Wednesday, July 03, 2013

GMOs are not the problem: mini-rant

.That's a bold statement to make, given the hullabaloo over genetically modified organisms, specifically those hiding in our food supply. But I'll stand by it. There's nothing wrong with GMOs per se.
Human insulin is a genetically modified organism. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale (among other vegetables) would not exist if wild cabbage (Brassica oleracea) hadn't been genetically modified through generations of selective breeding.  That's to say nothing of the increased pest, drought, disease and cold resistance that has saved lives and will save untold millions more if climate change turns out to be half as scary as forecast.
Every instance of genetically modified food is transgenic, which is to say it involves taking a naturally existing gene in one organism and inserting it into another. In other words, we're not creating genes out of white cloth. We have a good idea what these things are supposed to do, and they do it. There's been a lot of junk science published claiming we're just making this shit up as we go. Not true.

That's not to say GMOs are an unabashed good. It depends on what the modification is supposed to do. Antibiotic resistance, for example, is not something we need in our food supply, or anywhere else for that matter. And allergies are an ever-present concern: if you take a gene from a Brazil nut and implant it into something else, eating that something else may be harmful to those with nut allergies.

Which is why I support the labelling of GMOs. Not so I can avoid them, necessarily, but so I know what the hell I'm eating.
We need better labelling in general in this country: it's hideously lax. In many cases you can't even tell what company made your food (this is particularly true for store brands), or where it was manufactured. And even when it says "made in Canada"... 'tain't necessarily so. Fish caught in Canada can be processed in China, for example, and you're none the wiser from examining the label.

Now, I'd like to make one thing clear. There's a world of difference between being (generally) pro-GMO and supporting the companies, like Monsanto, that engage in genetic modification.

Monsanto in particular scares me because (a) they have been very effective in safeguarding their corporate interests by nefarious means, i.e., infiltrating the U.S. government; (b) as perhaps should be expected of a multinational corporation, they have taken what's good about GMOs and sought, at every turn, to profit from them. It's not about the greater I keep saying, in this world it often seems there is no god but Greed, and Dollar is His Prophet.

I do not believe genes should be patented. While I have no qualms about companies making a profit, even a healthy profit, I, unlike some, believe there are such things as "unhealthy profits". I believe the line between the public and private sector needs to be as clear-cut as possible, and I'd like to think conservatives would agree with this, if only so you're clear on who your oppressor is.

Let's not throw out the baby with the filthy bath water, here. Let's continue to research GMOs...and let's make that process as transparent as possible. Let's label GMOs such that people who wish to avoid them can do so. And let's put the common good ahead of the corporate bank account whenever we can.

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