Frankenfoods is the popular name for GMOs or genetically modified organisms. GMOs can actually be either plants or animals bred for food, but also plants for biofuel or fiber. GMOs involve the deliberate manipulation of genetic material, usually through introduction of DNA foreign to the original organism, to force the alteration of the plant or animal’s genetic make-up. Brave New World, here we come.
Make no mistake, GMO technology is being used as a solution to agricultural and environmental challenges we have been unable (or dare I say unwilling) to resolve otherwise, such as eradicating world hunger, or agricultural challenges arising from climate change like the need for more drought tolerant crops. The consequences of introducing these questionable man-made creations into nature and our bodies have not been thoroughly enough researched (the time frame has been too short), yet, eager for profit, their launching has been hastened. Some effects are known, some can be anticipated, others will take the population at large by surprise, although already predicted by scientists, but in short they are all worrisome.
Based on research and case studies health consequences may encompass increased exposure to allergens, elevated cancer risks, increased resistance to antibiotics, risks of neurobehavioral defects, doubling the risk of miscarriages in advanced pregnancies, and disruption of the endocrine system.
Environmental effects are loss of biodiversity, pollen spreading from genetically engineered to non-genetically engineered plants, and interbreeding not only with wild species but also adjacent non-GMO crops. This disrupts the natural ecology and weakens the plants by genetically forcing characteristics external to their own ecosystem on them, which in turn stresses the plants and makes them unfit in the long term. Puerto Rican journalist Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero has written about the large scale environmental problems caused by herbicide-resistant GMO soybeans that have led to deforestation, soil degradation, and pesticide and genetic contamination. This is huge!
Ricarda Steinbrecher, a molecular geneticist, has documented the scarily unpredictable side effects of genetically modified salmon reared in Scotland that was engineered to grow fast, but which also unpredictably turned green. Oops. And we are finding out that the genes of such Frankensteinian organisms are unstable in later generations. So who knows what would happen if these green salmon were to escape and mate with nature made salmon. Scary….
A serious ethical concern, that has farmers already up in arms, is the biochemical companies’ profit driven and complete control over the never ending, and of course unsustainable, dependency cycle on herbicides and pesticides, fertilizers and GMO seeds (Monsanto and others sell them all and require farmers to certify that they will not save seeds from one year to the next!).
Take note that many countries have either never adopted or already banned GMO crops. Our best bet is to refrain from buying, and thus promoting the further use of GMO crops, and supporting GMO labeling. Did you know that open produce in supermarkets is already labeled? A 4-digit fruit label (say #4011) means “conventionally grown banana,” a 5-digit code starting with a 9 (say #94011) means “organically grown banana,” and a 5-digit number with an 8 (say #84011) means “genetically modified banana.” Organic certification forbids the use of GMOs, but almost all conventional soy and corn crops in the US, and much rice and cotton, are now GMO. Why not refrain from buying anything with high fructose corn syrup, and no supermarket cereal – better for your health anyways. And when you buy local corn in late summer ask the farmer – many of our local farmers are aware and don’t grow GMO corn. www.susannemeyerfitzsimmons.com