The Story of Genetically Modified Food, And Why It Scared Me Less Til This Post
It’s Friday, and that means it’s time to get down and dirty about your physical health. No, I don’t mean graphic. 😉
I just mean we’ll occasionally cover some “politicized” topics that really don’t need to be. Like food. I’m an American. I love food. I grew up on burgers, french fries, and bratwurst. Steak. Potatoes. Corn on the cob. Store-bought bread made in a factory.
And since we didn’t have a ton of money, ramen soup with canned veggies.
You know, the good things in life.
I had no idea that thanks to food scientists, what I ate changed more rapidly than at any other period in agricultural history.
I didn’t have a clue genetics existed til high school, much less that my corn on the cob expressed bacteria protein that’s poisonous to insects. How is this a great idea for a human food item? I’ll let you decide.
Now, anyone who mentions GMO starts a word war. GMO foods are fine. They’re not. They make everyone sick. They don’t.
What’s Really In Our Food?
Any Princess Bride fans in the room?
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
GMO stands for, of course, genetically modified organism food. Yes, it sounds like something out of science fiction. No, it’s not fiction.
Defining it, on the other hand, varies by country of origin and requires no labeling system. In other words, you can’t always tell what you’re getting, unless you do heavy research into both labeling concepts. In that sense, we ARE sold quite a bit of fiction.
In the United States, GMO the short version is “those in which “the genetic material (“DNA”) has been altered in such a way that does not occur naturally.”
Often, it’s modified to more effectively resist some sort of disease or native plant pest. Agriculturally-desirable traits.
So, the general public, in my experience, is of two minds about GMO food.
Eat ALL The Food!
It’s food, so why not eat it? After all, these folks reason, I’m not sick, so it’s not a problem.
GMO foods are technically digestible by humans. So are packing peanuts.
I don’t habitually eat packing peanuts.
Let’s take a look at another common thing. Plastic. Plastic is everywhere. It’s in everything from the computer I’m typing this on to that red solo cup you used at last week’s party. I have an aunt who can only use one type of plastic, and then only rarely or she becomes very, VERY ill.
Most people don’t get ill around plastics. She does.
So, yes, it’s probably there’s a segment of the population that are completely fine eating GMO foods. I won’t argue with that.
The Agricultural/Digestive Problem
The second point those in favor of eating GMO food point to is humans have been genetically modifying food since agriculture started.
Perhaps, though I quibble with the reasoning applied.
When we apply inductive reasoning, we must choose take our premises and create our conclusion from them. So, the reasoning applied by most folks I encounter goes like this.
Take two foods, broccoli and corn, and because they are genetically different from the original, wild cabbage and wild strawberries. Thus, they both seem like genetically modified food.
Except, by definition, they can’t be. Broccoli never had anything that wasn’t genetically foreign intorduced to the wild cabbage to it.
The big difference exists in the how.
To take wild cabbage to broccoli, ancient Roman farmers had to apply the laws of nature in their agriculture and cultivation. They could not introduce genetic material that was inherently separate from the wild cabbage. They could only selectively breed the cabbage for the qualities that would eventually become broccoli.
Also, this process took at least a few centuries. Each generation of humans grew accustomed to a different and new type of cabbage, and likely adapted digestively to it. As the cabbage evolved, so did the humans.
Such evolution cannot happen to a species in a year. Nor can the process used to create broccoli ever introduce genetic material that is not native to the parent species of plant.
So Don’t EVER Eat Them!
Hmm… I suppose you could say never eat GMO foods.
You’d probably leave yourself in quite the quandary depending on your place of residence, though. Additionally, GMO is not all bad. It is possible to use genetic modification to alter a food crop to be MORE suitable to the human digestive system, and to human dietary needs. This happened with a crop called Golden Rice, though I don’t know that you’ll find it in the United States.
I believe there was a similar variety of potato.
The point is, genetic modification of a food crop is neither inherently good nor inherently evil.
It is a tool. Like any tool, it has proper applications and improper applications. Unfortunately, I’m not certain we’ve figured out which is which yet. Until we do, I believe I shall stay cautious, and do my best to keep informed, rather than innundated.
What came up in this post that you hadn’t thought of? What did you know of GMO food before, and how did that factor into your grocery shopping decisions? What are your views on whether GMO foods affect your health or not?