To Genetically Modify Or To Not Genetically Modify? The Question Continues…

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When I heard that foods were being modified to produce their own pesticides, I became concerned. That just sounds SO unhealthy! Still, I have to admit that I know little about GMO’s. So today I’m sharing a GMO guest post by writer, Sandra Mills. I’m curious about what she has to say.

To Genetically Modify, or to Not Genetically Modify? The Question Continues… by Sandra Mills

GMO. Non-GMO. To play with nature or not. Are there benefits? What are the drawbacks? The debate has raged since the first use of genetic modification in 1996. And yet, many more people are becoming aware of this formerly scientific debate as our product packaging is now changing to promote one or the other. Most people are confused, and rightly so.

Pesticide and large agricultural companies tell us one thing, small farmers and independent researchers tell us another. The health world has studies for and against GM food. And the financial impact is only just starting, with large companies controlling the GM trade, and their ability to dictate the use of their seeds may have financial and social ramifications for small-scale farmers. Is it right? Is it wrong? And what impact will GMO’s have in this lifetime. After all, it is a relatively new phenomenon and we have not seen the full effects as of yet.

Below is a well presented diagram of the pros and cons to the debate, allowing those of us just learning about the use of GMO’s to be able to form an educated opinion, thus giving us the ability to understand and track this trend that will be affecting all of our lives, sooner than later: A Snapshot of The GMO Debate.

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About celestedimilla

Hey there. I’m Celeste, California girl, writer, psychotherapist and burgeoning plant-based foodie.
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64 Responses to To Genetically Modify Or To Not Genetically Modify? The Question Continues…

  1. Wild Juggler says:

    I don’t really have a problem with GMOs. I even think that, by and large, it’s a great idea. It’s like the selective breeding humans have been doing to plant foods for thousands of years(which no one complains about), but with a lot more precision. As a vegan, I love the idea that within a decade, we may have canola oil with DHA and all the omega 3s we need due to genetically modifying the canola/rapeseed plant to produce these important fats. This means vegans won’t have to take expensive DHA/omega 3 supplements, and there is less reason for anyone to consume fish. A victory for veganism, due to advances in science which hurts…. who? The fish industry? The supplement industry?

    Also, due to evolution, so many plants naturally produce their own pesticides, but usually in small quantities. The bitterness of garlic and green vegetables is due in part to their natural pesticide content, natural chemicals like oxalic acid for instance. I think just a few teaspoons of oxalic acid can kill a person.

    That golden rice, which is rice genetically modified to produce its own vitamin A can help save the lives of or prevent blindness in millions of poverty-stricken children in the developing world sold me on GMOs long ago, after being initially hostile to GMOs(I thought “they are unnatural, so they must be bad!!”). How anyone can be against this troubles me. Where is the evidence that golden rice is dangerous? Who gets hurt if vitamin A deficiency is largely eradicated in the developing world if we were to feed golden rice to the poor masses?

    That GMOs are “toxic” is a very widespread idea that has little scientific evidence supporting it. Of course they should be tested for toxicity, just like all foods. They should be rigorously tested on a case by case basis. Maybe more pesticide is used in some cases(we should find ways to minimize or eliminate pesticides), and maybe it encourages monocultures, but outside of this I have no serious issues with it. GMOs may not be perfect, they may not be 100% safe, but then again, neither are non-GMO foods. Some people seem to hate GMOs or think they are “toxic” due to the naturalistic fallacy – they are “toxic” because they are “unnatural”. There may be legitimate economic reasons for some people to be fearful of GMOs, but I see virtually no reason to opposed to GMOs for health reasons.

    This post by Steven Novella echoes what I believe about GMOs, for the most part – http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/golden-rice-a-touchstone/

    • What a great comment!!! You brought up a lot of important information that I was unaware of. I have to admit that I’ve fallen prey to the naturalistic fallacy that GMO’s are “toxic” because they’re “unnatural”. Your comment, however; has made me feel that I need to do some research on this topic and fully understand it before determining my beliefs. The whole golden rice situation is very intriguing! Thank you for your comment – I really appreciate it! Celeste :)

    • Jessie says:

      I came here to say pretty much this! I think a big problem with perception is that Monsanto falls onto the side of pro-GMO, and they’re doing some icky, predatory, and downright stupid stuff, including trying to get rid of regulations to test things on a case-by-case basis, and pretty much trying to modify, trademark and own every seed they can. :( This kind of separates the camps into pro-GMO or anti-Monsanto. I’m a liberal with a hippy bent and I like the environment and I hate Monsanto, but that doesn’t mean I’m automatically in the anti-GMO camp!

