September 11th, 2012

Schooled!

by Wayno & Piraro

A couple of days ago I posted about GMO foods and how dangerous they are. Thanks to several comments by readers, I did more thorough research and completely changed my mind.

I encourage you to read some or all of the articles I included at the end of this post and see if you come to the same conclusion. Here’s what I learned in a nutshell:

1. The process by which plants are genetically modified in labs is not substantially different than the way foods have been genetically modified by nature, selective breeding, or hybridization for millenniums.  But in a laboratory, far fewer genes are altered and the outcome is far more predictable. Virtually all the foods we eat (including “organic” ones) have been genetically modified for centuries, but in a much more random fashion than we are able to do intentionally in a laboratory. If those did not produce toxic food that led to the destruction of the human race, it is even less likely that intentionally modified plants will.

2. Many of these lab efforts have been to specifically make a food grow better in harsh soil or weather conditions, include more vitamins, and/or be more resistant to insects. That means less pesticide use by farmers and that’s a good thing. That results in a plant that is 99.999999% the same as what you’ve been eating, it just no longer includes genes that make it wilt in the hot sun or taste good to aphids. Does that sound like it will give you a crab claw like Moe?

3. Hundreds of studies have been done to search for potential dangers to “new” genetically modified food (as opposed to the genetically modified food we’ve been eating for centuries.) Nothing substantial has been found.

4. I mentioned that once these GMO plants are out there, they blow around and spread all  over the world without any way to control them. That’s true, but so have all of the other plants that were genetically modified by nature or farmers who’ve been randomly cross-breeding plants throughout the ages to get the ones we’ve been eating for the bulk of modern history. This lack of control has proved to be a non-issue unless a newly modified plant somehow begins to cause huge mutations in its consumer, like poor Moe Howard above. In truth, that was more likely to happen to randomly modified plants of the past than in scientifically modified plants of today. But it didn’t.

5. If you believe, however, that large corporations are genetically modifying plants to create a weak, mindless public that will buy more of their pharmaceuticals or vote the way they want you to, then you’re right to be afraid. You should stay away from GMO foods, climb into a bunker in the desert and never speak to another human being. Otherwise, they are likely as safe as anything humans have eaten since the dawn of agriculture, 10,000 years ago.

I’m not embarrassed that I was wrong and had to change my story. That’s the best thing about being an open-minded, reason-based person instead of, say, a politician; you don’t stick to erroneous beliefs in the face of new evidence for fear that people will think you are fallible. If everyone lived this way, the world would be much less ignorant, as I am today thanks to information given to me by some of my Jazz Pickles. Thanks!

I am embarrassed, however, by the fact that I happened to include my mythological argument against GMOs in the same post in which I encouraged others to let go of their mythological beliefs about second-hand smoke. What can I say? I’m fallible. Don’t vote for me.

But what the hell, we’re all human and are subject to the same misinformation everyone else is. We all live in a bubble of sorts, one that is influenced by the beliefs of our closest group of friends and favorite broadcasters or authors. We aren’t always right and we too often assume “if so-and-so believes it, it must be true.” So-and-so is likely doing the same thing to you and the result is you lead each other down the wrong road.

I hope you’ll accept my apology and read some of the articles below.

Science20 with Dr. Kevin Folta >> Atomic Gardening – The Ultimate Frankenfoods

Skeptical Vegan >> Frankenfood Fears

Pythagorean Crank >> You Say Tomahto, I Say Flavr Savr

Native Foods Blog >> Vegans Who Support GMO’s (Say What?)

Vegan Chicago Podcasts

P.S. I SHOULD ALSO SAY THAT NONE OF MY COMMENTS ABOVE ARE ABOUT THE LEGAL COMPLICATIONS OR POLITICAL WRANGLING THAT MIGHT OR HAS OCCURRED WITH MONSANTO AND THE LIKE. I’M JUST REFERENCING THE SCIENTIFIC QUESTION OF THE SAFETY OF CONSUMING “GMO” PLANTS.

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