Genetically modified [GM] foods have been around for a couple of decades now and some of the first GM animals have recently gone on sale commercially. With this progress in the realm of bio-manipulation and the promise it holds for everything from crop production to monitoring and clean up of contaminated land and waterways I would have thought that support for this powerful technique would be universally high. There are many reasons why people might find the concept of modifying genetic information directly unpalatable. Some of them valid, others are either based on misunderstandings or a more general lack of knowledge concerning the enterprise.

Those that argue that it is not natural or right to interfere with the blueprints of life on such a fundamental level conveniently forget that it is not radically different from what humans have been doing for thousands of years. Generations of selective breeding and cross breeding have altered plants and animals to forms that are almost unrecognisable compared to what nature originally produced. From dogs to cows, turkey and rice we have wrought changes to the plant and animal kingdoms on a massive scale. Now with the ability to do this more accurately and precisely we are confronted with those who would rather see us slam the door on certain technologies than be seen to “Play God”.

It is also overlooked that while new varieties of GM crops and animals must be subjected to years of rigorous tests for safety, selective breeding of the traditional sort gets a virtually free pass even though some of the same characteristics may be introduced in this way. Informed debate on scientific issues is to be encouraged for the benefit of all but knee-jerk negative reactions to progress of any sort have no place there.