Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Genetically Modified Food Controversy

Gene Transfer

Gene Transfer

[From Deardra MacDonald - Based on a presentation at the Philosophy Club in The Villages, FL, 25 March 2011. Powerpoint charts are available on video at the end of topic. The proprietor of this Blog does not necessarily agree with this material.]
My main reason for doing this topic at the Philosophy Club was to become familiar with the controversy surrounding the Giant Chemical Corporations, Small Farmers, Activists, and the Consumers. Three months ago I was like most Americans and had absolutely no idea that over the past couple of decades, giant Chemical Corporations has achieved a virtual monopoly on some of the most important seed markets in the United States and the world. So I started with the basic question, “What is a genetically modified seed?" The section that started my education was Wikipedia’s “Genetically Modified Food Controversies”. My research started by just reading this website and trying to absorb, or should I say struggling to understand genetically modified organism controversy! From that point my research took on over 100 website from Universities, Independent Research Centers, Lawsuits, Monsanto vs. Small Farmers, White House Involvement, on and on and on… to many to write in this article.

Consumer’s Fear That No Independent Research Done On Humans

An article by the Center for Research on Globalization Stated, “One of the great mysteries surrounding the spread of genetically modified plants around the world since the first commercial crops were released in the early 1990’s in the USA and Argentina has been the absence of independent scientific studies of possible long-term effects of a diet of GMO plants on humans or even rats. The real reason has now come to light. The genetically modified agribusiness companies like Monsanto, BASF, Pioneer, Syngenta and others prohibit independent research.

An editorial in the respected American scientific monthly magazine, Scientific American, August 2009 reveals the shocking and alarming reality behind the proliferation of genetically modified products throughout the food chain of the planet since 1994. There are no independent scientific studies published in any reputed scientific journal in the world for one simple reason. It is impossible to independently verify that GMO crops such as Monsanto Roundup Ready Soybeans or MON8110 GMO maize perform as the company claims, or that, as the company also claims, that they have no harmful side effects because the GMO companies forbid such tests! They are covered by the US constitution patent protection, allowing a monopoly of that invention for 20 years. The Internet is the places to go to find out about the research and risks.

The Revolving Door Policy George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama

The support between Monsanto and White House is unprecedented in the history of corporations. Monsanto is an American company; its headquarters is located in Saint Louis, Missouri. “ A statement was made by our President in 1992 proclaimed that genetically modified seed is “substantially equivalent” to non-GMO seeds”. The genetically modified seed was approved in the United States beginning with our President George H.W. Bush in 1992, and supported by Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. High Level Connections.

Small Farmer and Monsanto Contract

The contract has been call by activist and farmer An Ironclad Contract. It is a contract that profits Monsanto. This contract is fundamentally unfair to farmers. Ironclad Contract What needs to be understood is that it is also fundamentally unfair to society, we the consumers are the third unrepresented party to such because we end up consuming the products of this agreement.

People have said if working with Monsanto is so difficult, farmers should just plant conventional seeds. That sounds like an easy fix, but where are they going to get the seed? The Center for Research on Globalization explains why Monsanto keep farmers and everyone else from having any access at all to buying, collecting, and saving of NORMAL seeds. Monsanto has bought up the seed companies across the Midwest. They’ve written Monsanto Seed Laws and gotten legislators to put them through, that make collecting and storing of seeds so onerous in terms of fees and paperwork and testing and tracking every variety and being subject to fines, that having normal seed becomes almost impossible. Monsanto is pushing the law that remove community’ control over their own counties so farmers and citizens can’t block the planting of GMO crops even if they can contaminate other crops.

Small Farmer vs. Monsanto Lawsuits

Whenever you see the words Small Farmer and Monsanto in the same article, it is describing a lawsuit against small farmer by Monsanto. Monsanto is filing lawsuits around the world. See what Vandana Shiva from India says about small farmers. Vandana Shiva: The Future of Food-Part 1 Vandana Shiva Video.

