With GMOs going off patent, anti-science activists and the PR groups running interference for them (such as US Right To Know and Sourcewatch) are running out of time to use one of the arguments they love most to disguise the fact that they hate science; that corporations control the food supply.

Because GMOs are patented, they have  an expiration and that is happening right now. If it's not about the science, but instead about having farmers controlled by an evil seed corporation, then it's all good, right? Their war on science has ended?

Not so. Friends of the Earth has now declared war on all of synthetic biology, and have trotted out the usual suspects, like the well-paid philosopher Vandana Shiva(1) and Paul Newman's daughter, to lament that biology is bringing about doomsday.

They may be doomed to fail. The public has endured a lot of green fatigue about food in the last 20 years, and no harm has come. About 100 billion cows have eaten GMO food, and their milk, their meat and everything about them is no different than cows eating holistic, shade-tree, free-range grass. Though illnesses related to organic food are common - feces on your produce will do that - there are no instances of anyone getting ill due to GMO corn.

And corn may be what puts CRISPR on the map the way it did GMOs. DuPont Pioneer (2) just published a study about corn engineered using CRISPR that is more resistant to drought. Drought-resistance is a home-run application. If you were born part of the Agricultural 1%, in a country where food grows readily, it's easy to insist how you manage your garden will work for managing the world, but that sort of elite idealism fails in practice. (3)

And this corn is not transgenic, which means it's not a GMO. GMO is, of course, simply a legal definition at this point. It is why countries that ban GMOs still allow mutagenesis - modification of DNA using mutagens like radiation and chemicals - to be considered organic.

Will environmental groups give up their war on science when the science is CRISPR and not a GMO? If you like to to "follow the money", look at the $1,000,000,000 in annual revenue and you will know the answer.


(1) Shiva demands $40,000 per talk (available from multiple bureaus, so book at the Evil Twin Booking Agency here, for example) - an informal survey couldn't find any actual science experts commanding a fraction of that. However, if you are a molecular biologist and not an environmental activist or Yogic flying instructor who commands that kind of fee, please let me know.

(2) No, I don't get any money from them, so save the Argumentum Ad Aurum fallacies.

(3) Or we'd still be doing it.