Do we really, really need these synthetic, genetically modified seeds and crops to save the world from starvation, or did Biotech mega-corporations simply find themselves a new niche market to thrive their multi-trillion dollar business?
What happened to the old-fashioned organic farming that was feeding the world since the dawn of humanity?
Two studies, one by the University of Michigan, and the other by the USDA, report that organic farming can yield more food than conventional farming, and sustain a healthier soil quality for annual food production. In developing countries, by using organic farming methods, they can double or triple their food production.
Ivette Perfecto, professor at the University of Michigan and principal leader of the study says: "Corporate interest in agriculture and the way agriculture research has been conducted in land grant institutions, with a lot of influence by the chemical companies and pesticide companies as well as fertilizer companies - all have been playing an important role in convincing the public that you need to have these inputs to produce food."
What they found was that, contrary to the claims by the money-hungry corporations, organic farms could produce not only more food but do it on the existing land. This is due to the regenerative properties of the organic farming process and the natural organic fertilizers. If the farmer is responsible enough to rotate his crops and plants green manures between growing seasons, the nitrogen levels in the soil wouldn't be an issue.
If the farmer gets lazy or doesn't have the proper tools and machines to ease up his work, than farming is not to blame. Or, perhaps is it the over-contaminated soil with chemicals, polluted air and altered weather that is affecting the farming?
Than why aren't we fixing the source of the problem instead of adding to the problem by introducing even more synthetics to our food?
Could it be that, as Ivette Perfecto said above, - the corporate interests play an important role in convincing the public that you need to have these inputs to produce food - even though organic farming has been proven to produce more food than conventional farming, and sustain a healthier soil?
Whatever the truth is, genetically modified foods and organisms, or GMOs, are ever real, making waves throughout the country and the world. And their use is increasing.
If and when the Biotech industry has it its way, ordering a hamburger from your favorite burger place would sound something like: "Let me have a double cheeseburger with a cloned-beef patty, genetically modified cheese, high vitamin-C lettuce, lab-grown bacon, tear-free genetically modified onion, and put it on a protein-spiked bun, with genetically modified fries and ketchup made from genetically modified tomatoes on the side."
Will your stomach be ready to digest all that or will the Biotech industry turn us into genetically modified humans to be able to deal with it and to handle any potential health problems because of it?
• Several companies are cloning the country's precious cows and in a few years from now your cloned beef would be ready to grill. The Food and Drug Administration, despite the storm of criticism from consumer groups, tentatively concluded on December 28, 2006 that milk and meat from cloned cows, pigs and goats, and from their offspring, were "as safe to eat as the food we eat every day," according to Stephen Sundlof, the FDA's chief of veterinary medicine.
• Researchers in France report that they have found a way to understand and manipulate the L. lactis bacterial gene in cheese, which will be useful for improving the flavor, texture, and preservation of the cheese.
• Virginia Tech scientists found that by transferring certain rat genes (that's right, rat genes) into lettuce, they can increase the level of Vitamin C in lettuce by 700 percent. But since a plant altered by a rat gene wouldn't appeal to consumers they are using what they've learned from the rat-gene work to try to discover other ways to stimulate the Vitamin C gene in lettuce and other plants.
• Henk Haagsman, a professor of meat sciences at Utrecht University, and his Dutch colleagues are working on edible, lab-grown artificial pork meat out of pig stem cells. They hope to grow a form of minced meat suitable for burgers, sausages and pizza toppings within the next few years.
• The New Zealand research institute Crop and Food used gene-silencing technology to make "tear-free" onion, which it hopes could lead to a prototype onion hitting the market in a decade's time.
• Researchers at the University of California, Davis, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Haifa in Israel have cloned a gene from wild wheat that increases the protein, zinc and iron content in the grain.
• Idaho company is working to perfect a genetically modified potato. Inside tucked-away labs in Boise built by french fries, teams of scientists are splicing potato genes, working daily to perfect Idaho's top cash crop with modern biotechnology.
• Since the price of corn syrup, a ketchup ingredient in Heinz ketchup, has increased by 25%, and the Ethanol boom may increase the price even more, Heinz has pushed the company's researchers to produce tomatoes that are 5 to 10 percent sweeter to use in place of the corn syrup in the coming years.
Genetic engineering is the largest food experiment in the history of the world. And since the long term health effects are unknown, that makes us all guinea pigs.
To genetically modify a plant, scientists splice (shoot) in a desired foreign gene from fish, a petunia, an animal, even a human that's intended to help the new organism resist pesticides, pests or freezing. At the same time, they also insert a virus or bacteria, which helps the foreign gene invade the host cell, and an antibiotic "marker" gene, which helps to determine whether the splicing worked.
And you're going to eat all that?
There are wide varieties of genetically engineered crops approved, and as a result it is estimated that over 50% of the foods on your grocery shelves contain genetically engineered (GE) components.
Can you tell if the foods you eat contain GE ingredients?
In the European Union and Japan, where foods with GE ingredients are labeled, consumer pressure essentially has driven these products off the shelves. However, because the U.S. government chooses not to label genetically modified foods, you're essentially shopping in the dark.
Most Americans don't believe that foods made with GE ingredients are entirely safe. And to make it even worse, because U.S. chooses not to label the genetically modified foods, a 2003 study by the Pew Initiative and Food and Biotechnology revealed that more than 60% of the Americans don't believe that they've ever eaten any. In fact, Americans eat them every day, mostly in processed foods, in the form of ingredients derived from genetically modified corn, soy, cottonseed, and canola.
Though, there are clues on the price look up (PLU) codes on produce that shed some light on a food's origin.
Each type of fruit or vegetable carries the PLU, either on the stickers on individual fruits and vegetables, on the tags used to hold together bunches of lettuce, or on the bags of produce.
PLUs consist of 4 to 5 numbers.
• 4 numbers, any number = conventional produce (4011 bananas: Yellow - standard)
• 5 numbers, starting with 9 = organic produce, which is subject to strict industry and government standards of production (94011 bananas: Yellow - Organic)
• 5 numbers, starting with 8 = genetically engineered produce (84805 genetically engineered vine ripe tomato).
However, a quick trip to some of the grocery stores revealed that about 50% of the fruits and vegetables had either the 4 numbers conventional PLU codes or the 5 numbers, starting with 9, organic PLU codes. The other half were not labeled at all. And, there was no 5 numbers, starting with 8, genetically engineered PLU codes.
Were the other 50% of fruits and vegetables not labeled because of negligence or not wanting to reveal the genetically engineered PLU codes so people can unknowingly buy them?
Only the store managers would know the answer.
Meantime, all you're left with is to educate yourself more on this subject and be prepared to handle whatever the world puts on your dinner plate and deal with the potential consequences from it.
Or, simply, stick to the organically grown food since that's been feeding the world since the humans walked on this planet. Certified-Organic producers do not use genetically modified seeds or ingredients.