Monsanto's efforts to prosecute farmers can be divided into three stages: investigations of farmers, out-of-court settlements, and litigation against farmers Monsanto believes are in breach of contract or engaged in patent infringement. Monsanto has set aside an annual budget of $10 million dollars and a staff of 75 devoted solely to investigating and prosecuting farmers.

Activist rally for labeling all genetically modified.

This is where the Activist and consumers have rallied together and have signed petitions to label all foods that have been genetically modified. Allergic reactions are a real concern of genetic engineering because it may transfer new proteins into foods, causing allergic reactions and many other symptoms in human. Since law does not regulate labeling genetically engineered food, those who have known allergies will have no way of identifying the contents of their food. The first Taco Bell crisis and the mixing of genetically altered corn not approved for human consumption into the nation's corn supply reveals how poorly government regulators have been doing their job. It was biotech opponents, not the FDA, who discovered that Taco Bell brand taco shells -- made by Kraft and sold in grocery stores -- was contaminated with animal seed Cry9C corn, marketed by the French biotechnology company Aventis under the name StarLink. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved StarLink in 1998 for use in animal feed or non-food industrial purposes only.

Where does the American Medical Association Stand on Genetically Modified Food

When I talk about the giant Chemical Corporation and genetically modified food, the first response I get back from other people always centers on a similar comment. People say that doesn’t make sense? Why would the American Medical Association support a corporation that produces a product that could be potentially harmful to humans? Then I patiently… remind people of the support that both the doctors and American Medical Association sided completely with the Giant Tobacco Corporations. The Journal of the American Medical Association published it advertisements of the safety of smoking in the early 1930’s. In medical journals and in the popular media, one of the most infamous cigarette advertising slogans was associated with the Camel brand: "More doctor smoke Camels than any other cigarette." The campaign began in 1946 and ran for eight years in magazines and on the radio. They are still bills in the House and Senate today trying to pass stronger wording against tobacco. Tobacco Regulations

When I put in “American Medical Association and Monsanto” using Google search engine, the first 3 websites on American Medical Association and Monsanto are on Monsanto’s letterhead? After the first 3 website then came the flood of websites reporting negative information. I selected this video under the topic American Medical Association and Monsanto: Video.


It is up to each person to decide what side of the “Controversy” they support. It is mandatory that consumers have a good understanding of “both sides” of this controversy because over 60% of what you buy in the grocery store is genetically modified food and ends up on your dinner table. This new genetically modified organism in our food has not been tested on humans. It will take generations to determine which side of this controversy is right?

Deardra MacDonald

Press for full screen.


Marcia Stoffer said...

I am a LPN for 26 years and my concern on you article is as follows. Why and what kind of studies have been done and what effect will it have on our children, mental and physical health. It concerns me as the FDA will not approve new medication for use in this country without extensive study and testing so how can we demand the same for this destruction going on in our food chain.

jrietz said...

You did a lot of research and found a lot of information about modified food I was not aware of and now have concerns about.

Deardra MacDonald said...

Thanks Marcia, that is a great question a lot of people are asking. That is exactly why consumers are alarmed about genetically modified foods because there has been "NO" testing or research done on humans.

What consumers are doing about it is going on their search engines and putting, Consumers Demand Stop GMO Seeds. They will get hundreds of websites on consumer, activist, and farmer groups who are trying to do that right now. All across the country the Groups are rallying for no-GMO and demanding the "Labeling" of GMO foods! Bills have been brought before Congress to label GMO foods for years, but the vote from Republicans and Democrats have always been to veto labeling.

The only thing that consumers can do now is to join an activist group on one of the websites and sign petitions calling for labeling. The only other way is to call your Senators, Representatives, and the President. There are Worldwide movements that are demanding "Labeling" of all foods that are genetically modified. The giant Chemical Corporations knew if manufactures were given the choice, consumers would always choose Non-GMO foods.

Mary Ann Swisher said...

I think that the most serious threat to our future food supply is the loss of genetic diversity. As hunters and gatherers, our Stone Age ancestors had tamed and brought under cultivation all of our major food groups. Despite our advances in genetics and plant breeding, modern man has domesticated few major food crops. Today out of the thousands of plant foods once used, it common to see just 9 account for over 3/4 of the plant kingdom's contribution to human energy.

