“GMO’s” or “Genetically Modified Organisms” is struggling to reach the forefront of public awareness; time and again it seems to pop up on the news or elsewhere only to fade from our view.
The subject is quite complicated but this does not mean we should push GMO’s to the background we need to ask ourselves at least three basic questions: , why should I care, what do we need to know and what can I do?
Let’s go into this and answer,
Why should I care? The reason is simple, GMO’s are being introduced into ever increasing amounts and varieties of our food. Introduced not only in primary food sources (the actual product i.e., vegetable’s, juices, frozen food even cans of soup) but also enter the food chain from secondary sources, for example the grain and alfalfa fed to livestock. In this sense the public is receiving a kind of “one, two” genetic punch.
GMO’s are not the same thing as a large screen TV, you may not like it but you can do without a 55”in. screen TV, but how in the hell do you do without food?
This is why this topic is important and why
you should care, you need food to live and what’s in your
food should be of concern.
What do I need to know about GMO’s? It is often argued that genetic engineering has been going on for much of human history and while this is true on a superficial level it is completely fallacious or false to liken hybridization and animal husbandry to modern genetic engineering.
What is the difference between a Hybrid and GMO?
Hybridization and animal husbandry are the processes of selective breeding within the same or diverse species, taking place over many generations in an attempt to secure the best qualities of each parent in the resulting offspring (if there is any). This is generally a long and laborious process as was first quantified by the 19thc. botanist, Gregor Mendel in his experiments with the sweet pea. Mendel took what was in essence a flower (or weed depending on location) and through a multi-generational process of selective breeding increased the size of the seed until he got what he wanted, a new food source. Hybridization has been a tool in humankind’s survival kit for, almost ever and comes in various forms such as selective breeding, cross pollination and cuttings (a clone or rough physical splice of material) but they all have something in common, time. It takes many generations to bring specific traits to dominance just as it takes time to find the right partners for an adaptive host but nature and the organisms are given time to adjust and best prosper;this is not the case with GMO’s.
GMO’s are produced or created by extracting specific portions of one entities’ DNA and fusing it to the DNA of a different entity, a kind of cut and paste system.
These products find their way into our lives through the fruit, syrups, oils, sugars, starches an flour that can be from GMO seeds
While true that this technology has great potential (say using the regenerative DNA from a newt or starfish to re-grow lost or defective limbs) but our food sources should not be the laboratory. The rush for profit should never compromise public safety and welfare and no one should ever be subjected to under-tested tech without a voice.
What can I do? First thing, demanding the labeling of GMO usage for food stuffs is a minimum starting place, how can you choose if you don’t know it’s in there? Second, Get educated as best you can about the diversity of products which are part of the GMO chain. Lastly just as an exercise, ask anyone over 40 years old if when they were children if they ever heard of a child with the dreaded peanut allergy, I have yet to find one.
Then ask yourself, how in one generation did we go from a staple food source to a potential weapon of mass destruction and is it effecting me?