GMOs and you

27 Jun

GMOs…everybody’s latest buzz word or is it something more?

Do you know what a GMO really is?  Why should you be concerned about whether or not its on YOUR dinner table?  What are the concerns about GMOs?

Lots of questions, but sometimes the answers are not so easy.  Let’s start with what GMOs really are.

The acronym means “genetically modified organism.”  It sounds safe enough…sort of.  It also sounds kind of like it is the product of a mad scientist.  So how are these GMOs really created?

GMOs are created by a technique called “recombinant dna technology.”  Essentially, that means that DNA from one organism is used to alter the DNA code in another, changing an essential characteristic of the original organism.  While GMOs also exist in the animal world, most articles & arguments today focus on the use of this technology in terms of food crop production.  Monsanto is the largest company, world wide, in terms of being the “owner” of these GMO food crop seeds.

There are numerous concerns among consumers and scientists about the ultimate safety of these GMO food crops.  These concerns include issues such as:

  1. Altered nutritional value
  2. Unknown effects in humans and other animals resulting from long term consumption of GMOs
  3. Potential disastrous effects on food crop production due to unknown factors
  4. Elimination of heritage crops
  5. Ultimate reduction in food crop gene pool leaving food crop production at risk from unknown diseases or pests at some future point
  6. Inability to control contamination of non-GMO crops by GMO crops due to cross pollination by wind, equipment, insects, and animals.
  7. Increased expense of GMO seed causing further hardship in financially strapped countries and countries battling famines.
  8. “Terminator” seed causing a shortage of seeds, GMO or non-GMO, resulting in food shortages.
  9. Pesticide tolerant GMO food crops’ need for increased pesticide use.
  10. GMO food crops being poorly adapted for areas in which they are planted, resulting in poor yields and increased food shortages.
  11. Monsanto’s increasing monopoly on food crop seed, allowing their control of the world’s food supply.
  12. Lack of labeling in the United States making it impossible to purchase non-GMO foods.
  13. Lack of labeling in the United States, making it more difficult for non-GMO crop producers to compete on the open market.
  14. Lack of independent lab tests indicating the safety of GMOs in the human food supply chain.
  15. Even “organic” labels do not mean “non-GMO”

None of these concerns are “wild concerns” without basis in fact or lack of research.  Long term research has not been completed, and there has not been enough time to complete this research, essentially turning the entire United States into one giant, largely uncontrolled experiment.  These concerns are in turn fueling the conspiracy theories surrounding Monsanto, GMOs, the FDA, and world governments.

Conspiracy theories make for excellent jokes, but they aren’t very funny when they turn out to be based on truth.  So what are some of the conspiracies surrounding the whole Monsanto/GMOs today?

  • That Monsanto is the corporate arm of a secret government ruling the world.
  • By this secret government’s ability to control the world food supply, they control the world.
  • The FDA is in Monsanto’s pocket, and does what Monsanto wants.
  • That GMOs are really poisonous to humans, and will result in sterility.
  • GMOs are going to contaminate nature, resulting in true atrocities beginning to plague humanity.
  • GMOs mean that man is “playing God” and will result in the wrath of God upon all of mankind.
  • GMOs are part of a master plan designed to cause famines and result in a 75% reduction in the human population.
  • Monsanto has plans to prevent anyone from growing “heritage crops” anywhere in the world.

These conspiracy ideas are based on genuine fears, most of which the general population feels are legitimate due to the lack of long term research.  They are further fueled by current actions by governmental agencies and the knowledge that GMO genes have invaded non-GMO crops.  The lack of labeling has inspired further distrust of these GMO food crops, because consumers are not permitted the option of choosing whether or not to consume them.

So what can be done?

Obviously, the first step is to get labeling on the products, whether it is voluntary or mandated by law.  Most consumers believe that if it was voluntary, non-GMO crops would quickly choose to label their products as such, as they would become more attractive to consumers.  This can only happen by pressuring politicians to create laws to do so, as the FDA has already forbidden labeling under our current laws regarding food.

The second, but equally important step, is to monitor “safe food” legislation.  Most so-called “safe food” bills are really not about safe food, but about passing laws that allow the government to dictate where and how food crops and livestock are grown, who can produce seeds, who can sell their products, who can consume them, and who can grow them.  Many of these laws would make home gardens illegal and permit government agencies to come onto private property and seize (and destroy) these home grown crops.  Heritage crops, seed production, and heritage livestock would all be at risk, further reducing the gene pool available in the event of an agricultural disaster and laying the foundation for a world-wide version of the “Potato Famine” of Ireland.

The third step would be to legislate the existence of heritage farms, exempting them from regulation by the FDA, etc. to allow continued production of seeds, seed stock, foundation herds of livestock, etc. as a sort of “gene bank”.  By affording these types of farms legal protection, they would be encouraged to continue maintaining their herds, fields, gardens, and orchards.  GMO production within a certain radius of these farms would be forbidden to prevent contamination by wind and insects of the non-GMO crops.  Tax breaks would provide additional incentive for these farms’ existence as they are typically small, labor intensive, and incapable of competing with agri-business on the open market.

GMOs deserve everyone’s attention.  The truth is out there, and it is blatantly obvious to anyone that long term research has not been adequate and these crops have been planted too quickly and in too large of quantities for our own good.  With 80-92% of crops such as corn, cotton, soybeans and rapeseed (canola) being currently grown as GMOs, the risk is obvious to anyone, while the advantages are marginal.  Labeling, restrictions on where these crops are grown, and the creation of a category of farm as a “heritage farm” need to occur to help ensure adequate food for the entire world over the coming millennia.  Adopting these crops too fast, too soon, and too widely is a real danger to our world food supply.

Wake up, America, and smell the coffee…before there isn’t any to drink!

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