For more than 10,000 years farmers worked with nature to evolve thousands of crop varieties that suited a range of climates and cultures. These primitive land races exhibited a great deal of genetic variation. When pests and diseases struck, not every plant was destroyed. Genetic diversity is nature's sole insurance policy;it is not nature's way to allow large expanses of land to be planted to a single crop much less to a single variety of that crop.

Our global food supply is threatened by many factors, but perhaps the greatest threat to our agriculture comes from the replacement of traditional seeds and farming practices by modern, inbred monocultures and the advent of biotechnology and its as yet undreamed of improvements.

Fortunately in almost every country amateurs-small subsistence farmers and environmentalists- are conserving the seeds of literally thousand of varieties of fruits and vegetables unknown to their governments. In the US it is called the Seed Saver Exchange.

When land races grown for hundreds of thousands of years are replaced by hybrids and GMC foods, it might be considered progress. But replacement is another word for extinction. Land races that disappear are gone forever.

In today's climate we have another thing to think about: biological weapons would be very easy to use against agriculture. Can we afford to lose the diversity that might help us rebuild agriculture from the destruction of biological warfare?

My source for much of this information were the books Stolen Harvest; The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply by Vandana Shiva, and Shattering:Food, Politics, and the Loss of Genetic Diversity by Cary Fowler and Pat Mooney.

joel said...

Deardra said: An article by the Center for Research on Globalization Stated, “One of the great mysteries surrounding the spread of genetically modified plants around the world since the first commercial crops were released in the early 1990’s in the USA and Argentina has been the absence of independent scientific studies of possible long-term effects of a diet of GMO plants on humans or even rats.

Joel responds: It is virtually impossible for a chemical manufacturer to carry out tests without exposing itself to lawsuits from one direction or another. Conspiracy theorists decry the lack of human testing, but then cry foul when such tests are carried out. That's why corporations keep their testing secret when possible. There is a so-called expert ready to testify in court that they knowingly poisoned their customers. (Dow Chemical went bankrupt over silicone used in breast implants despite the fact that scientific studies showed no connection.) Conspiracy theorists raise suspicion by pointing out the lack of human studies. They fail to mention that such studies are in fact illegal. Here's a excerpt from http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jan2006/2006-01-25-05.asp

"In August 2005, Congress enacted a moratorium upon the EPA using human pesticide experiments until strict ethical standards were established. Senator Boxer championed the moratorium in the U.S. Senate. Rep. Solis pushed the moratorium through the U.S. House of Representatives. The law creating the moratorium passed overwhelmingly in the House and Senate with strong bipartisan support, which included conservative Republicans, who questioned the ethics of testing toxic chemicals on humans."

Ira Glickstein said...

Mary Ann says "I think that the most serious threat to our future food supply is the loss of genetic diversity..."

Can you think of anything more diverse than a genetically-modified tomato with flounder genes to make it less susceptable to freezing and thus extending the growing season?

You seem to think Nature has a plan, "Genetic diversity is nature's sole insurance policy;..."

As you point out, farmers have traditionally been breeding better adapted crop varieties by artifically selecting those with certain desirable traits and cross-breeding them with others with different good traits to get the best combinations of traits.

Have you considered the possibility that diversity-loving Nature realized that traditional cross-breeding only works for the same or closely-related species? So, Nature evolved humans, hoping that we would build laboratories and invent ways to cross-breed totally different species, such as flounders and tomatoes, to get the best traits of both?

Or that we would solve the Malthusian dilemma (populations increase geometrically while food production grows linearly) by inventing GMO foods that increase yields geometrically while reducing costs? In the olden days farmers had to apply pesticides while crops were growing to kill the seemingly inevitable weeds. That was very labor-intensive and exposed consumers to foods that had been sprayed with toxins and so had toxic residues.

With GMO, the farmer applies a herbicide that kills all the weeds before planting the crop. The food crop itself generates insect-specific toxins to protect itself and obviate any need to spray the growing food.

