GMO Food.

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GM food (from genetically modified organisms, or GMOs) brings out loads of passion- from both sides. But it’s no simple topic.

They’re controversial for a few reasons, one of which is their novelty. Humans have tinkered with plant breeding since the dawn of agriculture, but transferring DNA between unrelated species is something totally different, i.e. it would never happen in nature on it’s on. Which is why some people claim, GMO more aptly stands for ‘God Move Over.’

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It’s not as simple as: “eat GMO food and you die.” But consider: Since the biotech companies own the patent they decide who performs tests. Independent testing has been limited and when the results cause concern, as has been the case, scientists are discredited and de-funded and their research buried.

Calling the actual science itself ‘safe’ is up for debate. Moving genes horizontally, to another species, is an experiment. Since life began, we’ve been breeding male and females of one species and the offspring inherit their traits, i.e. vertically. Bring in traits from different species horizontally and we have no idea the end result. There are far too many unknowns, too many permutations. The world is a web of connections and while we don’t know all the outcomes, we do know there are repercussions.

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Biotech firms spend a lot on R&D, exponentially more on just one seed than seed companies who invest in traditional breeding. So the model puts tremendous pressure on them to realize a return on that investment. That’s understandable, except when it limits innovation, competition and choice as is the case in the seed market. Perhaps more troubling is how increased profits are used to influence democracy to favor policy which allows for more power and profits.

When our elected and appointed officials, be it the White House, members of Congress, the EPA, Supreme Court judges, the FDA are lobbied on behalf of, accept campaign contributions from, are former employees of, are current shareholders of, then who’s interests are they representing? If you owe your job to a company (instead of the people), who would you be loyal to?

A revolving door between the largest corporations and those who are supposed to be working in the interests of the public reduces democracy. I highlight Monsanto because their influence in the USA at all levels of federal government is most easily documented.

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Again, Monsanto: Just because they largest seed (biotech/chemical) company in the world profited from doing untold damage in the 20th century without paying the price, does not mean they are ‘bad’ per se.

That said, perhaps it’s wise to consider motives. Concentrated power never ends up well for the majority. Can you imagine what type of power comes with controlling the food supply? Today, just three companies sell over 50% of the world’s commercial seed supply.

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After reading up on it from every angle, I have more questions than answers, e.g. If there are no upsides for consumers, and we know there are risks, why wouldn’t we want them at least labeled? But, if GMO is such great technology (as the seed companies claim in their patents), and results in lower prices or more food, why wouldn’t they want their product labeled?

As a U.S. citizen that supports the democratic process, it’s easy to find fault in our government’s lack of transparency and cozy relationship (in every branch of government) with just a few of the seed, i.e. biotech/chemical, companies. Might that have something to do with why GMO’s aren’t labeled in the USA while they’ve been labeled or banned in 60+ other countries? Why is the USA an outlier?

And if most of the country wants our food labeled, who stands in the way? Could it be those who benefit from the status quo?, e.g. executives and shareholders at the few seed companies, fossil fuel companies, the grain traders (ADM, Cargill) and the handful of food manufacturers who sell us the majority of our processed food. Yes, the apathetic stand with the status quo, but, even for those that pay attention, it’s easy to be misled. For example, in California, pro-GM advocates spent massive sums on PR to narrowly defeat the proposition to label GM food. .

Four Points on GM Food to consider:
1.There are no benefits to US consumers
2.We’re unsure of long term effects, but there are repercussions
3.GMOs are part of the industrial/chemical farming system that will never feed the world
4.There’s a growing awareness that GMOs are about profits for a few over democracy

A prediction:
Farmers in the USA will reject GM technology (as ecological, whole-systems approaches win out economically-even before we put a price on pollution), but consumers will reject it sooner.

Labeling GM food isn’t THE answer. It’s one of dozens of things we could do to improve the food system, e.g. end subsidies to fossil fuels and create a new Farm (and Food) Bill. But perhaps in the process of asking the government to Label GM food, more people will join the fight for more democracy.

A site to visit and become involved: http://justlabelit.org/

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