Diary of a Wookiee: Thoughts on GMOs

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.

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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.

WORKS CITED

“Genetically modified organism.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 20 July 2014.             <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_organism&gt;.

“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&gt;..

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&gt;.

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&gt;.

“GMO Facts.” The NonGMO Project RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 July 2014.             <http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/&gt;.

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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!

89 responses to “Diary of a Wookiee: Thoughts on GMOs

  1. I’ve never seen a really strong argument with any scientific data against GMO foods other than that pesticide resistant foods are sprayed with more pesticides. That’s pretty true, but not an issue with GMO foods themselves, but rather the farming techniques used for cost and time efficiency. I’d be in favor of banning that particular practice and the crops that allow for them, but see no reason to avoid GMO foods as a rule. We have a long history, well before modern science truly understood genetics, of genetically modifying organisms through selective breeding including both food crops and farm animals. With many fruits, including apples and avocados we don’t allow them to breed and produce new seed. We instead graft branches of a tree which produces the specific variety of fruit we want to a base tree that has other properties we might benefit from, such as weather resilience or fast maturation. In the early 20th century, we blasted foods with gamma radiation just to see what handy mutations might occur. That’s where we got our Ruby Red grapefruits and we’ve been eating them for nearly a century.

  2. Good essay…but the use of Wikipedia would get an instant fail from my professor’s (I’m a History major). One of the biggest problems is lawyers getting into everything…along with lobbyists between the two of them bouncing from lobbying firms to political offices and back that we have as many problems in society as we do…I did not leave blood on six of the seven continent’s so that we could have lawyers make our decisions for us…and lets not forget the celebrities who believe that they know what’s best for us and our children (like most of them spend time with their children…unless its for a photospread so that they can extend their 15 minutes of fame…like the Kartrashians and their ilk… As to GMO’s then the anti-GMO crowd need to stop eating : Rice, Corn, Wheat and most of the fruits and vegetables eated today…because at one time or another they were “Genetically Modified” through selective breeding over generations…so to give larger yields and larger fruits/vegetables…as to the anti-bacterial crowd…I’ve delivered children in some of the most filthy places imaginable…and guess what? Those kids are still alive and have children of their own…I have even sponsored a couple of them to immigrate (legally) to the US and one of them is working her way through medical school where she can help people learn that slithering ones self with anti-bacterial is the quickest way to an early death…well rant over so for those in the US remember tomorrow (Memorial Day) is not a day to grill out and drink beer…it is to honor the millions who have laid down their lives so that people can watch the latest reality show without the worry of an oppressive government bursting into their house and sending them to gulag…and billing their families for the execution round.

  3. Wookiee, Thanks for sharing your essay! I am sure you are hearing many (hopefully kind!) opinions but since my mind goes in 15 different directions on this subject I thought WTH I’d throw mine on the pile. 😉. So here goes….

    We are exposed to countless chemicals every day & as a society it is clearly having an effect on us. It certainly appears that GMOs are a huge part of that. The medical & scientific community seem to be satisfied with the “innocent until proven guilty” approach. Yet will quickly tell a cancer patient (amongst others) to avoid GMOs as it is extra strain on the immune system. Or that certain conditions can be improved by avoiding certain foods. They know that many food allergies are triggered by long-term exposure. For example, if you allergy test a newborn for peanuts or shellfish they will have an instant obvious response. A dairy allergy on the other hand can not be diagnosed in a baby. An allergy to dairy proteins is built upon over years and the symptoms are very wide ranging. The bodies response to that specefic allergy is it changes the way nutrients are absorbed. That has a domino-effect over years or even decades. I use this example because dairy proteins are one of the many things GMO producers use to modify non-dairy foods. It is even included in certain lotions & shampoos. Exposure is much higher than one would expect speeding up the process.

    Part of the problem is in the proof. With being exposed to so many chemicals the GMO producers argue that it is not conclusive.

    Part of it is the system working in favor of the GMO producers. Recently there have been a number of cases of non-GMO farmers being forced to pay royalties to GMO companies after testing showed their crop was contaminated with the neighboring farmers GMO seeds.

    Or one could look at the fact that fish oil could not be used to “treat” cholesterol because it was a natural substance. In order to create a marketable patented “medication” a change in composition needed to occur.

    Part of it is also that people just don’t care. There is strong evidence that hormones used in meat & dairy cows cause puberty to occur much faster. Yet most people don’t care. We have pesticides sprayed by helicopters over cities to kill “tree-damaging” insects. People would rather have pesticides on everything than having a dead tree. Nuclear testing & other extremely toxic occurrences are rationalized. Worst of all, IMHO, is the simple fact that mac&cheese sells better with added food coloring. People simply WANT their mac&cheese to be extra-yellow.

    The bottom-line is that GMOs will continue to prosper against rational logic for the same reason that the Big Mac is beloved. We are all a bunch of Homers. Lazy taste-driven in-the-moment kinda people.

  4. Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, made in a lab are too Soylent Green for me (GMO’s created on the farm – such as my favorite treat Boysenberries – are acceptable)!

    Soylent Green vs Boysenberries – which would you rather eat?

    • Ummm…. If you’ve seen the movie, the problem with Soylent Green wasn’t that it was made in a lab, it was that it was made of….

      *********SPOILER ALERT*********

      people!!!

      Would you be okay if they just sold “people meat” that wasn’t processed in a lab??

  5. Great article. Walked today in the march against Monsanto and Ttip in the Netherlands. I don’t have a definative opinion on GMOs, but if you look at all the other bad stuff from the company (Round up, destroying the seed industry, the patents, etc) it’s clear this company only cares about making money in a bad selfish way. Just for instance: In the Netherlands smaller seedcompanies have a friendly competition way that enables all of them to create better products by natural growing for everyone without having to pay for patents. Monsanto already took over one of the 4 big companies here and uses patents so people can’t freely use the expertise of that company- but have to pay Monsanto or get sued. The company is trying to destroy the market to end up becoming the big ruler.
    I love the fact that the Simpsons add to the awareness of Monsanto.

