Nothing says summer like the first bite of a genetically modified garden tomato. I like to put mine on a hamburger enhanced with ammonia scented lean beef trimmings. Sure, some call it pink slime. I call it delicious! For dessert, All American apple pie. Of course, I hate it when the apples turn an unsightly brown! Thankfully, we will soon have apples genetically tortured to resist browning thanks to the good folks at Okanagan Specialty Fruits. They sure sound pretty special to me.
Yes, I am in a saucy and sarcastic mood today. I discovered that my Gretel Eggplant plant is a genetically modified (GMO) variety developed by Monsanto’s subsidiary, Seminis. I believe that my Patio tomatoes and super chilies are also GMOs. It’s sad. How did this Trojan Horse end up crapping in my garden?
Our community garden is all organic. Gardeners agree not to use chemicals to fertilize or kill weeds. In my own plot, I practice companion planting, use ground egg shells and compost to fortify my soil, and pull a lot of weeds. A LOT of weeds. But when I finally set those homemade pickled beets or sautéed swiss chard on my dinner table, I am gratified that my hard work has paid off.
Despite all that, the GMO thing slipped my radar until I did a little research this week. I always assumed that GMOs were created using natural cross-pollination. I was wrong. This is a highly technical process where science forces one genetic trait into the genetic material of a target species. There is a nice overview of the process, pros and cons here.
Some scientists are concerned that GMOs may be detrimental to humans and the environment. The FDA and USDA are not subjecting GMOs to rigorous scientific scrutiny and they don’t require labels. As a result, Monsanto and others are spreading GMOs the world over, getting into the food chain before we have a chance to understand the ramifications. For those farmers rejecting GMOs, they face the threat of “pollen drift” whereby non-GMO farmland is tainted by pollen from GMO crops nearby.
Where are the labels? Well, companies like Monsanto fight labeling with all their might. Apparently, consumers don’t have a right to decide what should go into their mouths. There is a grassroots campaign called Just Label It petitioning the FDA to require labeling. However, FDA is counting most of the one million signatures as one comment. I guess they adopted the Electoral College system over there. In November, California will have the GMO labeling question on their ballot. If it’s approved, I imagine a legal showdown could ensue between the State of California and the FDA.
Companies are painfully aware of what happens when people find out what’s in their food. Remember the “pink slime” episode from a few months ago? Manufacturers panicked: “But it’s very safe!” The USDA jumped in and proclaimed it safe. Consumers freaked. Forget that it might be safe; it’s disgusting. As a result, at least one manufacturer is going bankrupt. No doubt, Monsanto, Dow, and BASF took notice.
What will we learn when the curtain is finally pulled back on GMOs? Will we be able to fix the effects or will they be so immersed in the food chain that it will be too late? I’m afraid to find out.