By Darin Osborne
One may assume (incorrectly) since Libertarians are concerned with limited government the response toward GMOs should be that of little to no regulations. But remember, TRUE Libertarianism is concerned most with individual liberty ( not corporation freedom) and the Constitution. The US Constitution does allow for the government to regulate commerce (see Article I, Section 8, Clause 3).I believe it is the duty of our government to oversee the nation’s food supply and to make certain it is safe for the long-term health of its citizens.
Now, whether you believe our government is capable of such a responsibility is a debate for another day. However, the point is that the US Constitution does allow, under the Commerce Clause, the government to regulate commerce.
So, with all that said, I must answer the question if GMOs are safe to eat. Surely a biotech company would not place profits over lives. Greed is the cause of all sorts of evil and when large amounts of profits are to be made then; knowing basic human nature, safety can and will be ignored. One need only to research “profits over lives” to understand that corporations have repeatedly sold products that were unsafe in order to boost the bottom line.
So again, are GMOs safe to eat? Maybe they are, maybe they are not. With the Monsanto Protection Bill recently passed by Congress we may never know. This law forbids any legal challenges to Monsanto’s, or any other biotech company, products which include GMOs and genetically engineered (GE) seeds. For a profit-driven company to be given immunity to costly law suits is quite disturbing to me. The only thing that keeps most large companies in check is the fear of a profit-draining legal battle. Now, Monsanto, thanks to our friends in Congress, no longer has to worry itself with that.
Monsanto’s legal protection is truly ironic when one considers how often Monsanto takes small farmers to court!
Monsanto and other food conglomerate have fought measures to label ingredients that specify GMOs and GEs. Organic foods have rigorous criteria for labeling. Why do these companies not want the public to know if the food they are consuming have been concocted in a lab?
Small farmers are burdened with mounds of government red tape. They cannot even think about selling raw milk or other “natural” foods without threat of jail time. Yet, large corporations can experiment with our food with impunity!
No, I do not desire to ruin Monsanto or any other company. Profit can be a powerful motivator for advances in technology and the progress of our way of life. And I am not calling for the end of research into ways we can increase our food supply.
I am asking for a few reasonable provisions that will empower consumers and provide a check on corporate greed:
- Independent research on the long-term effects of all GMOs and GEs. Much of the research now is paid for, either directly or indirectly, by the food conglomerates.
- The labeling of GMOs and GEs. I have a right to know what I am putting in my body!
- The right for responsible litigation against biotech companies.
- The right for consumers to purchase raw and natural products (if properly labeled) if they so choose.
- Get Monsanto out of the back pockets of Congress and other government officials. I know this is truly a pipe dream but I can hope, can’t I?
Can we truly trust the company that gave us Agent Orange, DDT, PCB and numerous Superfund sites? Maybe. Remember many of these products Monsanto produce were, at one time, deemed safe only to later be exposed as hazardous.
All I am asking for is for individual consumers to have the right to know what is in the foods we consume. I encourage everyone to educate yourselves from a variety of sources concerning Big Business’s takeover of our food supply.
Documentaries to watch:
– “Food, Inc.” ~ If you only have time for one this is it.
– “King Corn”
– “Fast Food Nation”
– “Future of Food”
For further research on Monsanto:
From One GMO to Another
By David Allen
If we all really think about it long and hard, most of the best things in our life are the result of genetic modification. Our very existence is the result of our parents engaging in voluntary genetic modification, and, if we are parents, we underwent the same modification in producing those greatest blessings in our lives – our own children. Your breed of pet dog and cat, and heck, even your goldfish are probably the result of centuries of human-planned genetic manipulation (unless you actually think there are herds of dachsunds running wild through the woods that pet shops round up for sale). Open your window and enjoy the scent of flowers in the yard. Watch the bees engage in genetic modification before your very eyes as they drag pollen from plant to plant. Chances are that the special rose bush in your yard is the result of years of intentional genetic manipulation also, to produce just the right color. So, I ask you, what is wrong with genetic modification? Seems pretty nice to me. Why do we not mind manipulating animals and plants to produce desired looks and uses, but we balk at producing genetically manipulated plants and animals for food? Is it really a moral stance on genetic manipulation in general, or are we just paranoid about what goes in our American mouths? We have been manipulating desired traits in pets and livestock, flowers, vegetables, and fruit for centuries. Why the outrage now?
To be fair, there are two types of genetically modified organisms – those produced “naturally” through sex and pollination (“passing down” genes or vertical gene transfer through the same species), and those produced by the “horizontal” transfer of genes from one species to another species. Horizontal gene transfer can be simply described as having a storage container for cassette tapes (the body) and the different genes would be the cassette tapes, which can be plugged in and out of different slots in the container. Many people think that horizontal gene transfer always occurs “unnaturally” in a laboratory, but bacteria and viruses undergo horizontal gene transfer all the time. It is their main means of genetic transfer.
