Scientists at Monsanto are set to be presented with the Nobel Prize of Agriculture on October 16th (ironically World Food Day). If you think this is wrong, please take a moment to sign the petition.
A friend recently sent me a link to this blog post Why I Won’t Be Buying Nature’s Path Mesa Sunrise Flakes Anymore. She thought it might be something that I would agree with, rather than the usual nutrition misinformation that she alerts me too. However, as I read I found myself disagreeing with the author.
While she’s absolutely entitled to purchase (or boycott) whatever type of cereal she chooses, and entitled to her own opinions about GMOs, I think that her conclusions are misguided. Basically, she’s decided not to purchase the aforementioned cereal anymore because Nature’s Path is staunchly anti-GMO and has tweeted support for a film that is allegedly pseudo-science and fear-mongering. She believes that we need to differentiate between types of genetic modification and can’t lump things like Monsanto’s Round-Up Ready, Bt corn, and arctic apples together. I beg to differ. I think that these GMOs can be lumped together (especially the RR and Bt corn – since they’re both supposedly engineered to be pest-resistant).
I know many intelligent people who firmly believe that GMOs are safe for us to eat. I also know many people who are vehemently opposed to these foods and believe them to be toxic. I tend to lean toward the latter category. It baffles me that a crop can be engineered to contain pesticides and yet it’s supposed to be safe for humans to consume. While I don’t necessarily think that crops that are engineered to have certain qualities (such as the arctic apples and GM salmon) are going to be toxic I think that there’s more than food safety to consider here. Yes, we are essentially the guinea pigs in this long-term study of GMO safety. There hasn’t been enough research for us to know whether or not these foods are safe to eat. But there’s more than that.
We don’t know the impact that introducing these GM crops and animals is going to have on the ecosystem. We’re already doing plenty to destroy our planet by emitting greenhouse gases, polluting the water, killing various species, and clear-cutting forests. Do we really need to add our scientifically engineered organisms to the list? There are always unanticipated unintended consequences; just look at the hypoallergenic cow. What impact will GM crops have on their current counterparts? What impact will GM crops have on essential insects and other animals who pollinate and eat them?
Despite what Monsanto and those who’ve consumed the genetically modified kool-aid would have you believe, we don’t need to genetically modify crops to feed the global population. We need to be smarter about how we grow and distribute our food.
So, I’m not going to buy Nature’s Path’s Mesa Sunrise Cereal because I don’t like it. However, I will buy their Pumpkin Raisin Crunch when it’s on sale because it’s delicious.
Continuing on with the apple-theme from yesterday; researchers have been working on growing hypoallergenic apples. One group has been working on genetically modifying apple trees so that they produce apples containing fewer allergens. Another team has been working on breeding apple trees so that they produce similarly hypoallergenic apples.
Honestly, I think this is kind of ridiculous. Putting aside the potential issues stemming from genetic modification, I still have quibbles with the efforts ti develop hypoallergenic apples. For one thing, apples are not a commonly allergenic food. For another, I think this is taking the wrong approach to the problem. I think research would be better put into determining why people develop allergies and figuring out how to prevent or cure the allergy itself. It’s similar to treating symptoms rather than the root cause of an illness. The problem is not the apple.
I’ve been seeing lots about the battle over Prop 37 in California for the past month or so. I just wanted to add my two cents as there’s one thing that’s really been bothering me.
On one side there’s Monsanto, the giant GMO seed company, fighting to prevent the labelling proposal. On the other side there are a number of people fighting to make labelling of foods containing GMOs mandatory. I’m fully on the side of the latter. We don’t know if GMOs are safe or not at this point and I think that as consumers we should be provided with the information to enable us to decide for ourselves whether or not we’re going to consume them. However, I keep hearing an argument from people in this group that’s completely invalid. The argument: if GMOs are safe for us to consume then why are food producers fighting the labeling; what are they trying to hide? I think this argument makes the pro-labeling group look foolish. Even if GMOs are safe, many people believe them to be unsafe. Of course manufacturers are going to be opposed to the labeling proposition because they fear loss of sales, regardless of safety. Come on people, use better arguments! Fear mongering does not lend strength to your cause. I think knowledge is always good and that decisions shouldn’t be made based on making big food big money.
You know, I honestly don’t know whom to trust or what to believe when it comes to GMO and biotechnology anymore. I don’t see the need to be messing with foods that have grown relatively naturally for years; if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I think that there are probably going to be serious consequences to nature as a result of these foods and there may be unknown risks to our own health as a result of consuming foods.
The prompt for this latest rant was a link to an open letter to the Dr. Oz Show Producers shared by many via twitter over the past several days. As I always enjoy the discrediting of Dr. Oz I decided to give it a read. Something about it rubbed me the wrong way though. It was written by Dr. Bruce Chassy, a professor of molecular biology and biotechnology at the University of Illinois. His undergrad degree was in chemistry and his Ph.D. in biotechnology. As a bit of an aside, why is he teaching courses in nutrition? Food product development and safety, sure, but nutrition? Yet, he’s complaining about the inclusion of Jeffrey Smith as part of the Dr. Oz Show because he isn’t a scientist and therefore, isn’t qualified to comment on genetic modification of food. Pot meet kettle. Sure, his educational background may make him more qualified to teach nutrition than Smith is to educate about GM (he’s a marketing consultant turned activist). Anyway… more to the point… I think one of the main issues with this whole GMO debate is that many of the people who are most qualified to educate us on the topic are also in positions of conflict of interest. Most of these people, including Dr. Chassy, receive research funding from the companies responsible for the development of GMO (1). Can you trust the research results from a study in which the researcher has a vested interest in seeing a certain result? You probably shouldn’t. We need long-term unbiased research studies to know for certain.
This brings to mind the recent controversy over the study from France showing harmful effects of GMO and Monsanto’s Roundup Ready in rats. I actually had a blog post all lined-up and ready to go advising people to be cautious about GMO on the basis of that study. Then I read another post dissecting the study on the basis of the type of rats used and stuff. I don’t know anything about lab rats and I didn’t want to be taken for a fool so I deleted my post. Since then, many scientists have come to the support of Seralini while others have condemned his study. I’m still not entirely sure which side to believe and it’s also important to note that Seralini has backing from an anti-GMO agency, meaning that his research is also unlikely to be free from bias.
Perhaps GMO will prove to be safe but the key word here is prove. At this point we still don’t know enough and I’m personally not keen on being a test subject.