Going back to old-fashioned methods would lead to widespread famine. It would condemn more of us to backbreaking farm work that would reduce our steadily improving standards of living, worldwide. People are living longer (and larger) all the time, thanks, in part, to GMO.

Don't kill the goose that laid the golden egg. GMO development is largely an American industry that creates lots of well-paying jobs for scientists and technicians and others right here in the USA.

Do you think these people are out to kill themselves and their children and grandchildren? Or that Monsanto and other big agrobusinesses are unaware of the first rule of successful business:
Do not kill your customers!

Ira Glickstein

Deardra MacDonald said...

Jrietz, Thanks for acknowledging the amount of research that went into this topic. My research was taken from Universities, Independent Research Centers, US Government Involvement and other Countries. The following countries have banned or restricted the import, sale, utilization, field trials and commercial planting of GMO's:

Africa: Algeria, Egypt

Asia: Sri Lanka, Thailand, China, Japan, Philippines

Europe: The European Union, Norway, Germany,
United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Greece,
France, Luxembourg, Portugal

Latin America: Brazil, Paraguay

Middle East: Saudi Arabia

In the United States all GMO plants have been approved by the FDA with the support from the "Revolving Door Policy". Also, US manufactures are not allowed to identify or label a GMO ingredient in their food product. The Independent Research done by countries is alarming, and has caused them to ban or restrict imports of GMOs.

Deardra MacDonald said...

Joel said: It is virtually impossible for a chemical manufacturer to carry out test without exposing itself to lawsuits from one direction or another.

Deardra responds: Consumers believed that FDA approval of genetically modified foods went through rigorous, in-depth, long-term studies. In reality the FDA agency has absolutely no safety testing requirements. Instead the agency relies on research from companies like Monsanto, research that is meticulously designed to avoid finding problems.

Awareness of FDA's policy on testing is now being brought to light! The FDA appointed officials from 1989 to 2010 have been former employees of Monsanto. Michael R. Taylor was appointed Deputy Commissioner of Foods for the FDA in January 2010, Michael R. Taylor was a former Vice President for Monsanto. To get the full list of people appointed to FDA, check under "Revolving Door Policy" and "Monsanto's High Level Connections"

Mary Ann said...

Yes, Ira I agree that a GM tomato as you described is diverse as are many new fruits and vegetables.However these transgenic foods are being produced by factory farms.Industrial agriculture promotes the use of uniform crops because of its need for centralized control over the production and distribution of food and this leads to monopolies. Monopolies increase the cost of farming when royalties must be paid on the gene patents,seeds must be purchased every year,unintended cross pollination damages other crops and perhaps climate changes or evolution of resistant insect pests reduce the advantage of the modified food. The US may be profiting from agribusiness, but it has been very detrimental to third world countries. Do we have any ethical responsibilities here?

Why are we subsidizing our farmers if these agribusinesses are so profitable? Europe will not import any of our GM foods. We could get a higher price for our exports if they were organic.

joel said...

Happily, science is beginning to prevail over the scare tactics of social activists and the Green Party in Europe.

From Der Spiegel International Edition

"Genetically modified (GM) plants have always been a hot-potato issue in Europe. And it's about to get hotter. On Tuesday, the European Commission gave the green light to the cultivation of a genetically modified potato for industrial and feed uses. It also approved three varieties of GM corn made by the American biotech firm Monsanto for sale, but not cultivation, within the European Union."

The EU doesn't view the products as dangerous to human health or the environment. At a news conference held Tuesday, EU Public Health Commissioner John Dalli said: "Responsible innovation will be my guiding principle when dealing with innovation technologies. All scientific issues, particularly those concerning safety, (have) been fully addressed."

see http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,681507,00.html

dwinmac said...

Taking the uninformed and simplistic approach, there appears to be three issues here:
1. Who gets to control the plants of the world
2. The effect that Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) will have on the environment
3. Whether GMO is unsafe and unwanted

It is reasonable to allow corporations to profit from their research and development. The jury seems to be out on the advantages and/or disadvantages of genetically modified food. When it comes to what we eat however, in my mind no one entity should be allowed total control of the product; and, maximum testing and monitoring is essential to ensure the safety of the food.

