For this post, we want to open the debate about whether or not we should consume Organic food, Genetically modified food, or is both ok?
We want to put people on both sides of the fence, use what scientific and natural evidence we currently have available to paint a picture so YOU, the reader can have your own educated opinion and informed choice.
The fact of the matter, is these issues are only part of a bigger picture, but it is such a heated debate at the moment, so we thought we would share this for you.
Questions that may have crossed your mind?
- Just because we can, does it mean we should?
- Should we let nature run its course?
- Should we scientifically modify foods?
- Should we consume scientifically modified foods?
- Do we need to scientifically modify foods to match population boom?
- Should we just leave it to products we don’t consume?
- Is GMO food harmful for consumption – Short term?
- Is GMO food harmful for consumption – Long term?
- We have an increase in chronic diseases – Cancer, obesity, mental health, gut health? Are these related to GMO food consumption?
- It’s a new science, so how do we know the long terms effects?
- Natural Selection Vs Artificial Selection of food?
- Organic vs Non-Conventional Farming methods (GMO)?
- What are GMO foods?
- Is Food scarcity a real issue? And can organic farming methods feed a population of 10billion people?
- Do we have a FOOD WASTAGE issue?
- Health implications FOR and AGAINST GMO food consumption
- What do we know about artificial substances impacting normal human function – Endocrine disrupting Chemicals (EDC’s)
- Is the food issue about what we put on it and how we grow it? More than GMO?
- The science debate – is the research bias and flawed on both sides? Is science the answer?
- Is GMO food production designed for good business, rather than global health?
- How much would it actually cost to end world hunger and poverty? Could we already do it with out the need for GMO foods?
- STORY of 2 farmers? One GMO, one ORGANIC – how is this really effecting the farmers?
- Why do we have a Doomsday SEED vault in preparation for a post apocalyptic world?
- Hypothetically, what would a GMO-free future of agriculture look like?
- Conclusion and Summary
NATURAL VS ARTIFICAL SELECTION
Natural Selection (nature)
Is one of the basic mechanisms of evolution, along with mutation, migration, and genetic drift. Darwin’s grand idea of evolution by natural selection is relatively simple but often misunderstood. To find out how it works, imagine a population of beetles: There is variation in traits.
VIDEO > NATURAL selection in DETAIL
Artificial Selection (science)
Is the intentional breeding of plants or animals. It means the same thing as selective breeding. Selective breeding is a technique used when breeding domesticated animals, such as dogs, pigeons or cattle. Some of these animals will have traits that a breeder will want to preserve.
ORGANIC FARMING METHODS
Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.
Organic farming methods combine scientific knowledge and modern technology with traditional farming practices based on thousands of years of agriculture.
In general, organic methods rely on naturally occurring biological processes, which often take place over extended periods of time, and a holistic approach.
ARTIFICIAL FARMING METHODS
We will use Monsanto as an example because they appear to be leading the way with Artifically and Genetically modifying foods, as they put it, for “sustainable agriculture” helping farmers to match the population boom as their primary goal. But I guess in the same way we created “fast food” to match the population of people working longer hours with no time to cook, which we now see as as a “franken-food” obesity epidemic. Is this the start of another area created to meet a business demand, with unknown foresight and long term health implications?
It also raises 2 questions
- Are GMO crops safe?
- Is the use of ROUND-UP a chemical?
WHAT are GMO foods?
The WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION (WHO) list 18 issues they are currently addressing with introduction of GMO foods into our diet and will be monitoring long term.
1. What are genetically modified (GM) organisms and GM foods?
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can be defined as organisms (i.e. plants, animals or microorganisms) in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. The technology is often called “modern biotechnology” or “gene technology”, sometimes also “recombinant DNA technology” or “genetic engineering”. It allows selected individual genes to be transferred from one organism into another, also between nonrelated species. Foods produced from or using GM organisms are often referred to as GM foods.
2. Why are GM foods produced?
GM foods are developed – and marketed – because there is some perceived advantage either to the producer or consumer of these foods. This is meant to translate into a product with a lower price, greater benefit (in terms of durability or nutritional value) or both. Initially GM seed developers wanted their products to be accepted by producers and have concentrated on innovations that bring direct benefit to farmers (and the food industry generally).
One of the objectives for developing plants based on GM organisms is to improve crop protection. The GM crops currently on the market are mainly aimed at an increased level of crop protection through the introduction of resistance against plant diseases caused by insects or viruses or through increased tolerance towards herbicides.
Is FOOD SCARCITY a real issue ?
An article in the Huffinton post paints the picture with scientific evidence that We Already have enough food to feed 10 billion people “Hunger is caused by poverty and inequality, not scarcity. For the past two decades, the rate of global food production has increased faster than the rate of global population growth. The world already produces more than 1 ½ times enough food to feed everyone on the planet. That’s enough to feed 10 billion people, the population peak we expect by 2050. But the people making less than $2 a day — most of whom are resource-poor farmers cultivating unviably small plots of land — can’t afford to buy this food”
U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food released a report saying “The reinvestment in agriculture, triggered by the 2008 food price crisis, is essential to the concrete realization of the right to food. However, in a context of ecological, food and energy crises, the most pressing issue regarding reinvestment is not how much, but how. This report explores how States can and must achieve a reorientation of their agricultural systems towards modes of production that are highly productive, highly sustainable and that contribute to the progressive realization of the human right to adequate food”
OR do we have a FOOD Wastage issue?
