The debate over genetically modified food has been going on for years. Remember when the so called Super Tomato came out? It was a genetically altered tomato (Flavr Savr) that was more immune to the trials and tribulations of transport, disease and pests than any tomato in history. Sounds great, right? In fact, the argument for genetically modified food sounds good at first sight. But look under the hood, and the answers are not so clear…
First off, let’s define what we mean. Genetically altered food is food derived from organisms who’s DNA structure has been altered by specific targeted manipulation of its genetic structure. To put it in simple terms, everything that we do is controlled by genes. Tomatoes soften as they ripen. To make them stay firmer, and thus less susceptible to disease and rot, scientists created a “super tomato” by inserting a new gene into the genetic structure of the plant to make its fruit stay firmer while ripening. This is completely different from cross breeding and selective breeding in which different species are cross bred to create new types of particular species. We have created new species of plants and animals by breeding them for generations. This allows nature to decide which genes will work together on their own to create a new sub species that has new characteristics. We have bred roses to have new colors, different produce to have different flavors, and even different breeds of dogs that have specific traits. genetic alteration, on the other hand, involves artificially manipulating the genes of a particular organism, usually to introduce traits that are not even part of the natural make up of the species.
At first glance, there does not seem to be any problem with genetic manipulation. We seem to be just speeding up the work that could otherwise be done through years of selective breeding. However, there are issues that could have impacts on the supply chain that are far reaching indeed. When we mess too much with the natural order of things, we often create a bigger problem than we had before. Think of how we introduced no native species to various parts of the world for one reason or another, and the disastrous results that have occurred (killer bees, for a start). Now imagine what damage we could be unleashing on the earth when we breed a new chicken with four legs or some other weird thing. We still have not fully realized the impact that we have had on the human race with the “improvements” that we have made in the last 50 years. The introduction of hormones into our poultry and dairy supply may be the reason we see earlier development of adolescents, and the outcry over BGH in our dairy supply is widely known.
Going beyond the unknown and into the current world, the problems of genetic manipulation become issues of ecology and economy. Monsanto corporation is the creator of the world’s best selling herbicide, Round Up. In creating these herbicides, it has also created many dumping grounds for serious chemicals, and released flawed studies as to the potential dangers of poisons like dioxin, that could potentially have a devastating effect on the bio-sphere. It is also responsible for much of the genetic manipulation being done in our food supply chain. They are the ones who created and marketed BGH as a way to increase milk production in cattle. Unfortunately, BGH has also been linked to breast and prostate cancer. The same company who has been creating poisons for decades is also leading the way in GMF (genetically modified foods). That alone sends up red flags. One of the most damaging issues of the Monsanto GMF program is that it is striving to create sterile plants.
Sterile plants mean that seed produced from these new “super foods” is usually sterile and its seeds cannot be used to grow new plants for the following season. The results of this sterile seed to the world stage could be potentially devastating. Plants generally depend on pollination to grow crops. Pollination is a process that generally occurs naturally by bees, birds, and other insects. This is why the loss of bee population can be harmful to more that just the production of honey. Large scale operations that employ Monsanto’s sterile GMF plants for their crops, may be located near smaller farmers who use a different strain of corn, for example. Through natural pollination, their crop may now become partially pollinated by Monsanto’s GM corn through no fault of their own. Now they are selling GM food without their knowledge. Furthermore, the crop seed that they may be holding bad to plant for next years crop may be completely sterile, which would have a devastating effect on the following years crop for that small farmer. If you couple that with the fact that Monsanto sells these “Terminator” seeds throughout the globe, the end result could be beyond belief. If a small farm in Iowa faces this problem, imagine the devastating effect on a small village in a developing world. Slowly, the world’s food supply could be taken over by Monsanto’s sterile GM food, which is good for them but bad for the rest of us. The issue goes even deeper, as this is promoting monoculture which are bad for the environment. Currently most of the bananas that are supplied to the world markets are one single species. A fungus, insect or disease that attacks this particular species of banana could potentially wipe out our banana supply chain in a way that the world couldn’t recover. Now imagine the result if the world is using a single breed of corn or wheat. Starvation and famine could come to the entire world, the way it is seen in far away lands that we like to ignore.
Unfortunately, you may be buying GM foods without even knowing it. The EcoSpheric Blog provided the following lists, so jump over and read their article. The list of GM foods that are approved for commercial sale include: canola oil, radicchio, corn (which you know is in everything!), cotton, papaya, potato, soybean, squash, and tomato. And these products do not even have to be labeled as such! Here are some of the products that may already be in your pantry that use GM foods: Alpo Dry Pet Food, Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix, Ball Park Franks, Betty Crocker Bac-O’s, Boca Burger Chef, Max’s Favorite, Bravo’s Tortilla Chips, Duncan Hines Cake Mix, Enfamil ProSobee Soy Formula, Frito-Lay Corn Chips, Gardenburger, General Mills Total Corn Flakes Cereal, Heinz 2 Baby Food, Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Light Life Gimme Lean, McDonald’s McVeggie Burgers, Morningstar Farms Better’n Burgers, Morningstar Farms Harvest Burgers, Nestle Carnation Alsoy Infant Formula, Old El Paso Taco Shells, Ovaltine Malt Powdered Beverage Mix, Post Blueberry Morning Cereal, Quaker Chewy Granola Bars, Quaker Yellow Corn Meal, Quick Loaf Bread Mix, Similac Isomil Soy Formula, and Ultra Slim Fast. This list alone shows how the American public has been kept blissfully unaware of the things we may be consuming.