      • Hey Jessie! You bring up a great point! Monsanto is such a BIG player in this whole thing that it’s hard not to associate them with GMO’s in general. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective – I really appreciate it! Celeste :)

      • Jessie says:

        Thanks for the article! Been enjoying reading through all the different views.

        And it’s not just Monsanto, of course, but to my knowledge they’re the most blatantly like something out of a dystopian sci-fi novel. Hate those guys.

  2. Mike Lince says:

    The debate about the health characteristics of GMO’s has been going on for a couple of decades. While there is no scientific evidence to support a claim of sickness or disease in humans, there is anecdotal evidence that numerous individuals have gotten ill eating corn that was genetically altered to contain an herbicide and other documented cases of suspicions about human reactions to GMO’s. The FDA raised concerns about GMO’s as early as 1992, and they were directed by the federal government to cease and desist from further study.

    I am not an expert on GMO’s. There is much to study given the depth and breadth of the subject. Nonetheless, I cannot help but wonder -
    1) Why has Monsanto been barred from doing business in nine European countries?
    2) Why has GMO labeling been instituted in 26 nations?
    3) Why did the food industry (Monsanto, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Nestles, DuPont) contribute a record $22 million (the most ever spent on a statewide initiative in Washington) to defeat Washington State Initiative 522 to require GMO labeling on food packaging?

    Forgive me if I am naturally hesitant to take the food industry’s word that GMO’s are safe. Perhaps it is for the same reason that I distrust the oil and gas industry’s scientific studies that conclude global climate change is not happening.

    • Another great comment!!! I have to say that I share many of your concerns. At the same time, I feel that I haven’t fully educated myself about this issue enough to make educated decision about it. I’m glad I raised the issue on my blog, however; because I want to learn more. At the very least, I think that there should be GMO labeling. Thanks so much for your comment Mike! I hope all is well with you and Florence! :)

    • Wild Juggler says:

      Mike Lince, you said: “Forgive me if I am naturally hesitant to take the food industry’s word that GMO’s are safe. Perhaps it is for the same reason that I distrust the oil and gas industry’s scientific studies that conclude global climate change is not happening.”

      Well then it’s a good thing we do not have to take the word of the food industry that GMOs are safe. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) looked into this and concluded:

      “As a result and contrary to popular misconceptions, GM crops are the most extensively tested crops ever added to our food supply. There are occasional claims that feeding GM foods to animals causes aberrations ranging from digestive disorders, to sterility, tumors and premature death. Although such claims are often sensationalized and receive a great deal of media attention, none have stood up to rigorous scientific scrutiny. Indeed, a recent review of a dozen well-designed long-term animal feeding studies comparing GM and non-GM potatoes, soy, rice, corn and triticale found that the GM and their non-GM counterparts are nutritionally equivalent.”
      http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2012/media/AAAS_GM_statement.pdf

      Then the National Academy of Science decided to weigh in: “To date, no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population.”
      http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10977&page=8

      As if this wasn’t enough, the World Health Organization has said: “GM foods currently traded on the international market have passed risk assessments in several countries and are not likely, nor have been shown, to present risks for human health.”
      http://www.who.int/foodsafety/publications/biotech/biotech_en.pdf

      American Medical Association: ”There is no scientific justification for special labeling of genetically modified foods. Bioengineered foods have been consumed for close to 20 years, and during that time, no overt consequences on human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature.”
      http://bit.ly/166OUdM

      The Royal Society of Medicine: “Foods derived from GM crops have been consumed by hundreds of millions of people across the world for more than 15 years, with no reported ill effects (or legal cases related to human health), despite many of the consumers coming from that most litigious of countries, the USA.” http://1.usa.gov/12huL7Z

      The European Commission: ”The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are no more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.” http://bit.ly/133BoZW

      American Association for the Advancement of Science: ”The science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe.” (http://bit.ly/11cR4sB)

      American Medical Association: ”There is no scientific justification for special labeling of genetically modified foods. Bioengineered foods have been consumed for close to 20 years, and during that time, no overt consequences on human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature.” (http://bit.ly/166OUdM)

