Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The trouble with GMO's

Over recent years, there has been much controversy over the use of GMO's (Genetically Modified Organisms) in our plant crops, meat animals and in textile crops like cotton.  A GMO is the result of the laboratory process of taking genes from one species and inserting them into another in an attempt to obtain a desired trait or characteristic; for example, a higher plant yield or drought resistance. Agro-Biotech conglomerates like Monsanto and others claim their GMO's are a boon to mankind by increasing food supply, reducing energy use, and are more nutritious than naturally bred crops.  Opponents refute those claims, insisting that Agro-Biotech companies are more interested in profits and their own bottom line, than in the safety of the food we eat.   

So, who is right?  Caught in the middle of this question are family farmers and consumers like you and me all over the globe.

Honestly, I had a hard time trying to maintain objectivity in writing this article after spending considerable time doing the research.  There are a myriad of issues that revolve around not only the use of GMO’s in our food and cash crops, but also in the way Agro-Biotech companies deal with farmers, in their politics, with the international community, in their past behavior regarding a host of serious environmental violations, and even in the way the conduct their own research,

As consumers, we have a reasonable expectation that our food (at the very least) will do us no harm.  Like me, I am sure that you’d like to know what exactly is in the food that you and your family eat.  Did you know that companies like Monsanto have opposed every effort to have GMO’s labeled on our food, in spite of the public’s desire for such labeling?  They have even filed suit against companies who have declared their own products to be “GMO free.” Their objection is that since GMO’s are “safe,” labeling would falsely brand their products as inferior, and would serve to confuse potential customers.  My question in response to their concerns is, if GMO’s are as good for us as the Agro-Biotech companies contend, then why do they have a problem with proudly displaying this on a label?  It makes one wonder what is really going on.

I remember back in the 1960's, the Famous TV science fiction show Star Trek ran an episode called "The Trouble with Tribbles."  It revolved around the crew of the starship Enterprise protecting a supply of a genetically engineered grain called "Quadro-triticale" earmarked for delivery to Sherman's planet.  Unbeknownst to everyone involved, several Tribbles (small fuzzy creatures that reproduce every 12 hours when a plentiful food source is accessible) found their way into the storage silos on the space station, and began to eat the Quadro-triticale, multiplying exponentially.  It was eventually discovered that this grain meant for human consumption had been poisoned, when Science officer Spock declared, "This Tribble is dead.  And so are these."  Now I am not saying that GMO's are poison like the tainted grain in Star Trek, however there remains a lot of unanswered questions about GMO's effects on the human body which are not fully known.  Up to this point due to a variety of factors, those answers are slow in coming.

What complicates matters further is the fact that the quality of our food supply is intimately connected with both political and regulatory decisions, and there are even more questions revolving around the potential conflict of interest regarding the ties between the  Agro-Biotech industry, and those who approve or deny needed legislation and regulation.  Thanks to regulation, pharmaceutical companies must conduct animal trials with drugs intended for human use first, before those products can be sold to consumers.  Imagine my dismay when I discovered that not only has there been little to no in-house research done by Monsanto into the long term health effect of GM products on animals and the environment, but that the industry giant has hampered, blocked and discredited research done by independent scientists who have discovered “issues” with their GM products, such as mutation in mice who have consumed them, or allergic reactions in human subjects.  Even more disturbing is the fact that with little (90 day studies) or questionable research done, Agro-Biotech giants have still been able to get their products into the human food supply. How, you ask?  By having friends in high places.

At least seven people have held positions at both Monsanto and in US government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration (regulates what can or cannot go in our food), the United States Environmental Protection Agency (regulates environmental standards) and even the US Supreme Court (the highest court of law in the US) at various points in their careers.  A few have even rotated back and forth between the two.  We are talking about a conflict of interests on a massive scale here!

A few years back, I had the privilege of meeting Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw.  In the course of our conversation, he said to me, “If it looks like a rat, smells like a rat, and produces a lot of little rats, it’s a Rat!”  With so many accusations and unanswered questions revolving around the safety of GMO’s, and regarding the dubious company practices surrounding them, my wife Terry and I have emphatically decided to avoid GMO's in our personal food supply, and in our Winter Goddess products as well.  We believe that there is power in food, and it is better to be sure of what you eat, than to harbor uncertainty.

It is unfortunate that under current FDA regulations, products containing GMO’s can be legally labeled as “natural.”  So how can you be sure of what you and your family are eating?  While we are big advocates of taking the time to read that product label, the only way that you can know for sure that you are not ingesting GMO’s is to buy organic food products.  By law, organic food cannot contain GMO’s.  

There are many more issues regarding GMO’s than can be reasonably addressed in this blog, including Monsanto’s use of litigation against family farmers, international crop failures due to the use of their seed, allegations of bribery to high level officials world wide in exchange for favorable legislation or approval, as well as a host of other topics.  We invite you to do your own research and draw your own conclusions.

For an in depth look at the issues surrounding GMO's and their effects, please start with the links below :

Here is a video that simplifies the argument against GMO's, and Monsanto in particular:

How to avoid GMO’s in your food purchases:

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