Tag Archives: genetically modified foods

Consumer group sues FDA over biotech foods

Hey, if that what it takes for the FDA to take notice, count me amongst those in support of the lawsuit. From the article:

enetically modified crops, such as soybeans, corn, and canola, are grown widely throughout the United States, and the world leader in development and marketing of the gene-altered crops is St. Louis, Missouri-based Monsanto Co

Yet the United States requires no independent testing of these crops or the food products they are used in, does not mandate what data companies must submit for review, and does not require that foods that contain biotech crops be labeled…

Which begs the question “Where’s the check and balances in regard these commodities?”

Being the every lovin’ hazel-eyed pragmatist that I am, I don’t think that Genetically modified food is the devil incarnate. Clearly products can be developed that have little or no harm upon people or the environments.

However (and there always seems to be a “however”), the risk surrounding these products is higher than most of the Agri-businesses would like us to believe. Not only do these products run the potential of introducing health problems into consumers (most likely in the form of allergies), but then there’s the added risk of environmental concerns that are more likely to be introduced by some of the genetically modified products. You can read up on the issues surrounding the Terminator Gene for more proof of that.

So when we’re dealing with technologies that can destroy the planet, call me crazy, but I think a little regulation and oversight is a good thing.

Technorati Tags: Food Politics, Genetically Modified Food, FDA

USDA and lack of Regulation of Genetically Modified Testing

Like I said previously, I would trust Genetically Modified food more if there was more diligence in regard to seeing the affects of the food upon, not just people, but the environment as well.

Then I come across stories like these.

The report, issued late last month by the department’s Office of Inspector General, found that biotechnology regulators did not always notice violations of their own rules, did not inspect planting sites when they should have and did not assure that the genetically engineered crops were destroyed when the field trial was done.

In many cases, the report said, regulators did not even know the locations of field trials for which they granted permits.

It’s difficult to believe that this was a simple case of “I forgot”, when there’s a definitive bonus for this lack of oversight:


The less a company tests, the less money they put out for Quality Assurance, the more money goes into their bank account, at least short term.

Long term, if one believes risk analysis, the probability of mistakes increases and the cost to fix any problem will be 10 to 100 times the initial savings.

Or to quote an old Midas Muffler commercial “You can pay now, or you can pay later”. The longer bio-agriculture waits to pay, the more it will cost them…and possibly us.

Technorati Tags: Food and Drink, Genetically Modified Food

Organic Food, Wheat and Hunger

I received an e-mail the other day, asking me for my commentary on this article in the Economist. The article, initially about the history of wheat but oddly mutates into how genetically modified food will save the world without wheat, hits the major points and accurately reflects the good side of what happens when you feed the people.

But it leaves out one major variable in this component – human greed and it’s power to corrupt the best of intentions.

Let it be said here, on the record, that I have no problem with Genetically Modified (GM) Food that has been shown to be safe to both people and the eco-system. The problem is that several of the producers of GM food whose priority is to genetically tamper with crops for the sake of continual revenue, rather than feeding the hungry.

In my opinion, the number one priority of this planet is to ensure that no one goes hungry. This is a bit pollyannish, I know. But hey, I also hope for world peace and believe that love conquers all.

If I believe that we, as a world community, should be able to feed itself, I should also acknowledge the limitations of certain products. A group of limiting products happens to include organic foods. Norman Borlaug, who I talked about here, once said, “You couldn’t feed more than 4 billion people” on an all-organic diet.

That’s a limitation that’s difficult to ignore.

However, what angers me is how the Monsantos and the Archer Daniel Midlands of the world hide behind the shield of good intentions when others criticize their business practices.

“We’re trying to feed the world” they shout, when people bring up the fact that these companies are advocates for patenting life forms, or introducing terminator genes into crops. While they may be trying to feed the world, they’re trying even harder to ensure regular profits, oftentimes at the expense of feeding the hungry.

Typically, if extensive testing was done on the above practices, with the results made available to the public, I would be willing to give these Bio-Agriculture industries the benefit of the doubt. But they don’t wish to be bothered. “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food,” said Phil Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications once said in an interview with the New York Times Sunday Magazine. He said, without irony, that testing was the FDA’s job.

Which reminds me of a story–

Once upon a time, in order for the FDA to determine if Monsanto’s growth hormones were safe or not, Monsanto was required to submit a scientific report on that topic. Margaret Miller, one of Monsanto’s researchers put the report together. Shortly before the report submission, Miller left Monsanto and was hired by the FDA. Her first job for the FDA was to determine whether or not to approve the report she wrote for Monsanto. Assisting Miller was another former Monsanto researcher, Susan Sechen.

The result? Monsanto approved its own report.

Doesn’t that fill you with safety and joy?

It’s practices like these that make me advocate for taking two steps back. Yes, we need to feed the world. As I said, I believe it’s our number one priority. If it requires using genetically modified food to do so, then that’s what needs to be done.

However, I have little faith in our current crop of bio-ag industries. They’re playing with our eco-systems with a minimum of regulation. To say this concerns me is like saying the Titanic ran into a bit of trouble. One wrong step by these folks, and we run the risk of inhibiting our ability to feed ourselves as a country.

So I eat local when it’s available, organic when it makes sense to. I give my money to companies and farms who aren’t afraid of transparency, who aren’t afraid of showing the good with the bad. Because if the business models from Monsanto represent a “better way” then we should redefine what constitutes “better”.

Technorati Tags: Food and Drink, Monsanto, Organic Food, Genetically Modified Food

Soylent Rice is PEOPLE!!

Well…not really…but kind of….well, it’s not like you can taste any human while eating the rice.

What the hell am I talking about? It seems that Japanese researchers have inserted a gene from the human liver into rice to enable it to digest pesticides and industrial chemicals. The thinking being that this rice might be able to be planted on land previously unusable due to pollution.

Personally, I’m not repulsed by the idea of this, at least in regards to cannibalism, although admittedly, I’m particularly bemused on how many people are defining cannibalism. Apparently for some, eating an enzyme is sufficient. This makes me wonder about other practices in which human detritus is consumed (think sex acts) and whether or not that constitutes the ulitmate taboo.

But I digress.

My concern, as always when it comes to genetically modified food, is regulation. Who knows how this new breed of rice would react if it happened to get out into the wild. Professor Richard Meilan of Purdue University has the same concern:

But he and other scientists caution that if the gene were to escape to wild relatives of the rice it could create particularly vicious superweeds that were resistant to a wide range of herbicides.

Ah.. superweeds. All in the name of progress.