Update from Alissa: If you don’t see your comment yet approved on this post it’s because we’re saving them for Wookiee to look at. So just hang tight, once Wookiee gets a chance to look at them they’ll be approved (since most of you have specific things directed at him in your comment).
Hey hey GMO squashers!
So, life is strange, right? Here we sit in an event all about the Terwilleger family and GMOs created by the fictional Monsarno Corporation and I can’t help laughing at how art imitates life sometimes. In my life, I usually stay off soap boxes regarding issues unless I find them really important. Of course, I say that and then my favorite mobile game brings out an event all about GMOs. Would it surprise you to learn I actually wrote an essay about them?
It’s been a little since I wrote up a diary here so I figured it might be fun to share my essay with the community. In fairness, I’ll just go right out and say I lean towards the non-GMO camp but as frequent readers know, I’m often away for periods while I knock out college stuff. I thought it might interest some of you to read an example of an essay I’ve written (and gotten an A+ on from my liberal Government teacher lol). The essay follows the break and I completely understand if you’re not interested. It does bear on our current animated conundrum though.
In today’s world, the media barrages us every day with threats both foreign and domestic. Additionally, our entertainment shows us dystopian futures from war and pestilence and even discusses catastrophes in our current time. Mutants and zombies dominate the entertainment landscape. Angels turn on humanity and we even have to “fear” sharknadoes, but this is all fiction, right? It’s not possible that we could all be in danger from a domestic threat involving mutation. In this paper, I am going to be discussing Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, to see if that idea is as farfetched as some would have you believe. GMOs are a reality in today’s world and could quite possibly be the science fiction monster we wish was only on the television.
A GMO is an organism that has been modified from its original state using genetic engineering. Genetic modification involves the mutation, insertion, or deletion of genes. In the history of genetic modification, the organisms affected include micro-organisms such as bacteria and yeast, insects, plants, fish, and mammals. Some might argue genetic modification began as long ago as 12,000 B.C. when mankind first domesticated animals. Arguably, since the advent of agriculture in 10,000 B.C., people have been seeing how to better raise plants and animals but their genetic advances were of a benign and natural state. It’s certainly laughable to imagine a caveman with a gene gun or microscope.
Natural GMOs have occurred from cross pollination for centuries. Bees and other insects take the pollen from one plant and introduce it to another. Even wind can cause this if different organisms are rooted near each other. Usually, this does not result in new organisms but in increased yields or health of plants. An example is that coffee plants and apple orchards can yield up to 20% more if planted near a forest or wild grasslands.
Another natural example of a GMO closer to home for people living in California is the boysenberry. This delicious fruit is a hybrid plant created by Rudolph Boysen in the 1920s. He combined raspberries, blackberries and loganberries successfully to create the boysenberry. His vines almost died but were acquired by a berry expert named Walter Knott who grew them and eventually creating the famous Knott’s Berry Farm franchise. While the boysenberry was created, it was done by letting the three berry plants combine naturally, the agricultural equivalent of breeding a cocker spaniel and a poodle.
All those examples are well and good, but how can this translate to GMOs being bad? To look at this, we head to the 1970s. In 1972, Paul Berg produced the first recombinant DNA molecules. This basically means he added the genes of different species to form one DNA strand. The resulting organism would be a transgenic organism. In 1973, Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen successfully transferred the DNA of one organism into another. These two scientific breakthroughs led to the commercialization of the techniques in 1976 which has since led to genetically modified foods and medicines.
Bacteria were the first organisms to be modified and primarily impacted medicines. Research involving them led to great success in altering human proteins. Treatments for diabetes, hemophilia and dwarfism have been among its successes. Other modification to microorganisms has led to ways to convert starch into simple sugars, clot milk protein for cheese and improve the clarity in fruit juices. Of course it has to be stated that all of these result in processed foods. I’ll leave the opinion about those versus natural foods to you.
Research continued and it was inevitable that it would lead to transgenic plants and animals. Genetic experimentation is all well and good when it leads to medicines or reduces disease but it’s another story all together when you have to think about eating them. According to the Institute for Responsible Technology, “Numerous health problems increased after GMOs were introduced in 1996. The percentage of Americans with three or more chronic illnesses jumped from 7% to 13% in just 9 years; food allergies skyrocketed, and disorders such as autism, reproductive disorders, digestive problems, and others are on the rise. Although there is not sufficient research to confirm that GMOs are a contributing factor, doctors groups such as the AAEM tell us not to wait before we start protecting ourselves, and especially our children who are most at risk.”
