Wednesday, May 16, 2012

why does it matter?

There's a lot of talk about GMO's these days. With each side equally as vocal as to why they are right, it's sometimes hard to know what to believe. So I decided to do some research of my own. I have to admit, the whole idea of GMO just sounds slimy, but I can't base something on my gut reaction alone.

I have done some light reading on GMOs in the past. As presented by proponents, it sounds great. I mean, genetically figuring out a way to preserve crops, pretty impressive. To have the potential to keep from losing so much sounds awesome to me, and I'm sure it sounds even better to the farmer whose livelihood depends on it. But at what cost do we splice fish genes in with a plant?

So, I went to the source of GMOs, or at least the most common known name when dealing with genetically engineered seeds: Monsanto. A brief glance of their website could easily convince someone that what they were doing was truly in the farmers benefit. Creating a crop that was resistant to various pests, weeds, etc., thereby reducing the amount of pesticides/herbicides needed, increasing the yields... Sounds good, less impact on the environment, less loss to the farmer. In fact, their motto, if you will, at the about page is: Monsanto Company: Committed to Sustainable Agriculture, Committed to Farmers. And by now, everyone knows the importance I place on sustainable agriculture.

But then I kept poking around on their site, and I looked into their products. Did you know they brand their seed traits? Uh-oh, here comes that slimy feeling again. But then it starts to get complicated... to prevent resistance to their frankenseeds, you have to also plant non-frankenseeds in certain ratios. And to be completely honest, my eyes started crossing at that point. I'm not a farmer and don't want to be. I kill things. But I have complete respect for the people who work hard to grow our food. What it came down to in the end of the ratios of GMO to non-GMO, essentially Monsanto had figured out a way to allow the farmer to plant more of their seeds. Interesting.

So I decided to leave Monsanto's page and surf the internet for GMOs. Most of what pops up is negative, though you still must be judicious in what you decide to believe. I have to say, though, this page caught my eye: The Human Genome Project. This particularly freaked me out: On the horizon are bananas that produce human vaccines against infectious disease such as hepatitis B. Thanks, but no thanks. Also on the list of cons from this page were the potential health impacts, specifically an increase in allergies and/or the ingestion of antibiotic resistance markers. Hmmmm, seems like food allergies are remarkably higher than when I was a kid. I can't think of a single kid I was friends with who had a food allergy. Think this could be a risk when you put animal traits in plant traits or vice versa? Or when you significantly beef up the protein (which is generally what people are allergic or intolerant to) in wheat, corn and soy? Then these foods become cheap fillers so if you are eating a standard American diet (SAD), your are virtually inundated with them.  Oh wait, aren't 2 of those in the top 8 allergens? And not to mention our vegan friends... wonder how they would feel about eating corn with animal genes? It's a bit unethical and at the very least unnatural. I wonder how nourishing food can truly be when it's not as it was intended. Two more cons raised on this page.

But what about the environment? Aren't these crops supposed to require less pesticides/herbicides? Yes. But according to a report published by The Organic Center in 2009, "GE crops have increased overall pesticide use by 318.4 million pounds over the first 13 years of commercial use, compared to the amount of pesticide likely to have been applied in the absence of HT and Bt seeds."  So much for needing less toxic treatments and trying to lessen the strain on the environment. The report also goes on to discuss the resistant weeds resulting from the increased levels of herbicides being used. Some of these weeds can grow big enough to damage farm equipment. But the larger issue is really the long-term effect this increased use of pesticide is going to have on our health. It doesn't simply rinse off of your vegetables. The run-off from these farms goes somewhere. Another report stated that chemicals from a corn farm were found in a nearby stream 6 months after harvest.

GMOs are banned in many foreign countries, and in my opinion, should be banned all together. Honestly, I could write many, many pages on why I think GMOs are going to do far more harm than good. I encourage you to do your own research and decide for yourself whether this is an issue of importance to you. But for me, I'll pass on the frankenfood.

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