What do soy beans, McDonalds menu items, papayas and potatoes have in common? They are widely produced genetically modified organism products. GMO are organisms whose genetic compositions have been manipulated using genetic engineering techniques. Scientists who specialize in genetic modification take the genes of one organism, for example Bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally occurring soil bacterium resistant to caterpillars and other pests, and introduce its genes to another completely different organism. The result is a modified descendant of the original, one that is now protected from pests or tolerant to pesticides. These products are all around us. We can find them in our school cafeteria, within bottles of vending machines, at grocery stores and inside our bodies.
GMO products are generally approved by the Food and Drug Administration and considered nutritionally equivalent to their non-modified ancestors. If a new food product developed through biotechnology does not subsume genetic components considerably different from those already in the consumer’s diet, it does not require any premarket approval. That being said, what is the matter with consuming them? Consider this fact: Monsanto, a multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation, paid whoever they had to in order to ensure GMO foods would not be labeled as such. Since the prevalence of GMO products arose, humans, livestock and lab rats have endured exposure to thousands of toxins and allergens never before encountered. Modified foods have not run rampant in our food markets until relatively recently. It wasn’t until around 1996 that they became the new normal, whether their consumers were aware or not. That means that we are currently guinea-pigging these products. We are being used as biological test subjects, and so far our results are looking grim. Cancer rates have been soaring; illness and needs for medical insurance are increasing every day. Of course, modified food products cannot be entirely to blame. We also have to consider the pesticides (nuclear chemicals that kill approaching insects) being sprayed onto our food and our newly found sedentary lifestyle among other drawbacks. But the GMO dilemma is one that needs addressing. People don’t need to consume genetically modified food products; they are unnatural, excruciatingly expensive and unsustainable.
We can do something to stand against the industrial take over of GMO products. Firstly, there is the option of refusing to buy them. Cutting off funding to industrial producers of modified crops would force them, at the very least, to cut back production, and as a result more sustainable products could be produced. That may not be considered reasonable to some, especially those who don’t prepare their own meals on a regular basis or who can’t afford organic produce. One more practicable way to fight GMO products is to know where they are. If we can see labels on the foods that are genetically modified, we can choose not to buy them or protest against them. There is a proactive initiative right now filming to require the labeling of GMO products as such. Consumers can sign I-522 for their “right to know” what they are eating. Registered voters are eligible to help get this act on next year’s ballot, which would be a significant change for the better.
We deserve to know what food and genetic byproducts we are consuming, and should not have to accept genetically engineered products as conventional.