- The global volume of food wastage is estimated at 1.6 billion tonnes of “primary product equivalents.” Total food wastage for the edible part of this amounts to 1.3 billion tonnes.
- Food wastage’s carbon footprint is estimated at 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent of GHG released into the atmosphere per year.
- The total volume of water used each year to produce food that is lost or wasted (250km3) is equivalent to the annual flow of Russia’s Volga River, or three times the volume of Lake Geneva.
- Similarly, 1.4 billion hectares of land – 28 percent of the world’s agricultural area – is used annually to produce food that is lost or wasted.
- Agriculture is responsible for a majority of threats to at-risk plant and animal species tracked by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
- A low percentage of all food wastage is composted: much of it ends up in landfills, and represents a large part of municipal solid waste. Methane emissions from landfills represents one of the largest sources of GHG emissions from the waste sector.
- Home composting can potentially divert up to 150 kg of food waste per household per year from local collection authorities.
- Developing countries suffer more food losses during agricultural production, while in middle- and high-income regions, food waste at the retail and consumer level tends to be higher.
- The direct economic consequences of food wastage (excluding fish and seafood) run to the tune of $750 billion annually.
EVIDENCE for HEALTH IMPLICATIONS
FOR consuming Genetically Modifying Foods?
The WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION (WHO) states whether or not GMO foods on the market are safe?
Different GM organisms include different genes inserted in different ways. This means that individual GM foods and their safety should be assessed on a case-by-case basis and that it is not possible to make general statements on the safety of all GM foods.
GM foods currently available on the international market have passed safety assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved. Continuous application of safety assessments based on the Codex Alimentarius principles and, where appropriate, adequate post market monitoring, should form the basis for ensuring the safety of GM foods.
AGAINST consuming Genetically Modifying foods?
In a New Study published in the peer reviewed Public Library of Science (PLOS), researchers emphasize that there is sufficient evidence that meal-derived DNA fragments carry complete genes that can enter into the human circulation system through an unknown mechanism.
“One small mutation in a human being can determine so much, the point is when you move a gene, one gene, one tiny gene out of an organism into a different one you completely change its context. There is no way to predict how it’s going to behave and what the outcome will be. We think that we design these life forms, but it’s like taking the Toronto orchestra prepared to play a Beethoven symphony and then you take some random drummers from “here” and flip them in with the Toronto symphony and you say play music. What comes out is going to be something very very different. Publicists say that there is good intention behind GMOs, but the fact of the matter is it’s driven by money.” – David Suzuki
Are ARTIFICIAL TOXIN’S & Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals to blame in combination, not just isolation?
So the answer seems to be that the long term consequences of GMO food and use of artificial weed killers and fertilisers is relatively unknown. This appears to be a common answer considering GMO foods are a relatively new into the agricultural industry (mid 2000’s) and long term studies are not yet available. However, it does not mean that we can’t extrapolate the common sense from what we do know about how our body functions and the the symptoms we are starting to see more and more in the people around us.
However what we do know from the Endocrine Society is about Endocrine disruptors, which are chemicals that “may” interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife. These are all issues that we are starting to see in humans on an increasing basis, with no known cause? Or is the above somehow related? Part of an increasing complex puzzle.
Or is it simple to see the relationship in the last 70 years of industrialisation between the addition of artificial and synthetic substances into our body is having effect. However if we look for ONE primary cause, we wont find it. However if we understand the complex interaction between the person, what they are consuming and the environment they live in, then perhaps common sense will prevail.
Is it more about what we put on the Food to grow it?
USING ROUND UP READY as an example. It is a weed killer that must be used in conjunction with Monsanto GMO farmers. Perhaps GMO food is safe for human consumption when done in the right way, so is it more about the chemicals used to grow the food and the artificial fertilisers used in the ground that the growing plants end up containing and being ingested by the end consumer?
However, outside of what they are selling as a product, what it is the toxicology review of this product when used on food ingested by humans?
David H. Monroe, an Industrial and Environmental Toxicologist, stated in an October 16, 1989 letter to the National Campaign Against the Misuse of Pesticides (NCAMP) that most polyalkoxylated surfactants such as the polyoxyethylene alkylamine in RoundUp are contaminated with 1,4-dioxane. A study done by Monroe on Vision, a glyphosate product by Monsanto, revealed that it contained 1,4-dioxane at a level of 350 ppm. (Monroe D, 1989. Letter to NCAMP.)
Summary: 1,4-dioxane is carcinogenic, and is known to damage the liver, kidney, brain and lungs.
THE SCIENCE reliability, validity debate
This is the age old battle of scientific opinion vs nature. Science is our best guess, but it often has flaws and biases. So the key is to not look at things in isolation, but rather, consider the whole picture of the person, the food they are consuming over long periods of time and their interaction with an ever changing environment. Heres an example.
