American Elephants


Genetically Engineered Suspicion and Paranoia in California. by The Elephant's Child

“A fight over genetically engineered foods has been
heating up in the nation’s grocery aisles.
Now it’s headed for the ballot box”

Unbelievable. Every time you think that California has finally dropped off  the West Coast and drifted away into Never-Never land, they pop back up with some other weirdness in the news.  Banning ‘Happy Meals” and pet goldfish is not enough, now voters will decide whether to make California the first state in the country to require labels on products such as sweet corn whose genes have been altered to make them resistant to pests.

Proposition 37 will be a big-money battle pitting natural food businesses and activists against multinational companies such as PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Kellogg.  Backers and opponents have already raised nearly $4 million to sway the minds of the state’s voters, and it will expand into tens of millions as the November election approaches.

There is no health magic contained in “organic” food. The magic occurs in the idea that using manure is more “natural” than fertilizing with nitrogen derived from carbon-based fossil fuels. The only qualifications for food to be “organic” is in the process of growing only with “natural” fertilizer, and “natural” pesticide — usually derived from pyrethiums, an extraordinarily poisonous substance. Activists have a semi-religious belief that anything derived from petroleum must be evil. Organic food is not better for you, not healthier, not fresher, and about 30% more expensive.

Genetic engineering has been peacefully going on for centuries, but when accomplished by scientists instead of by the wind and happenstance it supposedly somehow becomes threatening. Visitors to Mesa Verde, and to the museum there, may have seen corn cobs that were the genetic predecessors of today’s tasty ears. Tiny, only 3″ to 4″ long.

Genetic engineering has created “golden rice” by adding  beta carotene to rice for areas of the world with great Vitamin A deficiency. A lack of Vitamin A means millions of deaths and thousands of cases of blindness, with the worst effects on  children and pregnant women. The original strain has been improved and studies show that it performs as hoped. Crop yields are also higher . It is hoped that it will clear the final regulatory hurdles and reach the market in 2013. The Gates Foundation and Helen Keller International have been supporting development efforts.

Anti-GMO activists like Greenpeace have the usual conspiracy theories, and quasi-religious objections to any genetic engineering. Their noise has been sufficient to scare the gullible, hence the presence of Proposition 37 on the California ballot. GMO foods have been declared completely safe by U.S. regulators, but it’s easy to scare people with hints of “the unknown.” People have been scared by the term “genetically engineered,” and the people who sell products containing GMO foods are worried about losing sales.
70% to 80% of all processed foods sold in supermarkets could be affected as well as a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.

We are so blessed in the great variety of foods available to us today. Relax and enjoy.

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1 Comment so far
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All corn ethanol is produced from GM corn, and yet Congress mandates that everyone buying gasoline use the stuff. If I were an activist against GMOs, that’s the fuss I’d kick up.

By the way, the organic movement got started (in the UK) first and foremost out of a desire to protect the soil. It was farmer driven, and driven more by gut instincts than by science. As for soil protection, they weren’t too far off: long- term studies have shown that soils on which organic farming has been practiced generally have better tilth, more water-retaining capacity, more earthworms, a better diversity of trace minerals, etc. Meanwhile, a lot of scientific research has been applied to organic farming — research that has helped farmers cope with the steeply rising costs of fertilizer.

The organic farming movement was sharply divided over GMOs, however. In the end, they took the cautious approach and decided to disqualify GM crops from qualifying. Some of the leaders in the movement are now wondering whether that was a wise decision.

Comment by Subsidy Eye




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