So, what needs to be done? Laws can be established to prevent monopolies on control of plant seeds. From what I can tell GMO has progressed too far already and is too widely distributed around the world to stop it. What we can do, relative to GMO, is establish laws that provide transparently testing, monitoring and enforcing (costly person power) the GMO processes being used around the world.

To establish these laws in the U.S. you will need 218 representatives and 51 senators and one president to agree (290 reps and 67 senators to override veto). Roughly, you will need approximately ½ of ½ of the voter eligible population of around 220,000,000 to get enough politicians elected to pass the laws. So, that means convincing around 55,000,000 voters (2/3 of ½ to override veto equals around 74,000,000 voters).

Deardra MacDonald said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deardra MacDonald said...

Ira you said, "that farmers that have traditionally been breeding better adapted crop varieties by working with “Nature” and artificially selecting those with certain desirable traits and cross-breeding them with others with different good traits to get the best combinations of traits". 

Note: All countries did this because farmers knew certain seeds worked better in their soil, environment and climates…(Hugh diversity of seeds)

All of the thousands plus seeds that farmers working with “Nature” that have been diversified over 10,000 years, are not available or are extinct! Today in 2011, if a farmer plants his own variety of organic corn seed there is always the possibility of contamination from neighboring GMO seeds through pollination, birds, wind and rain worldwide. 
And farmers right now are losing their “Organic” Certification, plus they are being fined and have to sign the contract with Monsanto to sell their contaminated GMO corn.

I called several Organic Grain Suppliers and asked them about their organic corn seed. In talking to one Organic Seed Representative I was surprised what he said. He said that so much contamination has taken place “worldwide” by genetically modified seeds through pollination, birds, wind and rain that no one can say their seed is 100% organic. Organic farmers are trying their best to test their seeds but contamination happens… 

Again, small to medium size farmers trying to compete with Monsanto is impossible. Note: Monsanto has the right to “choose” what type of seeds they genetically modify and sell that "same" seed all over the world. Monsanto scientists are now determining what GMO seeds they will sell. With GMO seeds they cannot be replanted the following year, farmer must by new GMO corn every year. GMO corn seed is nicknamed “Terminator Seed” (With no diversity!) 

The lack of “Nature’s” diversified seed was a major factor in Ireland's biggest catastrophe, the Irish Potato Famine. Ireland had hundred's of potato varieties and types. Ireland’s farmers choose to plant only "one" variety of potato and that “one” type of potato became susceptible to the blight. And had a wider diversity of potato crops been grown in Ireland, the failure of that “one” potato crop would have been far less devastating. 

The Giant Chemical Seed Corporations have chosen a limited diversity of seed types to be genetically modified. Think about it, if one of the seeds became susceptible to blight, we will ALL be in trouble. (!) Farmers who are trying to save their re-plantable seeds are protesting, rallying and signing petitions that are sent to FDA, Senator, Representatives and the President. (We need diversity.) I would like someone to show me the exact type or variety of GMO corn seed that is being used to "thrive" in vastly different soils around the world?

Ira Glickstein said...

Deardra: As you point out. the Irish Potato famine occurred well before genetic modification was even thought of. And, it occurred because their potato crop was susceptable to a disease "bug" called Alternaria solani. The disease spread from place to place in Europe over a number of years and caused the Great Famine in Ireland due to their heavy dependence upon their potato crop.

If something like that happened today, it would start in one area of one country and, before it could spread too far, the genetic engineers would create a resistant strain of potato or corn or whatever crop was affected. That would most likely short-circuit spread of the disease causing the problem. With new, resistant GMO seeds, the disease would be stopped in its tracks.

Ira Glickstein

Mary Ann said...

More GM/Monsanto controversy in the article "Mysterious Plant Disease Raises Questions on Modified Crops" in the April 10 Daily Sun, p.A19.