This website goes on to list nine other reasons to be cautious regarding GMOs including crop contamination, the inclusion of herbicides in products, possible dangerous side effects and environmental harm. To be fair, there are websites stating other opinions. A recent article in The Guardian, a semi-independent newspaper, on July 16th, 2014, discussed how most negative information about GMOs is provided by non-profit organizations and public opinion is usually much more supportive compared to big business. They point out that classic arguments of GMOs being unhealthy and having untrustworthy research may not be one hundred percent accurate. Another article from the Huffington Post posted a day later discusses Monsanto corporation specifically and arguments for them and their GMOs.
Ultimately, it is up to the consumer what to believe but I do feel it is important to note you will find much more negative or cautionary information online than you will supportive. In the book Dollar Democracy, Professor Peter Mathews points out that most legislation regarding GMOs is controlled by the interest of big agricultural businesses like Monsanto. In California, non-GMO interests were able to put a GMO-labeling initiative (Proposition 37) on the ballot. Basically, while it would not halt the creation of genetically modified foods, it would let consumers know what was modified and make their own decisions. “According to the polls in early October 2012, Prop. 37 was leading by a 3 to 1 margin with California voters. It was finally defeated by a close margin by $45.6 million spent against it by huge agricultural and bio-tech corporations. Monsanto and DuPont together gave $13.5 million of the $45.6 million. The pro-GMO labeling side had only $8.7 million to spend.”
Why would big agriculture be so against just the labeling of their GMO foods? If they’re completely safe and healthy and don’t impact anything, what’s the difference? I don’t know about you, but my red flags immediately are raised when corporate business makes that much effort to stifle something. Reminds me of cigarette ads in the 1930s and 1940s with doctor’s supporting their healthiness. If big agribusiness is willing to spend millions to defeat legislation, couldn’t they also spend money on positive press?
The Non-GMO Project points out that despite promises from Biotech industries, “none of the GMO traits currently on the market offer increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or any other consumer benefit. Meanwhile, a growing body of evidence connects GMOs with health problems, environmental damage and violation of farmers’ and consumers’ rights.” As for safety, a large number of Americans aren’t satisfied that we won’t find out in 60 years, like the cigarette, that what we were ingesting wasn’t safe. If GMOs are so good, why have over 60 countries banned or highly regulated them? The Project goes on to report that “Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe. In more than 60 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs. In the U.S., the government has approved GMOs based on studies conducted by the same corporations that created them and profit from their sale. Increasingly, Americans are taking matters into their own hands and choosing to opt out of the GMO experiment.”
My opinion is that while there are proven natural ways that the world had modified organisms (ex. we are no longer cavemen and boysenberries are delicious), genetically altering food can be dangerous. Adding herbicides to plants doesn’t seem like a great idea. Salmon should not be modified to breed quicker. I certainly would not spray insecticide on my vegetables before I wash and eat them. Ultimately, it really is up to each consumer to research all the available data and make their own opinion. While you do that, I will still eat vegetables from Farmer’s markets and look for organic labels and I’ll continue to look for my horror stories and mutant monsters in areas that are truly fictional. You are what you eat after all.
“Genetically modified organism.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 20 July 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_organism>.
“Institute for Responsible Technology.” – 10 Reasons to Avoid GMOs. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 July 2014. <http://www.responsibletechnology.org/10-Reasons-to-Avoid-GMOs>..
Gunther, Marc. “Why NGOs can’t be trusted on GMOs.” theguardian.com. Guardian News and Media, 16 July 2014. Web. 20 July 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/jul/16/ngos- nonprofits-gmos-genetically-modified-foods-biotech>.
Conniff, Michael. “CON GAMES: Do GMOs Make Us Gods or Monsters?.”The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 17 July 2014. Web. 20 July 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-conniff/do-gmos-make-us-gods-or-m_b_5595253.html>.
Mathews, Peter. “CHAPTER 6, BIG AGRIBUSINESS, PESTICIDES, AND GMO’s: SICKENING OUR FOOD.” DOLLAR DEMOCRACY: with Liberty and Justice for Some. : Amazon, 2014. . Print.
“Your Doctor Wants You to Smoke – Photo Essays.” Time. Time Inc., n.d. Web. 20 July 2014. <http://content.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1848212,00.html>.
“GMO Facts.” The NonGMO Project RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 July 2014. <http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/>.
So there you have it. An essay by yours truly to think about while you squish away those mutant plant people in your game. Never silly to think about the real world while you tap away virtually in my humble opinion. Now I’m off my soap box ready to upgrade my herbicide squirter lol. TSTO is a game after all.
TTFN… Wookiee out!