Farm Press Blog

Anti-GMO activist – say it ain’t so Chuck


Chuck Norris attempts roundhouse leg kick to commercial agriculture, but misses badly.

Et tu Chuck Norris?

We are sad to report that the steely-eyed, martial artist who portrayed the slow-to-rile lawman in Walker, Texas Ranger has become a gunslinger for the anti-GMO gang, shooting first and asking questions later.

A Delta Farm Press reader recently brought to our attention an opinion piece Norris wrote in the Dyersburg State Gazette, (and also here) which serves the highly agricultural region of northwest Tennessee. Norris said, “Almost all genetically engineered foods have been engineered for one purpose: to tolerate higher levels of herbicides. The problem is, weeds are constantly becoming more tolerant to the weed killer, creating a vicious cycle resulting in higher usage of more and more toxic herbicides.

“Instead of eradicating the need for insecticides and herbicides, genetically modified plants will warrant stronger and more intense pesticides in order to outwit and overcome superbugs and greater strains of diseases.”

In reality, Chuck, pest resistance is caused by farmer overreliance on a single product or class of chemistry, not genetic engineering. Furthermore, resistance can be managed with a diversity of products and technologies. The more we have, the better we can manage. The biotechnology industry continues to develop and market these technologies.”

Genetic engineering does not necessarily lead to more and more sprays of harsher and harsher insecticides, either. In most cases, the opposite is true.

An article in provided this example. “In parts of India, farmers spray more than 60 insecticides on their eggplant – known to locals as brinjal – during the growing season, mainly to protect the purple fruit from burrowing bugs, says Ponnuswami Balasubramanian, a plant molecular biologist at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Coimbatore, India. To reduce the insecticide load without losing the harvest, Balasubramanian, together with public sector researchers and a private Indian seed company, developed Bt versions of four varieties of eggplant that are popular in southern states. But public outcry from GMO opponents blocked the eggplants from federal approval.

The PBS article quoted Kulvinder Gill, an agricultural geneticist at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash., who grew up in India, saying, “It was madness to stop Bt brinjal. People should not even be eating this brinjal because it has so much insecticide on it. Anything to reduce that would be extremely beneficial.”

Biotechnology refers to a vast array of scientific disciplines that impact human life and activity, including some – such as marker-assisted breeding – that don’t involve gene insertion. Understanding it is certainly not a talent earned overnight, even for someone with a black belt in Tae Kwan Do.


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