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Posts tagged ‘GMO’s’

GMO’s, The Devil Incarnate?

So this post is in response to some of the discussions I’ve engaged in lately. I got into it a bit on facebook this week with a person who was angry that New York turned down a bill to label foods for GMO content.

While I don’t pretend to know all the ramification of GMO’s, or genetically modified organisms, I do know that legally labelling them is difficult. For example, lets say that your bull has had a gene inserted to make him more muscular. Will the beef from his great-grandchild still need to be labeled? Will the owner of his great-grandchild even know? Will all animals have to be micro-chipped and tracked? Anyone in the food industry knows, they are already pushing for that. Welcome to “1984”! (The book). Plants are even more difficult, spores and seeds go where they like. Monsanto has sued innocent people on this basis! If you are interested, here is a good article outlining the possibilities. The greatest risk appears to be greater “weediness” in the weeds. Here is another good website exploring these issues. You will notice a lack of conclusions, because the research is new, too soon to draw conclusions. So, will we have to genetically test every plant before it is sold, in case the genes have crept in there? Right now, I would have to say, assume everything you are eating is genetically modified unless you are growing it yourself, from heirloom seeds and livestock. Of course, genetic modification is nothing new. The strawberries and other fruit you have been eating for your whole life are the result of a mutation that we purposely bred. Most everything we eat barely resemble their ancestors. Eaten many crabapples lately? While I agree there is a world of difference in breeding traits that latently exist in the species, and injecting a foreign gene, the results may not be that different. Are all the new peanut allergies a result of a protein that we have bred into peanuts, that many humans are sensitive to? The increase in allergies started prior to our having the ability to add mouse genes to plants.

Worrying about GMO’s is an all or nothing proposition – either we have to ban it now, or quit worrying about it. The genie is out of the bottle. Genes don’t stay put, they don’t stay where you intend them to. The proteins they create can be benign or deadly – milk or serpent venom, both come from genes. We decided that saving people from diabetes was worth the risk when we inserted genes into goats so they make human insulin in their milk so we can harvest it to treat the millions of diabetics. We certainly didn’t care what that did to the baby goats of that species. We’ve created many plants and animals for our benefit that couldn’t exist without us, the genes they carry benefit us, not them. I’m not saying there aren’t potential problems with GMO’s. Animal toxins, like snake venom are made from genes. We could possibly poison a large portion of our food supply by inserting a wrong gene in order to make them more insect resistant. However, the danger is no worse than any other danger to our food supply. We can’t get too crazy, the genes we add have to be compatible with the species, or it won’t survive and reproduce, and it has to not be immediately be poisonous to people. If this sounds like thin comfort, it is. We don’t know if any one of our efforts will be harmful in the long run. Fifty changes could be miraculous and wonderful, and the fifty-first could be horrendous. Life is not without risks. Feeding 7+billion people is not easy.

In my view, we have so many glaring problems with our food supply and diet, that worrying about GMO’s is like worrying about the leaky roof of the burning house. If you can save the house you can fix the roof, but if you can’t put out the fire, the roof is a moot point. Before you worry about the GMO’s, get rid of all the convenience foods, with sugar, white flour, artificial colors and flavors. Limit your red meat consumption. Replace half of your food with vegetables. Quite baking “goodies”. Stop eating candy. Eat plain yogurt, rather than the flavored stuff. Quite eating quite so much. Stop eating any breakfast cereal with more than 5 grams of sugar per serving. Read the serving size and measure if you have to. Don’t eat out. If you are already doing all that, and you have my permission to fret over GMO’s. Vote with your food dollar. Don’t eat soy products, Monsanto has that one sewn up. The corn you eat is largely engineered, so skip that one. Eating other grains is more iffy, but I would say most have probably been engineered, to at least make them more pest resistant. Shop at your local road side stand, take that produce and can, freeze, or dry it for the winter. Buy meat from your local farmer. These are smart ideas to do anyway.

