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GMOs are like cars

I don't think people who support GMOs are bad people, or wrong, though I do think they can be fairly stubborn and close-minded. They actually make some good arguments. And I would hope a moderate, reasonable person isn't hoping for the eventual elimination of GMOs altogether. Certainly not the position I take. I see room in our future for GMO crops. But I do think that the extreme end of the pro-GMO spectrum is fairly cynical.

It's not the only group of very vocal supporters who come across as short-sighted though. If you're a cycling advocate, you know who I'm about to talk about...the car people. Many of them are anti-bike or bike-skeptical. Many of them just see the road--happily--as primarily being about cars. It's not the only comparison between GMOs and automobiles that works well.

Cars are wonderful things. They allow us to wake up early, drive 500 miles on superhighways, and be to our destination by lunch. They're safer than they used to be--for other auto passengers, especially. And you could even argue they're getting safer for pedestrians and bikes with backup cameras, blind spot detectors, and automatic braking systems/alerts.  There's no denying that trucks get us goods faster and buses have given our street-level transit freedom from wires and cables.

There is, however, a dark side. Cars guzzle fossil fuels. We've built up ever-expanding road infrastructure taking over farmland, encroaching on animal habitats, and it's altered the neighborhoods where we live with essential daily tasks farther apart and room for sprawling parking lots. Cars have helped contribute to our obesity epidemic, taken us out of walking neighborhoods and insulated us from neighbors we would have previously walked near. Cars helped with "white flight" clearing out the inner cities in the 20th century as suburban housing developments were built.

In short, a growing number of Americans have decided to take up driving later, drive less, own fewer cars...there is speculation that we've reached our driving peak even. Our streets are being redesigned for bicycles, walking, public transport, etc.. Nobody is advocating for the car to go away. Or, at least, they shouldn't be. Autos still have a valuable place in American society and even those of us who would bike everywhere if we could still want to keep a car squirreled away just in case. It's a useful tool.

Rather, what advocates are arguing for with cars is that we re-establish a system that subsidizes automobiles less, creates street networks that work for everyone (not just drivers), and considers green alternatives in light of things like carbon emissions, user health and stress, efficiency for all, And the same goes for GMOs. Biotech itself is fine, but.... We can't over-rely on it. People want to create a system that doesn't subsidize the kind of agriculture where GMOs are frequently used. Or is it that GMOs focus on those farm areas because they're wrongly the most profitable? Chicken and the egg.

So it's more like advocates for alternative farm systems are deliberately hoping for something else. People don't want the world to revolve around GMOs the same way they don't want the world to revolve as much around cars. Just as some people need cars...the disabled, for instance, may need transportation to a doctor's appointment that just isn't going to happen on a bike. But, in general, we can think about balancing an unbalanced system to make it easier for walking, easier for small sustainable farms, etc.. The tone of the conversation is often very confrontational because it feels like somebody has to "win." What we all could do, however, is make more room for balance. Does an action help support equality for someone interested in that point of view?

Many farmers in the conventional farm system--as I've written about before--feel like they're under attack. Just like some drivers feel cars/driving are under attack. This is largely because the current state of affairs is in their favor so a re-balance feels like they're giving up more. But, much like asking for racial equality, asking for farm equality or Complete Streets should be about raising up one side not tearing down the other. Will a few things come at the expense of conventional or GMO supporters? Yes. But fairness in farming needs to come first. Let's make room for everybody.

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