Saturday, 8 March 2014

Food Wars - Is GM Food okay?

Do you have an opinion about GM (genetically modified) foods? Would you describe your views as strong? Should GM foods be available at your local supermarket and, if so, should they be clearly labelled?

And would you buy them?

My views on this subject have been challenged by a special "Food Wars" issue of the Australian science magazine Cosmos (Feb/Mar this year). The magazine dares to strike a pro-GM position, and is even prepared to deal with the huge (and I'd argue justified) opprobrium surrounding the giant multi-national Monsanto.

On the ecological spectrum my colour choice tends to be "light green", so my gut reaction is to take an anti-GM stand. I confess however that I've had to rethink the matter now I know a little more. It's easy, as any ex-fundamentalist can readily testify, to take a position based on a knee-jerk reaction, and be splendidly uniformed. Until this week I'd not heard of the benefits of "golden rice" or the threat to orange crops from citrus greening. To slap me about even further, there's an article on 'denial psychology' that explains - with uncanny accuracy - why I'd prefer to see GM foods off the agenda (and the plate).


If you're an Aussie or a Kiwi, the 'Food Wars' issue of Cosmos is on the news-stands now. If you've read it, I'd be interested in your response.


  1. Here in the U.S., many of our grain-growing states have been experiencing drought conditions. This is not causing problems for the grains that are fed to animals: farmers started using genetically-modified versions of these grains 20+ years ago. These versions require much less water, as well as much less application of herbicide and pesticide. These grains are doing just fine.

    The grains intended for human consumption, especially wheat, are another story. Due to the anti-GM position of many consumers and many interest groups, farmers did NOT adopt genetically-modified versions of these grains. As a result, these are severely affected by the drought.

  2. Sorry to comment, though I am not able to read the article.

    And the top answer is: It's impossible to tell. At best GM is a mixed bag. Maybe some of the Genetic Engineering is a good thing.

    I can tell you this, though, I've found gluten is bad for me. I've lost serious poundage (of the bad kind) by eliminating it from my diet and other things have improved. Now the gluten in wheat products, as one source says, is not the gluten of Biblical Times: The wheat has been bred to increase gluten because it is more resistant to diseases and organisms, thus -- and this is important here -- increasing profits.

    So we have two issues here: Is GM bad for your health (a mixed bag) and is the motives for pursuing GM based solely (or mostly) on greed? If it's to make life better for people and their domestic companions, that's a good thing, but if it has a terminator gene so a company has a monopoly on it and the poor starve because they can't afford to buy it from the monopoly that sells it, it seems it is a bad thing.

    And who is going to be honest here? The monopolies that control the source of the source of our food supply? Or the obsessive who object to tampering with "nature" (who has done some nasty tampering of her own) based only on principle? Can we find any objective science to all this without bias? Will everyone (or anyone) be willing to accept the scientific findings or will they be relegated to obscurity like the measurement for global warming based on temperature gauges next to the output exhaust of air conditioners next to an asphalt parking lot?

    Expect skepticism.

    Fortunately for now, the United States has not permitted Genetically Engineer wheat into the country and that saves that little farm in Eastern Washington I own part of for now -- the seed wheat does not have to be sole sourced from a monopoly that holds the patent. It's only a matter of time though.

    My personal opinion: Corporations should never have had the power to patent a person's DNA right out from under them and use it to make obscene profits from it without any recourse for the individual from which it was extracted. To extend this to GM, the same principle applies: Who ever gets there first is the winner and everybody else is the loser.

    So let alone the issue of safety and health -- how do we make it fair?

    And I apologize for not being an Aussie or a Kiwi, but it's not my fault -- I blame my parents.