      The Royal Society of Medicine: ”Foods derived from GM crops have been consumed by hundreds of millions of people across the world for more than 15 years, with no reported ill effects (or legal cases related to human health), despite many of the consumers coming from that most litigious of countries, the USA.” (http://1.usa.gov/12huL7Z)

      The European Commission: ”The main conclusion to be drawn from the efforts of more than 130 research projects, covering a period of more than 25 years of research, and involving more than 500 independent research groups, is that biotechnology, and in particular GMOs, are no more risky than e.g. conventional plant breeding technologies.” (http://bit.ly/133BoZW)

      American Dietetic Association: ”It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that agricultural and food biotechnology techniques can enhance the quality, safety, nutritional value, and variety of food available for human consumption and increase the efficiency of food production, food processing, food distribution, and environmental and waste management.”
      http://1.usa.gov/12hvWnE

      American Phytopathological Society: ”The American Phytopathological Society (APS), which represents approximately 5,000 scientists who work with plant pathogens, the diseases they cause, and ways of controlling them, supports biotechnology as a means for improving plant health, food safety, and sustainable growth in plant productivity.”
      http://bit.ly/14Ft4RL

      American Society for Cell Biology: ”Far from presenting a threat to the public health, GM crops in many cases improve it. The ASCB vigorously supports research and development in the area of genetically engineered organisms, including the development of genetically modified (GM) crop plants.”
      http://bit.ly/163sWdL

      American Society for Microbiology: ”The ASM is not aware of any acceptable evidence that food produced with biotechnology and subject to FDA oversight constitutes high risk or is unsafe. We are sufficiently convinced to assure the public that plant varieties and products created with biotechnology have the potential of improved nutrition, better taste and longer shelf-life.”
      http://bit.ly/13Cl2ak

      American Society of Plant Biologists: ”The risks of unintended consequences of this type of gene transfer are comparable to the random mixing of genes that occurs during classical breeding… The ASPB believes strongly that, with continued responsible regulation and oversight, GE will bring many significant health and environmental benefits to the world and its people.”
      http://bit.ly/13bLJiR

      International Seed Federation: ”The development of GM crops has benefited farmers, consumers and the environment… Today, data shows that GM crops and foods are as safe as their conventional counterparts: millions of hectares worldwide have been cultivated with GM crops and billions of people have eaten GM foods without any documented harmful effect on human health or the environment.”
      http://bit.ly/138rZLW

      Council for Agricultural Science and Technology: ”Over the last decade, 8.5 million farmers have grown transgenic varieties of crops on more than 1 billion acres of farmland in 17 countries. These crops have been consumed by humans and animals in most countries. Transgenic crops on the market today are as safe to eat as their conventional counterparts, and likely more so given the greater regulatory scrutiny to which they are exposed.”
      http://bit.ly/11cTKq9

      Crop Science Society of America: ”The Crop Science Society of America supports education and research in all aspects of crop production, including the judicious application of biotechnology.”
      http://bit.ly/138sQMB

      International Society of African Scientists: ”Africa and the Caribbean cannot afford to be left further behind in acquiring the uses and benefits of this new agricultural revolution.”
      http://bit.ly/14Fp1oK

      Society for In Vitro Biology: ”The SIVB supports the current science-based approach for the evaluation and regulation of genetically engineered crops. The SIVB supports the need for easy public access to available information on the safety of genetically modified crop products. In addition, the SIVB feels that foods from genetically modified crops, which are determined to be substantially equivalent to those made from crops, do not require mandatory labeling.”
      http://bit.ly/18yFDxo

      Consensus document on GMOs Safety (14 Italian scientific societies): ”GMOs on the market today, having successfully passed all the tests and procedures necessary to authorization, are to be considered, on the basis of current knowledge, safe to use for human and animal consumption.”
      http://bit.ly/166WHYZ

      Society of Toxicology: ”Scientific analysis indicates that the process of GM food production is unlikely to lead to hazards of a different nature than those already familiar to toxicologists. The level of safety of current GM foods to consumers appears to be equivalent to that of traditional foods.”
      http://bit.ly/13bOaSt

      French Academy of Science: ”All criticisms against GMOs can be largely rejected on strictly scientific criteria.”
      http://bit.ly/15Hm3wO

      Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities: ”Food derived from GM plants approved in the EU and the US poses no risks greater than those from the corresponding conventional food. On the contrary, in some cases food from GM plants appears to be superior with respect to health.”
      http://bit.ly/17ClMMF

      These are just a few examples.

