When Genetically Modified crops were first introduced back in the mid 1990’s it sounded as if the worlds’ food and hunger problems were about to be answered. These crops would be drought resistant, produce higher yields with less cost, have higher vitamin and mineral content, be resistant to pests and overall better for the environment, and lastly, they would be just as safe for Human consumption as their conventional counterparts.
The fact is, given the data and the growing debate, the jury is still out on these claims. With all the promises, there are really only two things that the majority of GM crops are capable of with certainty: They produce the pesticide Bt as is the case with GM corn and cotton and, they withstand the application of the herbicide Roundup, both of which present real concerns.
The GM plants do survive the application of the herbicides, but now so do the weeds. This practice is producing superweeds where ever these crops are grown and these weeds need no genetic modification. Nature does that, and the stronger and more resistant they become the more herbicides that have to be used until eventually…..well….. nobody knows for certain. All the while the costs and quantity of chemical applications continues to rise and the environment pays the price along with an implied increased cost of food.
There is concern that Bt producing corn and cotton will eventually lead to a similar scenario of resistant pests. Additionally, the Bt insecticide is non-specific and evidence suggests that it is weakening and potentially even killing beneficial insects such as bees that are relied upon for pollination in a high percentage of food crops.
Meanwhile, all this puts additional burden on conventional and organic farmers who prefer a more natural approach. As the GMO crop fields take over, so do these superweeds and resistant pests all of which can spread by a variety of measures including wind pollination contaminating other non-GMO crops and fields making it more and more challenging for these farmers to produce safe, unaltered, environmentally friendly crops.
Currently, the US is the world leader in GMO seed technology and the single largest producer with better than 90% of all corn, soy, canola, cotton and sugar beet grown and produced in the United States being Genetically Modified. It is estimated that as much as 80% of the current food supply contains GM ingredients.
Although GMO farming practices have steadily increased throughout the world, the majority of countries are far more cautious than here in the US. Europe for example has allowed the limited growing and importation of crops but requires that any food containing GMO’s be labeled as such thus giving the consumer an educated option. As much as GMO seed has been touted through propaganda to be the “cure all”, there are many countries that have a current hunger crisis, such as in the case with Kenya in Africa, that will not allow them. Their position is that they desire to work their way out of the crisis through means that allows them to be self sustaining, and not dependent on a corporation for their future food supply.
These countries and the worlds food supply is increasingly ending up in the hands of chemical companies-turned-GMO-seed-companies. They have bought up hundreds of small independent seed producers and narrowed the options available to farmers. Additionally, they have garnered a reputation of bullying anyone who opposes them. Farmers who grow their seed are bound by strict regulations and a watchful eye and organic farmers have had to defend themselves in court when their non-GMO crops were contaminated by pollen from GMO crops. Should any scientist in the private sector or in the FDA raise concerns, they are likely to be attacked and discredited with abandon.
Perhaps a light at the end of the tunnel for non-GMO advocates is the recent Supreme Court decision handed down on June 13, 2013 that states Human genes are not patentable based on the understanding that life is not patentable as stated in section 101 of Title 35 U.S.C. Then of course the general population of this country could simply choose to purchase foods Certified Organic and deny GMO’s a market altogether.
Written by DMK of Seven Grains