Thursday, May 10, 2007

Genetically Altered Food, what is it and why aren't we told more about it?

pollen transfer from flowering canola of COURSE (!!) there will always be contamination between GM and non-GM foods! Why do you think you're not allowed to bring seeds from other countries with you? Or consider the Jamestown event that literally changed the American landscape by the introduction of European worms and bees.

In Europe, consumers are told which foods are genetically altered. Not being completely dominated by corporations who influence governments and their agencies by their campaign contributions, companies were told to disclose information about their products genetics. Here it is another scenario. Not only are American consumers not told what includes what.. in the mainstream media it is not written about in depth. Which brings me to permaculture.

In permaculture, everything is related and effected. From the little microorganisms that effect the soil, to the soil effecting plants, to the plants effecting insects, birds and the greater animal species that pollinate, eat them etc. And so that circle of life is born. Or that circle of life dies, depending on which part of that chain is killed, or messed with. The same chains you can see in nature, you can see in politics and hence, economics. You can argue what came first, the chicken or the egg, or you can say it is one congruous chain/circle. In Europe, there is more transparency, in the US, you have to go to independent or alternative media to get another side of the story. That is why I say, thank God for the Internet. This is the latest from the Network of Concerned Farmers:

Pioneer Hi-Bred's website boasts that their genetically modified (GM) Liberty Link[1] corn survives doses of Liberty herbicide, which would normally kill corn. The reason, they say, is that the herbicide becomes "inactive in the corn plant."[2] They fail to reveal, however, that after you eat the GM corn, some inactive herbicide may become reactivated inside your gut and cause a toxic reaction. In addition, a gene that was inserted into the corn might transfer into the DNA of your gut bacteria, producing long-term effects. These are just a couple of the many potential side-effects of GM crops that critics say put the public at risk.

Herbicide tolerance (HT) is one of two basic traits common to nearly all GM crops. About 71% of the crops are engineered to resist herbicide, including Liberty (glufosinate ammonium) and Roundup[3] (glyphosate). About 18% produce their own pesticide. And 11% do both. The four major GM crops are soy, corn, cotton and canola, all of which have approved Liberty- and Roundup-tolerant varieties. Herbicide tolerant (HT) crops are a particularly big money-maker for biotech companies, because when farmers buy HT seeds, they are required to purchase the companies' brand of herbicide as well. In addition, HT crops dramatically increase the use of herbicide,[4] which further contributes to the companies' bottom line.

There are no required safety tests for HT crops in the US - if the biotech companies declare them fit for human consumption, the FDA has no further questions. But many scientists and consumers remain concerned, and the Liberty Link varieties pose unique risks.
read the article in full>.

I'll briefly go back to nuclear energy. All the issues of global warming, genetically and modified foods, deforestation, depletion of fish stocks and the pollution of the oceans...there needs to be a wholistic agenda of how to counter it all. Or some sort of visual presentation that shows all the chains, overlapping and connecting that might wake up the consciousness at large. The greater masses need to become aware, not the politically active few. I'm mulling over what that is.

All about organic foods
How to Choose the Most Important Organic Foods


Anonymous said...

I applaud your work to make farming better for the land. But I have some corrections.

We are not allowed to bring in some foods because of the dangers of also bringing in pests. Other plants are considered dangerous because they are invasives, or because they will hybridize with native plants to create invasives.

The toxic reaction in the gut comment is most likely based on an article in a British newspaper that came from a researcher, but that was never submitted to the scientific community -- it was either never submitted to peer review, or did not pass peer review. With good reason. Scientists consider it nonsense.

As I understand it, people who study agriculture consider habitat destruction (creating a space to farm) and the introduction of exotic species (farming) to be the most destructive part of the process. Second is the use of pesticides and fertilizers and the damage they can do, especially when overused. In studies of transgenic crops, some showed more, some less effect on insects (the biggie, what pesticides do to insects). Differences between crops were much more important than whether the crop was transgenic. See for example, Deciding the Future of GM Crops in Europe (Science subscription needed), or the UK's Defra's Farm Scale Evaluations.

Even limiting my reading to Science and Nature magazines, the general science peer review publications of the US and UK respectively, I was disappointed over the years to see every single attack on transgenic crops turn out to be wrong. When an article is published with peer review, it is put in front of the scientific community, to accept, reject, or refine. Reports on the problems of transgenic crops have not stood up well.

We face a world with increasing population, increasingly degraded land, and climate change. The environmental consequences of the current farming methods, in terms of pollution and reduced insects and increased salinity, are serious. No wonder that so many third world countries have embraced transgenic technology, to see if they can find a way to feed their people.

Keep writing on how to improve farming. But please don't reject without further study a technology that has so much importance.

Six years ago, I attended the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. I was already seeing early reports of worries about transgenic crops not panning out. A journalist on a panel described how they originally got a lot of information from anti-transgenic "environmental groups", but journalists were losing interest because these groups didn't seem to resond to facts that were published. But for me, the most serious was what the researchers said: (even neglecting climate change,) there is no way to feed the population of 2020 without transgenic crops.

Ingrid said...

Dear Karen, I will want to respond to you later because I want take the time to do so thoughtfully. I am inundated with last weeks school activities and swim team commitments so hopefully this weekend I might get around to respond to you..
thanks for your feedback, lots of food for thought!

lindsaylobe said...

Good Post –I share your concerns. Biotechnology Company Monsanto pulled out of research into genetically modified canola in Australia around 2004. Monsanto then said state based G-M moratoriums had made it pointless for the company to continue spending money on a crop that might never be planted. This was seen as a great victory for the environmentalists. The business involved in GM likes to blaze ahead without considering its effects on natures life cycle.
Australia is suffering from a lack of biodiversity but local land care groups see the need for changes to create natural corridors of land (10% of farm areas) which are set aside for nature. Naturally enough there will not always be general agreement between farmers as to the best way to farm alongside nature. There remains the large scale technologically based farming that is still more reliant on chemicals versus a growing trend to those in favour of a more bio diversified approach that relies more on nature for its sustainability.

There is no common panacea or methodology going foreword. Rather what’s needed is a partnership approach with nature itself. We need to make a covenant with nature, to respect and learn at both the grass roots areas on the farm, in the communities and at the highest levels of society. The old landscapes will never reappear fully, but we can, in our dreaming, create a new landscape, one that will last for ever, but we will need to respect our partner, Mother Nature.

When Jarred Diamond visited 2 years ago he talked about Australia and what had changed from 40 years ago when he was last here. It was all about the Land, he said, the new spirit within the country that acknowledges it is not here for us to do with it whatever we please. This is at odds to what happens in the USA

we have a responsibility to preserve it for ever. He saw grounds for cautious optimism here, just as I do, without the need of the exaggerated claims for GM farming.