In my last diary, I was attempting to answer the objections of the GMO labeling opposition. Based on the comments made, I could have done a better job of defining my subject and emphasizing the issue of labeling. Hopefully I can do that with this diary.
First of all, what are GMOs? You intellectual purists out there will object to my source. So, provide a better source with a different definition. According to Wikipedia,
"Genetic engineering (GE), also called genetic modification, is.....the changing of an organism's genome using biotechnology. These methods are recent discoveries…An organism that is altered by genetic engineering is a genetically modified organism (GMO)… The first GMOs were bacteria in 1973..."(http://en.wikipedia.org/...)
According to www.dictionary.reference.com/browse/, "A GMO is an organism whose genome has been altered by the techniques of genetic engineering so that its DNA contains one or more genes not normally found there." The World Health Organization defines GMO as "organisms in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally."
GMO s are NOT the result of cross pollination or hybridization, which have been around a lot longer than GE.
SOME EXAMPLES OF GE
According to the USDA the production of genetically engineered (GE) crops such as cotton, soy beans, and corn has increased dramatically in this country since 1996. In 2013, 76-85% of corn, 75-82% of cotton, and 93% of soybeans grown in the country were GMOs. The Obama Administration has approved the unrestricted growing of genetically engineered alfalfa. Herbicide-tolerant crops are those that are genetically engineered to survive the effects of herbicides that kill weeds and which are strong enough to kill the crop as well except for the genetic modification. The corn, cotton, and soybean GE crops referred to above include herbicide tolerant varieties. The corn and cotton GE crops also include insect-resistant varieties. These crops contain a gene from soil bacteria which produces a protein that is toxic to specific insect pests.
GMO Yellow Crookneck Squash and Zucchini contain protein genes that protect against viruses
"To increase the quantity of milk produced, cows are often given rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), which is also banned in the European Union, as well as in Japan, Canada, New Zealand and Australia." (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...)
GMOs are used to produce non-food products, as well. Cotton, of course. (But cottonseed oil is an ingredient in many processed foods.) Thanks to LibDemFop I now know about cats that are modified to glow in the dark and multi-colored, glow-in-the-dark aquarium fish.
Why would anyone want to manipulate genes? The short answer is money. There is money to be made selling Genetically Engineered products. Monsanto, the largest manufacturer of Genetically Engineered products, earned almost $1.5 billion dollars in the three months ending on February 13, 2013.
The "official" reason for genetically altering the food supply is to save people in third world countries from starving, to lower food costs, to save water, to increase crop productivity.
So why are some of us opposed to GMOs? Some people believe food consumption of GMOs can and/or has made some people ill. Some people think gene manipulation is contrary to God's will. Some think GMOs threaten the quality of the environment. Some fear that GMO crops will make the world's overpopulation crisis worse. Some people don't like being treated as human guinea pigs.
I think, regardless of these objections, that GMOs are here to stay. Even if some new disaster arises that affects the majority of people, it would probably be extremely difficult if not impossible to scientifically prove that specific GMOs were the cause.
Are GMOs absolutely necessary? In my opinion, no. (I just read the nation of Bhutan has decided to go 100% organic.) The alternative, however, would require a massive shift to humans living in harmony with Nature, which those in power in this country would not favor. I can't imagine how the American Upper Class would survive such a shift.
GMOs and the LAW
Comments by Roger Fox referred to an article in the August, 2009 issue of Scientific American (http://www.scientificamerican.com/...) which explains that big agrotech companies such as Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta require the purchasers of genetically modified seeds to sign an agreement that prohibits the seeds from being used for independent research.
"Under the threat of litigation, scientists cannot test a seed to explore the different conditions under which it thrives or fails. They cannot compare seeds from one company against those from another company. And perhaps most important, they cannot examine whether the genetically modified crops lead to unintended environmental side effects."From the companies' viewpoint such measures are necessary to protect intellectual property, and they certainly don't want anyone else producing and selling "knock-offs".
According to this article, research on genetically engineered seeds, presumably supplied to scientists by the seed companies, has been published. But only those studies approved by the seed companies are published in peer-reviewed journals. I suspect that the researchers are required to agree not to publish their studies without company approval. If there are any such researchers who are reading this but who are not seed company employees, please enlighten us as to what the procedure is.
