By JOHN CACCIA
I would like to appreciate Dick Dorworth for his recent column about food, the Monsanto Corp. and GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) in the May 1 edition of the Idaho Mountain Express. If his report did not make you at least curious about the ethics, needs and risks associated with genetically modified foods, here is a little more GMO information to consider.
To begin with, GMOs are laboratory-designed plants (and likely coming soon GMO fish and livestock) that are made by injecting a specific gene from one species into the DNA of another species in order to create a genetically altered seed. When planted, the modified seed will grow and exhibit certain “desired characteristics.” In most all GMO crops currently being grown the “desired characteristics” are either (1.) “Round-up Ready,” meaning the plant will be resistant to Monsanto’s widely used herbicide Round-up. Or (2.) that an insecticide is produced within the cells of the plant that will poison almost any bug that nibbles on it. So when you eat a food with GMO ingredients, you can be sure that these foods contain inherent amounts of insecticide and/or are grown with multiple applications of a petro-chemical based herbicide that not only damages the soil but also depletes the plant’s nutritional value.
There are many alarming and unsustainable aspects of GMO foods and the profit-driven biotech industry’s plans for the future. Over the years, the Monsanto Corp., the biotech giant that has been most active in designing and patenting GMO seeds, has been successful at infiltrating almost all branches of state and national government and now yields considerable political influence and power. Many of the Food and Drug Administration’s highest-ranking officials are former Monsanto board members, lawyers and lobbyists. The FDA’s approval of GMO foods is based on pre-biased, short-term health safety tests conducted by Monsanto, even though virtually all independent research conducted worldwide has shown varying degrees of serious health-related issues ranging from allergies to autism, infertility, birth defects, tumors and premature aging.
Especially troublesome for organic and non-GMO farmers is how a GMO-grown crop will cross-pollinate into a neighboring field of natural-grown crops, causing the natural crop to produce GMO seeds. Because of this commonly occurring biological process, a locally adapted seed variety, which may have taken many years of natural seed selecting and saving to produce, can be wiped out in one growing season if contaminated by pollen from a GMO plant.
If you are concerned about this issue and like me would like to see GMOs banned from growing in Blaine County, or any other agricultural region in our state, it is too late because in 2011 the Idaho Legislature passed into law a farmer’s right to grow GMO crops (as well as run Concentrated Animal Farm Operations) wherever he wishes, regardless of any municipal codes or neighborhood concerns. Last month, the U.S. Congress passed a bill containing a provision that strips federal courts of their power to stop Monsanto from growing GMO crops. Since our state and national governments have given their responsibility to protect our food and seed supply over to the biotech industry, the best way to stop the spread of GMOs seems to be by supporting GMO food-labeling initiatives and/or boycotting GMO foods all together.
You can find lots more information on GMOs by Googling “genetic roulette,” “GMO health research,” “GMO foods,” etc. There is also a very informative Boise-based GMO awareness organization called GMO Free Idaho. In the meantime, if you wish to avoid eating GMO foods, the best way is to buy only organic or non-GMO-verified food or grow your own produce.