This affects YOU | Genetically Modified Life

Imagine a Pharmaceutical company wants to conduct a giant testing experiment involving the whole world, and imagine that rather than deliberately choosing to sign than up for this test (and getting paid for it), it is conducted upon you without your knowledge or consent. And imagine that you’re also expected to pay for the privilege.

As a free thinking, non-mental human, I expect your response to this hypothetical scenario would be a very firm “thanks, but go f**k yourself”.

Except, if you live on certain bits of the planet, this is not a hypothetical proposition, this is your life right now.

The experiment I’m talking about is the consumption of genetically modified organisms (or GMOs) and whether or not they are safe.

What exactly is a GMO and where will I find them?

A genetically modified organism is a living thing which has had its essential DNA make up (nature’s code for how it’s put together) messed with in order to make it more productive or efficient.

A great example of a food which has been prolifically messed with is corn. Basically it works like this:

Back in the day, around the time of the industrial revolution, farmers started to grow food differently. Rather than using animals and the sweat on their own backs to work the land, they started using machines. This meant that instead of managing relatively small plots of varied crops, they could produce ruddy great massive fields of single crops, also known as a monoculture.

Still with me? Great.

So with these huge plots came huge problems: blight, pests, and soil degradation (this is when unnatural farming methods leech the nutrients from the soil resulting in failed harvests the following year).

Rather than admit that working against nature wasn’t working out too well, some scientists developed a bunch of chemicals. A quick spritz of this and all the bugs are gone, a little glug of that and your corn grows bigger, even in bad soil.

The problem started when the bugs, bacteria and whatnot started to develop a resistance to the various sprays and potions.

If you know anything about science at all, then you’ll be aware of evolution and natural selection. You can’t outsmart nature, and sooner or later, no matter what you throw at it, life’s just gonna keep on living, even bad life. That’s what it does.

Stronger potions were called for, but how do you kill all forms of life – except for the one that’s earning you money?

Those clever scientists had been working hard, and gaily splicing together genes from lots of living things: vegetables, bacteria, even frogs! They had developed strains of corn that were resistant to certain diseases or that grew super massive, but nature just kept outsmarting them.

That’s when the biggest scientist, we’ll call him Dr Santo, developed a strain that could be drenched in a poison that would kill literally every other living thing on or around the crop, but the plant that made big dollars would remain intact. Pretty smart, huh?

The resulting corn is used in all sorts of unexpected products because some folks at the big food companies discovered you can use it to make food taste sweet and it’s cheaper than sugar. So now it’s in all sorts of things, like popular brown fizzy drinks, most of the ingredients of a fast food meal deal, even in ‘healthy’ fruit juice.

Not only that, but some other farmers who raise cows and pigs or even fish discovered they could produce much bigger quantities of livestock if they fed their animals corn rather than let them graze on what they’d eat naturally.

So, following the motto that ‘you are what you eat’, even meat and fish contain modified genes.

But botanists and farmers have been splicing different plants together for centuries, it’s perfectly harmless isn’t it?

This is the problem. We just don’t know. That’s why it’s an experiment.

What we do know for sure is that interfering with nature rarely has a favourable outcome. I’ll give you some examples.

Firstly, changing from natural farming methods such as rotating crops so you’re growing what’s in season, and respecting the land you’re working with (eg leaving trees and hedges where they are, or terracing when you’re working with an especially hilly plot), created the environment where genetic modification was necessary in the first place.

But like I said, fighting with Mother Nature is a fight you’re going to lose.

Not directly related to GMOs, but a good example of unnatural farming methods, let’s also look at the 90’s health epidemic extraordinaire, BSE or Mad Cow Disease.

It was only when ordinary consumers started dying horrendous, long, painful deaths that it came to public attention that farmers had been feeding cows brains and spinal cords.

Until that moment, we’d all happily assumed that the cows we were eating ate grass. They are a bunch of tree hugging hippies, those cows, and as such are staunch vegetarians. But some bright spark thought it would be a great idea to mince up the butchered remains of previous slaughters and mix it into the cow’s feed. The result of this was the culling of thousands of animals and the unnecessary suffering and deaths of hundreds of people.

As I said, don’t fuck with nature.

But, more specifically, there are hundreds of health implications from consuming GMOs, and from consuming foods that have absorbed gallons of the poisons I mentioned earlier, which would usually kill a healthy plant. A small selection of the ones we know about are:

Birth defects
Increased allergies
Nerve damage
Massive cancerous tumours
Liver damage
Infertility
Resistant super-diseases

Not to mention the as yet unknown implications of ingesting mutated genetic matter. Furthermore, it is coming to light that genetically modified monocultures could be responsible for the rapid decline of the bee population.

