As I’ve read the numerous comments about GMO food over the last couple of days, I’ve learned a lot. Perhaps the most prominent thing I’ve learned is that there is seemingly no end to the differing opinions, studies, web sites, and articles on both sides of the fence.

Clearly, this is a tremendously complicated subject that won’t be solved soon. For myself, I suspect there is little doubt that Monsanto is a typical example of a corporation that cares more about money than public welfare. But that’s the definition of a corporation, no sarcasm intended. They exist to make money and will do as much as a society or its government will allow. That seems to me to be a good reason for heavy regulation.

I am not, however, convinced that the scientific process of modifying the genes of plants for consumption as food is a bad thing in and of itself. Throughout history, humans have learned as much about plants and animals as possible and tinkered to improve them as much as possible. Every now and then something goes wrong but for the most part, we stick with what works and have created the world we currently live in. All of the plants we eat have been intentionally modified through history. It is said that their original forms were much less palatable than what we now enjoy.   Also throughout history, people have been suspicious and condemning of new science and technology. It’s always scary to go somewhere you’ve never been before. But that natural fear is, to my mind, no reason to reject new technology outright as “evil” or “playing god.”

I’m enjoying the learning process, thanks so much to all of you who have provided (and will continue to provide) information and links.


24 thoughts on “MORE GMO

  1. Pingback: MORE GMO « Humor

  2. I think that the deeper problem we’re about to have to face is intellectual property. Patents are essentially a form of artificial monopoly, and while some patent protection is probably beneficial, currently the protection is way too long. I think there should also be a way to force a company to issue a licence for a patent it holds for a reasonable fee, because in essence patents are supposed to reward the society, not the patent holder.

    The same goes, up to a point, for copyright, but patents are a much larger problem — you can’t copyright a type of joke or a specific simile, but you can sometimes patent a general concept.

    But what I mean is that the problems with Monsanto’s GMO etc. aren’t really problems with Monsanto, or with GMO, but rather they’re problems with outdated, impractical laws.

    • At a more general level, the central problem with GMO foods isn’t about health or the environment, but economics.

      There’s really no problem in existence today that we need GMO to solve. People are not starving because we don’t produce enough food. People are starving because we distribute it inefficiently, and waste a significant proportion of it, and are hampered by irrational food taboos.

      That last point is less important than the other two, but still important. To pick one example, and I say this in the full knowledge that bringing up the topic of eating animals isn’t popular on this blog, we in the developed world seriously need to consider eating insects.

      The fact is, everyone (including vegans) eat them already, just not on purpose. If you eat anything with grains in it, you already eat some insect matter. Moreover, the environmental impact of insect farming is potentially smaller than most crops, let alone that of meat animals.

      • Not an appealing idea, but a good point. As a vegan, I’m not against eating insects per se, because I don’t believe them to be sentient in the way that animals with other body structures are. Not a popular view among vegans but it’s what I currently think. Evidence to the contrary would change my mind, of course.

  3. To be informed we must seek credible sources and put aside our own biases. It’s hard but Dan, you’re a shining and rare example. Because we at Vegan Chicago can’t be there to ‘debunk’ dubious information for our members (nor should we assume such a position), we created a “Baloney Detection Guide” to help them fend for themselves.
    Vegan Chicago’s Baloney Detection Guide.

    As for GMO, the good folks at Biofortified have been working hard for years to outreach to the public on these matters.
    If that feels too biased for some, GMO-Compass is another good source.
    VeganGMO is a little project we’ve been cobbling together to fight the anti-GMO sentiment seemingly inherent in vegan culture.
    If you want and easy but awesome read, Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food” is a fantastic book written by a geneticist and her husband who is an Organic farmer.

    Keep digging Dan, thanks for your continued investigation.

  4. My problem with GMOs is that they create loopholes in regulation and/or blur an otherwise clear division between plant and not-plant. I don’t want to eat soy or corn that has been modified with moth DNA solely for the purpose of greater resistance to “round-up” deathicide. Allowing companies to genetically modify and cross plant and animal DNA is unfortunately opening a Pandora’s box of disease and illnesses.

