Jan. 15, 2013 — Beneath Paris streets, Metro passengers walk by a billboard featuring a larger-than-life man who looks like he’s trying to blow his brains out with a half-shucked ear of corn. Photoshopped pictures of Frankenfish, cucumbers that peel like bananas, rainbow-colored broccoli and other crazy-quilt images of genetically altered foods abound on a Google image search.
Are we all just lab rats for the biotech food industry’s experiments in genetically modified organisms (GMOs)? News headlines combined with tidbits from history are really starting to worry me.
Butter was one of the first foods I recall being modified, albeit on a molecular level instead of genetic. Oleomargarine was first developed in France, at the request of Emperor Louis Napoleon III. According to a Wikipedia article, it was developed in France for use by the armed forces and the lower classes.
Margarine today is made by passing hydrogen through oils in the presence of a metal catalyst, such as nickel or palladium. This hydrogenation process hardens the oil, increasing its melting point.
Margarine, often available for less than half the price of butter, became fiercely regulated around the world, so much so that coloring was banned for a century due to protests from farmers, and in some countries, manufacturers were even forced to add nutrients like vitamin D. It took scientists more than 100 years to realize that the hydrogenated oils, or trans fats, in margarine actually doubled heart-disease risks.
Foods today get even fishier, with the genetically engineered AquAdvantage salmon, for example. It was one flip of its tail closer to our dinner tables just after Christmas, according to a Dec. 28, 2012, businessinsider.com article.
Author Jennifer Welsh reported the modified Atlantic salmon, 17 years in the making, was created from inserted genes. Those genes include those from the chinook salmon that has the desired growth hormone, and a large eel-like species from the north Atlantic. They are also developing trout and tilapia, all designed to grow bigger faster with less feed than their unaltered counterparts.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration found the fish safe to eat and safe for the environment since they would be farmed in tanks outside the U.S. in Canada and Panama. The FDA doesn’t have to worry about environmental impacts outside the U.S., according to its May 2012 Preliminary Finding of No Significant Impact. Besides, creators at AquaBounty Technologies have assured the FDA only sterile females will be marketed.
In Great Britain the government is busy touting benefits, persuading the public that genetically modified foods are good for them, according to a Thursday, Jan. 3, article by Fiona Harvey in The Guardian, U.S. edition.
So what exactly are we sowing the seeds of for our future? According to the ETC Group, it’s all about the money.
“Once the market is monopolized, how the technology performs is irrelevant,” wrote an ETC staff member in the Dec. 11, 2008, article “Who Owns Nature?” “All they have to do is chase away the competition and coerce governments into surrendering control.” The writer describes the following scenario:
Regulators look the other way when pesticide companies buy out seed companies; governments protect industry by patenting plants and genes; consumer safety regulations yield to genetically modified foods and drugs. “Industry got what it wanted,” the author concluded.
And it’s not as far-fetched as some might think. Adding to the conspiracy theories, one such seed (and gene) giant, Monsanto, recently bought out the leading bee research firm after being implicated in bee colony collapse, according to a Thursday, April 26, 2012, NaturalNews.com article by Staff Writer Jonathan Benson.
“Now that Beeologics is owned and controlled by Monsanto, the company is sure to completely avoid dealing with the true causes …” he wrote, expecting Beeologics to come up with scientific breakthroughs that deny any link between colony collapse and genetically modified organism technologies.
He figures Monsanto will blame mystery pathogens and other factors that require more chemicals to eliminate.
Many organizations agree with him, such as GMWatch, with members who seek to counter the corporate political power and propaganda of the biotech industry and its supporters who want to “heal, fuel and feed the world.” They also recognize Monsanto as a world leader in the genetic modified foods industry.
The bottom line, they write, is that “patented gene technologies will not help small farmers survive climate change.” Instead they would “concentrate corporate power, drive up costs, inhibit public-sector research and further undermine the rights of farmers to save and exchange seeds.”
To be fair, there are also those who question the anti-GMO ruckus.
“Is it ethical to deny a hungry child a meal because of theoretical risks?” African citizen David Makumi asked this question in a Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, Daily Nation article about the ban of genetically modified foods.
For myself, I know it’s a constant battle to decipher all these technological and chemical changes to the food chain. It’s easy for some of us to say no to GMO, but probably not so easy for parents with starving children who need to buy the cheapest groceries they can find.
For those interested in eliminating GMOs from their pantries, try reading “Parents in Action: Avoiding genetically modified foods,” an article on abcactionnews.com.
Author Angela Ardolino explains how to shop for organic foods and non-GMO verified foods.
She also recommends visits to sites like NonGMOproject.org, where there are a variety of tools to help people find products, restaurants, retailers and bushels of information.
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