If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the more enlightened parts of the planet, such as within the EU, your government will have been trying to protect you from what is essentially a human health experiment on a massive scale.

I’m British. Why should I care about GMOs?

For several reasons, actually.

Firstly, imagine planet earth, not as a collection of different countries and continents, divided by water and political borders, but as a giant organic globule, flying through space.

As we have seen from the spread of epidemic diseases such as bird flu, swine flu, Spanish flu, and more recently ebola, once a new organism enters the food chain, it tends to get around.

After all, you wouldn’t expect just to catch a cold in your left elbow and no where else in your body.

GMOs have entered the building. If you live in the right place, your government may be obliged to insist that genetically modified organisms that are in your food are labelled as such, but they are not obliged to tell you if that pork chop you’re about to eat came from a pig who dined on GMOs.

That aside, there is an entity that will soon see to it that you won’t be able to bask in the comfort afforded to you by your government’s food safety laws. That entity is called TTIP.

Next time: TTIP – The End of Freedom

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6 thoughts on “This affects YOU | Genetically Modified Life

  1. As persuasive as this post may be, I feel as if you are simply throwing around information without supplying any credible resources to accompany your “facts”. Corn, one of the most popular genetically modified crops, has been modified since the beginning of time. The main difference between the farmers of the past and our researchers today is our ability to use modern technology and have a greater understanding of what we are doing, rather than the “trial and error” techniques that were used before. As you said, we are also able to add and remove traits that will create resistance to insects and diseases. These plants are then carefully monitored and tested for extremely long periods of time, before they are released to farmers for productions uses. With over 2,000 different studies (http://tinyurl.com/l94oqdn) researchers have found that biotechnology does NOT pose any unusual health threats and genetically modified foods are just as safe, or safer, than conventional or organic crops. A study conducted by UC Davis animal scientist Alison Van Eenennaam examined 30 years of livestock feeding studies that represent more than 100 billion animals, and found that the performance and health of GMO-consuming animals has been comparable to that of animals fed non-GMO feed. “The review study also found that scientific studies have detected no differences in the nutritional makeup of the meat, milk or other food products derived from animals that ate genetically engineered feed.” (http://tinyurl.com/ls92oy5).

    I encourage you to visit the site http://www.findourcommonground.com. This site has a lot of valuable information that helps bridge the gap between GMO and non-GMO supporters. Whether you continue opposing GMO research or not, I hope you find some credible research to support your feelings.

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    1. You have a point about referring my sources. Believe me, it is something I know I need to work on, however I have embedded some relevant links so readers can take a look for themselves. Regarding the consumption of GMOs… If it’s safe then why is it banned in so many countries? And as a critisism of industrial farming as a whole, why are products such as antibiotics and growth hormones required if the animals are healthy? plus, I am sceptical about research which is directly or inderectly funded by the very corporations who stand to benefit from its approval. Your comment reads like a Monsanto PR press release. That said, I will of course read the links you’ve posted. If I am convinced I’m wrong, then I will openly admit it in another blog.

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      1. It is banned in many countries due to the fear and lack of education about what GMO’s actually are. This article (http://tinyurl.com/kp4ejfp) will give you more information about the “banning” of GMO’s. Also, hormones are not just given to animals for the heck of it. As we all know, the world is growing rapidly. If you want to have food on you plate in the year 2050 when the world population has reached 9 billion, you will thank farmers and researchers for their dedication and passion for developing SAFE hormones that produce food for the world. Also, antibiotics are used to treat sick animals. ALL antibiotics have a withdrawal time, meaning the “cows can’t be milked” or “the pig can’t be slaughtered” until a certain and safe amount of time has passed. I learned this growing up on a farm and raising animals for market all my life. Corporations, such as your dreaded Monsanto, cannot legally sway researchers in any way. Research is research, it is very closely regulated and monitored by organizations such as the USDA, who obviously take these things seriously and do not want themselves caught up in a lawsuit because they approved something that is not safe.

