Brunch Discussion: Genetically Modified Food

In the two decades since genetically modified organisms (GMOs) first appeared, they have spread like a prairie fire, from the U.S. to Canada, South America and the rest of the world.  GMOs are now found in virtually all processed and canned goods. They constitute the majority of corn, soy, cotton and canola that is produced.  Plus, many newly developed genetically modified organisms - from apples to salmon – are in the pipeline.   Biotech industry promoters claim that GMOs are on track to feed an increasingly hungry world.

Skeptics are not so sure, pointing to studies showing genetically modified crops are no more robust than crops grown organically.  They argue that genetically engineering produces food that is less nutritious, damaging to the environment, and harmful to our health.  They are resolute in their belief that merging one species with another in a way that cannot be duplicated in nature not only fails to produce greater crop yields, but inevitably is unsustainable.  The idea that GMOs will “feed the world” is a myth created to enable greedy corporations to hijack our food supply, they claim.

The argument over GMOs has pitted government leaders and biotech behemoths against growing public hunger for long term studies, an end to the fast tracking of GMO products, and the right to know what’s in our food.    GMO labeling is now required in 61 countries, but not in Canada and the U.S., where illness rates are climbing and government safety assurances are losing traction.  How will this growing impasse finally be resolved?

Interesting Videos:

What is Genetically Modified Food? (here)

Dr Oz Episode on GMO's (here)

Penn and Teller - Bullshit episode on Organic Food (here)

 

Interesting Legal Opinions:

Bowman v. Monsanto co.- Supreme Court decision regarding patents on GMO's (here)

American Bar Association on FDA and Regulation of GMO's (here)

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  • Lily

    From the EPA website: http://www.epa.gov/oppbppd1/biopesticides/pips/regofbtcrops.htm

    Monitoring StarLink Corn

    Another issue raised with the introduction of Bt products came from StarLink, which is the trade name for corn genetically modified to produce a protein, Cry9C. Cry9C acts as a pesticide, protecting the plant from pests such as the European Corn Borer. Sold by Aventis CropSciences, StarLink corn was registered for use in animal feed only. EPA did not register the product for human consumption due to unresolved questions concerning StarLink's potential allergenicity.

    August 7, 2013

    • Lily

      In September 2000, some nongovernmental organizations tested taco shells and found traces of StarLink corn DNA. Confirmed by the FDA, this detection of StarLink caused a number of food companies to implement a voluntary recall of taco shells and other products manufactured with yellow corn meal.

      Upon discovery of StarLink corn in processed food, the Federal Government took several steps to ensure the diversion of StarLink from the human food supply. USDA, FDA, and EPA worked to test corn grain for the presence of StarLink and to remove any potentially contaminated corn seeds from the market. Aventis CropSciences has since voluntarily withdrawn its registration for Starlink, and EPA will no longer issue such split registrations for pesticide products

      August 7, 2013

  • Lily

    Here is a great resource on what has been modified and why: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/dna/pop_genetic_gallery/page2.html

    August 7, 2013

  • Lily

    Because some of you expressed an interest in cloning the most interesting thing I found on that was about Dr Panayiotis Zavos who is actively trying to clone humans somewhere in the Middle East. Article: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/fertility-expert-i-can-clone-a-human-being-1672095.html Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFBpHNUSuJw

    August 6, 2013

    • Lily

      Q. What does he claim to have done? A. Panayiotis Zavos says he has created 14 human embryos and transferred 11 of them into the wombs of four women. Some of these embryos only developed to the four-cell stage before being transferred, but some developed to the 32-cell stage, called a morula. He also claims to have created human-bovine hybrid clones by transferring the cells of dead people into the empty eggs of cows. However, these hybrid embryos were used for research purposes and were not transferred to the womb.

      August 6, 2013

    • Lily

      Q. How likely is it that he will succeed? A. He is determined to succeed and has a long line of people eager to sign up to his cloning programme, at a cost of between $45,000 and $75,000. Cloning attempts in other species, including primates, suggest there is no insuperable barrier to cloning humans.

      August 6, 2013

  • Denise

    Yes, it was a great discussion that still has me thinking about the various points we touched on. I appreciate everyone's willingness to share their views and listen to others without judgement. I look forward to the next one.

    August 4, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I really enjoyed this discussion, and hearing everyone's views. We may not have all come away in agreement on everything, but maybe we, at least, better understand what things we disagree about, and why.

    2 · August 4, 2013

    • Jacob W.

      Here, here! You here that Geoff? You missed out!

      1 · August 4, 2013

  • Jivan

    I think it was all informative, however I believe there is still evidence that is missing from both the scientific community as well as economy on whether or not wide spread implementation should have taken place. There are several dozen sources that compile scientific evidence that say it is very risky, and a lot of small farmers are basically at the whim of big name corporations. Even though I strongly recommend caution, maybe partly because of an esoteric stand point I have had with farming communities as a kid and their plights, good people and I am content on agreeing to disagree if there is any disagreement without any hurt feelings.

    1 · August 3, 2013

  • Lily

    Great conversation, we didn't even notice staying until 1pm!

    2 · August 3, 2013

  • Lily

    I'm having a slight problem printing my notes, I may be 5-10 minutes late, I'll try to be as quick as possible

    August 3, 2013

  • Lily

    Here is a well written article that I found interesting on the subject of GMO labeling http://www.forbes.com/sites/kevincoupe/2013/06/07/the-clear-utterly-unscientific-case-for-gmo-transparency/

    1 · July 23, 2013

    • Geoff

      It beautifully summarizes my position:

      "In the end, this is not about mistrusting science. Rather, it is about trusting science to be willing to make the case on an ongoing, per-product basis."

      1 · July 24, 2013

  • Lily

    While not exactly scientific, you can get both sides of the debate here: http://www.debate.org/opinions/are-genetically-modified-foods-beneficial

    July 23, 2013

  • Geoff

    I just can't...This one is just too controversial - too many people clinging to incorrect facts, and too many emotions involved. There's a big gap between what GMO and it's risk and potential is - and the reckless use and regulation of it (ie poor farming practices promoted by 'round up ready' gmo, etc)

    I rarely see anyone understand and bridge the different sides of this gap, and don't want to contribute to hard feelings if I said something like "That's nonsense, you don't have to wear protective masks and suits just to water GMO."

    And since I got crucified for saying that very comment before, I will sit this one out.

    July 21, 2013

    • Geoff

      ok...I'll think on it...but I'm just saying that my experiences around this topic, regardless of position have been extremely negative.

      July 21, 2013

    • Jacob W.

      That's bullshit and you know it! We all know that Jon Stewart is the only entertainer whose opinion is to be evoked in serious conversation.

      1 · July 21, 2013

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