If you’re like most people, you are probably thinking: “Vegans who like GMOs?! You’ve got to be kidding, right?!”
Well, anti-GMO conspiracists have co-opted the vegan movement and the joke is on us!
We feel that genetic engineering (GE), and, by extension, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), are important and crucial technologies. Ignorance and myths surrounding this field hinders advancement at best and harms at worst. It’s especially a concern to us as vegans for these reasons:
- Animal Testing: Insisting on unfounded safety testing leads to more animals being harmed in order to perform this testing. For example, the Seralini rat study, which was widely criticized for failing to meet animal-welfare standards and has since been retracted for poor methodology, allowed rats to die of their tumors rather than by euthanasia, well past the point at which their quality of life took a nosedive. This study is an extreme case, but when the safety of GMOs is not in question by the scientific community, animals suffer needlessly when anti-GMO activists push for safety testing solely on ideological grounds.
- Animal Alternatives: GE technology can help create alternatives to animal products. For example, insulin used to be obtained from slaughtered animals; now it is manufactured by genetically modified bacteria. It could also be possible to use GE technology to replace animal foods. The flavor and texture of cheese has been difficult to replicate using non-animal ingredients, and the lack of acceptable vegan cheese analogues could be a barrier for many potential vegans.
- Nutrition: GE technology can lower the bar for implementing vegan diets by biofortifying plant foods with nutrients those diets might lack, such as vitamin B12 and DHA. For example, scientists have been enabling canola plants to produce DHA. People who are vegan need DHA, and synthetic DHA can help save the lives of fish, who are often used as a source of omega-3 fatty acids. People are animals too, and there are many in dire need of help. GE technology could help bring essential nutrients to starving populations.
- Health: Genetic engineering has a huge role in modern medicine and disease prevention for all animals. Better vaccines with less to no animal products and novel delivery methods like vaccines in foods are all possible with genetic engineering. Also controlling vectors for disease by genetically modified mosquitos can benefit all animals who may be at risk.
- Environment: Creating plants that use fewer pesticides and fertilizers will help us strive toward a sustainable agriculture that’s less detrimental to all life on this planet. Fewer insects would be killed, less runoff will poison fish, and no- or low-till agriculture will save the lives of ground-dwelling animals.
- Big Business: As long as policy and regulations are shaped by unfounded fears, only the larger corporations will have the means to overcome them. Let’s level the playing field and allow for smaller independent researchers to utilize these tools. A more rational approach should be adopted by the people and their representatives.
- Scientific Advancement: Scientific innovation in one area contributes to the complete body of scientific knowledge. Because biology is universal discoveries in plants can have ramifications for animals. Example: Leukaemia treatment through plant disease research.
- It’s the Right Thing to Do: Which is why we’re vegan in the first place. A consistent and effective application of our own standards of morality requires a fastidiousness to the truth.
There is a vocal minority attempting to co-opt the vegan cause with conspiratorial thinking and junk information on GMO. The best antidote to this misinformation is good critical thinking. Please be sure the source for your information is well-qualified and scientific.
Say NO to anti-GMO!
To start, please give a listen to Vegan Chicago’s podcast with Dr. Kevin Folta: Frankenfoods: Cornerstones of the Next Green Revolution