Staking out the middle ground in these polarized times is not an easy thing to do. I know this from experience. For example, I’m pretty comfortable with what science tells us about climate change. To me, there’s a cumulative body of evidence that rises to the level of concern. But I also realize there is legitimate debate over how worried we should be and more critically, over how to go about reducing our carbon emissions.
So I’m comfortable with the nuances of the climate discourse, even though that puts me on the wrong side of people who would rather keep the debate very simple and stark.
Another highly contested landscape is the one where science and religion coexist uneasily. I don’t have a problem with this co-mingling, even though I’m an atheist. But here again, I find myself on the wrong side of people who take a more purist stand on the matter.
If there is a middle ground in the GMO debate, I’m not sure where it is or how it could be navigated. It seems that Nathanael Johnson at Grist is determined to find it. (And I applaud him.) The same goes for Miles Traer at Generation Anthropocene. In a thoughtful essay, he writes:
The debate surrounding genetically modified organisms, often called GMOs, is an absolute mess. A huge part of the argument stems from genetically modified foods. Some people trumpet GM wheat and corn for its drought resistance and ability to feed more people in parts of the world that desperately need food. Others point to unwanted side effects like the creation of super-weeds and the potential loss of biodiversity as reasons to be wary of this new technology. But what drove my desire to do a GMO story for Generation Anthropocene was something entirely different and was born from two intertwined questions: how did the GMO discussion become so polarized and why does it continue to feel like the topic of GMOs doesn’t allow for a middle ground?
The GMO story Miles refers to is an interview he and his Generation Anthropocene colleagues did with me earlier in the summer, which got posted this week. I don’t know if what I said in that interview helped answer his core questions, because I’m still trying to figure out where the middle ground in the GMO debate resides.
NOTE: Blogging will be light for remainder of August, owing to kids, work deadlines and an upcoming vacation.