“But we realize that with any new and powerful technology with unknown, and to some degree unknowable – by definition – effects, then there necessarily will be an appropriate level at least, and maybe even more than that, of public debate and public interest.”
– Bob Shapiro, Chief Executive of Monsanto (1998)
TWO SIDES TO EVERY STORY AND THEN THERE’S THE TRUTH
By Brian AndersSo who’s telling us the truth about GMOs? And do we really understand the technology? Do a search and you’ll find some really convincing “looking” data from both sides. Unless you have some understanding of genetics or the plant sciences you can barely understand the nomenclature of it. But how much of the argument has to do with health and safety as opposed to business interests and politics?
This is a fair question because it maintains the parameters of a fair and objective analysis. People have understood the value of botany and hybrids since the dawn of civilization. Hybridization and GMO’s are a fundamental process of agriculture. The genetic sciences have produced many positive and exciting new developments, but how far are they willing to test the limits by crossing over into a totally different genus for a particular gene?
“Critical Art Ensemble, Molecular Invasion, (top) Installation View, 2002, World Information Organization, Amsterdam manifestation. Molecular Invasion is a participatory science-theater project. In this work, CAE, Beatriz da Costa, and Claire Pentecost attempt to reverse-engineer genetically modified canola, corn, and soy plants through the use of nontoxic chemical disrupters. In this theater of live public experimentation, we attempt to transform artificial biological traits of adaptability into ones of susceptibility, as well as establish a model for contestational biology.”
Fish genes in tomatoes? Not hardly. They tried that and before they canned the experiment it had already become an urban GMO myth. The idea was to cross a flounder gene into a tomato to make it more resistant to frost. It failed but people with seafood allergies still worry about tomatoes with fish genes. Soybeans are used in animal feed but are deficient in the essential amino acid methionine. The idea was to cross Brazil nuts which have a much higher level, with soybeans to boost the soybean’s methionine levels. The allergic characteristics of the Brazil nut proteins being passed genetically up through soybeans for poultry feed presented an additional concern if any of them made it into the human food supply. Blood samples from test subjects revealed that the active protein (allergen) in Brazil nuts bonded with the soybean proteins and the project was shelved.
“The 2S albumin is probably a major Brazil-nut allergen, and the transgenic soybeans analyzed in this study contain this protein. Our study shows that an allergen from a food known to be allergenic can be transferred into another food by genetic engineering.” – source
SIDEBAR: This might require a whole new direction of questioning. I question the logic and the expense of GMO’s instead of feeding the animal a food that has the nutritional value needed to begin with. Pardon my ignorance.
Golden Rice was developed around 2000. It was fortified with beta carotene and is harvested for demographics with higher rates of Vitamin A deficiency, a leading cause of blindness among malnourished African nations. Vitamin supplements are less cost effective; rice is a staple food and more affordable than others with higher Vitamin A content, like sweet potatoes.
As far as allergies are concerned, GMOs actually have less potential for allergens than natural fruits and vegetables. When a new fruit or vegetable is introduced into a foreign culture there will always be an increase in allergic reactions. When GMOs are developed; through good science and ethical practices, the threat of any allergic reaction is always of primary concern.
There are many hybrids in the vegetable department of your grocery store. The amount of GMOs pale in comparison. The few fruits and vegetables that are genetically modified and sold in the U.S. are corn, soybeans, potatoes (one species, the Burbank Russet), tomatoes, radicchio, zucchini, yellow squash and Hawaiian papaya. The majority of GMOs are found in processed foods, meats and dairy products. Most processed foods are less healthy than whole GMO foods when you consider all the other additives and preservatives.
It seems unnatural for chemical companies and the bio-technology industry to play such an important role in food production, but we take it all for granted. Molecular science has many contradictions within it. Substances in different combinations can be deadly or completely harmless. There are many toxic elements in our food on an atomic level produced in nature that we ingest all the time. When elements bond together they lose some of their individual properties as with Sodium and Chloride.
Sodium is a silver-colored metal which is soft enough to cut with a knife. It is an extremely reactive metal, and is always found naturally in ionic compounds, not in its pure metallic form. Pure sodium metal reacts violently (and sometimes explosively) with water, producing sodium hydroxide, hydrogen gas, and heat:
2Na(s) + 2H2O(l) ——> 2NaOH(aq) + H2(g)
Chlorine is a poisonous, yellow-green gas, with a very sharp odor, and was used in gas warfare during World War I. Sodium and chlorine react with each other, however, to produce a substance that is familiar to almost everyone in the world: sodium chloride, or table salt:
2Na(s) + Cl2(g) ——> 2NaCl(s)
“Pass the salt, please? I like salt on my fresh sliced GMO tomatoes.”
Unfortunately under the current conditions of artificial capitalism, the market dictates profit over prevention. The revolving door between government and business creates many conflicts of interest when it comes to peer-reviewed research and long term studies. This is one of the underlying issues that many regular people are thinking about. Those who would just be happy to get some unbiased and qualified information from anyone but those who have been on the payroll, or soon to be on the payrolls of Monsanto, Dow and all the rest. This is the fundamental dysfunction with the entire American political process.
One of the most convincing documentaries for the anti-GMO movement is Genetic Roulette. Dr. Arpad Pusztai, a world renowned geneticist was contracted by the UK to perform a study assessing the risks of GMOs. His study of Rat vs Potatoes is very famous and used as a common example in the fight against GMOs. One group was fed plain organic potatoes; another with organic potatoes with a pesticide added and the third group ate GMOs.
Dr. Pusztai’s results concluded that the GMOs had more adverse effects on the rats than the other two varieties. This got a lot of play over the internet. On the internet is also a series of articles published by academicsreview.org debunking many urban myths pertaining to GMOs. They specifically dispute the Pusztai Study questioning its integrity every step of the way. Compound that with other compelling sources like globalresearch.ca who takes the extreme opposite view as academicsreview.com and you have an immense amount of information to study.
In another documentary, Genetically Modified Society, Kent Bradford, the Director of Plant Sciences at UC Davis gives a very pragmatic interview with some reasonable talking points. He mentions some of the issues not always considered in the discussion about GMO’s. His segment begins at 00:12:40 in the video.
It’s about trust and trust is the cause of some of the paranoia coming from many of the anti-vaxxors. Science is risky enough, but a necessary risk as long as monetary interests don’t overshadow the human concerns. Peer-reviewed science and not politically reviewed is the best course. Many of the AIDs conspiracy theories have been debunked and put to rest. But the entire progression of AIDS research was riddled with politics, and still there’s more compelling information that questions the validity of the details from either side of the argument.
Where GMO’s are concerned it is not always about the genetic manipulation of the plant. To some it speaks to economics and biodiversity. The Green Revolution fed millions of people; but at what cost? The revolution was far from “green”, but created a growing dependency on chemical farming. That of course stimulates chemical refineries to produce more toxins. Fossil fuels and petrochemicals are the fundamental ingredients for agriculture, fuel, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. A handful of chemical and biotech companies control the lion’s share of all the raw materials needed to manufacture the causes of, and solutions to, all of life’s problems.
With careful and ethical practices GMO’s and other newer technology can benefit mankind greatly. But it would be foolish to consider how monopolies with huge political influence would affect the integrity of the markets or public policy regulating the sciences; specifically cutting edge technologies with vast marketing potential.