Genetically modified organisms (GMO) have been produced for more than 50 years with one goal: improving the original organism. Commercial sales of genetically modified foods began in 1994, when Calgene tried to market Flavr Savr delayed-ripening tomatoes.
Wikipedia says, “Human-directed genetic manipulation of food began with the domestication of plants and animals through artificial selection at about 10,500 to 10,100 BC.” Manipulation in the lab, though, was a late twentieth century advancement that caused scientific Luddites hearts to go atwitter. The long, slow process of selective breeding of plants or animals was judged to be safe. Doing it quickly through genetic manipulation brought the Promethean works of Mary Shelley to mind. Or maybe Mel Brooks might be a better comparison. His ‘Young Frankenstein’ movie is a better fit to the current debate than her two hundred-year-old serious novel about Dr. Frankenstein.
Frankenfoods, the name cheerfully donated to GMO foods by groups like Food and Water Watch, are designed to create fear first, leaving scientific consensus awash in that settling pond just behind the feed lot. F&WW Executive Director Wenonah Hauter – or whoever first started using the too cutesy descriptor – should have read Shelley’s book first, and gotten the literary illusion right.
In the novel, the monster has no name. It’s identified as "wretch," "creature," "monster," "demon," and "it." Speaking to Victor Frankenstein, its creator, the wretch refers to himself as "the Adam of your labours" and as "your fallen angel."
In other words, a noble experiment gone grotesquely wrong which would make the slurs and slanders of the anti-GMO ravers ridiculously wrong, as silly as the broadest slapstick jokes in Brooks’ movie. F&WW and other like-minded groups would have you fear your GMO food.
From Young Frankenstein: “You haven’t even touched your food.” — Ina
“There. Now I’ve touched it. Happy?” — Dr. Frankenstein, after slapping the food.
It would be difficult to touch non-GMO food. Ninety percent of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States start with GMO seeds, according to the Center for Food Safety. But with billions upon billions of GMO laden meals served during the last two decades with absolutely no known illness or inadvertently ‘genetically modified human’ linked to them, why should you even consider trying?
There are fear-mongering peddlers who want to help “protect you and your family from the hidden dangers of GMO foods.” Dig a little deeper and you’ll find they have a lot of stuff and nonsense to sell you at a hefty price. You can find them on late night infomercials or the muddy, murky dark corners of the internet.
Their pseudo-science is an oddly cobbled together amalgamation of near truths, half-truths and untruths cleverly cobbled together to lure the gullible into their web. It’s pop science vs real science and all too often, ‘pop’ wins.
Seeds are genetically modified to improve insect resistance, reduce the risk of crop failure, and make crops resistant to extreme weather. Modified seeds can also produce foods with a longer shelf life that grow using less chemical input, reduce environmental pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and soil erosion.
The Food and Agricultural Organization says vitamin A-enhanced rice, "golden rice," is reducing global vitamin A deficiencies. Scientists are “pharming” by engineering plants to produce vaccines, proteins, and other pharmaceutical goods. It’s a short cut to what has been done for centuries; tear apart a plant to see if there is anything in its makeup that could be the next acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin). The twenty-first century pharmer can simply use a GM plant to produce the chemicals that are needed.
Of course, the creatively cautious will always find a few reasons to doubt the future of GMOs. Some point to a recent increase in childhood allergies and suggest it was caused by GMO food, an extremely shaky supposition. Others suggest GMOs might cause damage to the immune system or human organs, but no credible studies have proven any such links.
Let me suggest something. In the early days of electricity, some folks feared the electrons could leak into a room and create all kinds of mayhem. When microwave ovens were first introduced, there was great fear that those strange and bizarre waves might disrupt the chemical makeup of food and create unknown but poisonous substances. Small fortunes were made in selling little gizmos that supposedly could detect renegade microwaves that escaped the new-fangled contraption before they could ‘fry yore innards.’
It’s time to stop fearing progress.