First things first, what the hell is a GMO?
“A Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) is any organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.” In layman’s terms, corporate agriculture companies are trying to use science to make it easier and more profitable to mass produce food, while creating a monopoly on their products.
The first genetically modified DNA organism was created in 1974. Mother nature has been busy creating ideal food for human beings for millions of years. Isn’t it a bit naive of us to think we can perfect it in just 40, without real evidence of safety no less? Foods containing engineered foods currently make up over 80% of North Americas food supply. If you are eating processed foods or non-organic produce, chances are that you are eating GMOs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Our food system was infiltrated in 1994 when the first genetically modified tomato, the “Flavr Savr” was approved by the FDA for sale on grocery store shelves. This tomato was engineered for delayed ripening, which increased shelf life. Technologies soon advanced supporting plants capable of resisting pesticides and herbicides. Simply put, these plants can survive being sprayed with chemicals that kill all other plant life around them. Other crops are engineered to produce pesticides as they grow, killing any insects that try to feed on them and quickly eradicating the pests.
This seems like a great idea on paper – No more weeding, less pesticide spraying, higher yield per acre, and a significant bottom line improvement for big agriculture. But that’s just it. What is the obvious bias? You should know that the most well-known GMO crops are called “Round Up ready,” for a reason. Round Up is the chemical product counterpart of the resistant plants. Together they have dominated North American Agriculture. Do you think it is coincidence that the creator of these GMO seeds also manufactures and sells the chemicals that you spray on them?
It’s great business, I’ll give you that. But is this wise for the food supply? Should a profit motive drive what goes into your mouth?
Today the largest crop grown in the US is corn, 88% of which is genetically modified. I probably don’t have to tell you, but corn has become a staple in the American diet. You can find some sort of engineered corn in the majority of processed food on the shelves, as well as almost every sweetened beverage you can imagine. Even when you eat conventionally raised meats you are essentially eating modified Corn. It’s a main ingredient in cheap animal feed.
Soy is another of the GMO giants. Around 93% of the domestically grown soy is modified. Just like corn, soy is also used under a variety of names found in….you guessed it, countless processed foods.
Ok, so why do we think that these GM crops are so bad? Our trusty government, represented by the FDA, has permitted the use of these techniques in raising field crops across the nation. These products have been approved based upon research gathered during studies funded by the companies that have created, patented, and profit off of these GM technologies. Seems a little biased doesn’t it? How about if I tell you that 61 countries around the world including Austrailia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European union have major restrictions, or outright bans on the production and sales of GMOs.
Real food. A photo posted by Sweet Georgia P’s CSA (@sweetgeorgiap) on
The simple fact is that it is just to early to tell what the long term effects of GMOs in our food supply will be. But in the absence of strong safety evidence the emerging health trends are disturbing.
Is it a coincidence that food allergies in children increased 50% from 1997-2011? That’s one possible effect proposed by anti-GMO campaigner Robyn O’Brien. Check out her excellent TED talk below.
Here is what I know…There is no money to be made in healthy people, and there is no money in dead people. Big Agriculture and Big Pharma are subject to an inherant, huge profit bias. There are billions of dollars in profits to be made in feeding our society GMO foods and prescription drugs. That should be enough to give us pause.
There are certainly supply benefits to GMO technologies. But is this really the only answer? Of course not! Why would we not first choose to drive supply AND quality through programs like Community Supported Agriculture?
I have a simple belief – A whole food diet makes for a healthier, happier society. When in doubt, trust real food! Find a local farm feed CSA program and give them your support. Put your money where your mouth is, so to speak. That’s how we’ll save our food.
If you’ve got questions, just leave them in the comments below. I’ll do my best to get to them all.