To say that the GMO (genetically modified organisms) debate is ‘hot’ is really quite an understatement, as it is sizzling on both a national and international level. While the U.S. is making every effort to address food production with GMO seeds and products, scientists around the world are pushing back, with great force. Participants on both sides of the conversation are passionate about their positions and there are billions of dollars as well as human survival factors at play.
Mankind has been making adjustments to both animals and produce throughout history. We have domesticated many types of animals including cattle, pigs and chickens and over the centuries have altered different crops to create larger and more nutritious varieties. These were all done through the various breeding and cross breeding processes within a single species. Corn is a perfect example of this selective breeding, with the most primitive versions appearing thousands of years ago as maize, which produced only a tiny small fruit. In the 1930’s, geneticist, George Beadle, explored archaeological discoveries to find that the corn that we enjoy today is actually a blend of two variations that share 99% of the same DNA traits: maize and teosinte. The hybrid plant that was produced in cross breeding increased both size and kernel quantities, thereby giving us a more viable food source. It is important to note that the cross breeding process was introduced by mankind, but still remained within the same species. Although highly unlikely, this is something that could have occurred in nature.
To understand the controversy regarding the topic of GMO, you will need to know the difference between GMO products and those that have been changed through an evolutionary alteration that was encouraged by man. Although they may sounds similar, there is a universe of difference. GMO products start in a laboratory where the genes of varying species are combined for particular traits. The astounding part is that some of these species include a combination of animal, plant, viral and bacterial genes. Each insertion would bring an enhancement to the produce such as creating a seed that would not be particularly attractive to pests or even having the trait to kill any pest that might ingest it. Those that have been involved in the science of genetic modification have offered additional information that these GMO products will offer a larger yield or potentially be drought resistant. However, thus far, these have not been proven to be true.
From a biological standpoint, the GMO products that are being created are a combination of genes that could not possibly occur in nature. Those that oppose GMO have indicated that since they are created with ‘cocktail mix’ of varying species, there are no known long-term effects and we could actually be altering the body chemistry of both ourselves and the animals that we consume for food. The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization that is committed to educating consumers on the GMO subject, supplying information on GMO alternative choices and has been a major participant in both federal and state legislature for GMO labeling requirements.
So the question arises, if the GMO food is not living up to the hopes and promises that were originally established, why is there a continued push for production? To find out the answer, you need only ‘follow the money’. The corporations that are behind GMO include Monsanto, Dupont and other companies, and they have invested millions in the scientific research and results. One then makes the assumption that in situations such as this, the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) would step in to approve or disapprove of GMO production. However, this is not the case. Professor and head of Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory, Salk Institute contributed comments on a comprehensive peer-reviewed study of the United States governments GMO regulation and stated in co-authored results, “One thing that surprised us is that US regulators rely almost exclusively on information provided by the biotech crop developer, and those data are not published in journals or subjected to peer review…The picture that emerges from our study of US regulation of GM foods is a rubber-stamp ‘approval process’ designed to increase public confidence in, but not ensure the safety of, genetically engineered foods.”
When the genetically modified foods were first launched, many of the countries relied on and trusted the information that was supplied to them and made the assumption that the data was scientifically proven as safe. However, just as the brink of acceptance (and purchase) was about to be adopted, scientists from a variety of countries put a halt to everything. Both Germany and the U.K. had already announced acceptance and began setting up plans for production for GMO food products. But at the critical moment, they stopped and recanted, joining the other countries that had rejected GMO’s after careful study. There are currently twenty-six countries that are banning GMO’s including the EU and its member states.
In the United States, the various organizations that are battling against GMO’s as well as supporting lobbying for GMO labeling include almost all of the natural health and ecology organizations, including: The Center for Food Safety, Greenpeace, Natural Solutions Foundation, Organic Consumers Association (to name just a few) and it has been a major topic of conversation of objection at the Natural Products Expo West (Anaheim, CA) and East (Baltimore, MD); the two largest natural health trade shows in the country, representing most of the natural wellness companies in the U.S. and many that are international.
If you take a step back and examine the underlying goals and objectives of GMO’s, they actually sound like a progressive step in helping to feed the growing population of the world. The need for viable food sources increase on an exponential level and many look to the U.S. for solutions to the problem. However, given the results of so many scientific studies and the fact that the data for ‘safety and efficacy’ was supplied by the very companies that have invested so much in the creation of the products, it seems that appearances may be deceiving. It is up to the individual consumer to make their decision on whether to adopt or reject GMO’s and, at this time, there is an increasing objection and outcry from a public that is feeling as if the entire project has been misrepresented.