Commentary by Karin Klein in today’s Los Angeles Times:
“With Proposition 37 — to label genetically engineered food — on the November ballot in California, there’s obviously a raised level of debate about whether such food is truly safe for human consumption. The evidence doesn’t indicate any harm, but a 2009 editorial in Scientific American complains that too much of the research is controlled by the companies that produce the bioengineered seed. Concerns have been raised about possible allergenicity; on the other hand, some genetically engineered food has been designed specifically to remove properties that cause allergic reactions.
The bigger concern on The Times’ editorial board has been whether genetically engineered crops can cause environmental damage, and here the evidence is stronger that there is a problem. When the No on 37 group met with the editorial board last week, they didn’t deny that the crops are contributing to the emergence of herbicide-resistant weeds — specifically, resistant to glyphosate, better known by the trade name Roundup. Among the more prominent forms of engineered crops are the “Roundup ready” varieties that are meant to withstand the popular herbicide so that farmers can spray pest plants without harming the food plants. Their reaction was that new crops would be resistant to other weedkillers — Dow Agrosciences, for example, is seeking approval for a bioengineered corn that is resistant to the herbicide 2,4-d.
I’m not convinced, though, that creating weeds that can resist more and more herbicides is the answer…”