GM Foods: Why is California’s Prop 37 Such a Big Deal?
Genetically modified foods, or GM foods for short, seem to be in the news a lot lately, thanks to California's Prop 37. The first GM crop was released in the U.S. in 1996. Only 1.7 million hectares (about 4.2 million acres) were planted that year. Today there are more than 160 million hectares (about 395 million acres) planted annually, and the number is rising. You may be wondering to yourself, what's the big deal? For organic farmers and conscientious consumers there's a lot on the line. Some would argue that the resulting decision of California voters has the opportunity to drastically change processed foods in America forever.
But let's get back to that original question of yours. What is the big deal about GM food? To understand the argument you first need to understand what GM foods are, and how they affect human health. Genetically Modified Organisms are created by scientists in a lab. To create a genetically modified crop the scientist has to take genes from one organism and fuse it with the genes of another organism. What they create, in essence, is a kind of Frankenfood. I use this term purposefully because I believe there is a very strong analogy that can be drawn here.
Let me give you one example of Frankenfood. I want to talk about Bt-corn. This is a type of sweet corn that scientists have genetically modified so that it will produce a poison that kills insects. The gene in Bt corn that kills insects comes from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis, naturally found in the soil. There is an unintended result of using Bt corn to help farmers fight insects that normally destroy corn. Scientists have discovered that Bt corn is also harming the monarch butterfly population and the earthworm population. This is an unintended consequence of convenient farming– destruction of the ecosystem. There is no knowing where this will take us in the future. To learn more about the negative consequences of GM crops, visit the Institute for Responsible Technology.
If you are not familiar with the story of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, let me give you a brief summary. The story is about a young, vibrant scientist named Victor Frankenstein. Just picture a young, handsome university student in the laboratory searching to create something that will give him great praise in the scientific world. Instead he creates the infamous Frankenstein out of the various corpses he had been stealing from the graveyard. What he did was an abomination to nature, but he was proud that he had discovered the secret of life. What resulted from his scientific efforts was a grotesque monster that was eventually shunned by all mankind. The monster eventually kills all of Victor's loved ones. Ashamed of his creation, Victor tries to hide the truth about what he had done. Eventually Victor realizes that there is nothing he can do to prevent the monster from ruining his life or the lives of everyone it comes in contact with. Despite the horrors that unfold, Victor is unable to admit the horrors of what he has created.
I am afraid the same can be said for the manufacturers of Genetically Modified foods. There have been many varieties of seeds created by fusing the genes of one species with another. Some genetically modified crops have the genes of weeds in them. Unlike conventional crops that are sprayed with pesticides, you can't wash the weeds out of the genetically modified produce. It is infused in every single bite.
There are independent scientists that have reported about serious health issues in lab rats fed genetically modified foods. Dr. Don Huber of Purdue University believes there are strong correlations between the rise in autism and the rise in genetically modified food usage in the U.S. There is still much research to be done and much debate yet to have. But don't you think it's YOUR right to know whether or not the food you buy has genetically modified crops in the ingredients? Do you think this would affect the way you shop and what you buy? Well, so do food manufacturers. This is why many top brands who use GM foods are desperately trying to defeat California's Prop 37. I hope for our sake, and the sake of all future generations who come in contact with GM foods that they don't succeed. I'm afraid that the GM food manufacturers might discover their creation is a grotesque assault on nature when it's too late. We know that like Victor Frankenstein, it is unlikely we'll see any admission of fault from GM scientists when it comes to environmental and health problems.
I don't live in California. But I hope Californians will do the right thing and vote for full disclosure on food labels. If they do I promise to continue to do my part. I won't be bringing GM food into my kitchen. It's the only way I have a voice in the matter. I like monarch butterflies and earthworms. I don't want to see them harmed. If GM food is bad for them, what will it do to our children?