When genetically modifed plants hit home

Gardeners ponder genetically modified plants.

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Doug Green, up in Canada, has an interesting question on his blog today. And it's sure to get people thinking and responding.

He assumes that the reader isn't in favor of genetically modified plants. And then he poses a conundrum: What if you could buy a blight-resistant potato plant that had been created by genetic modification?

My quick response was that if you're against genetic modification, you're against it in whatever form.

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But the question was designed to make gardeners think. So I did. I don't typically grow potatoes, so instead I thought about tomatoes as I pondered the problem.

What if I could buy a totally disease-resistant tomato plant? It would have to produce tomatoes that have great taste, of course, since that's the reason I grow them.

But even if the taste was only equal to what you typically find in the supermarket, would a disease-free plant help farmers raise more tomatoes and -- potentially -- lower the price, helping families at the lower end of the economic scale?

This sort of thing is already happening with grains. Does it help or hurt developing nations?

And are those humanitarian goals worth opening what at this point seems to be a Pandora's box? Similar questions are posed in today's New York Times about "geoengineering."

I decided that I didn't know nearly as many hard facts about genetically modified plants as I thought I did. And I realized it had been some time since I'd read some authoritative scientific information in favor of genetic modification.

I don't like to think I'm basing my opinions on emotion instead of fact. So I went searching:

While the article "Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful?" isn't recent, it does set out the pros and cons nicely.

A Wikipedia article says that genetically modified foods don't necessarily produce increased yields. The list of currently available genetically modified plants is eye-opening.

The Royal Society, the national academy of science for Britain and the Commonwealth, raises many questions and puts the issue into scientific perspective.

The Monitor has published several interesting articles on the topic. One was about genetically modified foods "escaping" and mixing with other plants. And another, in June of this year, talked about resistance to genetically modified food plants weakening because of the poor economy.

A later addition: India's supreme court is today hearing a request for a moratorium on genetically modified crops until an independent testing facility can be set up, reports The Indian Express.

What's your take on all this?

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