Is it a crop too far?
Over the last thirty or so years the global demand for food has considerably increased, and in the race to feed our planet scientists have discovered a way to genetically modify our food - known as GM or Biotech Foods. The process involves the manipulation of the DNA (the blue print of life!!) to produce stronger and more disease resistant crops, produced quickly, artificially and against Mother Nature. My overriding concern with GM foods is that just a handful of private companies would likely control the global market. Indeed, last summer the worlds biggest Biotech corporations decided to convince our Government to allow this so called 'Frankenfood' to be grown in our fields. Talks went on behind closed doors and us ordinary folk play second fiddle from the demands of these giant businesses. This so called 'discussion' was in fact a constructed exercise in political lobbying, a priceless PR opportunity. For years they have been stopped from selling their GM seeds within the EU and a change in these rules would allow them to access a market worth billions - only providing they could secure political backing. The meeting held did not receive a single mention in any media. Why is the government lobbying on behalf of foreign companies to weaken regulations set up to protect our farmers and our British countryside? - Curious? These are the type of companies which produced Agent Orange used in the Vietnam war, which killed their own American troops and its effects are still with us today. Would you trust these organisations tampering with your food?
But is it any good for human consumption? Some experts fear we will have allergic reactions to plants with added genes, or receive a toxic shock reaction with new diseases created by accident. So far (please note... SO far) there hasn't been a single reported case of illness from eating GM food, however have enough studies been compiled yet? If this is relatively new shouldn't we be looking at the future risk of long term health implications? Many critics say there may be harmful long-term effects of eating GM. Can this type of terminator technology be trusted? It surely should be challenged - We could be causing ourselves unique health hazards for the future which can not be ignored, what are the consequences?
If GM food is so good for you why is there no labelling on these products? It should be mandatory - do we not have the right to choose what we consume? If its THAT good surely we should be shouting about it, not hiding it - makes you think? Consumers may wish to select conventional foods on the basis of several criteria, such as methods of production (organic or fair-trade food), religious principles (kosher food), or the presence of known allergens (groundnuts). Labelling of foods as genetically modified or non-genetically modified may enable us the consumer choice as to the process by which the food is produced. More informative food labelling could enable consumers to assess these risks and benefits. We shouldn't just ask for it, we should demand it.
We've been through too many food scandals – the horse meat being just the latest saga – the tip of the iceberg perhaps? Full transparency and easy access to detailed information are key to restoring and retaining public confidence in food. If some people wish (as they clearly do) to avoid GM food – for whatever reason – they should have the information at hand on the labelling to allow them to do so. There is enough 'Frankenfood' around at present. A recent study by Which? found that 71% of Britons believe GM food, and meat from animals fed on GM crops should be banned from supermarkets.
We are living organisms and once this biological poisoning is here, it's here forever, once it's out it's out, and we can't stop it spreading. We used to cross pollinate like with like species, but there is no stopping this genetic drift. Pollen moves from one area to another its mother natures way - bees visit different flowers and crops, so we wont be safe from crops themselves causing gene pollution - and on it goes! In the States they did an open trial (total madness) and now it is spreading and can't be stopped.
Many GM crops were created using antibiotic-resistance genes as markers. Therefore, in addition to having the desired characteristics, these GM crops contain antibiotic-resistance genes. If these genes were to transfer in the digestive tract from a food product into human cells or to bacteria, this could lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Although scientists believe the probability of such a transfer is extremely low, the use of antibiotic-resistance genes has been discouraged.
A 2005 study showed that even genes that are completely harmless in one plant can cause allergic reactions when transferred to another. Peas with added bean genes caused reactions in mice, even though the mice weren't allergic to the peas or the beans previously. This reaction caused the mice to have further reactions to other foods eg to egg white which had not previously affected them. Tests on lab rats fed on GM foods produced ping-pong size tumours and suffered multiple organ failure - scary stuff! Surely we don’t want to be treated like guinea pigs!!
We should have the right to know what's in the food we eat – and know how it was produced. Period. End of.
Image credit: Charles Knowles (Flickr)