Friday, April 5, 2013

The Jurassic Park of crops?

Many people have put a negative label on Genetically Modified (GM) foods, but are they dangerous or is it simply a case of "good" science?

I saw this Bill Nye video and loved it! If you're unsure of the benefits and risks of GM foods, this is a great general way to become informed. 

Part of it reminded me of a movie ... when you combine genes from different organisms, and then you allow them space on the earth in which to live... But there was a key line there: "Life will find a way." And that movie was Jurassic Park.

How is it possible for scientists to predict what these new species will do in our environment? How will they effect the ecosystems? Nye makes a good point when he talks about the insects and bats and how a chain reaction starting from our crops could potentially make our situation worse. In his hypothetical example, this chain reaction results in mosquito populations not being controlled by the bats that eat them, and therefore we have more West Nile virus floating around biting us in the ass - literally!

One scientist explains how they're making crops that are resistant to specific strains of bacteria... kind of like an antibiotic? But we know that antibiotic use in humans depletes our "good" protective bacteria and that it also leaves us less resistant to other strains. For example, using an antibiotic such as Clindamycin or Ampicillin leaves you more vulnerable to a C. difficile infection. So how does that translate to plants? In time, will different species of bacteria change and mutate in order to "infect" these new plants that we've created? Who knows?!

What's scary is that these crops are patented and owned by very few companies, the major one being Monsanto, owning over 80% of these crop patents. Is anyone else worried about this monopoly on our food sources? The power they hold is scary, especially when they also have ground within the FDA.

I mean, if we're left to put all of our trust in the government and the FDA, why do we still see aspartame, MSG, BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) in our products, in our grocery stores, in plain sight? Are they really looking out for us, or just for their best interests and that of the "economy."

This might be extreme, but it reminds me of the Erin Brockovitch story. How companies are turning a blind eye when it comes to health hazards and they continuously pump out these chemicals in our everyday products. My sister bought a couch a few weeks ago and woke up with a bleeding nose just from the chemicals they used on the fabric. (Thankfully she sent it back!).

It's scary what we do to save money while increasing product volume. If you're interested in reading more about the history of chemical companies (in a condensed version), I highly recommend "Slow Death by Rubber Duck" by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie.

It's a fantastic book on two guys who experiment with everyday items containing harmful chemicals as well as the history of real "Erin Brockovich" stories involving companies like DuPont. Did I mention that DuPont and Monsanto are in business together?

The great thing about the Bill Nye video and about Smith and Lourie's book is that they don't just tell the "bad" side about these technologies, but also the part they play in our world and in society.

So read up, or watch Bill Nye's video and decide for yourself.