  6. Holy cow – I used the very mild “d word” (the one that goes before “Yankees” in the title of a Broadway musical) once and that got moderated out, but this comment got through as is? The language doesn’t bother me particularly, but I don’t think it meets your “PG” standard… Guessing it got through uncensored accidentally?

    • Where? I asked Wookiee to mod these comments so I honestly didn’t even see it. Who’s comment?

      • Nevermind I think I found it and fixed it. I’m sorry about that. It should never have been allowed. If it’s not the one I fixed please let me know. I’ll have to talk to Wookiee about what part of swear words to bleep out…

      • Sorry – I thought I had posted this under the comment in question. It was by “matt” on May 22 at 9:39pm.

      • There maybe another edit-out required. 🙂

      • I think you fixed one part but missed another “worse” party…

        • ugh sorry….long day of cleaning the house my brain and eyes aren’t working well today. Think I got it now 🙂

          REALLY sorry that it was allowed.

          • No worries on my account – “bad” language doesn’t bother me. But I know you’re very strict about it here so I was just surprised.

            Perfectly understandable that some things will slip through!

  7. On the plus side, the paper was written coherently and concisely. However, it is clear to see that this is lower level undergraduate work where less stringent requirements are applied. The problem is that everything is very general. Higher university levels focus on tighter and tighter subjects with increasing detail. To be truly informative in the current debate, someone needs to lists a substantial number of genetic modifications, what they do, and what they mean for farming. (Peter below gave a nice pesticide example.) Then we can have a meaningful discussion. To take all GMOs together is like calling all Muslims, Christians, or Jews terrorists. Even though there have been terrorists among all three groups (For example, Dutch Schultz, for those who say Jews are only upstanding citizens.), the great majority are peaceful, law-abiding citizens. No doubt at some time in the future bad GMOs will be found to have been widely used, but to toss all GMOs on the basis of a few being bad is not good policy. If GMOs are as good as the producers wish to say, then they should make this specific information more available. I think most people would be proud to eat something that is truly beneficial. When you go to the doctor, the doctor does not say, ‘Here is some medicine. I won’t tell you what it is, but trust me, it will help you.’ No, he gives you the specific or generic name so you can see for yourself. The same needs to be done for GMOs and decisions made on a modification by modification basis..

  8. I must say very well done I love it I was actually waiting till the end of the event – when you guys say what you think about the is that I actually was going to post something similar so people know that this is an actual problem that we have going on and all the points that you presented we’re right on, and I think one of the basic and one of the biggest things is that not only what you posted but they’re actually corning the market on corn pretty disgusting thing, so I thank you for sharing with everybody so everybody knows a little something something and I enjoy the making fun of MR from to Monsanto and yes bunny you deserve that a plus good job btw my mom is a environmental school teacher would it be alright with you if I copied this and see if it’s something that she could use in her class since this is one of the topics she uses? If not no biggie thought I’d ask.Thanks.,
    Wes.

  9. On a sillier note, since we are what we eat, if we eat glow in the dark veggies, can we start glowing in the dark? Would save on street lighting and flashlights/torches.

  10. Someone stole my burrito™

    My only issue with GMOs, regardless of how safe they might be, is full disclosure to the buying public. That’s it! If something has been modified, we the buying public should be made aware, and that has not been the law ( here in California anyway ). Even if something is organic, it could still be a modified product, but grown without pesticides.

    We should know what we are eating.

    Nicely written, Wookie.

    • But almost everything you eat has been modified in some way! How do you determine what to label? Is it just modifications that are made in a laboratory?

      I think the concern with, say, genetically modified produce isn’t the genetic modification itself, per se, it’s whether the modification has allowed growers to do something else to the produce that’s unhealthy. For example, if the produce had been modified to withstand more toxic pesticides (in order to reduce the volume of crop loss), my concern is more with the application of the more toxic pesticide, than the modification itself.

      • Someone stole my burrito™

        We were told that pesticides were not harmful to humans, that has now been shown to be false. People are willing to pay more for organic, naturally grown produce. We have a right to know what we’re eating. Maybe that’s not important to you, but I know I care what I eat. I want to be able to make a choice.

        • When were we told that pesticides aren’t harmful to humans? I was always told to wash my fruits and budget to remove any traces of pesticides as far back as I can remember (50ish years).

      • Numerous campaigns have tried to convince the public that toxic pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides are not bad – or are even good for humans. DDT is the most egregious example:

        http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2011/06/27/ddt-is-good-for-me-e-e/

      • Marion (AnothrAddict)

        Agreed Sandra. Did you read my post below on glyphosphates. Scary pesticides.

  11. A+

  12. Good paper… As my family grows their own garden in the summer I am very aware of GMO’s. And if you consider how bad fast food can be, if McDonald’s says no way to GMO potato’s, that should tell you something. I know with over population there has to be a solution for feeding the world. But putting pesticides and chemicals that are not natural into a plants genetics just to keep a crop sustained isn’t right. You can wash your vegetables but you can’t get those chemicals out if scientists put then inside the plant. And as you touched on the health problems, yes GMO’s haven’t been around long enough to know the full effects yet. But I’ve seen a while lot of birth defects like the cleft lips. People just need to be aware and more conscious of their health and what they consume.

  13. Wonderful essay. The GMO debate continues. I avoid GMOs; I am pro GMO labeling. I find the argument that consumers are uneducated to be specious. “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Shakespeare.

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