It is the “gmo” produced by man-induced horizontal gene transfer in the laboratory that is the center of controversy today. Starting with the “Flavor Saver” tomato in the mid-90s, the genetically modified food industry has grown dramatically in size, in an effort to produce foods that stay fresher longer, have higher yields, and are more disease resistant. There is concern by many that man-made gmos must be harmful to the human body, and even the environment. They object to horizontal gene transfer by different species, such as mice, pigs, fish, and plants in an effort to isolate desirable qualities in one species to bolster another species. They claim that this horizontal gene transfer may inadvertently produce “bad” protiens in food, which, when consumed by humans, may produce new allergies and toxins. There are those that think that gmos in food should be banned outright, even though they have been in active use for twenty years. Others, acknowledging that gmos are here to stay, advocate putting “warning” labels on food to better educate consumers on their choices. Numerous studies have been done on both sides, each claiming “proof” that the other side is wrong. An entire industry, organic foods, has blossomed in the last 20 years as a “healthy and safe” alternative to gmos and “Big Food” companies like Monsanto. But, at the end of the day, when you quiet all of the talk, and take away all the smoke and mirrors, two facts remain:
1. There is no conclusive, long-term evidence that foods using gmos are harmful to humans. (Sorry, lab mice in Russia dying “prematurely” don’t count.)
2. There is no conclusive, long-term evidence that “organic foods” are any more beneficial to humans than any other foods, including those using gmos.
Nevertheless, advocates want a “gmo” label placed on genetically modified food. What that label is supposed to mean to the average joe in the grocery store they can’t say (and they certainly can’t prove). The desired effect is for the average joe to run screaming out of the grocery store and into the arms of the “mom and pop” organic farms, the only “healthy and safe” alternative to the “Big Food” industry. Let us indulge in a little economics lesson for a moment. When you are trying to develop an alternative product in an already established industry, (i.e. organic food vs. processed food, green energy vs. oil / gas, etc.), you must, of course, come up with a way of convincing others that your product is better than the establishment. Unfortunately, this strategy often involves demonizing the establishment, rather than promoting the actual effectiveness of the new product. The establishment soon acquires the adjective “big”, as in “Big Food”, “Big Oil”, etc., etc., etc. After all, emotion sells, and we Americans apparently get upset about the word “big”. So the organic food industry has successfully captured a paranoid group of people as its customer base. And when you have a captive audience, you can basically do what you want. The “big” thing I have noticed about organic food products are the prices. In some cases, they are almost double what non-organic grocery store products are. I don’t ever remember prices for heirloom vegetables, “Better Boy” tomatoes, “Silver Queen” corn, etc. being that high in price when I was younger. But again, the organic food industry knows that they have a captive audience, desperate to avoid gmos, so they can charge what they want. Sounds kind of “Big Foodish” to me.
And speaking of produce like Better Boy tomatoes and Silver Queen corn, surely we all know that these particular plant types were genetically manipulated over thousands of years to achieve desirable traits. Go back several hundred years, and people would not recognize what we call “heirloom” today. Go back even farther than that, and we would not recognize the parent plants of the vegetables and fruits that we know and love today. The organics always bill themselves as “natural” and “pure”, but they are simply selling “man-made” products that have been intentionally genetically manipulated over the centuries. The main difference between the gene transfer of cross pollination in the field and gene transfer in the laboratory is that gene transfer in the laboratory can more quickly and effectively isolate the desired genetic traits, without the time-consuming trial and error of cross pollination in the field. Certainly, dangerous combintations of molecules and genes can be produced in the laboratory, but the same potentially dangerous molecular alterations can be produced “naturally” through cross pollination in the field. An estimated 12 million Americans suffer from food allergies each year, from non-gmo food.
Now, I can understand if someone out there objects to horizontal gene transfer on religious grounds. To them, it is uncomfortable to trade out genes of mice with genes of pigs, genes of plants with genes of fish. Okay, I will spot you that one. But to the ardent evolutionists out there, with no religious shackles, aren’t gmo products a good thing? After all, if humans are truly the product of millions of years of both vertical and horizontal gene transfer, then what is wrong with recombining life forms today to make superior products? There are some that would argue that horizontal gene transfer is the mechanism that made evolution possible in the first place. So, if it got us here, then who are we not to continue the process?
Hey farmer, farmer, put away your DDT, I don’t care about spots on my apples, Leave me the birds and the bees. Please – “Big Yellow Taxi” by the Counting Crows
We did indeed put away our DDT, but not before it demonstrated its incredible effectiveness in saving millions of lives by eradicating disease-harboring insects in Asia, Africa, and Europe after World War II. Along comes Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 to tell us that DDT and other insecticides cause cancer, make bird eggs soft, and harm ocean life. Good literature usually does not make good science, but like anti-gmo writings today, good literature does tug on heart strings. Readers of Silent Spring raised such an outcry that DDT was banned – everywhere. As a result, an estimated 50 million Africans have since died from malaria produced by mosquitoes which could have been controlled by DDT application. Also since the ban, Carson’s assertions in her book have been scientifically invalidated, but the damage has already been done. When Americans think of DDT, they instantly think of polluted creeks and soft Eagle eggs; they don’t think about people lying on cots in Africa, dying of malaria. Africans don’t care about spots on their apples either, they would just like to reach the age of 40 and not die of disease. Africans certainly don’t care if a “gmo” label is on their food either, they would just like enough to eat.
With scientific breakthroughs in food production and medicine in the last 50 years, Americans have become fat and spoiled, and apparently have the luxury of deciding what they want to be outraged about. They live in an isolated world, with their Sunday morning newspaper, their Starbucks coffee, and their casual walk to the local farmer’s market. Part of the “good science” of the last 50 years was the so-called “Green Revolution”, which, through a combination of distributing higher-yield, disease resistant seed and application of man-made fertilizers and insecticides, is credited with saving the lives of about a billion people from starvation worldwide. I believe that “gmo” products are just another chapter in the effort to build upon the success of the Green Revolution. Really, folks, let’s not have another Silent Spring episode. If you have religious problems with genetically modified food, then fine. Just don’t thrust your fears on a very hungry world.