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A chat with a professional.

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.

Alfalfa Sprouts and YOU!

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.

To label or not to label? That is the question.

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.

The anti-labelers:

  • 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.

Sources:

Colorado State University

Brown University

Natural News

Planet Ark