      As for the European countries that banned Monsanto, that could be due to economic interests trying to keep them out, it’s not due to science showing GMOs are toxic(even you admit science doesn’t show this). There are a lot of misinformation campaigns out there opposed to GMOs, especially in Europe, and they are often successful at keeping out GMOs. I am suspicious of Monsanto too, which is why governments and independent scientists should test their products to ensure safety, but there is so much more to GMOs than this one powerful corporation.

      And of course the companies that produce GMOs don’t want them labeled; and they are labeled in many countries where they are unpopular, surprise surprise. This isn’t evidence that they are toxic.

      Thank you Celeste for bringing up this subject.

      • Wow – You would be a challenge to spar with in a debate! You’ve given me lots of information to look into. Thank you so much for taking the time to share – I really appreciate it. I get the sense that the majority of people I know are against GMO’s, so it’s nice to hear a really good argument for the other side. Great info here!!! Celeste :)

      • Wild Juggler says:

        Thanks. I am only interested in the facts, not speculation or fear-mongering. I apologize for the duplicates when I quoted the various scientific organizations, I was in a hurry.

        So far, no one has addressed the fact that so many prestigious scientific organizations from around the world endorse GMOs. Have they all been brainwashed? Or is it a conspiracy?

        And full disclosure: I often but don’t always eat organic, so I am not some shill for agri-business. I often find people who are vegan or are “natural” food health nuts tend to be against GMOs, though their reasoning can never convince me to be concerned. I happen to be a health nut too, and if I thought GMOs were poisoning me, I would do all I can to avoid them and fight against them.

      • Mike Lince says:

        Wild Juggler, while you make a compelling case for the nutritional qualities of GM foods, you completely overlook the environmental, political and economic issues.
        Economically speaking, the federal government has subsidized the meat and dairy industry with billions of dollars over the past decade. Without even going into the GM issues with these industries, as a vegan taxpayer one would think you would take issue with this use of taxpayer dollars.
        Environmentally speaking, GM crop farming requires open fields so that herbicides and insecticides can be applied during crop growth. Windblown topsoil not only diminishes the topsoil layer, but also blows toxin-infused dust to every location downwind, whether other farms or local homes. Further, the uptick in recent years of herbicides and pesticides is believed to be the #1 cause in the collapse of beehives, our most effective pollinators of fruits and vegetables.
        Politically, any effort to provide efficacy to the research on the benefits or ill effects of GM foods has been cut off at the FDA by the federal government under the guise of ‘regulation’, a dirty word in current political circles. Thus, all of the research being done these days is that which is conducted by the food industry itself. Further, the government saw fit to appoint a GM lobbyist to head the FDA. While this is not proof of a propaganda conspiracy, it also does nothing to instill confidence on the part of consumers that our domestic food supply is safe.

      • Wild Juggler says:

        When it comes to economics, I believe in ending subsidies to the meat industry. Let meat-eaters pay the full price for their meat. And agri-business should clean up their own pollution from pesticides, fertilizer, and everything else they do. The green-house gases coming from meat and dairy production is alarming. We also do need to end the revolving door between government and industry. I wish you well!

    • You sound knowledgeable about this topic Mike, and I’m so glad that you’re contributing to this discussion! The more comments I read, the more I realize I don’t know – but I’m learning. You make some great points about the environmental, political and economic issues surrounding this topic. Thank you for further educating me and my readers. I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend! :)

    • daniellajoe says:

      I love your comment, something is not right, why do they need to “hide” their tampering???

  3. beautycalyptique says:

    well celeste, where do I even begin?
    -the trouble with GM is that we don’t know its long-term effects, good or bad.
    -the trouble with GM crops is that they aren’t sitting in a lab but in a field, where they are likely to cross with other crops.
    -the trouble with GM is that it’s pushed upon us by a few huge corporations following little more than own interests. why is the food industry trying to prevent and stop GM food labeling if it’s safe?

    my point is, we have so many problems right now due to monoculture farming that taking a GM variety and running away with it as our best solution seems so poor an idea I can’t believe it’s even being discussed. and as for nutrients: we know today that all nutrients are influencing each other, but we know little of those mechanisms. I believe we’ll end up with an “enhanced” fruit or veg that lets us grow a beard on the forehead or something. just like with artificial vitamins – they were long considered safe, until life showed artificial beta-carotene maximized cancer risk with smokers. etc. etc. etc.

