Written by Juliane Locquet, Organic Correspondent
Edited by June Stoyer
“Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to Fishberry Fields. Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.”
Photo from fOTOGLIF
The price of convenience.
For those of you that demand strawberries and cream all year long, keep in mind, you are paying more than just the price on the actual container. You are paying with your health! In this modern age of commercially produced, genetically modified food, what you really should pay is attention!
How do you feel about the thought of crossing fish DNA with strawberries? I bet that would make an interesting topping for cheesecake. How about taking specific genes from chickens and crossing them with potatoes to produce a disease resistant potato? That would insure a never ending supply of crunchy French Fries, right? Your shower wouldn’t be the same without those fluffy cotton towels. So, why not take genes from a Scorpion and cross it with cotton? Atleast there would be no need for those nasty pesticides, right? Wrong. It is amazing as far as the list of things geneticists can give birth to.
No, this is not part of an Isaac Asimov type sci-fi novel or some kind of scare tactic to upset the masses. The logistics behind genetically modified food is, of course, to stop famine and feed the people. Think about this from a logical perspective. Every time the strawberry crops are subjected to an early frost, the crop is lost. The farmer loses precious income and the masses will not have strawberries to eat. If scientists can create a strawberry that is frost resistant then people should be overjoyed! However, in order to do so, the scientists must extract the genes from a particular fish and cross it with the DNA from strawberries to give the strawberry the missing component nature neglected to provide.
If it were that simple, why is there so much information about this process that is not disclosed to the American public? Now that is the million dollar question! Millions of dollars drive this industry. Genetically produced foods may appear to be very cost effective and may appear to be the key to the future but it does have a price! Just how much are we willing to pay for convenience?
GMO’s are everywhere but what are they?
You may often hear people say “I am against the use of GMO” or “it’s gross” to sound hip and in the ”know”. But do people really understand what a GMO is? First we need to understand what genetically modified organism or GMO means. A GMO is “an organism that has been modified by the insertion of DNA by human intention. It is usually DNA which has been modified or ‘engineered’ to suit a particular purpose (recombinant DNA is the same thing). The DNA can be from a foreign organism, from the same organism or it may be a sequence synthesized in a laboratory.” (Lynn M. Hartweek, Ph.D., Agronomy Department, University of Wisconsin, Madison, May 1997)
GMOs are “made with techniques that alter the molecular or cell biology of an organism by means that are not possible under natural conditions or processes.”(National Organic Standards Board)
To further elaborate, think of a Genetically Modified Organism as something that went through a laboratory and was injected with a new gene to enhance its qualities. As you may or may not know, everything organic (as a living entity) possesses a genetic code. The genes from species to species, animals, plants, humans have all the same proteins and organization. The way that the proteins are ordered is different. This is what provides diversity. A genetic code is like the “manual” of the living thing. The way it looks, reacts, lives, etc., is written in the “manual”.
I still don’t get it. What is the big deal?
The concept of GMO is easy. Here is an easy to understand analogy. In the past, did you ever wish that your phone could do more than make calls? Ever think that one day a simple phone could provide TV, internet, a typing tool, and so on? It sounded crazy back then and even impossible, but now it is what everyone expects a phone to be. The manufacturers took elements from the computer, tv, etc and integrated those components with the phone, thus making our lives easier. It is basically the same concept with GMO foods. If you want strawberries all year long, there needs to be something added to the strawberry DNA to help it survive the frost. This was a clever way for geneticists to take over where nature left off. What they did was to take a gene from a fish and add it to the strawberry’s genetic code. This will result in a fruit that will become frost resistant. Smart isn’t it? This fish in question lives in North Atlantic and swims in very frigid waters. In order to survive, its “manual” made sure to include a gene to resist and not freeze. All the scientists did was to find the gene in the fish, isolated it, cut it, and stick it with the strawberry’s own genes. It is like tearing a page off and taping it in a different book. Because of the universality of the genetics, the strawberry is able to read the fish gene like if it was its own, and does not freeze. The funny part is that the ‘’fishberry’’ is denied by these corporations. It is shrugged off and considered to be a fairytale.
Why do they do this?
