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GMO Policy in La La Land

October 24, 2014
Urban Dictionary says the term “La La Land” often refers to Los Angeles or a state of mind that is out of touch with reality and focusing on frivolous endeavors.  Regarding policies around genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the term refers to both.

The Los Angeles City Council voted this week to ban the sale and growth of seeds and plants bearing genetically modified organisms within city limits.

While the law would be largely symbolic because there is little agriculture within the city, the move sets in motion the development of policy that the LA Times describes as “inconsistent logic and wild statements.”

In an interview, Bob Goldberg, a UCLA plant molecular biologist and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, said that genetically modified crops are no different from those that farmers have been selectively breeding for centuries, and they pose no added health risk.  “There’s not been one documented case of a sneeze from anyone eating a genetically modified papaya,” he said.

The LA Times Editorial Board agrees pointing to arguments raised by some councilmen about the herbicides used on bioengineered crops:

“…and those complaints are partly justified. But linking that to a ban makes for foolish policy.

"And not all genetic engineering of crops is designed to build resistance to pesticides.  Scientists have, for instance, developed a form of rice that contains significant amounts of vitamin A, an innovation that could prevent blindness and death for millions of people in Asia and Africa. Scientists are at work on oranges they hope will resist citrus greening, a disease that threatens to wipe out orange groves throughout the U.S.  What if future projects included drought-tolerant crops that could survive the kind of prolonged dry spell California has been experiencing?
Why would we want to ban such products without any scientific indication that they're unhealthy or unsafe?”

Since there is so little production agriculture in the city of Los Angeles, maybe some members of the LA City Council are in the dark about agricultural biotechnology.  Maybe they should ask farmers how it feels to have their business decisions made by a bunch of suit-wearing bureaucrats who don’t know about biotechnology and ag production.  Maybe they should ask scientists how it feels to have the paths to innovation impeded by “inconsistent logic and wild statements.”  Maybe the LA City Council should get out of La La Land and research their issues before casting their votes.