    for golden rice, here’s a good write-up, so I don’t need to repeat it: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-marcia-ishiieiteman/golden-rice-not-so-golden_b_3882900.html

    and here’s something outstanding on frankenfish:
    http://foodbabe.com/2013/01/31/birke-reports-why-we-shouldnt-trust-gmo-salmon/

    • Another excellent comment!!! It seems I’ve started a hot debate with this post. I love your comment about artificial vitamins and how we considered them safe for a long time (a lot of people still consider them safe, for that matter). Even if people have been consuming GMO’s for 20 years I don’t know that this is a long enough time to determine potential risks. It often takes a long time for diseases to manifest. What’s more, I don’t know that there have been any longitudinal studies on the effects of GMO’s. And I mean really long, longitudinal studies – like 20-years long. I suppose I should look into that and see if anything like that has been done, but I sincerely doubt it.

      Thank you so much for the links! I read both articles and the info was quite informative. It’s always a pleasure to hear your thoughts! Celeste :)

      • beautycalyptique says:

        celeste, you’ve opened a can of worms here :D

        and you’re aboslutely right, 20 years are by far not enough.
        in addition, we have seen so many meds and co cause horrible malfunctions and pain, I can’t believe people fall for it over and over again. it’s like they get their memory wiped :( sad!

        I highly recommend foodbabe.com – and for that matter, birke, the 14 y.o. who wrote the frankenfish article, is quite an interesting person as well.

    • Wild Juggler says:

      Beautycalyptique, your source in the HP says:
      “The bigger problem with the narrow technical fixes favored by the biotech industry and lab scientists, however, is that they fail to take into account the complex underlying social, economic, political and cultural drivers of micronutrient deficiencies and malnutrition.”

      The purpose of Golden Rice isn’t to cure malnutrition in general, but to prevent vitamin A deficiency. Your source suggests that because Golden Rice isn’t a perfect solution, we should abandon it(or that there are other, better methods). This is like saying we shouldn’t improve literacy rates in poor countries, because there are so many other problems besides illiteracy that are associated with extreme poverty. That Malala Yousafzai, forget about her! Don’t you realize that Pakistan has so many other problems besides girls not being allowed to get an education in some regions? It’s not like improving educational access for girls will cure all of the other problems Pakistan has!

      As for the only studies that have been done on Golden Rice being “flawed” or there aren’t any good studies showing vitamin A deficiency getting prevented by Golden Rice, I leave you with “β-Carotene in Golden Rice is as good as β-carotene in oil at providing vitamin A to children1,2,3,4″:

      “Conclusions: The β-carotene in GR(Golden Rice) is as effective as pure β-carotene in oil and better than that in spinach at providing vitamin A to children. A bowl of ~100 to 150 g cooked GR (50 g dry weight) can provide ~60% of the Chinese Recommended Nutrient Intake of vitamin A for 6–8-y-old children. This trial was registered at http://www.clinicaltrials.gov as NCT00680212.” – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3417220/

      Or this one: “Golden Rice is an effective source of vitamin A.”
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19369372

      • beautycalyptique says:

        sweet. and there have been studies saying that artificial beta-carotene was fantabulous. but when consumers actually bought it – it was included in vitamin supplements for smokers – we soon saw the increase in cancer, and the supplements for smokers got reformulated very quickly.

        don’t get me wrong, I’m all pro technology and all against malnutrition. BUT I’m 200% against being the guinea pig of whoever. we have to learn from the mistakes of the past. whenever big money is involved, it’s good to question why it is so. it’s rarely done for helping people. it’s mostly done for business. or do you have a study against that, WJ? ;)

    • I have opened a can of worms here, but that’s great!! I love the exchange going on here and I’m learning so much! Thank you for all you’ve brought to this discussion – I really appreciate it! Celeste :)

  4. Safe or unsafe, I am concerned that consumers in the US (unlike those of us from countries within the European Union) are not currently free to choose whether they wish to consume GMO’s or not.

    You should have the right to have accurate and transparent information about your food – what’s in it, where it comes from, how it was produced – and to make your own mind up as to whether or not you want to support the GM industry (or any other) with your dollars.

    • Hear, hear! This is exactly how I feel. Some people are very concerned about GMO’s, and I think they should have the right to know if they are consuming them or not. To me, this is a no-brainer. Thanks for your comment! Celeste :)

    • Jessie says:

      I think maybe part of it is that “GMO” is very much a misnomer. Genetic modification is what humans do — sheep, cows, chickens, corn, wheat, bananas… Now, if we make the distinction between vat-grown and ground-grown, that kind of makes sense, but we’re a ways off from that. You’re consuming GMOs every single day, and it’s only recently that it’s become an issue, and that’s mostly due to terribly evil corporations doing predatory, irresponsible and, well, evil things WITH genetic modification.

