As part of my assignment, I had to find a human source. After lots of emails, phone calls, and google searches, I finally found someone willing to discuss GMO’s and how they are affecting them. I became connected with Beth Braun through Greenpeace and was immediately interested in how her career as a professor at both the City Colleges of Chicago and Northeastern Illinois University caused her to be a GMO activist. She teaches General Biology, Anatomy & Physiology, Nutrition and Environmental Science, but says that her “true passion is information.” She says that being a professor allows for her to reach out to the younger generations and encourage them to make a change for the future. Upon asking if any of her students have heard of GMO’s, she normally is responded with silence as “virtually none of [her] students have heard of it”. Ms. Braun believes that because many people hold this false idea that the ecosystem is a remote environment that will not affect them personally, they do not care. Unfortunately, they are very wrong. Ms. Braun’s main concern with GMO’s is that they ARE changing the ecosystem. For her students, she uses an example that makes GMO’s easier to understand. She says that fast food, such as, is something we all know is not healthy for us. Yet, if we wanted to we could go ahead and get a Bic Mac for lunch. With GMO’s, though, we do not have that option. Once planted within the ecosystem, they contaminate the environment whether we like it or not. It is not something we can choose to ignore, nor should we. In closing with Ms. Braun, she said many people try to “frame” her as a person against anything that is “big business”. For all you activists, she says do NOT allow anyone to portray you in that way. If the “big business” was “doing something good we’d be cheering them on”, but unfortunately many people take their power for granted.
After hanging up the phone with Ms. Braun, I became aware of my need to generate awareness and knowledge on the topic of GMO’s. The chat we had together provided me reason to continue my research and interest in this project long after the due date. She inspired me to talk with my mom, my dad, my friends, even my sibling about their feelings on GMO’s, in lieu of the BP oil spill, the way we are treating the environment in general. As part of this intricate system of the ecosystem, I feel the least I can do is disclose some of the information I have in hopes that it ignites the same flame that it has in myself.
The genetic engineering world claims that it will feed our ever-growing population; that with their pesticides and insecticides it will create the higher yields necessary to feed the some 6 billion people that live on this planet. Yet, an article in The Atlantic (showed to me by Mr. Coffee) refutes this claim. Adding another dimension to the ongoing battle between those for genetic engineering and those for organic/conventional methods.
Farmers in third world countries, according to Monsanto’s website, couldn’t be happier about the new era of technology allowing them to produce higher yields with less costs for fertilizers, as discussed in my earlier post “The good, the bad, and the ugly“. An interview I listened to on National Public Radio (Npr) confirmed this belief as they spoke to a farmer in Honduras.
Rodolfo Rubio, “who grows corn and vegetables on about 50 acres near the city of Comayagua” is a firm believer in the power of genetic engineering. With the help of Monsanto, Rubio is able to produce corn without and pesticides and without any evidence of silk worms, an ever-present problem in his region of Honduras. Monsanto was able to take a gene from the worm and transplant it into the seed. Therefore, when the worm would eat the corn, the worm would die.
Although Rubio spends an extra $1,000 for the seeds, it “saves him so much time and money, he says, he can’t imagine not using it”. A possibility when you consider that much of Central America is against the production and use of genetic engineering. Believing that “bringing in unnatural genes threatens the integrity of [the corn’s] natural biodiversity”. Although, with the onset of a major food crisis in Honduras, farmers are being pushed “to plant more corn, including genetically modified corn”. So as of late, a ban of GMO’s is still in the distance.
But, why all the fuss? It saves time. It saves money. It should be the answer to our prayers. Yet, many people refute these claims believing that organic methods work just as well without all the risks a new technology brings.
A study at the University of Michigan found food production “could double or triple using organic methods” not only equal that of genetically engineered crops. When done properly, it could “potentially produce more than enough food”. Good news for farmers in developing countries, unlike Rubio, who can’t afford to shell out $1,000 all at once just for seeds every year. Their research concluded that “planting green manures between growing seasons provided enough nitrogen to replace synthetic fertilizers”.
Yet, no one is aware of the seemingly easier idea of organic farming. Shannon Dipietro of The Atlantic believes that it’s a difference in budgets. While company’s like Monsanto can constantly be in the consumer’s face about the looming danger of overpopulation, organic farmers do not have a big guy out front rooting for them. Monsanto’s “ads use facts related to fears that are unrelated to the product they produce” to grab our attention.
So. like the rest of the controversies, this too is unresolved. There is and always will be two sides. Who are you rooting for?
To listen to the full NPR story, follow this link:
If you keep up with the latest in the food world, then you probably have heard about what is happening with the alfalfa sprouts. If not, then you probably have no clue what I’m talking about and wonder why you should even care. Keep reading and I will tell you why.
Alfalfa sprouts are “the fourth largest crop, in terms of acreage, grown in the United States behind corn, soybeans, and wheat” (Green Talk). It has many uses such as crop cover, since it is so rich in nutrients, and creating more homes for wildlife. If you are not a big of fan of eating alfalfa sprouts, that does not mean that they still don’t affect you.
Cattle is generally fed hay, which, according to Green Talk, will still produce good beef and a good profit. The best feed for cattle, however, is alfalfa. Therefore, if something were to happen to alfalfa your hamburgers, your milk, your cheese, your yogurt, your favorite steak, or quite possibly your ice cream might all be affected.
