Sunday, March 23, 2014

Food Safety Won't Matter When Corporations Own the Source of Our Food Supply

Far be it from me to question a biologist's expertise on biology, so I will address the political problem:

GMO puts the entirety of the planet's food supply and future ability to grow food in the hands of profit-taking corporations.
Without GMO, you don't have to pay any money to anyone to grow your own food. Collect seed from open-pollinated, heirloom plants, nurture the seeds into mature plants, eat what you need, store the extra and save seeds from the rest, and do it all over again next year.

With GMO, you have to pay money - huge, unsustainable amounts of money - Monsanto to get seeds to plant to grow food.  But you can't save seeds from what you've grown, because they are hybrids or sterile.  You have to pay again for seeds next year to start all over from scratch.  And the year after that and the year after that and the year after that.
It's food slavery.  Even if I thought GMO foods were perfectly safe, cured cancer, eliminated racism and were the solution to biodiversity, drought, overpopulation, climate change and the heartbreak of psoriasis, I wouldn't eat or plant them because doing so leads to a corporation owning the source of our food supply.

PZ Myers:
I find myself continually bewildered by the argument against genetically modified food. However, we have no choice, we need to constantly improve the stocks.
We have a great deal to gain from growing GM crops. They offer humanity a way to improve food productivity without having to make further inroads into our planet’s wild places to create more fields for farmers. The position was summed up by Sir Mark Wolpert, the government chief scientist last week, when debating the CST’s report. "The challenge is to get more from existing land in a sustainable way or face the alternative, which is that people will go unfed, or we’ll have to bring more wilderness land into cultivation." From that perspective, the case for GM crops is unanswerable.
Not everyone will agree, of course. Green opponents to GM crops claim they pose a risk to health, though no research has ever produced any credible evidence to back this point. Thirty years ago, it could be argued that we should proceed cautiously because of potential health dangers. That argument is no longer acceptable.
I have a lot of sympathy for the green argument, except that it ignores the real problem to focus on a minor issue. The real problem isn’t that some of our crops carry modified genes, especially since they all do — every single one of our major food plants are the product of intense artificial selection for traits that benefit agriculture. No, the real problem is how much of our country is overwhelmed with monocultured species — most of the botanical diversity of the United States is gone under a layer of wheat and corn and soybeans and pretty much nothing else. Minnesota is 54% farmland, and we aren’t even the most intensely plowed over state in the country.

It seems to me that the green approach would be to encourage more GMOs to increase the efficiency of farmland use; and to struggle to get less land committed to agriculture by ending the corn ethanol boondoggle and by encouraging more vegetarian diets, so less livestock. Worrying about an artificially introduced gene in a crop seems silly when the real problem is that versions of that crop are taking over everything, replacing wetlands and prairie with endless fields of corn, GMO or not.
Kevin Drum, on even more food-supply-endangering problems with GMO crops
Even if GMO foods are safe to eat, there are a host of practices surrounding the use and marketing of GMO seeds and crops that are highly questionable. And those practices frequently fail to get the attention they deserve thanks to intense lobbying from corporate interests with billions of dollars at stake. Over at Wired, Brandon Keim provides an example of this dynamic at work. It's the story of Bt corn, which was engineered to be poisonous to corn rootworms, a pest that used to cause billions of dollars in damage to corn crops. For a while it worked great. But then, corn rootworms evolved a resistance to Bt corn, largely due to industry and farmer resistance to proper management:

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