Contributing Monkie Julie Morris
Published on May 15, 2008
Mmm… corn. How wonderful does a great, big, sweet, freshly barbequed yellow ear of corn sound to ya (especially one spliced with virus genes, and genetically engineered to include a little bit of insecticide in every kernel)? What? You don’t like virus genes? Oh, and come on — you really can’t even TASTE the Roundup residue. Okay, okay. So, maybe that’s not so wonderful. But regardless of wonderful, that’s exactly what 75% of the corn grown in the United States is: Genetically Modified (GMO). I’ll say it again: 75% percent. Out with the kitchen apron and in with the lab coat. And the worst part is, though you may have heard of GMOs, knowing whether or not you’re eating them is a different story, since the U.S. currently has no labeling requirements on food crafted from biotechnology.
Corn, soy, canola and cotton — these are the big four to remember. Aside from being the largest crops grown on American soil, they’re also the crops most frequently grown using Genetically Modified Seeds. Referred to as GE (Genetically Engineered) and GM or GMO (Genetically Modified), these new “plants” are made up of DNA that’s been spliced with all kinds of different genes in the hope of making the crop hardier and more profitable. “Potatoes may be spliced with chicken genes, tomatoes spliced with fish genes, corn spliced with ‘virus’ genes, pigs spliced with human genes… bacteria, insect and animal combinations, and various plant combinations [are] produced.” (via Safe 2 Use)
Multi-billion dollar, shady-as-they-get corporation Monsanto is the root of the biotech agriculture movement (and you can read a full report on it here). But despite the enthusiasm of many profit-oriented American manufacturers, the demand for GMO foods on a worldwide level has been relatively slim. Much of Europe will not accept our “Frankenfood” exports (as they’re called), and many international manufacturers are wary to include these foods in fear of a consumer backlash (GMO ingredients are required to be labeled as such in other countries).
Yet a recent article in the New York Times explores an upcoming shift in GMO mindset: with the growing global food crisis, more buyers — especially international — are relaxing their stance on GM foods in order to combat high prices and short supplies. The article notes that with conventional corn prices “having tripled in two years, it has become too expensive to be so finicky.” Other organizations are feeling more desperate about maintaining adequate supply. As noted in a foreboding quote from Yoon Chang-gyu, the director of the Korean Corn Industry Association, “We cannot get hold of non-GM corn nowadays.”
The chairman of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee, Neil Parish, sums up the sentiment of many overseas buyers: “Their hearts may be on the left, but their pockets are on the right.” Well, left or right, the pocket of my organic cotton jeans doesn’t want to pump my healthy heart full of insecticide, thank you very much.
So, why is the increasing use of genetically engineered foods such a problem? The 2004 Documentary, The Future of Food, eloquently explains the valid dangers of biotechnology. From the website futureoffood.com, the film “offers an in-depth investigation into the disturbing truth behind the unlabeled, patented, genetically engineered foods that have quietly filled U.S. grocery store shelves for the past decade.” The movie paints a powerful picture of the reality about GMO foods, and just how Monsanto is turning our amber waves of grain into Petri dishes and dollar signs.
And in case you were wondering, nobody “knows” whether GE foods pose a genetic hazard to humans. Do they genetically alter us too? We are already beginning to see some of the unintended consequences. For example, the pollen of genetically modified corn has been found to kill monarch butterflies, according to Safe 2 Use — which is funny, because natural corn pollen doesn’t kill monarch butterflies.
So, what is the true cost of GM foods — to the environment, farmer and the consumer? Unfortunately, only time will be the test tube.
The food shortage problem is not that we can’t grow food without biotechnology and pesticides. The problem IS biotechnology and pesticides. The simple answer to international problems of non-GMO food supply is for America — the largest grower of GM foods — to return to our natural roots and stop growing crops that consumers do not want (and rightfully, do not trust). Until then, corporations like Monsanto are wasting the earth’s resources to grow food that goes against the core balance of nature, all in the name of capitalism.
The good news is that you can be safe from GMOs for now by buying organic. Organic standards prohibit the use of GMOs. And until biotech agriculture is removed from our food supply, taking a stand and lobbying for labeling of Genetically Engineered foods is at an important step in the right direction. You have the right to know what’s in your food. More information on the “Right to Know” Act can be found here.
By choosing organic foods, supporting smaller local farms when possible, eating an unprocessed diet, and especially exercising a boycott of foods that include the (probable) freak-of-nature conventional corn, soy, or canola, you greatly lessen your risk of exposure to GMOs. Equally important is the fact that you’re sending a loud message to Monsanto and GMO supporters in a language they can understand: your money.
It’s not improbable that if everyone refused to buy Monsanto’s mutant crops that they might just be forced to move to environmentally greener pastures.
Eat natural, eat clean. And eat healthy.