that we should grow squash and greens around our houses and fields. What the hell is squash? Is that something that I can feed my family on and even have some extra to sell for my children’s school fees? Is that squash thing a perennial crop and is it as food secure as bananas (matooke)? Can a farmer use squash peels as feed for her pigs or cows? I doubt squash can do all the things matooke does for Uganda without forgetting the incredible source of starch and potassium that bananas are. Heck! Can squash make delicious breakfast katogo with cow offals? Or will Pollan tell us to forget katogo and start having burgers for breakfast? 


"GMOs"를 피함으로써 우리는 지속가능하고 인도적인 선택지를 버리고 있을지도 모른다 

In the GMO debate, these crops are often conflated with herbicide use. Yet several genetically engineered traits can in fact decrease agricultural dependence on chemical pesticides. The addition of genes that enable resistance to pests, including fungi, insects, and viruses, has been shown to decrease the need for the application of external pesticides. Additionally, a reduction in the need to spray crops reduces farming’s carbon footprint by decreasing fuel use and equipment wear-and-tear. It also keeps the farming community healthier by reducing their exposure to pesticides. 

Examples include the Rainbow Papaya, which has a gene from the ringspot virus to give it pest-resistance, the second generation Innate Potato, which has a gene from a wild potato species giving it resistance to late blight (this pest is infamous for being a major factor in the Irish potato famine), and Bt eggplant, which has a gene from a soil bacterium giving the crop resistance to worms.

Three Impossible burger sliders on a wooden serving tray.
The Impossible burger sliders Alison tried in Vegas.

Genetic engineering can also help produce meat-like products without the use of animals. Yeast can be engineered to create vegan cheese. The mass production of plant-heme using microorganisms to mimic meat flavors has the potential to reduce our reliance on animals and decrease our carbon footprint.

New applications of GE technologies can also improve animal welfare. For example, scientists have used gene editing techniques to breed hornless cows, eliminating a dehorning process associated with problems like animal infections and injuries to farmers. Other examples include disease-resistant cattle and low-fat pigs.


GMOs를 피하는 건 답이 아니다. 그 질문들에 관해 더 생각해보자

It’s not surprising that multinational agricultural corporations first chose to develop GE traits that improved commodity crops and enriched their investors—that’s the nature of capitalism. That’s not to say those traits haven’t also benefited farmers or the environment, but their primary purpose, like any other commercial product, including seeds developed through non-GE technology, is to make money.

The success of these commodity crops has had both positive and negative impacts on our food and agriculture systems. one consequence of capitalist-driven crop improvement is public doubt. Given a rich history of corporate corruption in a system that benefits the wealthy and powerful, it makes sense that customers would be asking themselves: Is this technology good for me? For my family? For the environment?

These questions might be intertwined with the GMO debate, but banning these crops won’t resolve them. Those who oppose “GMOs” should reflect on the root of their discomfort and question whether banning a crop modification method will actually address their concerns. Banning GMOs will not solve corporate corruption, greed, pesticide use, monopolies, monocultures, or industry lobbying. Agricultural companies will simply find other, less efficient ways of modifying crops.

And if you’re passionate about advocating for “GMOs,” take note: GE technology will not be “the one true solution” to any of these problems, nor should science and safety be our only inquiry. Questions about which crops to grow and for whose benefit, are rooted in values, not science. We in the West need to support scientists around the world as they develop and implement new technologies for the benefit of their own populations. Here at home, we need to take a moment to examine our own privilege, experiences, and responsibility as we search for ways to address the challenges of our food system together.