For me, the notion of GM products’ potential is incredible. We could potentially unlock the secrets of: more nutritious food, tastier food, medicinal foods to be used as vaccines or crops that would lessen a farmer’s economic burdens (drought-resistant plants, reduction in the need for fertilizers/pesticides, faster-growing plants). Think about it! There is, however, a reason that I eat organic, non-GMO food right now – which I’ll explain as I discuss why the idea of GMOs is still nerve-wracking.
We humans have such a history of using products without testing their safety first. See: Norian XR or Agent Orange (and soon, I predict: hydrofracking). The analogy I’ll make is that our notion of safety testing (globally and historically) is the equivalent of jumping off a cliff and your friends yelling, as you’re falling: “See? Told you it was safe.”…. only to land and break your leg.
Humans are brave, it’s true. But we are, at once, so smart and too dumb for our own goods. We make decisions without thinking of the long-term consequences – for us or for our future generations. Look at the water contamination in West Virginia right now… MCHM (the chemical the coal-washing plant dumped into the water supply) is virtually untested, and West Virginia American Water president Jeff McIntyre is pushing people to drink the water, having pulled a media stunt of drinking the tap water in front of reporters. Boom, safe.
But back to GMOs.
While skimming through a piece on the John Templeton Foundation website labeled “Can GM Crops Help to Feed the World?“, I found this quote: “a variety of political and perception issues have led to restrictions on the production and use of GM crop plants (“green” biotechnology), particularly in rural areas of less-developed countries, where need is the greatest and where small-scale agriculture constitutes the main economic activity. And although primary scientific research in GM crops is well funded by government, industry, and the philanthropic sector, investigation of the optimal practices and policies for implementing GM technology has received much less attention and support.”
I would argue that GM crops have actually garnered much attention and that the support they seek comes in at least one form: in the financial return the companies that generate and sell GM crops to American consumers are enjoying as they seek to maintain and expand growth in bio-engineered crops, the fastest-growing sector of agriculture in the United States. The crazy part is that, with all that said, we are still dealing with an uneducated American public and nation-wide apathy and disbelief serving to confuse the public even more. GM products, representing the difference between the “fruits” of recombinant DNA labor versus non-GM products that are attained as a result of selective breeding, are a heavily-discussed topic that is très importante.
More than anything, the science-based established consequences of GM crops in terms of nutritional, social and environmental implications are, thus-far, fairly unknown. In a 2008 EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) review of GM plant and product safety, the authors plainly state that: from a scientific risk assessment point of view, there are currently no detailed test protocols by which to assess the safety of GM foods. This, coupled with very recent studies merely beginning to scrape the surface of what proteins are allergens, what good nutrition is and what we should expect in the face of a multifactorial environmental interaction… we have no idea what to expect.
I’d argue that GM production has gotten a lot of attention – it’s just the attention it doesn’t want. I’m all for science – all for experiments and breaking our barriers of what we know. I do, however, think we do need to be stricter about the regulation of GM products, especially in America, where, if you’re not paying attention you are likely to have eaten a GM product every day. We just don’t know yet. GMO products are widely available in stores across America, with as much as 60-70% of processed foods containing at least one GM product.
Take action towards our collective greater health. Mostly, ask for better and more in-depth testing to be performed on a burgeoning new field in science that is mostly untested. Think for yourselves. 🙂