    1. There are links to three of the COSMOS articles in the text.

  3. It is only after time has elapsed that we can know the long term effect of these sorts of things. I for one would prefer to be left out of someone's experiment until the results are in, but it does not appear that we get to have a choice in this one. Still, I have to snicker at the prospect of a new wrinkle in terms of the possibility of being able to obsess over the old covenant dietary laws. It's no longer just the porcine vitamin D in commercial milk and all the products on the supermarket shelves in which commercial milk is an ingredient. Soon, there may be catfish genes in all the corn, and skunk genes in the mashed potatoes. Oh, no! Another sign of the end times.


  4. We have some GMO tomatoes here that grow in bunches like grapes, well, not quite that close together but, you know, like 4 of them on one branch and they sell the branch and all... When a tomato slices like a green apple (hard and solid) and tastes like wood pulp, I don't know, maybe it's not a tomato after all - no matter how much it looks like a red ripe tomato.

    Since I have polycythemia vera and have to avoid iron rich foods I have found out that even if a food that doesn't naturally have iron, they add iron to it, thinking that everybody is anemic and needs more iron, I reckon. Anyway, that leaves out bread, cereal, enriched flour and many other things found at the grocery store. Thankfully, those things are labelled, showing the iron content, so that I can avoid them. Now, if they would just leave off the carcinogen, BHT, that keeps the cans from rusting and prolongs the shelf life of canned goods...

    GMO foods? We have more to worry about than that...just about all the food we have has been doctored in some way or other. From artificial fertilizer to chemicals sprayed on it. There has been color added to make it look fresh, flavor added to fruit juice because it has been treated with chemicals and lost flavor sitting in huge storage tanks for a year before being bottled and sold. Preservatives added to prevent spoilage before it can even be distributed and sold. Now, about that 100% Angus beef sandwich...well, maybe it's better you don't know...

  5. You know this blog entry is too bland, so in order to raise the hyperbole level, here's a link to an annoying video (containing absolutely no controls) that should be effectively frightening:

    Hidden dangers of GMO foods.

    I've changed my mind -- I'm all for GMO now! The death rate isn't high enough! Reproductive rates are far too great! GMO solves that problem! This is a win-win situation: Fewer people will mean more available resources worldwide AND the Corporations making it will have a windfall, while Pharmaceutical companies will have greater opportunities to make excessive products producing products to reduce the SYMPTOMS underlying the problems caused by the GMO foods.

    Just so I don't eat the rubbish, I'm fine with feeding it to everybody else!

    1. Wow, what an obvious con man! That was a real hoot! Thanks for sharing! I definitely believe him over the scientists at the Food & Drug administration.

  6. Associated with the GMO controversy is the continuing underlying issues of 100% natural and 100% organic, which is explained very well in the presentation:

    Farmed and Dangerous.

  7. we have been genetically modifying plants and animals for a few thousand years. You should see what corn (maize) looked like 2000 years ago.

    1. We haven't been genetically modifying plants and animals until recently - we have been grafting and hybridizing them, that's a whole different thing.

  8. My worst nightmare is a world full of mutants because of science's indiscretions with the many genomes. The idea of corn with rat genes in it does not comfort me. I like to be able to classify what I am eating. All of this is being driven by economics just like the great varieties of chemicals that are already in our foods. It bothers me when I buy a simple snack and it has 25 ingredients in it. If biologists can make a change to our food that improves the bottom line, no doubt they will do it if nobody can demonstrate that it kills people immediately. Only litigation will impede their reckless activities.

    But it may be a self-limiting process. Maybe scientists will futz with something and make virulent and it will kill all of us. Mother Nature does not like interlopers. They recently found an ancient virus in the arctic that has not been active since the paleolithic. I am sure some cone-head is already wondering if the ancient organisms trapped in ice might be harvested for genes that have a favor effect on corporate stock values.

    The lesson of Jurassic Park was that you should not reconstitute things that Mother Nature put away. This is a lesson lost on the creators of the movie, however, They held a celebration when the movie was finished and served beer that had been fermented with an ancient yeast that someone discovered and had cultured. They observed that it was "different from modern yeasts." Its a wonder any of us are still alive.

    -- Neo