Ninety percent of Americans want mandatory labeling of GMO foods. Ninety percent! I’d call that a significant majority. So why isn’t it happening? Numerous studies have shown ill health effects resulting from the unintended consequences of fiddling with our veggies’ DNA. This is scary stuff. And although many argue that GMO foods help fight famine, the real problem with the world’s food system is distribution. We have enough food to feed everyone without GMO foods. So why risk it? Why spread the seeds of a dangerous practice whose fruit we haven’t had nearly enough time to examine?
Bonnie Azab Powell makes the case against GMO crops in this article from The Ethicurean.
“Doom and gloomers.” That’s what my father used to call people who talked about global warming not as a chance to work on their tans, but as something that ought to be keeping humankind up at night. He’d toss the newspaper aside, or change the subject at dinner. He still does, in fact. Fortunately much of America — or at least the people we elected to run it — has accepted that climate change is not only a real and present threat, but that it’s imperative we revisit some of the assumptions that got us into this mess.
Alas, public debate about the safety of growing and eating genetically modified organisms (GMOs) remains stalled at where climate change was circa 1993, back when Al Gore published “Earth in the Balance” to a deafening silence. Americans tend to dismiss serious discussions about the risks of GMOs with a “doom and gloomers” shrug. They’re here, they’re queer, get over it.
This is a mistake. It’s one that Europeans, the Japanese, and plenty of other industrialized and developing nations have avoided. As with climate change, the longer American citizens refuse to learn about this issue, the hotter the water we frogs are sitting in gets. Writes technology reporter Denise Caruso in her excellent book, “Intervention: Confronting the Real Risks of Genetic Engineering and Life on a Biotech Planet“: As long as scientists can justifiably “declare that we, the innumerate public, lack the mental capacity to understand what they, the experts, do there can be no common ground for understanding between those who create risk and we who must bear it.” And if the current economic meltdown, caused by financial instruments too complex for any mere mortals other than hedge fund managers to understand, has taught us anything, it’s that an ignorant public is begging to get shafted.
A paper just published May 25 in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Society of Agriculture and Food gives people the tools with which to grasp the science behind transgenic food crops, what questions we should be asking, and a potential path out of this mess. In it Don Lotter, a UC-Davis trained scientist, makes a persuasive case that the transgenic seed industry is built on fundamentally flawed science, and that companies like Monsanto have used their vast market power to reshape university research, manipulate public opinion, and coerce regulatory agencies into reckless acceptance of risky technologies. And that scientists have looked the other way while they did so.
“The Genetic Engineering of Food and the Failure of Science” paper ought to be required reading for any American citizen who didn’t sign the consent form about the risks of the “largest diet experiment in history,” as he calls it. That includes you, me, your kids, every member of Congress, and every researcher who still believes in independent science.