This week at a symposium in Napa, various stakeholders came together to discuss the future/possibility/fallacy of genetically modified wine grapes. The proceedings are falteringly covered by a poorly written article in the Press Democrat. This is an issue that's worth talking about though. Here's a Vinography Cliff's Notes version:
Environmentalists, Slow Food, Stanford Professors and general Organic-istas
Genetically modifying plants is morally and ethically wrong ("playing God" is a phrase that's used often) not to mention dangerous from an environmental perspective. We don't know enough about the consequences of mixing DNA from various species together to understand what we might unleash as a result -- either in our own bodies (e.g. poison, disease) or in the plant world (e.g. pestilence, plague, pests, etc.).
Oh, and there's this: wine has been made just fine without GM crops for oh, let's see... 25 centuries.
Monsanto and Agribusiness
"Biotechnology accelerates traditional breeding practices and raises the possibility of increasing food production for a growing world population. Genetically engineered crops developed by Monsanto are more resistant to disease, which reduces the use of chemical pesticides."
In other words, you can grow more grapes, better grapes, and you don't have to deal with nasties like Phyloxxera and Pierce's Disease and stuff like that.
Oh, and then there's this: we become bizillionaires if enough of you start using this stuff.
Well, the idea of using less pesticide is generally a good thing, but most people who really want to use less pesticide can do so without GM products. The big draw here is the disease issue, though. Grapes are a livelihood and if they are wiped out by a disease, people can't feed their families, not to mention the fact that there won't be any wine.
Oh, and then there's this: will people stop buying our grapes if they are genetically modified?
Keep that #&^$&*^& @#$%^ out of our wines.
Big profit winemakers
If we were confident people would buy the wines, they why not. Less disease and less pesticides mean higher yields, lower costs, and higher margins.
Oh, and then there's this: the kickbacks from the big agribusiness companies don't hurt either...
This is a thorny issue, and not unlike the issues faced by farmers all across the United States. I tend to end up right down the middle -- some level of genetic modification is ok, especially when it means crossing strains of the same type of organism. Lord knows we've been doing that for eons already as a species. However the thought of fish genes in my strawberries makes me kind of ill.
At the end of the day, I'd tend to not buy wines that were made from genetically modified grapes, if only for the reason that we seem to have done very well without GM in the wine world for a long time.
What do you think?
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.
Acid Freaks Unite: Highlights From the 2015 IPOB Tasting Vinography Images: A Brief Oasis Going Dry In California Off to Taste Champagne! Vinography Unboxed: Week of April 5, 2015 Vinography Images: The Color of Spring Vinography Unboxed: Week of March 29, 2015 Vinography Images: Waves of Vines Tempranillo (and Gang) TAPAS Tasting: April 26, San Francisco A Man, An Island, and a Bottle of Grüner: The Wines of Rudi Pichler
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune