To GMO or not to GMO

21 July 2014  Idea of the day “A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.”  George Bernard Shaw

Today’s blog is only about trees from a related issue. But I’m hearing more and more concern about GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms) in articles and talk so I thought a quick note was worthwhile to add a little sanity to the discussion.

The related issue is the extensive use of Roundup weed killer we have seen kill trees.  It is also the most popular weed killer used by agricultural concerns primarily on GMO sugar beets, feed corn, soy and wheat crops.  Papaya is another high use crop.   Roundup residue and its after-compounds are showing up in these main foods of the Western diet because these GMO crops are “protected” from pests by the Roundup but supposedly not affected by it.

The controversy rages among the contending sides from fanatical GMO protesters to just as fanatical agricultural business defenders.  In November 2013 54% of Washington state residents believed the business interests’ claims that food would go way up in price if GMO labeling was required and thus the voters turned down an initiative to require labelling of GMO foods.

The true facts at this stage are somewhere in the middle.

1) You can always find a study that fits your pre-conceived idea.  But it is still debatable that GMO’s in themselves are harmful.  In fact they seem to be solving some real problems in creative ways. Others say there is no actual increase in productivity because the GMO crops require so much more expense in energy, fertilizers, water and pesticides and their cultivation has horrible side effects.  Search out the stories yourself.

2) The real problem seems to be first with the Roundup and other similar glyphosate compounds which the chemical companies claim are the “ideal safe pesticide” that won’t hurt the GMO plant because of a gene added to resist the glyphosate.   Recent studies are proving otherwise.   See   Roundup inhibits necessary key enzymes in our bodies which detoxify foreign chemicals the body ingests.  The resulting vulnerability has been linked to subsequent occurences of obesity, autism, Parkinson’s, heart disease, depression, infertility and cancer.   For example, prior to Roundup the rate of autism in the general population was 1 in 10,000 in 1970.  Today it is 1 in 68.  Specifically, the graph of the increase in the use of Roundup exactly corresponds to the increase in autism.   There is a large study being done on Roundup that is due to be completed and results announced  in 2015.  Additionally, while it is still the herbicide of choice for many  farmers, overuse is now creating superweeds increasingly resistant to it.   A better solution clearly needs to be found.

3) The successful organic bacterium strains of Bt have been successfully used to  get crops to ward off insects themselves.  But the introduction of GMO’s has made some of the Bt strains now become toxic because of the  genetic changes.

4) Another real concern about the introduction of GMO’s has been the large  food companies using their patented GMO seeds to take over the food supply and not allow farmers to save their seed for the next season.  This makes them less able to survive financially as the big corporate giants get bigger.   This problem is made worse by the fact that even if you don’t use the GMO seed, their genetic material drifts in the wind, “infects” other crop lands and suddenly they claim you are legally required to buy your seed from the large patent-holding corporations.  This has put farmers in developing countries like Mexico and India out of business.  Additionally once a farmer commits to GMO’s, the special herbicides are required so that chemical companies like Monsanto, Dow and Bayer benefit hugely.

5) Europe has for a long time refused to allow GMO’s.  This was not because of any overreaching wisdom of the European governments or its people, but turns out to have been more the result of an agricultural trade war with the United States ever since World War II.  Europe understandably didn’t want the big US companies controlling its food supply.   But now the original US companies’ GMO patents are starting to expire. European scientists and their large companies are starting to develop a European GMO system of their own so they can control their food supply and make a lot of money themselves.

There is some evidence that GMO’s might be raising crop yields.  But at what expense remains a serious question as indicated above.  Ultimately the best solution will benefit the largest portion of the global environment – crop yields, ecological health, waterways, animal life and human populations – not just special interests like a few large food and chemical corporations.


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