The problem with progress is that often you reach a tipping point. You can’t go back. Sometimes this can be good of course. Someone commented on my last blog post that maybe the answer to racism is to mix up our genes until we are all one big juicy gene chowder. That would be good, yes? Well, it might be one solution though it would take quite some time and inclination.
But when it comes to turning our food into genetic soup, well, I think we need to need to be deeply racist; we keep to keep the genes firmly segregated. Spiders should not mate with tomatoes. No sirree.
I spent a fair bit of time researching this many years back and what I saw scared the bejesus out of me. Because the thing is, once you let GM loose in the environment, you can’t put it back in the lab. The genie is well and truly out of its bottle.
Yesterday Linda Lazarides, a nutritional expert I’ve known for decades, sent me a message via LinkedIn:
What? I checked out the link she sent and it seems that Sainsbury’s brand director had given an ill-advised quote to Farmer’s Weekly saying, in effect, that Sainsbury’s were missing an opportunity to be involved in the GM industry. The CEO of Sainsbury’s has now apologised and reassured customers that Sainsbury’s will continue to listen to their customers and won't be stocking GM food. (is it just me that hears 'for now' tacked onto that?)
But I’m not reassured. Not remotely. Because, even if the UK stands firm, the rest of the world isn’t. And you can’t contain GM. You simply cannot have GM and non-GM. GM contamination of conventional and organic crops is already increasing. The US rice supply has already been contaminated by a ONE YEAR field trial of GM rice. In Canada, the organic oilseed rape industry has been destroyed by contamination from GM rape. In Spain, GM maize is wiping out organic cultivation. The time has come to choose between a GM-based, or a non-GM-based, world food supply. The two can’t co-exist. The problem is that, if some places choose to grow GM, it affects us all. Effectively we’re all stuffed.
Why does it worry me? Because we simply don’t know the environmental consequences or the health consequences. We have no idea. It’s an imprecise science with unpredictable outcomes. We have NO idea what GM food could do. There are very few studies on the effects of humans eating GM food (interesting that) but animal studies have shown that GM foods can have toxic effects, including shifts in the immune system, accelerated ageing and genetic alterations.
As toxicologist Dr Suzanne Wuerthele of the EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) says, ‘We are confronted with the most powerful technology the world has ever known, and it is being rapidly deployed with almost no thought whatsoever to its consequences.’
Oh but, say the pro-GM brigade, people in the US have been eating GM food for ages with no ill-effects. But how would they know? They’re not labelled.
So why is it being promoted? The powerful pro-GM lobby says that it is going to save the world, that GM will feed the world. No. GM food won’t solve the world food crisis. Expert analysts also doubt the much-touted ability of GM crops to increase crop yields and to decrease or end the need for pesticides. In fact, data shows that GM crops in the US need more, not less, pesticides.
So then. Why? Money. Politics. What else? L
It’s your choice of course. Although, sadly, it won’t be our children’s choice. They will have no choice.
My devildaughter, the Mistress of All Evil (coming up to 14) lent me a book recently. It's a dystopian YA novel called Uglies by Scott Westerfield and it's pretty (ho ho) good. But the scene that stayed with me, long after I shut the book, was one in which the protagonist, escaping from the 'perfect' world comes across a vast field of beautiful white flowers. Then, suddenly, a helicopter appears and flame-throwers burn the ground. Why? she asks. Why did you do that? Because, the flame thrower explains, the white orchids were once the rarest flowers but genetic modification turned them into the ultimate weed - a monoculture, crowding out every other species of plant and animal. Biological zero.
Want to know more? Probably not. But should you feel inclined GM Watch is very informative.
They also have a great links page which will plug you into all the latest research, campaigns and actions, wherever you are.