Recently, I posted the above video to my Facebook page. I think it’s a great little short that explains the current GMO, or Genetically Modified Organism, situation very well. Someone then posted a comment on that video basically saying that corn used to have small, hard kernels and that through human intervention and breeding, the corn we know today has large, plump kernels and that would also be considered GMO. My response to that is yes and no.
I would say that there is a very large difference between what farmers have done as far as modifying current crops and what a company like Monsanto does. Let’s start with the pluot. As you may or may not know, a pluot is a cross between a plum and an apricot and are quite tasty. The pluot was created by a man named Floyd Zaiger and he used cross pollination by hand in order to create this new type of fruit instead of gene splicing or DNA manipulation. Now, by using cross pollination, he technically genetically modified this fruit. However, I would say that nature agreed with this and allowed the pluot to exist which makes it more of a natural modification. If nature decided that this cross pollination wasn’t going to work out then the plant would not have grown anything resembling fruit. For example, if I tried to cross pollinate a banana with a strawberry to create a banana-berry, nature would laugh in my face and nothing would happen. Another “Natural” way to modify plants is through grafting. The best way to explain this is through a stuffy definition but it makes total sense. “Grafting is a horticultural technique whereby tissues from one plant are inserted into those of another so that the two sets of vascular tissues may join together.” So in a nutshell, you are taking part of one tree and attaching it to another, similar tree so that they can combine and make a hybrid fruit. Most apples you see are hybrids. Again, I would call this a “natural” modification because if nature didn’t want it to work out, it wouldn’t. Instead, we have a huge variety of apples, tomatoes, and other plants because nature allowed these variations to take place.
Ok, so let’s get into the modern term GMO. When we hear that term, it is generally in a negative context and, in my opinion, there is a good reason for that. What is happening now is that scientists have genetically modified the DNA in plants to be more resilient to poisons that are used to take care of weeds and insects. Now at first, that sounds like it should be a good thing. If the poisons are only killing the weeds and insects that are feeding on the plants we eat, it stands to reason that there will be more of those “good” plants to be harvested which results in a larger yield and more for us to consume and use in other products. Well, here’s the rub. Nature always adapts. So, by making the harvestable plants more tolerant to poisons, they are using stronger poisons on the plants to kill the weeds and bugs. Over time, the weeds and bugs are “naturally” adapting and becoming more immune to those poisons as well, so we make the harvestable plants more resistant to stronger poisons which they then spray to kill the weeds and bugs which then become more resistant, and so on and so on and so on. It is a vicious cycle. Then you add into the equation that by using stronger poisons, those toxins are being absorbed by the plants that you, as the end user, are then consuming. So while that GMO corn or soy bean probably won’t kill you like a cyanide pill, you are consuming small amounts of various poisons that can accumulate and potentially cause long term health issues. And, by the way, this is the same company that told us Agent Orange was safe back in the day.
So one of the things that is causing a big stink here in the U.S. is that there are groups who have been trying to get bills passed that would require food manufacturers to identify on their packaging when they are using what is being called GMO ingredients or plants that have been manipulated scientifically. Places like Canada and most of the European countries have already passed these types of bills and, it sounds to me, that the food eating population has been in favor of it. I would agree with them and I think that it would make sense to include this on packaging so that we, well those who give a shit, know what we are eating. Of course, here in the good ol USA, we have those wonderful things called lobbyists and politicians who only care where their next fund raising dollars are coming from. Not to get into a whole political discussion here but, unfortunately, sometimes the people who are in power don’t really care about the people who they represent but only about the large corporations that line their pockets. I know, I know, you’re shocked. So, as of this writing, there is no legislation or regulations that require the people who make your food to identify whether they use GMOs. Now the companies that are responsible for GMOs have spent over $100 million to ensure that GMO labeling does not happen. I know that they have spent a considerable amount building labs, paying employees, and creating these crops so they have a large investment in their companies but, if they think that their products are the best and that no harm can come to us by consuming their products, why have they spent such a huge sum in making sure we don’t know about it.
There are tons of studies on this issue done by folks much smarter than me but this is the way I understand how this works. I have seen videos and read articles about all of this but I am by no means an expert. I would suggest that if you are really interested in how this affects you and the food you eat that you should do your own research and make up your own mind. As someone who has done a whole lot of bad things to his body and is now trying to make up for it by limiting what he now consumes, I would like to know when I am consuming poison. When I smoked cigarettes, I knew that each one was bad for me but I made a conscious decision to keep smoking. I think that what we eat is much more important and not knowing is just wrong.
I am going to finish up with two quotes from a movie that I think really apply here. In the original Jurassic Park from 1993, Jeff Goldblum plays Dr. Ian Malcolm and after reviewing everything that the scientists have done to bring dinosaurs back into the world he says,
“Don’t you see the danger, John, inherent in what you’re doing here? Genetic power is the most awesome force the planet’s ever seen, but you wield it like a kid that’s found his dad’s gun.”
And later in the same conversation says,
“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”