      Labeling hasn’t done us much good either, to be honest. “Organic” is a great example. For starters, it’s a stupid label. “Organic” is literally everything that has grown ever. (Like GMO is every food that humans have ever cultivated.) I wish we’d come up with a more accurate term. Also, it just led to a complete muddying of the waters. I don’t trust “organic” or “free-range” or just about anything less than “certified humane” for animals and my local CSA. It’s a placebo effect to put my dollars into something that’s labelled one way or another, but in all honesty it doesn’t make much difference.

      That might be a bad argument for the point at hand, but I do think it’s worth mentioning. I think that bad people have given a good concept (not just a good… a completely normal, and indeed inevitable concept!) a bad name, and spending money to slap a label on it is money that can’t be spent fighting the actual bad things and the people who are trying to push them through.

      tl;dr: Everything we eat has been genetically modified. Instead of labeling all the food, put that money toward blocking unscrupulous uses of genetic modification.

      • I’m not sure what it is you ‘distrust’ about labelling. If I want to know *exactly* what the Soil Association (for example) allows or doesn’t allow in the production of my food I can simply look it up. The label in and of itself cannot contain all the information I might want to know about my food in order to make personal choices about what I prefer to buy, it’s just a pointer. If I know it’s Soil Association standard, then I can find out precisely what that means in detail, likewise with Free-range, or a whole host of other labels like “gluten-free” “red tractor” “freedom food” “Halal” “Kosher” or indeed “British”. I’m happy to have GM as a part of the mandatory labelling of our food here in the UK, along with all the rest.

        While there has been selective breeding and cross breeding of our food crops for centuries GM (I agree it’s a misnomer, but that is what it’s been called) is an all new technology, it involves creating new *cross-species hybrids* that could simply occur in nature and which have never been created before.

        I’ve recently started to grow vegetables and I choose not to buy F1 hybrids (another label I’m happy to have the option of seeing) seeds as they are infertile and I prefer to save seed as indeed should be my choice, so of course I know that man has been busy manipulating plants for centuries, but as with F1 I wouldn’t buy GM seed. And until I’m convinced of the *benefits to me* the consumer, I will continue not to buy, and I’m glad to have that choice here in the UK.

      • Jessie says:

        That’s fair — particularly the sterile seed labeling. I’m all for specific labels like that, but just “GMO” isn’t so good. And I suspect that’s why bad companies are fighting so hard against the whole idea of labeling; seed-saving costs them money, and Monsanto in particular actively goes after farmers who save seeds here in the U.S. Which is tragic and not OK. I just don’t think that GMO = bad, and would rather put that time and energy into fighting specific practices, like generating sterile seeds.

        It’s also possible that the U.S. is worse about these things, but mostly I’ve been finding that “organic” and “free-range” and a few others are just buzzwords with stupidly low standards. There is one — certified humane — that features a huge manual of really good regulations, and I gravitate toward that label and farms I can actually visit, but big food companies put so much money into projecting this positive image by being all “organic” while doing as little as possible to actually change anything, so we feel like there’s progress being made when there’s at best very little.

      • Sorry for the typos and errors, editing in a cramped little box!

      • Great points Jessie!! I think what you’re saying is very fitting in this discussion.

        Let me start by saying that before going vegan, I used to pay extra money to purchase free-range eggs and other such “labels” in an effort to feel okay about eating animal products. I thought I was doing the “humane” thing, but after watching the movie Vegucated I realized that these labels meant little and were in no way humane.

        After becoming aware of how little these labels meant, I began questioning other things I assumed about food. I’m not sure where I’m going with this except to say that I’ve become less trusting in conventional wisdom about food, what big agricultural businesses promote, the government and even scientific studies (there are so many ways research studies can be distorted). This is not to say that I trust no one, I just feel that I have to be vigilant and dig deep to really grasp the truth.

        Also, I think that the general public can be swayed by big marketing campaigns to accept almost anything if it’s said long and loud enough. And there are some deep pockets involved in GMO’s. This is not to say that I’m completely against GMO’s, which as you say is a poor label which really means little. Just saying that money TALKS.