This alleged suppression of non-flattering research findings may be related to the following incident. There was a congressional budget bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in March, 2013. In an article entitled "Critics Slam Obama For 'Protecting' Monsanto" by Lindsey Boerma, CBS News (March 28, 2013) (http://www.cbsnews.com/...), it was reported that a provision was surreptitiously included in that bill which
"protects genetically modified seeds from litigation suits over health risks posed by the crops' consumption."That should have read "protects the manufacturer" (one of which is Monsanto). If Monsanto is so convinced that GMOs are safe, I can't help wondering why they would be worried about losing law suits. In their defense, it is costly even for a multi-billion dollar international corporation to defend itself in court. On the other hand, I can't imagine Congress taking away the right of American citizens to sue car companies that decide to suppress information about safety defects rather than issuing prompt recalls.
Monsanto does not want people to sue it, but it is not shy about suing farmers for patent infringement. According to its own website (http://www.monsanto.com/...), Monsanto has filed lawsuits against American farmers 145 times since 1997. These suits are prompted by farmers who save seed from GMO crops they have grown in order to plant the seed next season. Monsanto claims it "catches" most violators as a result of other neighboring farmers reporting the GMO seed savers. It seems to me that if a farmer discontinues buying Monsanto seed each year, all Monsanto needs to do is send investigators onto the farmer's property to get a crop sample which will be analyzed to see if it is a Monsanto GMO. This is not limited to the farmers who buy the GMO seeds directly. The Monsanto GMO pollen can be carried by the wind to neighboring farms who don't want to grow GMO crops. When Monsanto has found GMO crops grown from the seed these farmers have saved and subsequently planted, Monsanto has pursued legal damages from them, as well.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association has introduced a bill (HR 4432) in Congress that would block states from enacting GE food labeling laws. It would give the FDA the exclusive power to decide if a GE food should be labeled. If the FDA deems the product safe, the manufacturer will not have to label it as a GMO (http://beta.congress.gov/...). If it isn’t safe, it seems to me the FDA would not allow it to be sold. In effect, this law will prevent GMO labeling in the U.S.
Sixty-four countries, including members of the European Union, "enforce consumer 'right to know laws for GE foods" according to the Center for Food Safety (http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/... international-labeling-laws).
The question I am posing is a simple one. It is not whether or not some GE food is safe and other GE food not safe. It is not whether God intended for man to manipulate genomes. It is not whether GMO foods are "natural" or not. It is not whether or not GMO crops in third world countries will worsen the overpopulation crisis. It is not whether or not Rodeo Roundup is responsible for "Superweeds" or whether it is responsible for a 90% decrease in the population of monarch butterflies. These are all worthy questions, but for me, the issue is should people have a right to know if the food they are eating contains GMOs or has been produced through means of genetic engineering?
According to the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) spent about $68 million just to defeat GMO ballot initiatives in California (Prop 37) and Washington State (I-522). They tried the same thing in Vermont but failed. I have read that the GMA plans on challenging the Vermont law in court. Or they may just wait to see if HR 4432 passes.
I will compare this issue to skydiving. An imperfect analogy but the best I've got at the moment. Some people are not meant to skydive. They may have an intuition about it. Sky-diving enthusiasts will never understand those people. They will insist that anyone's chances of landing safely are 99.5% or whatever. If I were to force people who are not meant to skydive, to do it because the danger is miniscule, I would be violating their basic rights.
Coercing people into eating food whose genes have been artificially manipulated by banning mandatory GMO labeling is abusive and a violation of human rights.
I would feel the same way about the FDA approving the adding of sawdust from rare tropical forest trees to processed foods as a fiber supplement. Even if the FDA deemed it safe to eat, I would remain morally bound to boycott that food. I could not do that if the food containing the offensive ingredient was not labeled as such. People who don't care, have a right not to know what is in the food they eat. All they have to do is not listen to the information and not read food labels. People who do care should likewise have the right to know what the food they eat contains. If you care, take the OCA pledge to boycott products manufactured by those companies opposing mandatory GMO labeling in the United States.
For some problems there is a scientific solution. There is also a sensible solution. They aren't always the same. rgantibully