Tinkering with Genetics


Springfield News-Leader

Through social connections I have spent a good deal of time in the university labs and around the scientists who work on agricultural research.  If you can modify a potato vine to not be susceptible to certain viruses or altar wheat so that it has a shorter and stronger stalk that will not be easily blown down in the wind, or make corn that needs less water or soy beans that yield more at harvest time then the world’s food supply is increased and farmers can make more profits.

For the most part, these agricultural scientists have been a blessing to our world that now feeds an unimaginably large population.  But there is a down side.  Human life is now nearly entirely dependent upon nutrition from five primary crops:  corn, wheat, rice, soy and potatoes.  What if our tinkering with the genetic makeup of these crops should result in one or two of them becoming lost in the sort of global blight that killed the American Chestnut tree?  Just take either rice or wheat out of the equation and the world would face a threat of mass starvation.

On a few occasions, sitting around a backyard picnic table with a group of agricultural scientists, I brought up the word “nutrition.”  I was surprised at how angry usually very smart people can become by mentioning something as crucial to food as its nutritional value.  There are instances of genetically modified foods having an apparent increase in nutritional value but more appear to have much less and some have virtually none.


GMOs can be toxic, and they can cause food allergies.  There has been relatively little testing done on humans and yet these products are reaching our store shelves and in the USA, foods containing GMO ingredients are not labeled as they are in Europe and even in China.

In our country, where democracy is demonstrably for sale, giant food corporations have so much influence on our government that we continue to subsidize the foods that make us fat, diabetic and give us heart disease but we do not subsidize the production of the foods that would make us more healthy.  We have given research grants to create these “frankenfoods” and then protected manufacturers from legal liability for the problems they create.

The reason why I and hundreds of other Springfield residents took part in a March Against Monsanto on Saturday is because this single corporate entity is directly responsible for many of the most outrageous abuses in removing government oversight from the production of food.  Two years ago, when President Obama appointed a Monsanto VP to be the chief advisor to our Food and Drug Administration, I was not just shocked but, in fact, lost faith in Obama’s ability to think and act independently.  No one in their right mind would have appointed a fox to guard our crucial hen house unless they were forced to do so.  Apparently, Monsanto is more powerful than the government of the USA and that should not be something we silently accept.


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