        Meatonomics is a great book on this topic. It explores the economic forces that drive our animal food system, and the strange ways these forces affect our spending, eating, health, prosperity, and longevity. http://meatonomics.com/2013/11/11/9-things-everyone-should-know-about-farmed-fish/

        Thanks so much for contributing to this discussion Jessie – you’ve brought a lot to the table. Celeste :)

      • Jessie says:

        Money definitely talks. And I think that’s why the issue of GMO in general is such a polarizing one; it sucks being on the same side as an evil company! I’m just worried about the good being lumped in with the evil, and throwing all of it out the window together without sorting it through.

        I haven’t really figured all this out even for my own values, other than being lucky enough to live in a state that does offer local options, so I can take a drive and pet the goats that I get cheese from or talk to the workers who grow the local CSA stuff. Other than that, I dunno.

        This is a good discussion, and I’m really glad you posted your article! Thanks. I’m going to check out Meatonomics, it looks really informative.

      • Hi Jessie, thanks for replying again. I’m wondering what description you would prefer in place of GM / genetically modified, as you find it to be too broad an umbrella? Bio-Tech? How would you describe the current technology now being used to insert genes from other species (and delete genes), in the lab? Genetic grafting? Just curious.

        One last thing I’d like to come back to you on, is simply the rights of the people in a supposed democracy. If a sufficient volume of the public desire information about something – such as their food – which impacts on their lives every day, and they deem it in their interest to have information about such a thing, they should simply have the right to have free access to that information, full stop.

        The state denies them that right where it is desired and sought – and where it is not harmful to national security – is dictating to the public not serving it. Again, I don’t see the mandatory labelling of GM or “bio-tech” foods to be any different to any of the other many, many labels we routinely expect to see, from nutritional data, to religious diets, to to country of origin, to expiry dates.

        We have a freedom of information act in the UK (no doubt you have something similar in the US) all kinds of oddball and abstract seeming questions are submitted and answered every day pertaining to information held by our public services. This is a service which costs the tax payer money to fund, but it’s part of the essential transparency required from any system of governance which purports to serve rather than rule the people it works for.

  5. Thank you for the great information!!!! People should know what they eat, and what GMOs means for all of us.

  6. If GM food is so healthy and great, why does Big Food lobby so hard against labeling laws? The commenters above who are comfortable with GM foods wouldn’t be influenced by labels, while commenters like me would appreciate the additional information with which to make our own choices. Seems like no big deal to me, but Big Food successfully lobbied against a labeling law here in CA last year (with very ugly ads) and fought another one in WA just a few weeks ago. Something seems fishy to me.

    • Yes – they’re fighting hard and spending lots of money!!! I voted for the labeling law in California and was disappointed that it didn’t pass. I really think that at least there should be labeling. Come on, let people know what they’re buying and eating.

      Anyway, thanks so much for your comment – I appreciate it! How’s everything going with you these days? Celeste :)

  7. Poppy says:

    I’m studying genetic engineering at the moment but specifically it’s use in animals. I hate to antagonise and accept the choice of those who are pro GM but I have two huge issues with it.

    Firstly, it’s too soon to really know any long term effects. There may not appear to be any obvious health repercussions now but how can we be sure that future generations won’t be ill affected? Thalidomide was deemed safe remember.

    Secondly, I do not agree with the genetic modification of animals for human gain. And I can’t support one and not the other. If I support crop GM farming then I also automatically am supporting animal GM.

    For now, this is where I stand although I see the reasons some are in favour of it, for me I’m not convinced.

    Great issue to raise Celeste, thank you!

    • Great comment Poppy!! You’re the first person to bring up the issue of animal GM and that’s a HUGE issue. I’m 100% with you on that – I don’t agree with the genetic modification of animals for human gain either. It’s really sad what we do to animals to make them bigger faster so we can slaughter them. I just don’t get why more people aren’t concerned with how poorly farmed animals are treated. Thanks so much for your comment and all your support Poppy!! I’ll see you at the potluck! Celeste :)

      • Poppy says:

        It’s a pleasure Celeste. I’m glad to have brought the use of animal GM to the discussion!
        Hope you have enjoyed the potluck today! :D

    • beautycalyptique says:

      gosh this is excellent.

      just adding my 2 cents: somebody mentioned earlier in this discussion that humans have always been GM’ing animals and plants, just slower, and “not in a lab”. and I think the problems related to this are already on the dice, just one example: look at overbred dogs. bred to meet human ideas of usefulness or aesthetics, some of them face immense health issues – cavalier king charles spaniels have constant headache because their skulls are too small/deformed; dalmatians are often born deaf; pugs can’t breathe properly; airdales and german shepards have hip bone problems etc. (something I had to learn the hard way as our family dog got almost immobilised by hip pain in his later years).
      now just imagine what could be done these days. frankenfish, I’m looking at you.

      as for crops: GM crops would ultimately mean monoculture on the rise, more than today, don’t you think? and we see already how wrong this approach has been.

