Genetically Modified Organism – “are plants or animals created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE). This experimental technology merges DNA from different species, creating unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.” (nongmoproject.org)
I’ve been confused lately. Eating tomotoes with salmon genes and wheat with Round Up resistance in its genetic make up just plain freaks me out. It freaks me out at a primal level that I just can’t explain. It’s right up there with eating glass. It just ain’t right. Recently a friend pointed out that those foods deemed “Certified Organic” include the rejection of GM’d foods. “Organic” is more a process of growing / raising food rather than the labeling of food. The USDA and others look at the entire process of how a food is grown from seed, nurtured, and harvested. A “GMO” is the label affixed to an organism that has had it’s DNA altered.
For those with a bit of science in their personal databanks, you’ll notice that this definition (also included on Monsanto’s website) only includes the introduction of foreign genes to or the deletion of an organism’s existing genes. It does not include such things as radiation and chemical modification of the existing genetic code. This would be like saying that veggies grown in the 1986 radioactive aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster are “non-GMO.” The question is would you eat them?
There are many of us that are trying our best to act with integrity as we feel that this is how we’re going to get out of this global catastrophe we’ve created. We recycle, we reuse, we reduce, and we do our very best to minimise our footprint on this flailing planet. Genetic modification in foods is based on the premise that we can increase yields, decrease the growth time and land used, and therefore get more bang for buck out of any parcel of land. Thanks to independent sources, the safety of GMOs are slowly being questioned and the sustainability and validity of organic farming in the long-term are being substantiated. The short of it is, GMOs aren’t needed to feed the world. What’s disturbing, however, is that the US and Canada are slow to question the GMOs and promote organic farming while places like Europe, Haiti, and many other countries already know.
What’s wrong with us? Why aren’t we questioning GMOs?
I believe GMOs are both a treatment for a symptom (overpopulation) and are also a symptom of something fundamental:
We are disconnected from our environment and no longer hold ourselves accountable for our actions.
- We feel ourselves able to binge on junk food stating that, “we’ll just do an extra 20 minutes at the gym.” This junk food just burned up $10 of your budget, introduced a bunch of pseudo-food that your body didn’t or couldn’t digest, was trucked to the store, and was “built” with GM’d wheat by a company that put several independent farmers out of business and refuses to comment on whether or not its food is safe. This junk food was also packaged in plastic. Plastic is made from oil products.
- We feel ourselves justified in driving to work everyday because we drive a hybrid car. We don’t take into consideration that our car was built from non-renewable resources (metal and plastic), our bodies are withering from the lack of exercise, and we are detaching ourselves from our community. Associating with community is essential for keeping each other accountable.
- We feel ourselves justified in buying a new house in the suburbs because we can afford it, we have a growing family, and public transit now accommodates the area. We don’t take into consideration that this suburb was built on arable land, the new house is built from new materials that were harvested/extracted using non-renewable resources, this house may not as energy efficient as older homes, and that the municipal tax base must now increase to accommodate expanding infrastructure. You’ve just helped increase your city’s taxes, doubled your heating bill, and are living on land that could have been used to grow food.
Integrity – “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; the state of being whole and undivided” (oxforddictionaries.com)
Modified foods, genetically-modified or otherwise, aren’t true or honest foods. And just like you instinctively know when someone is lying to you, your body knows that these foods aren’t real.
Being an archaeologist often means have an appreciation for the ‘old ways.’ As Michael Pollan points out, the ‘old ways’ are tried and true and have sustained human beings for generations. These ‘old ways’ are the result of a sort of cultural selection in that we’ve gone through methods, foods, and practices, and over generations found the ones that worked the best for us. For example, we know when food isn’t good to eat because it smells wrong. We don’t need modern science or the news to tell us; we know because it was passed down to us through our family, and our ancestors learned through trial and error. (Actually, this is the scientific method in it’s truest sense – observe, hypothesize, test, repeat, and communicate.)
Not questioning the safety of GMOs is a symptom of a wider spread problem. We are living in a world where modern science, medicine, and technology dominate. Just because it’s new, ‘scientifically-proven,’ and convenient doesn’t mean it’s better. We need to question the science and the technology. For example, if a pharmaceutical company funds a study on its own drugs, we should be suspicious of the results. This should also be the case with food companies, but it’s not.
We believe the marketing. We are too busy to question the integrity of our food. We are too overwhelmed with information and disinformation to investigate and find the truth. We should, instead, be trusting our grandmother’s hard-won multi-generational knowledge of food instead of some scientific study that used only 30 people, all of whom are 30-something white males. We believe the lies and it may be our downfall.
But, I believe we already know the truth — what does your gut tell you?
GMO OMG film (also on Netflix)
Michael Pollan – In Defense of Food
Forbes – The Great Yoga Debate
National Geographic – The Evolution of Diet
National Journal – Condoms Fight Climate Change
Naomi Klein – This Changes Everything
Saveheat.co – Empowering Urban Energy Efficiency