IS GMO food good business, or supporting global health?
Using MONSANTO as an example considering they are the leading distributors of GMO globally, perhaps if we follow the money, we can see who really benefits?
HOW MUCH would it COST to end Global Hunger and World Poverty?
According to OXFAM, The $240 billion net income in 2012 of the richest 100 billionaires would be enough to make extreme poverty history four times over, according Oxfam’s report ‘The cost of inequality: how wealth and income extremes hurt us all.’ It is calling on world leaders to curb today’s income extremes and commit to reducing inequality to at least 1990 levels.
So this begs the question with a company such as Monsanto, if their interest is to address the food crisis and help feed the populations to come then surely they have enough Revenue to make a big dent in this issue.
MONSANTO’s guiding philosophy
” Billions of people depend upon what farmers do. And so will billions more. In the next few decades, farmers will have to grow as much food as they have in the past 10,000 years – combined.
It is our purpose to work alongside farmers to do exactly that. We do this by selling seeds, traits developed through biotechnology, and crop protection chemicals”
How is this really effecting FARMERS?
Let’s use the example of 2 Western Australia Farmers in Kojonup. An Organic farmer and a farmer who is using Monsanto GMO crops an round up ready.
In the 2 part series below, we’re off to the wheat belt of Western Australia for an epic saga of friends and neighbours falling out. It all began with the planting of genetically modified crops next to an organic farm but it escalated to the Supreme Court, where it’s drawn international headlines. The battle is far from over. With the case about to return to court we hear from both farmers, and their families, for the first time.
Part 1: The Seeds of Wrath
Part 2: The Seeds of Wrath
End result: GMO farmer wins the supreme court case, however MONSANTO were prepared to simply “pay-out” the issue outside of court, probably to avoid international publicity. The court found in favour of the GMO farmer, since he was abiding to government legislation introduced in 2008. However, the organic farmer lost his “organic” certification for over 70% of his viable crops with the national body, NASSA.
The organic farmers point of view was to create food and crops that were most beneficial to the end consumer, whereas the GMO farmer was more concerned about using science to create more viable crops and a future for their farming family.
It is hard to say who is right and wrong from different perspective. A farmer trying to create the best food available for end consumption and a farmer trying to create a viable business for his families future…
Why do we NEED a Global Doomsday Seed Vault – Address Climate change instead?
- 860,000 crops stored if we ever need to recreate agriculture.
- Preparing for the worst case scenario if it ever happens?
- Funded by independent investors part of The Crop Trust
- While the government of Norway owns and operates the Svalbard vault itself, with assistance from the Nordic Genetic Research Center and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Global Crop Diversity Trust, the seeds are actually owned by the gene banks that stashed them there.
- Article from the Guardian for more details
- The question arises, why are we spending so much money and funding on preparing for a post apocolypse, when we could do the same to address the real underlying issues of global climate change, sustainable agriculture and making mindful business decisions with the legacy and future generations at the forefront of our ecological mindset?
What would a GMO-free future look like?
Nathanael Johnson, in wrapping up six months of reporting on genetically modified food, lays out the real future that would await us if we could somehow ban GMOs:
In the GMO-free future, farming still looks pretty much the same. Without insect-resistant crops, farmers spray more broad-spectrum insecticides, which do some collateral damage to surrounding food webs. Without herbicide-resistant crops, farmers spray less glyphosate, which slows the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds and perhaps leads to healthier soil biota. Farmers also till their fields more often, which kills soil biota, and releases a lot more greenhouse gases. The banning of GMOs hasn’t led to a transformation of agriculture because GM seed was never a linchpin supporting the conventional food system: Farmers could always do fine without it. Eaters no longer worry about the small potential threat of GMO health hazards, but they are subject to new risks: GMOs were neither the first, nor have they been the last, agricultural innovation, and each of these technologies comes with its own potential hazards. Plant scientists will have increased their use of mutagenesis and epigenetic manipulation, perhaps. We no longer have biotech patents, but we still have traditional seed-breeding patents. Life goes on.
Conclusion: Perhaps GMO food’s are a red-herring for a bigger issue that requires a sustainable, global and ecological approach.
- We have enough food with conventional methods to meet population demand 1.5 x over
- We can end world poverty with ~ 240billion dollars
- We have a food wastage issue which requires global education
- Organic farming methods are just as viable and more ecological
- GMO farming methods can enhance crop viability and production
- The long term effect of GMO foods on the human body is unknown
- Toxicology reports show that Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals do however have known carcinogenic effects on the human body
- The issue might not be with GMO foods directly, but what farmers are putting on them
- GMO crops can infiltrate Organic farming crops which can cause organic farmers to lose their organic certification and business viability.
- Climate change is real and something we need to address as a global citizen.
- Do we need to prepare for a post apocolyptic world with a Doomsday seed vault
- Do we need to promote global ecology and address climate change now and what effect humans are having on the only planet we have?
SOME National and International Bodies for further reading
NATIONAL sustainable agriculture bodies