      • Poppy says:

        I absolutely agree with everything you have said. The dog issue is largely related to inbreeding causing mutations. There is now a formula to ascertain how inbred a dog is if you have certain information. But basically, the less pure bred your dog, the less chance of genetic related health issues!

        What’s scary is that we are modifying animals for so many negative reasons, not just for fast growth. Cows to produce enzymes to make their milk more like human breast milk for babies – is that really necessary?! Come on!

        And it is not as simple as just transferring genetics between species. Apart from the animals forced to live in lab conditions, it goes wrong too…look at the Beltsville pigs!

      • beautycalyptique says:

        definitely true: we try to get a cow that gives foamed latte milk right after it’s born, and the milk comes with added calcium, sans milk proteins, and contains the extract of the eternal youth! what I can’t understand that people aren’t even willing to think about side effects, IF they don’t consider ethics. but IMHO acting ethically is the only way out of our crisis-ridden present.

        it’s really enough material for a dystopian novel. can we channel george o. please?

      • More great comments!!! Wow – this discussion is wonderful! :) Of course, what we’re discussing is heartbreaking.

  8. Ralph says:

    What do you get when you cross CELEste with daiRY…………CELERY ;) Honk !! Ralph xox :D

  9. sophiazerg says:

    Reblogged this on Silk and Spice and commented:
    An excellent post by Celeste on a very hot topic. Take the time to read all the comments. I personally do not believe GMOs have been around long enough to determine that long-term health issues are of no concern. I especially stand by my belief that labeling should be mandatory! Why did the food industry (Monsanto, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, etc) contribute over $20 million a few weeks ago in Washington to defeat GMO labeling laws? It really irks me that Monsanto and the big guys should decided what food I will or won’t eat or feed my child! I buy organic as much as I can, especially with foods that are most likely GMO, ie. corn, soy, milk (GMO grain-fed cows)…
    I just want to be able to make informed choices for my family.

  10. Wow! Thank you for the information! :)

  11. Your Blog is by far one if the best I have read in a very long time. And the comments were fascinating. I personally feel give people the choice – label! Again, excellent Blog!

  12. Gede Prama says:

    Thank you for writing which is quite good and best wishes always, and greetings

  13. Stacey says:

    Thanks for sharing this information and I love all the readers’ comments as well. Not a topic I know much about, so it’s great to hear perspectives from both sides.

  14. Ann says:

    Education and transparency is key. I want to know what is in my food. If GMO were so wonderful, why would the companies be spending tons of dollars to prevent their customers from knowing if the food is GMO? They are paying to not educate but hide something about our food.
    AS someone with food sensitivities, I look for labels, like non-gluten, dairy free, etc. So I want to know what I’m eating. GMO has been shown to hurt the intestines and immunity, exactly the parts of me I’m working to build up!!
    Also GMO seeds spread. the pollen from GMO gets mixed with the organic crips. We can’t stop the wind!
    I’m going to watch the documentary Genetic Roulette and learn more.
    The environmental doctors are warning their patients to avoid GMOs. Those organizations that support GMO probably also support vaccinations and processed foods, and the FDA supports aspartame. Organizations are not reliable to me, as there is often a conflict of interest. so I always do my own research.

    • I want to know what’s in my food too!! I’ve never heard of the documentary Genetic Roulette, but it sounds interesting. I’d love to hear your thoughts about it !! Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment Ann – I appreciate it! Celeste :)

  15. Celeste,

    I’m sure you do already but please be extra judicious when evaluating sources of information making sure they are scientifically credible. There is a small but vocal anti-GMO contingent that is spreading misinformation especially within the vegan movement. For that we exist. Please pursue our site for further information and jumping off points for exploring this fascinating topic.

    On the issue of labeling we addressed that specifically with this flier and collection of links:
    http://www.vegangmo.com/?p=1369

    Please let us know if there is anything specifically on GMO we can help you discover.

    Thanks!

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