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.
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.