I’ll confess to some sensationalism in claiming in the title of my last piece on the GMO controversy that “none of it matters.” Of course it does matter to some degree, and it matters very much to those who have dedicated their lives to the issue. It would have been more punctilious (and less fun) to instead title the piece: “The ferocity of the GMO debate makes it seem much more important than it really is.”
It’s not that we should all resign ourselves to apathy. I’m simply suggesting that -- whether your primary concern is the environment, or health, or poverty, or feeding the world -- heavy expenditure of political capital on GMOs isn’t going to move you all that far toward your goal.
Both Ramez Naam and Tom Philpott take me to task for underplaying the importance of GMOs, and I actually agree with almost all of what they’ve written here. I agree with Naam that we should be pursuing moonshot technologies like C4 and self-fertilization. But we shouldn’t be counting on those big breakthroughs to solve our problems: They may not ever come. I agree with Philpott that GMO crops have been overhyped and that discussion should stick to the facts on the ground.