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June 28th, 2016 / Giovanni Tagliabue

“Genetically Modified Organisms” are not a consistent category: it is impossible to discuss such a miscellaneous bunch of products, deriving from various biotech methods, as if they had a common denominator.

Critics are too often pre-emptively suspicious of peculiar risks for health or
the environment linked to this ill-assorted ensemble of microorganisms,
plants or animals: yet, even before being unscientific, the expression
“GMO(s)” has very poor semantic value.

Similarly, claims that recombinant DNA technology is always safe are a
misjudgement: many unsatisfactory “GMOs” have been discarded, as has
happened also for innumerable agri-food outcomes, obtained via more or
less traditional field and lab methods.

The scientific consensus, i.e. the widespread accord among geneticists,
biologists and agriculturalists, maintains that every biotech invention has to
be examined case by case, evaluating the unique profile of each new
organism (“GMO” or otherwise): to assess its safety, the technique(s) used
to produce it are irrelevant.

Therefore, in considering “green” biotechnologies, a triple mantra should
be kept in mind: 1. product, not process; 2. singular, not plural;
3. a posteriori, not a priori.

Both people’s and law-makers’ attitude to agricultural biotechnologies
should be reoriented, and this is an interesting task for science
communicators: they should explain how meaningless and misleading the
“GMO” frame is, debunking a historical, ongoing socio-political blunder,
clarifying to the public what most life scientists have been recommending
for several decades. Read full paper