        One thing you have to realize is, Monsanto is not trying to develop things that will harm people. If they kill people with their products, who is going to be around to eat it?? Most research is performed at universities, and they are not affiliated with Monsanto or any of their competitors at all. So I would be happy to read a article stating otherwise. As I said before, the research performed by UC Davis, a very credible university here in the US, proved that GMO’s and biotech products are not harmful. I guarantee you they are not funded by Monsanto, Syngenta, or any ag company. Whether the research would have proved GMO’s good or bad, they still would have published the research. Farmers all over the world are working hard to feed you, and they only wish that you would support them and their safe food to feed your families.

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      2. Whilst your theory about governments being sued is a nice idea, it is a little naive. After all, Monsanto is notoriously litigious [1] and with the introduction of transatlantic trade agreements [2] the idea that a group of individuals could win any kind of court case against a massive global corporation such as Monsanto is laughable. If companies such as this are capable of suing governments then what hope would an individual, group of individuals or even a country have?
        I have never implied that Monsanto or any other Biotech company is deliberately trying to kill everyone. However, to suggest that the long-term health of people, animals and the environment takes priority over profit to a commercial, multi-national venture is ridiculous.
        I also don’t believe that Biotech companies’ motivation has anything to do with ‘feeding the world’. GM monocultures and industrial farming only benefits developed countries and those living in them. These methods are engineered to generate more profit, and the resulting products are used mainly in junk food, which in turn ensures that food which is low in nutritional value is more affordable than healthy fresh and natural food. This is having a very visible effect on the waistlines and health of the poor and uneducated in our societies [3].
        Several attempts have been made by Biotech companies, such as Monsanto, to introduce their GM seeds to farmers in third world countries, with varying outcomes. Tragically, it is well documented that the introduction of GM seeds in India has been a contributing factor to massive debt and subsequent suicides go thousands of farmers [4]. Furthermore, many developing nations are rejecting GM farming [5] because they already have effective farming methods and simply have no intention of submitting the the dependence to Biotech corporations that is created by using their non-renewable, chemical dependent products.
        Dependence is created because the seeds are non-renewable, and require accompanying pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. This creates resistant bugs, bacteria, and weeds, which requires greater amounts of chemical intervention every season. These chemicals are being absorbed by the plants, consumed by people and creating well documented threats to our health [6].
        Furthermore, many conservative mid-western American farmers are also rejecting GM crops now, not because of ignorance and/or fear, but due to the very pragmatic reason that farming in this way is turning out to be unprofitable in the long run [7].
        Lastly, the population boom is actually in decline. This is due to a number of factors, but is chiefly due to economics. Where a large family used to mean increased wealth, since the industrial revolution the opposite is now true, so people are having less children due to the expense [8].
        [1] http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/feb/12/monsanto-sues-farmers-seed-patents
        [2] http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/what-is-ttip-and-six-reasons-why-the-answer-should-scare-you-9779688.html
        [3] http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/04/14/eat-well-without-spending-more.aspx
        [4] http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/03/201332813553729250.html
        [5] http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/06/haitian-farmers-burn-monsanto-hybrid-seeds/#.VGiX4togGK0
        http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2013/jun/24/gm-crops-african-farmers
        [6] http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/genetic-engineering/falling-short-on-feeding.html#.VGiXs9ogGK1
        http://www.independentsciencenews.org/news/how-extreme-levels-of-roundup-in-food-became-the-industry-norm/
        http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/25/roundup-health-study-idUSL2N0DC22F20130425
        [7] http://www.globalresearch.ca/american-farmers-abandoning-genetically-modified-seeds-non-gmo-crops-are-more-productive-and-profitable/5366365
        [8] http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/popdecline/poppressrelease.pdf

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      3. I find it hard to read these replies, so I simply skip straight to the references. Although you found 8 pages, only 3 of them have cited references. The one web link : http://www.globalresearch.ca/american-farmers-abandoning-genetically-modified-seeds-non-gmo-crops-are-more-productive-and-profitable/5366365 even states at the bottom that the article is written by an independent writer! So, are we supposed to take one persons writing and expect it to be 100% true? Not to be rude, but I am truly only interested in factual evidence, not someones opinions. It seems I will not be able to change your mind, but I do wish that you will be open minded about all food safety topics, and truly realize that GM foods are safe to eat, and will consider feeding them to your families.I also urge you to visit http://www.findourcommonground.com, which helps explain GMO foods and other conventional farming practices. I thank you for your time.

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      4. I’m sorry but since it appears you aren’t actually reading my responses, I’m not going to bother writing too much here, save to say that you nor anyone else knows 100% if gm crops are safe, and pesticide consumption is proven to be harmful to our health. I’ll be sticking to organic, thank you very much.

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