I’m posing a question, or questions in this post that other Libertarians (or conservatives or socialists) may be able to help me with.
I am very pro science. I believe that technology coupled with free markets can provide mankind with almost unlimited material benefits.
Theoreticlally I am pro Genetic Modification of crops. I think nature is here to serve man and if man can improve on nature through genetic manipulation, we should do so.
However what if I am wrong? What if Genetic Modification of plants opens a Pandora’s Box that we can never close?
I hold to the Libertarian principle that one should be free to do anything one likes with one’s own property as long as it does not damage the property or lessen the property rights of others.
I believe that this principle, properly applied would virtually eliminate air and water pollution.
Simply put, if your activity polluted your neighbor’s water or air, you could sue for damages and legally force the cessation of the offending activity.
How is this relevant to Genetic Modification of plants?
In my understanding, once you have altered the genetic structure of an organism and cross breeding is allowed to occur, that new structure will permanently become part of the wider gene pool.
If I am correct, a potential conflict arises.
Say I own an organic wheat farm. My neighbouring farmer is also a wheat grower, specialising in high yielding “conventional” cropping.
My neighbour, plants extremely high yielding, disease resistant Genetically Modified wheat on a field adjacent to mine.
Soon, pollen from my neighbour’s GM wheat drifts into my field and cross pollinates my wheat.
My wheat is now also Genetically Modified and is of no value to my organic loving customers.
In my understanding of Libertarian principles, I should be able to sue my neighbour for “polluting” and effectively destroying the value of my crop.
This damage may be permanent as the GM pollen is now impossible to “recall”.
Here lies the central question.
How does the GM farmer manage to keep the genetic modification he is using confined to his own crop or property?
Animals are relatively easily confined, but how do you stop the wind carrying GM pollen into neighbouring plant stocks?
Unless all GM cropping is done under glass, or huge anti-pollen barriers are somehow erected, how could GM cropping be carried out legitimately in a Libertarian society?
Am I missing something here? Am I creating a problem that doesn’t actually exist?
Or is this simply the beauty of the market, working to curtail what is a potentially dangerous and uncontrollable activity?
Can the “Invisible Hand” of the market work to protect mankind against meddling with forces we have too little understanding of?
Any ideas would be much appreciated.