Few things ignite more controversy than genetically engineered food Part I: GMOs and the Future of Food
By Rick Visser
LONGMONT – Genetically Modified Organisms, GMOs, genetic engineering, GE, and anti-GMO stories seem to be in the news nearly every day. The record would seem to indicate that concerns about GMOs are leading to anxiety and growing unease. But aren’t genetically engineered foods substantially equivalent to the foods we’ve been eating for the past 12,000 years? Haven’t we been tinkering with carrots and beans and food crops all over the world, for all sorts of reasons, for a very long time? Why worry about GMOs? The U.S. government says GMOs are substantially equivalent and therefore healthy.
But are they really substantially equivalent? And are they really healthy?
I ask this because scientists at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre in Quebec, have come across a startling discovery while testing the blood of pregnant women and their unborn babies. Toxic pesticides that are injected into genetically modified crops have found their way into the bloodstream of most women tested. Exposure comes through the consumption of meat, milk, and eggs from livestock that have been fed genetically altered corn.
I ask this because the American Academy of Environmental Medicine urges doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets for all patients.
There are many other questions, questions that take us beyond those of human health. Do GMOs contaminate – can their seeds travel? Can they cross-pollinate? Do GMO crops pose a threat to organic crops? Should corporations have the right to patent genes? Do GMOs increase or decrease the use of pesticides? Is there adequate government oversight of GMOs? Should labeling of foods containing GMOs be required? Are ‘suicide seeds’ a good idea? Do GMOs harm the environment? Do GMOs work for, or against, feeding a hungry world?
Over the course of the coming year, I will explore these and other questions. I will look at some of the people, books, DVDs, apps, web sites, and activities that speak to the questions raised by the new reality of genetically modified foods, together with other topics related to the food revolution and its impact on our culture and our relationship to the earth.
The best introduction and most powerful point of entry into the subject of GMOs is Deborah Koons Garcia’s notable documentary, The Future of Food, winner of five film festival awards, three times as Best Documentary. Released in 2004, this 88-minute movie is now available free and without advertisement on the internet. It is widely acknowledged for its role in educating voters and the subsequent success of passing ‘Measure H’ in Mendocino County, California, one of the first local initiatives in the country to ban the planting of GMO crops.
The film begins with a history of agriculture, and goes on to trace the development of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the green revolution, and the implanting of bacterial toxins into the cells of corn. It also focuses on Monsanto’s prosecution of Canadian farmers who were found to have Roundup Ready canola seed among their non-GMO crops. (You will have to go to The Future of Food website to see who got the last word.) It goes on to highlight the tight relationship between multinational corporations and big government, the purchase of many seed companies by pesticide companies, and much more. Craig Sims of the Soil Association of Great Britain says, “The film covers all the key agricultural, social and political issues surrounding the industrialization of agriculture and genetic engineering.”
There is also a two-disc Special Edition that can be purchased from The Future of Food web site. The second disc includes a number of short films: Michael Pollan on the Cost of Food; The Happy Box – a film about Community Supported Agriculture; a film on How to Save Seeds from Vegetables; another about School Farming programs by the city of Santa Monica; recipes by Deborah Madison and Mollie Katzen; and short excerpts from four films about farmers – too short to serve as anything other than advertisements for the individual films. Though this disc is interesting and informative, many will find the price of the two-disc Special Edition ($12 + $11 shipping) a bit stiff when the feature movie is freely available on the internet.
The Future of Food web site includes a bibliography of major articles, research, and publications relevant to the issues discussed in the movie, and a blog that highlights recent reports, petitions, campaigns, online articles and links to other media regarding genetic engineering.
This film is an impressive achievement – it is both compelling and instructive – and may someday be seen as the single most important document in the discussions surrounding genetically modified food. The full movie can be viewed free at www.thefutureoffood.com.
Rick Visser is a visual mixed-media artist, painter, sculptor, music reviewer and writer. He is inspired by the work of Kandinsky. He has published an on-demand book (Intervallum) that includes color plates, drawings, poem, journal pages, and a 5,000 word essay titled, The Measureless Open: Art, Abstraction, and Spirituality. In October, he gave a keynote address at an art conference in Glasgow, Scotland called Kandinsky in Govan: Art, Spirituality, and the Future.Back to Top