It is very cost effective. Geneticists found that if they put a chicken gene in a potato, its resistance to plant sickness will be strengthened. The same concept has been applied by extracting the dna from bombyx (butterfly), virus, and bacteria in order to protect the potato.
To make corn resistant from insects, geneticists have added DNA from the predatory insects to the corn. They have also added scorpion genes to cotton to ward off other predatory insects. Watch your sweater, you may be wearing scorpion!
In tomatoes, they applied the same concept as in the strawberries to make a frost resistant variety. In tobacco, you will find mice DNA which is effective in reducing the presence of metal in the leaves.
Most of the crops planted today are GMO because this relatively new science made it possible for corn, soybean, canola, and cotton to be resistant to herbicide and insects. It is very easy and quick for a producer to grow and harvest.
Is Monsanto a hero or villain?
Do you know who originated the growth of GMO’s in America and in the world? The Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON) is an American multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation. It is the world’s leading producer of the herbicide glyphosate, marketed as “Roundup”. Roundup is sold as a common household chemical that is often applied to kill weeds. It is a toxic chemical that is known to cause human sterility and is also toxic to animals.
Monsanto is also by far the leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed, holding 70%–100% market share for various crops. Monsanto is one of the largest companies in the world that produces GMO products as well as chemicals. Monsanto sells the grains and corners the market because their GMO seeds cannot “reproduce”. Because these genes have been modified, they can only grow once. Therefore, every year the cultivator is forced to buy new grains. This is especially problematic because these seeds are being sold to the poorest of poor countries in Africa and Asia. In these lands, the farmers can barely survive and every year, rendered dependent upon Monsanto.
GMO’s are already in American food.
Did you know that the majority of what you eat is made from GMO? Indeed, 60-70% of what you find in the average American supermarket is GM or made with something that is genetically modified. You cannot avoid it, even though it is potentially dangerous. This is due to the fact GMO foods were introduced to our food chain prior to any research conducted. Unfortunately, the impact on our health will be made clear in the very near future.
What kind of impact will this have on my health in the future?
Perhaps in 50 years, our children or grandchildren will wonder how and why we even considered consuming GMO’s. But then again, it will be too late and they will have five eyes (kidding, or not). However, according to the USDA, it is acceptable for human consumption, deemed to be “not” dangerous and is subsequently not against the law. It is almost as if they are applying criminal law by inferring that “GMO is innocent until proven guilty”.
Case in point for Organic.
As clearly defined from my examples above, GMO’s are a threat to human health. When you eat a GMO food, it alters your own body and how the body processes it. You body should depend on nature and not a lab. Nature fed you, your parents, your grandparents, and so on. Respect the course of nature!
If nature wanted fishberries, they would have already evolved. Nature would have found a way to do what man has done. After all, it is not nice to mess with Mother Nature! Whenever you purchase a non-organic food, you are financially supporting GMO’s and enabling this abomination to go on. In turn, companies like Monsanto will succeed and continue to exploiting the poorest of humanity. While we now know that GMO’s are unethical, because they have not been “proven guilty”, it will remain acceptable and left as innocent! Meanwhile, organic, which is the purest of the pure, is forced to be scrutinized and is subjected to steep fees in order to obtain certification. Clearly, justice is blind!
The educated consumer and the power of consumer spending.
Only you have to power to change things. What you buy is a very powerful political statement. You do not want to leave this world to your children. Give them organic products. Certified organic products are required to prove that they are not genetically modified, are not grown with pesticides and contain no growth hormones or antibiotics. They have flavors, vitamins, “real” nutrients, and you won’t find anything unexpected inside of it. That is why companies pay a very big fee for the certification.
We do not know everything of what is going on in the world of GMO. However, educate yourself and shop smart!
Eat smart, live well!
Apoteker, A. (1999). /Du Poisson Dans les Fraises./ Paris: Editions de la Découverte.
Robin, M.-M. /Le monde selon Monsanto : de la dioxine aux OGM, une multinationale qui vous veut du bien./ Paris: Edition de la Découverte.
There is also a video in French that you can watch online about Monsanto from the book above, here is the link for who may understand: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid … 4378254371