Ira Glickstein said...

Thanks Mary Ann for bringing up that GM/Monsanto controversy article on "Mysterious Plant Disease Raises Questions on Modified Crops" in today's paper. (For TVPClub readers who do not get the "Daily Sun" (our paper in The Villages area), here is a link to the story http://articles.latimes.com/2011/apr/02/business/la-fi-gmo-mystery-20110402

Although skimming the story may support alarm about GMO, a detailed reading dispells any concern.

Paragraph #3: " Scientists, who first spotted the disease in Arkansas in 1971 — more than 20 years before Monsanto introduced its Roundup Ready soybeans in the U.S. — blame damp weather and a fungus that rots the plant roots." Nothing new, "sudden death syndrome" is well known and predates GMO by two decades.

Don M. Huber, 76, the emeritus prof who is the source of the claim of GMO responsibility, has refused to make public any evidence of his claims.

Paragraph #8: "'This organism appears NEW to science!' Huber wrote ..."[upper case and exclamation in original].

Not only may it be linked to "sudden death syndrome" in soybeans, but it may also be linked to infertility in livestock, according to Huber (but not to any infertility in Huber's family that consists of 11 children and 36 grandchildren :^).

The remainder of the story tells how experts from the Agriculture Department and even his own college and professional society are distancing themselves from his wild and unsubstantiated claims.

But, you can read the story for yourselves - all the way through as I did - and make up your own minds.

Ira Glickstein

joel said...

I read the reference that Ira posted. Thanks, Ira. I have 4 more years and then I'll probably be as nutty and publicity hungry as Professor Huber.

In the same article it said, "To the organic farming industry, the fear is one of possible contamination, in the form of seeds or pollen from genetically engineered crops being picked up by the wind, bees or birds and falling onto nearby organic fields. Such contamination can be devastating to organic farmers, cheese makers and dairy producers, who say even the smallest presence of genetically engineered seed can result in domestic retailers and overseas buyers refusing to buy their products."

I find it ironic that the "organic" food industry is being killed by the very same stringency that it used to corner the niche market with irrational propaganda concerning the unproven benefits of "organic" foods.

By the way, the Great Potato Famine was aggravated by the fact that the farmers saved contaminated seed potatoes from the previous year. If only Monsanto had been around to sell them fresh seed! The bacteria P. infestans is still a difficult disease to control today by ordinary methods.

Bernie said...

Thanks for presenting the GM story at the Philosophy Club meeting. You got me engaged to look closer at the issues.
One argument for not needing Roundup ready alfalfa is that alfalfa is a dense crop that naturally suppresses weeds. However insects are very major cause of alfalfa damage. Most farms control insect damage by application of insecticides. The animal eats the alfalfa that has been treated with the insecticide. Has the USDA or FDA run extensive long term analysis on this long standing process?
I have yet to find any meaningful science based argument for which of the following is worse for humans, animals and the environment:
1) The use of non GE crops (including hybrids) that require treatment with a cocktail of herbicides and insecticides or
2) GE crop that apparently contain a resistance to insects and are not affected by a specific herbicide (Roundup).
3) Organic crops that appear to be eco friendly but usually cost more to the consumer and may not be capable of feeding mass populations.
Any very large scale single source creates very large scale risks. I think competition, multiple farming methods and multiple seed types and sources is a less risky approach and probable more economical.
One thing I learned early in my country life was if the worm liked an apple, the apple was probably not treated with chemicals. If you are given a choice between an “organically grown” apple with a worm or a nicely waxed and artificially color apple that is twice the size, which would you choose? The only person I ever saw that chooses the apple with a worm in it is the person that grows the apples.
Our food sources and process will continue to evolve and it looks like the FDA and USDA as well as a large part of the rest of the world is willing to do it by trial and error or large scale experimentation.

Ira Glickstein said...

Bernie, I think you are correct.

Most consumers would rather have an apple without any worms in it. Most people would lke to have grains without any insecticide on it. Most people would like food to be plentiful and at a reasonable cost.

