Get GM out of your food

Get Your Gen Mo Out of My Food Yo: Part I – The spoof’s in the genetically modified pudding

By Kenda Swartz Pepper | Published: February 3, 2010
It plays like a really really bad B movie, but that’s redundant.  Sadly this modern day version of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is painfully realistic.  The evil tomatoes while not as big as cars and while not overtly stalking the people of San Diego as they attempt to escape their certain pureed demise, are much more insidious – even invisible – to the consumer’s eye.  And despite the fact the general American public is being spoofed, there is nothing funny about Genetically Modified Foods.

What is a GMO?

A Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) is an organism whose genetic makeup has been altered to serve another purpose.  One may also see the terms GE (Genetically Engineered) and Transgenic.  Take the gene of one species and put it into the gene of another.  The idea of genetic modification has been around for quite a long time. For thousands and thousands of years farmers have experimented to improve the quality of their crops through a process of selection and cross-breeding.  Even with nature, plants and animals selectively breed.  It’s nature’s way of assuring a strong gene pool.  It’s that whole survival of the fittest thing.  Today, the most prolific GMOs are crop plants developed in a laboratory not on a farm.  Whereas traditional breeding is between reproduction of likeorganisms, today’s bioengineers isolate genes from unlike organisms (including bacteria, viruses and animals) creating an unnatural sequence and a synthetic outcome that requires artificial assistance to reach its full potential.

Genetically Modified (GM) Foods have had their DNA changed through genetic engineering.  According to Jeffrey Smith, author of the #1 GMO bestseller Seeds of Deception, and Genetic Roulette, the four major GM crops are soy, corn, cotton and canola.  Smith states there are two major traits of GM foods:

about 80% are genetically engineered to not die when sprayed with herbicide and about 20% are genetically engineered to create their own pesticide.  A very small percentage of crops such as zucchini, crookneck squash and Hawaiian papaya are GE to resist disease.

According to WHO, all GM crops available on the international market today have been designed using one of three basic traits:

resistance to insect damage; resistance to viral infections; and tolerance towards certain herbicides. All the genes used to modify crops are derived from microorganisms.

Supposedly the first commercially grown transgenic crop was an antibiotic-resistant tobacco plant created in the early 1980’s, but there is some conflicting research on the matter. The genetically modified crop that seems to get most of the credit for being firstwas developed by a company called Calgene.  It was the Flavr-Savr tomato. This tomato was approved by the FDA and went to market in 1994.  Flavr-Savr was discontinued in the late 1990’s for a number of reasons including public concerns. Calgene was acquired by Monsanto in 1996.

You can check out the Human Genome Project for more information.

What’s the Purpose of a GMO?

Well, according to Monsanto, a major player in the Gen Mo world, the purpose is to solve the world’s hunger problem as stated in a slogan, building a world without hunger.  That’s a curious statement coming from the chemical company that developed or produced

  • Saccharin (a cancer-causing chemical)
  • Agent Orange (an herbicide and defoliant that is responsible for 400,000 deaths and disabilities in Vietnam as well as 500,000 birth defects –humans not plants)
  • DDT (banned in 1972 because of toxicity – keeping in mind advertisements for DDT included the slogan ‘DDT is Good for Me’)
  • rBGH (Bovine Growth Hormone also referred to as BST and with a trade name Posilac is a synthetic hormone given to cows to increase their milk production)
  • PCB’s (banned in 1979 because of toxicity).

Monsanto, a company that’s been around since 1901 and one of the top 10 US chemical companies, refers to themselves as an agricultural and seed company.  Seed of what?  The devil?

Monsanto claims their GM crops reduce growing time and create higher yields.  In April 2009 CleanTech, shows how reports by the Union of Concerned Scientists reveal the grave lack of truth in these claims.  The Union of Concerned Scientists’ studies show how

13 years of commercialization of GM crops have failed to deliver on industry promises to significantly increase U.S. crop yields, calling for public dollars to be spent on more results-oriented science.

Another issue to consider with the supposed higher yield is the economic affect on farmers.  In developing countries, the number of small farms is decreasing because they cannot compete with the economics of industrialized farming.

Scientists argue there is enough food in the world and that the hunger crisis is caused by problems in food distribution and politics, not production.  Monsanto’s claims on feeding the world’s hunger are also undermined by the mere fact that the majority of GM crops are used for feeding the animals consumed in wealthy countries.

Monsanto defends the importance of their product.  Among Monsanto’s claims are: GM crops are resistant to pests, herbicides and disease, and are more efficient to process, and the crops offer increased food security.  I don’t suppose increased food security has anything to do with the self esteem of veggies.

Through a sleight-of-hand series of mergers and spinoffs Monsanto has seemingly been trying to reinvent itself as a benign altruistic organization all the while, according to this writer, maintaining the same sludgy greed-mongering code of ethics. 

So, how big a player is Monsanto?

Very.

You can check out Monsanto’s convincing website packaged in passively defensive content contorted enough for even this writer to temporarily soften –especially when viewing the lovely bucolic photo of a wheat field, smiling farmers and the small baby in her father’s arms.  Very sweet indeed.

Remember Syndrome?  The nemesis of Bob Incredible? That seedy character from The Incredibles?  To the public, he appeared like a hero by combating the nasty Omnidroid, yet each of his actions were contrived.  He was the one who invented the Omnidroid thus he had the tools to combat this destructive hunk of metal that threatened mankind.  It was a perfectly constructed façade – to appear heroic and lifesaving all the while holding wicked and selfish intentions.

Oh, I’m real. Real enough to defeat you! And I did it without your precious gifts, your oh-so-special powers. I’ll give them heroics. I’ll give them the most spectacular heroics the world has ever seen! And when I’m old and I’ve had my fun, I’ll sell my inventions so that *everyone* can have powers. Everyone can be super! And when everyone’s super–
HA HA HA…
no one will be.

But I digress.  Back to the purpose of GMOs.  It’s to make money.  I am openly biased about Monsanto’s motives.  They are a for-profit corporation.  Like all commercial operations, they exist to make money.  Some corporate citizens are socially responsible and some pretend to be, because public knowledge of the hard truth can otherwise harm profits.  Harming profits is bad. But harming people, well, not so much.  While feeding the world’s hungry sounds a lot more appealing than dominating the world’s food supply, destroying the livelihoods of millions and ruining the environment, this is my monumental Monsantoian truth.

Kenda Swartz Pepper

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