Reasonable Cause… and Effect

Some of you may already know that we live in controversial times. The level of mistrust in our government, and the breakdown in common culture has led to a place where people are angry, fearful and suspicious. We don’t trust our public institutions. Whether you are on the health side of things, railing against “Big Ag”, Monsanto, “Big Sugar”, the high fructose conspiracy, or GMO’s, or, if you are on the second amendment side, worrying about a government gun seizure, there is a lot of fear and anger brewing.

My question is how much is justified, and how much is simply rumor and fear mongering? How much is truly conspiracy theory worthy, and how much is just disagreements on what constitutes the public good? For example, lets take GMO’s. We have been genetically modifying our food since agriculture began by selectively breeding, storing seeds, etc. Farmers farmed to feed their families, and traded the surplus for goods and services.  In the 70’s, we had the “green revolution” for an overview, I quote Wikipedia:

Green Revolution refers to a series of research, development, and technology transfer initiatives, occurring between the 1940s and the late 1970s, that increased agriculture production around the world, beginning most markedly in the late 1960s. It forms a part of the ‘neo-colonial’ system of agriculture wherein agriculture was viewed as more of a commercial sector than a subsistence one.[1]

The initiatives, led by Norman Borlaug, the “Father of the Green Revolution” credited with saving over a billion people from starvation, involved the development of high-yielding varieties of cereal grains, expansion of irrigation infrastructure, modernization of management techniques, distribution of hybridized seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides to farmers.

One of the primary sentences in that quote is that agriculture became more of a commercial sector than a subsistence one.  This is vitally important, as cities could not have attained the population densities they have without this. The fact that most of us don’t have to farm is a result of the change in farming practice. There is a backlash against this now, as the logical extension is GMO’s and Monsanto. If you are constantly striving to produce more food, at less cost, the choices you make may not be the best in other respects, like ethics or quality. On the other hand, starvation is far less common in the world than it used to be. Even third world nations are having obesity problems. Not dying of hunger is a good thing in my book. So is “Big Ag” is evil or beneficent? Are they conspiring to take over the world or trying to feed a constantly growing population? Is it possible someone could use the power of these large conglomerates to “enslave” us, and to what end?

The gun right debate is similar. Gun technology has vastly improved since the founding fathers fought it out in the 1700’s. We have far more capacity to hurt each other than they did. However, for the most part, gun violence has gone down. Because of modern media, and sick people’s desire to create a huge scene, it appears to be the opposite, than gun violence is increasing. The media and politicians react to this by  saying we must “do something”. Gun owners see this as the end to liberty. Some go so far as to think that some of these tragedies are instigated by the government, in order to create public support for gun seizures.  It is true, that if only the government has guns, they can rule by force. However, is that what those in power intend?  Or intend or not, could that be what happens?

So, are our worst fears groundless? Or do we live in a world where the people around us have evil designs, wanting to take over and control us? Wether they have any intentions of doing so, does the law of unintended consequences dictate that it will occur?

Do spend our money on bunkers and dried food? Just like the saying “a stopped watch is right twice a day”, really bad things happening could justify all our paranoia. Does that mean we should invest all our money in body armor and heirloom seeds? Where is the line between prudent caution and rampant paranoia? I don’t have the answer, other than to say so far everyone who said the world was going to end has been wrong in general, but he was right for the people of Pompeii. Personally, I don’t believe in massive conspiracies. I’ve seen no evidence that people are that smart, or organized. However to quote the title of Robert Bork’s book, “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”, we could easily be haphazardly sliding towards our own destruction. I’ve seen no evidence in my lifetime that we are capable of foreseeing the results of our actions and I see that as the real danger, rather than thinking that our fellow human beings are out to get us.

If, as some believe, 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombing were done by our government to “distract” us, or any other reason, then it is a world of such petty and unthinkable evil that I could not even begin to comprehend it. In that case all one can say is “come now Lord Jesus”, because I certainly don’t want to survive in the bunker with the rats. Two or four legged.

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