Why fight the labeling of GMOs?
Food and Hippocrates:
So many pundits and experts in medicine say this. It is time tested and has been the main guide line by many authorities, including the Father of Medicine Hippocrates, who said 2500 years ago that “Let food be thy medicine and the medicine be they food”. This dictum is followed closely by generations before us.
New age fast foods:
In the past 200 years many changes have occurred in our life styles. These started with industrialization, railway, use of oil as energy and electricity, advancement of health science with antibiotics, better understanding of hygiene and human body and its functions. These all led to innovations of faster surface and air travels reducing distances, reducing Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and increasing longevity with higher percentage of old seniors in population, explosion of population by three folds in past 100 years and pressures on the need of resources to food, cover and shelter this population burst. Usage of radioactive materials in producing electricity, preservation of foods, increased electro magnetic fields effecting our minds and body, and need of increased yield of crops per acre and unit of efforts put in, like water, seeds, fertilizers etc. became a necessity.
This brings us to fast foods, its preservation by newfound chemicals and increased yield by usage of genetically modified (GM) crops. Fast foods have been around for over five decades because of their conveniences but the have now started showing its ugly side of high calorie content, highly processed carbohydrates, much larger consumption of fats including saturated and trans fats. All these started showing their ill effects in the shape of higher incidences of Heart diseases, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cancers and many other diseases.
Yet another innovation has been the GM foods. This is the cause of contention over Prop 37 in California. This requires special attention to understand the issue. This is the most recent untested addition to our foods. In 1992 the scientists found that a bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis or BT found in normal soil has a toxin to kill pests and can be used as biological pesticide. Genes from the BT was introduced in the genes of seeds of several crops by genetic engineering (GE). Better selections of breeds have been used for centuries for crops and animals. However, use of GE is something new when genetic material from one organism is introduced forcefully into the genes of the other. Most GE is used today are in crops like cotton, soya, beet, and rapeseed and rice and potatoes are perhaps next ones. The GE uses the genes from the soil bacteria in these crops but GE scope has been looking at introducing genes of cold water fish into strawberries to make them frost resistant and other similar applications.
Since the use of GM or GE foods, it is generally alleged and observed that a number of disease incidences have further increased. Conditions like Attention deficit disorder (ADD) that was a rare condition is now found in one in less than 100 births. Disease incidence has been increasing in the past century, but it has progressed much faster in the past two decades, it seems.
Yet another addition to our food is the use of Human growth hormone called rBGH in the production of beef and poultry. This is used in poultry and beef industries along with GM corn to fatten the animal quickly. For example, only about 50 years ago, a chicken would take almost four months to come to dinner table from its hatching from the egg, This now takes as short as three weeks. Same also holds good for the beef industry’s enhanced production. European Union has not allowed use of rBGH, but it is freely used in the USA.
Activism against GM, or GE or GMO foods:
GM Foods started in the USA and so is rBGH. GM has spread like wild fire because of seemingly better yield of crops. A sizeable number of scientists and people who cared against any adulteration in their food stared taking notice of such tempering with our foods. This accompanied by the apparently increased incidence in many diseases and findings of many new diseases like ADD and Alzheimer’s, which were almost unknown, has given the activists the reason to ask for proper testing of such additives to our food. In some States in the United States, legislation is underway to curb on the GMO food and rBGH usage, one way or other. California takes a lead in such matters usually and it has in this matter also. Californians have gathered enough signatures to put this on the ballot to be voted by Californians on Nov 6th 2012 elections. It is called Prop 37. The Prop 37 demands that if the food contains any GM or GE material, FDA should enforce its listing on the mandatory label.
Story of GM food becomes more interesting here. Many food producing and agricultural corporations producing or promoting GM foods have come out against the mandatory labeling of foods mentioning GM contents. They are allegedly spending an amount exceeding 40 million dollars for their movement called “No to Prop 37”. Activists who are wanting the labeling of GM should be mandatory have been able to muster up about 4 million dollars for their movement called “Yes to Prop 37”.
My take on this fight:
I am all for science and innovations. But what I read about GM foods is scary. One You Tube link is serious to overlook. I am also for the right of people to know what they are eating and feeding their children. But the proponents of GM foods in the industry make it look that this is a fight by a few who have vested interests. I am simple logician; I wonder why the industries a are spending such a large amount to fight the labeling on excuses that the labeling will be very expensive and that the food will become expensive because of the scare it may cause because it contains GM foods. Personally I think right to know what we are eating is important. So if labeling is made mandatory, there is not much to lose. Those who are against GM are so convinced with the increasing health problems that are becoming evident, combined with the fact that not enough tests have been done to ensure that GM are definitely safe and the fact that EU authorities are strongly against rBGH makes their gut feeling stronger.
Let us see what decision does Nov 7th bring to us about this labeling issue.