Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which are a source of great distrust so far as French citizens are concerned, are also at the heart of important controversies in the scientific world. This special issue which Futuribles is devoting to the GM question attests to this, through articles that are at times highly positive and favourable to the development of GMOs. These are counterbalanced here by Jacques Testart and Frédéric Prat calling for greater caution in the manipulation of living material.
Reminding us what GMOs are, and of the scientific hopes that many have vested in them, Testart and Prat show how the scientific controversies are far from being settled and how slow the promises of the GMO advocates have been in coming to fruition. They criticize the tendency to regard the genome as a Meccano set that can be manipulated without any impact on plant and animal life. In their view, matters are quite different. By manipulating genes, by promoting genetic mutations without controlling the risks of their spreading to other plants or even jumping barriers between (plant and animal) species, some scientists are playing “sorcerer’s apprentice” and hiding behind (pseudo-)scientific arguments that may well, in the longer term, not be at all progressive. It is essential, argue Testart and Prat, to show caution in this area – particularly as alternatives exist to take agricultural research forward – and to fall in with a democratic approach based on giving the public complete and transparent information.