Organic produce is grown without any insecticide, and with manual picking of weeds, both very labor-intensive, which is why it is so expensive.

Yes, the biggest selling point of organic produce is that it is insecticide-free. Well, in that regard, GMO crops are equal to organic, and way ahead of most commercial crops.

Ira Glickstein

Deardra MacDonald said...

Ira, Joel,and Bernie, Thank you for your comments on how you see the advantages of GMO. I am trying to understand both sides of this controversy.

I would like to hear your position on the gene/DNA transfer of bacillus thuringiensis, a soil dwelling bacterium, that is transfered into genetically modified seeds. This same soil dwelling bacterium that kills the insects also goes into our stomachs. Would you please comment on the gene/DNA effect this could have on humans.

We have had "only" two tiny decades of human consumption of soil dwelling bacterium that kills insects. Look at how many decades it took before they said smoking was hazardous to your health. The first American cigarette factory opened in 1864.

Howard Pattee said...

You mention gene/DNA transfer of bacillus thuringiensis, and would like a comment on the effects gene/DNA transfers could have on humans. I think you are hoping that someone can tell you if GM products are safe in the long run. In the short run, the evidence is that GM foods are safe and beneficial. Unfortunately, no one is able to say much about the safety of any genetic effects of any food or product in the long run. That is called evolution and it is unpredictable.

There are something like 500 to 1000 species of bacteria living in the human gut and a roughly similar number on the skin. Bacterial cells are much smaller than human cells, and there are at least ten times as many bacteria as human cells in the body. See the Human Microbiome Project. This community of organisms is constantly mutating and exchanging DNA in ways we do not understand and could not follow in detail even if we did. As you know, even for a few known pathogens, antibiotic design is not keeping up with bacterial adaptation.

Safety is a relative concept, and I think it is futile to focus on one potential threat to the exclusion of all the others. In other words, the current evidence is that heart disease, cancer, traffic accidents, or radiation will probably get you before GM foods. In other parts of the world, starvation is the greatest threat.

P.S. This has nothing to do with whether Monsanto’s virtual monopoly is good for society.

Deardra MacDonald said...

Howard, Thank you for your excellent comment on gene/DNA and genetically modified foods. Yes, you are correct in saying that I am hoping someone can say it will be safe in the long run. By doing all the research on the potential harm it "could" have on humans and the environment in the long run, I now have a cautious eye when I look at genetically modified foods.

I especially like the information you gave me on the Human Microbiome Project. I will be reading and watching for new article they publish. I will also do more research on the Human Genome Project and why they are saying that Human Microbiome Project is a logical conception and experimental extension of the Human Genome Project.

Yes, I also agree that it is futile to focus on one potential threat to the exclusion of all the others. All I am trying to do is become aware of the GMO controversy, because only the "future" knows what significant effects genetically modified seeds will have.

Thank you, Howard for answering my question.


Deardra MacDonald said...

Ira and Joel, Thank you for your comments, but Howard has given me the information I needed to help me understand both sides of the controversy. Howard said, “Unfortunately, no one is able to say much about the safety of any genetic effects of any food or product in “the long run”. That is called evolution and it is unpredictable”. Today no one can say it is safe or harmful, only time will let us know the truth. As Einstein said when he was told that he had discovered the truth about… , he responded, by saying something like I discovered the truth for today only, because we don’t know who will discover the real truth tomorrow.

So, Ira and Joel, I thought you would enjoy the following speech given by a doctor on food. The doctor was addressing a large audience in Oxford:
The doctor said, "The material we put into our stomachs should have killed most of us sitting here, years ago.

Red meat is full of steroids and dye. Soft drinks corrode your stomach lining. Chinese food is loaded with MSG. High transfat diets can be disastrous and none of you realize the long-term harm caused by the germs in our drinking water. But, there is one thing that is the most dangerous of all and most of us have, or will eat it.

Can anyone tell me what food it is that causes the most grief and suffering for years after eating it?"

After several seconds of quiet, a 70 year old man in the front row raised his hand, and softly said . . . . "Wedding Cake."