Naam Why GMOs Matter

Editor's note: After we ran What I learned from six months of GMO research: None of it matters, Nathanael Johnson's essay concluding his "Panic-Free GMOs" series, we heard from a lot of people who think that GMOs really do matter. We're publishing three two responses: one from Tom Philpott, whose work long graced these pages and who is now at Mother Jones; and, today, one from Ramez Naam, author of The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet(We'd planned to run another response from Denise Carusoauthor of Intervention: Confronting the Real Risks of Genetic Engineering and Life on a Biotech Planet but that piece did not materialize.)


The folks at Grist have kindly allowed me to pen a guest post here with a few thoughts on Nathanael Johnson’s excellent series on genetically modified foods and in particular his most recent piece on what he learned from 6 months investigating the GMO debate: that none of it really matters.

This most recent piece nails several key points that often go completely missed. When we get down to the specifics, we find that today’s GMOs are neither planetary panacea nor unbridled poison. The passionate, emotion-filled debate is more about the lenses through which we see the world as it is about genetically modified foods themselves. The GMO debate is often an emphatic and barely-disguised metaphor for our larger debate about whether technology is destroying the world or saving it, whether we should try to control nature or live within it.