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Genetically modified food

Manuka Henare and Val Orchard from ERMA discuss some of the different views of genetically modified (GM) food in New Zealand. (Note: ERMA was disestablished in June 2011 and its functions were incorporated into the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).)

Is GM food improving on nature or playing God?

Transcript

Val Orchard (ERMA): Some people just don't like the idea of any kind of genetic modification (GM) of food at all, because they are worried that there may be some long-term effects of eating GM food that we can't predict and we don't know about now. Some people aren't worried about that at all, and they will very happily eat genetically modified tomatoes that will stay fresh in your fridge for a very long time.

Manuka Henare (ERMA): Some of the other moral issues are to do with is it right that humans can tamper with nature? That’s one of the very broad questions often raised. And some people say, “No, it’s wrong for humans to intervene like that”. Some people believe that, through GMO kind of research, this is humans playing God, and so there is a whole raft of moral positions related to that view.

Now, what’s interesting about those questions is that nature itself has its own ways of genetically modifying itself through all the various species, and so these things happen, and often they can take hundreds or thousands of years for a plant or some other species to change.

So to a certain extent, there is nothing new about genes being modified in many ways. All that science has done, as I understand it, is it can speed up the process, and that is a human intervention and that becomes a moral problem for a substantial number of people.

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