    Dan I know you’re vegan, and I’m sure if you really knew what was inside the “food” that many people eat ignorantly, (not saying they eat like an idiot, but more with a blind eye) you would find a side of the argument to stick to.—non-vegan-banana

    • I understand your concerns and am similarly concerned. Regarding the “plant and not-plant” issue, it is my understanding that genes are genes and crossing kingdoms is not a valid concern, as counter-intuitive as that sounds. If you plant a rhinoceros gene into a corn’s DNA, it responds like a corn gene. It’s like taking a water molecule from an animal and giving it to a plant: it isn’t “animal water” or “plant water,” it’s just water. But there are plenty of other concerns and I’m still learning. Thanks for your thoughts.

  5. Hi Dan –

    Please consider this: comparing the natural processes of evolution and selective breeding to the “natural” process of GMO production is kinda like comparing a pop gun to a nuclear bomb. Do you really trust corporations like Monsanto and Dupont with your food supply? With the processes of life on earth? It’s just thinly disguised greed and we shouldn’t be duped. When corporations own the patent on LIFE, well, we’re just doomed.

    I still hope, however you may feel about the validity of GMO’s, that you decide to vote in favor of Prop. 37 – isn’t it reasonable to at least have the right to know what’s in our food?

    Thanks for your wonderful blog –

    • I completely agree that labeling should be mandatory. I’m still learning about the subject and will be reporting what I find out in my blog, so stay tuned. :o)

      And there is certainly no doubt that folks like Monsanto need to be watched and regulated carefully.

  6. I think GMO needs to be looked at carefully before it is unleashed. I don’t know that incorporating insecticides and herbicides into the genetic code of plants is a good idea. I also think there is a big difference between GMO technology and the previous selective hybridization. I think hybridization is more similar to the natural order of things, similar to a good looking guy mating with a good looking woman in hopes of producing good looking children.

  7. Dan, I’m glad to see you continuing your education and sharing your process publically, you may be interested in this new report: “GMO Myths and Truths”. The report presents a large body of peer-reviewed scientific and other authoritative evidence of the hazards to health and the environment posed by genetically engineered crops and organisms (GMOs). While there are many campaigners against GMOs in general, the initiative for this report came not from campaigners, but from two genetic engineers, who believe there are good scientific reasons to be wary of GM crops and food. You may also want to check with your vegan pal John Robbins and on the consumer activist Dr. Jeffry Smith’s work., he is the author of Seeds of Deception, Director and Producer of the latest film about GMOs, (Genetic Roulette: The gamble of Our Lives, they are touring CA together for the YES on Prop 37 (Mandatory Labeling of GMOs) campaign and likely will be in LA, and you may want to review the EU’s material, they are taking a more deliberative approach in evaluating GMOs

  8. Any sane person should be wary considering the way these modified products are rushed to market (take the case of the pharma cox inhibitor “vioxx”) with little regard for anything other than profit. At one time DDT, Thalidomide and Asbestos were good ideas.

  9. Humans are definitely an irrational bunch of primates. There are varying levels of concern regarding GMO, and while generally safe, avoiding GMO’s when the only reason they exist is to increase Monsanto profits makes sense to me. Many of us have been consuming GM soy for years, I’d suspect lawyers would be all over this like butter on toast if they were really harming people or the environment.

    Along similar lines, I was doing some online research on a new toaster oven and found a reviewer who was concerned about “negative radiation” and “radioactivity” in foods that have been through a microwave oven. This ridiculous claim has been debunked many times, but maybe you can get a good cartoon idea from it.

  10. I just discovered you today – somehow I’ve missed out on your humor all this time! I have been going back through your blog and enjoying the cartoons immensely. I feel so smug when I get the joke/reference right away without having to read the explanation!

    I really appreciate the fact that you sparked a conversation about a serious topic and have had some dialogue with your readers, er, Jazzy Pickles. And they in turn have provided insight, information, resources, and much food for thought (pun intended). It just goes to show you can make people laugh AND think.

    I’m so glad I found you!

  11. I appreciate your input on this complex issue. Simply by being willing to take a different look at a dearly-held opinion in a public forum has encouraged me to do the same.

  12. Pingback: Vegans & GMO | Vegan GMO

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