Well, be prepared. In two days, March 3, 2010, a decision will be made on the safety of genetically engineered alfalfa sprouts by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) only after being sued by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) for originally approving the crop before proper analysis (Ga3.org). The analysis, which is known as the environmental impact statement (EIS), was first released December 14, 2009 and is open for comment until, as I said earlier, March 3. This analysis is the first ever done on a GE engineered crop and as such will have “broad implications for all GE crops” (Ga3.org).
The problem is that if the GE crop gets approved, there will be no way to regulate it with the standards that are set in place now. In the documents required for the lawsuit against the USDA “the Court found that contamination had already occurred in the fields of several Western states” (Ga3.org). As mentioned in the Percy Schmeiser vs. Monsanto post, there are also other ways a non- GE crop can be contaminated such as wind, pollination, and bad practices. Because of this, the once safe alternative, organic foods, will no longer be safe. Alfalfa may no longer be able to be found without having been genetically modified.
If this bothers you, you should do something! Go to this site and find out where to send your comments. The USDA said that there is no evidence supporting the fact that consumers care about organic crops becoming contaminated with GMO’s. You have the opportunity to prove them wrong and delay the onset of GE crops until further testing has been completed.
As of right now, there are no rules pertaining to the labeling of genetically engineered foods, unless that food has a new nutritional effect, such as an allergen. The only way to be sure that what you’re eating has not been modified is to buy certified organic foods, which mustn’t contain any GMO’s. As with every argument, there are the two sides.
The pro- labelers:
- believe it is their right to know what is going in their food and what they are eating
- whether it be for personal or religious reasons they understand people avoid eating animals, even if it is the animal DNA. A risk they are taking while eating unlabeled food.
- think that labeling will help educate more people about what GMO’s are.
- Afraid of the cost that labeling will bring
- believe that the label has a negative connotation and will scare people away from buying it
- believe there is no difference between conventional foods and genetically engineered foods
- believe people already have the option to avoid GMO’s- by buying organic
You must be aware that these are only skimming the whole problem. Along with the GMO battle, brings fights that are outside of our borders.
The five countries producing more than 95% of commercialized GMO [legend pattern orange] Other country producing commercialized GMO. [orange dot] Only experimental crops.”]
Many countries, such as Europe, have already decided to completely take GMO’s off the shelves until they are proven safe (whereas we have taken the very opposite approach- safe until proven dangerous). This is troublesome, though, when we think of the trade that happens between countries. The United States is a GM giant as well as a huge exporter, if Europe, for example, decided to suddenly stop accepting our food until labeled properly it would greatly hurt the trade industry. Already thinking ahead, the European Union (EU) has proposed a treaty that would force “exporters to provide more information on GMO products like maize and soybeans before any shipment to recipient countries, to help them decide whether to accept it” (World Environment News). Once again, those against it are afraid of the money that would go into the screening of genes before shipments. Although the treaty is still in its early stages, it is creating a bit of discomfort among bio- tech countries like the United States.
As the battle of labeling continues, so will the battle of GMO’s. Until then, people must educate themselves on what they are putting into their body.
Many are in favor of the use of GMO’s. For many years we have used selective breeding to create desirable traits in a plant or animal, but with the new technology called genetic engineering there is now a more efficient way to do so with many more possibilities. In an ever- growing population, it is a convenient way to increase yield in many crops and reduces the use of pesticides and insecticides. This allows farmers to reap more of the profits while cutting costs.
By adding or changing the growth hormone, scientists are also creating larger carp, tilapia, salmon, and many other foods. Modifying the organisms also allows for scientists to add in different desirable traits. Foods with edible vaccines are being researched as you read this. Martin Lemon, Monsanto’s environmental operations manager said, “The beauty of it is, it’s a lot more straightforward and quicker”. It also allows for the use of non- plant traits to be added to plant organisms, an impossibility during the years of selective breeding.
Although all of this sounds harmless and beneficial, many are against the use of GMO’s. Because the technology is still very new, it is still unknown how these crops will affect future generations of both plants and humans. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims that GMO’s are “considered by the government to be as safe as their traditional counterparts and are generally unregulated”, the fact that they are not being regulated is the main cause of concern. The ActionBioScience website suggests that Monsanto’s ability to put patents on seeds is “creating monopolies on living organisms“. For over 200 years patents on living organisms has been excluded as they were not seen as a new invention just a revised way to use nature. Not only is Monsanto slowly taking over the food industry, they are also depleting native countries of their indigenous crops by making the GM crop the only sustainable form. Probably the most frightening aspect of GMO’s is the lack of knowledge. No one can say for certain what the effects will be. Countries such as Algeria, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Japan, Philippines, Spain, Brazil, Paraguay, Saudi Arabia, and many more have declared not to plant or use genetically engineered seeds until more research has been completed.
Scientist Miguel A. Altieri says that “profit motivations rather than environmental concerns, shape the type of research and modes of agricultural production prevalent throughout the world”. With that in mind, it is important to be aware that with the little research done on GMO’s it is a frightening thought to think that you could be a guinea pig for future generations.
P.s. If you are still unsure of what modifying food is, look at this Powerpoint.
Please Note: I will be talking about the agricultural aspects of GMO’s. If you’re interested in the effects they are having on the bees, then please go here.