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.