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Jan 8, 2012 10:27 PM

What's so bad about genetically modified foods?

The resurrection of a mammoth canola oil thread has brought this question to my mind. In that thread, people distrust the safety of canola oil because it comes from a genetically modified plant. I don't understand why people have such a negative reaction when the subject of GMOs is brought up. Doesn't everything we eat come from GMOs? In the modern day fruits are sweeter, vegetables larger, animals more docile, and foodstuffs of all kinds are cheaper than they ever have been thanks to increased productivity from selective breeding.

Speaking as a non-scientist and non-farmer, it seems the only difference between doing these manipulations in the barnyard, the greenhouse, the orchard, or the test tube is the level of precision and speed involved. When Europeans first landed in the Americas, an ear of maize was the size of your little finger. It took thousands of years of laborious selective planting for that finger-sized ear to turn into today's high-yield sweet corn. You think if those early farmers had access to modern agricultural GM technology, that they wouldn't have used it without a second thought? Bring on the modern GMOs I say. How else are we going to feed everyone on this overcrowded little dirt ball.

So for those opposed to GMOs, what am I missing? To you, what is the fundamental difference between the traditional and scientific approaches to genetic modification?

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  1. I haven't seen the canola thread yet, but I offered some of my reasons for serious concern about how genetically-modified foods are being introduced (forced) into our diets here

    1. There's a lot of artificial/engineered food out there now, and who has time to become expert in each one?

      Just the fact that it's on the grocery store shelf isn't a good enough motivation for me to want to switch to an engineered food.

      Anything our grandmothers couldn't have eaten doesn't get moved into the "food" column without there being a reason why I want to eat that specific thing, and I haven't bern lusting for GMO corn tortillas.

      1 Reply
      1. re: AsperGirl

        I'm glad to hear you won't eat those ridiculous square apples either... Red delicious!

      2. GMO is not the same as selective breeding.
        GMO introduces artificially modified DNA into the natural environment. Once introduced it cannot be eliminated. Insects will cross pollinate with neighbouring crops, animals will eat the plants, bigger animals will eat the animals... there is no way for us to predict the long term effects of such changes.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Peg

          AS opposed to a "natural" mutation?

        2. I can't speak to the health impacts of GMOs but the handover of power to large agro-chemical companies who develop these products worries me greatly. From the website:

          "Most GE crops hitting the market are developed by multinational companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont and Dow Chemical to increase their sales and push their related pesticides. For example, Roundup Ready crops are all engineered to withstand Monsanto’s toxic herbicide Roundup. With Roundup Ready alfalfa and sugar beets on the market, Monsanto can expect increased profits from its new seeds, as well as increased sales of Roundup herbicide to douse all those new seeds.

          GE crops are also patented, which grants several privileges to corporate seed giants. For example, companies have repeatedly restricted independent research on the risks and benefits of GE products, which is perfectly legal under patent law, but severely limits objective examination of the efficacy and safety of GE crops. If that weren’t bad enough, patents have given companies the power to pursue lawsuits against farmers for illegally “possessing” patented GE plants without a license. Monsanto has famously sued thousands of individual farmers for patent infringement when their fields were contaminated with GE genes.

          With the power to own and patent genetics, seed companies can demand even more control over the market as a whole. The seed industry has suffered enormous concentration of power in the past few decades, with at least 200 independent seed companies exiting the market in the last fifteen years and four companies now controlling over 50% of the market. This consolidation means farmers have far fewer options for seed varieties. Meanwhile, farmers have seen the sharpest rise in seed prices during the period in which GE crops rose in prominence."