Are You Becoming A Genetically Modified Organism?
Genetically Modified Organism, or GMO for short. It sounds like something out of a science fiction thriller, doesn't it? Maybe you've heard of them before and maybe you haven't. But unless you eat nothing but certified organic foods, it's almost certain that you've eaten GMOs, and a lot of them. Basic food crops like soy, corn, wheat and rice all have genetically modified strains that are the basis of much of the food we eat, but there are many others. There's even GMO alfalfa, which was recently approved by the government to be fed to the cattle from which we get beef and milk. And even some commercial non-food crops like cotton have been genetically modified. Some of these strains are designed to be resistant to insect pests or to herbicides, and they promise to be hardier, healthier plants that will increase the yield of these essential crops.
"Well, yeah, so what?" you're thinking as you munch on those genetically modified corn chips. "What's the big deal?"
The big deal, my dear friend, is that - to put it simply - we're not allowed to know if what we're eating, and what we're feeding our kids, contains GMO foods. The "GMOs are good" and "GMOs are bad" sides of the issue can be argued until the sun explodes, but one thing that is unconditionally true is that there has been a long and successful campaign on the part of the companies that produce these "wonder seeds" to make sure that you and I don't have the right to know if they're in the foods we eat. Not only that, but they've been bending the U.S. Government into shamefully browbeating the countries of the European Union and other countries to adopt the same labeling standards as are the law in the U.S. (read: nothing can be labeled as containing GMO-based ingredients).
Why is that, I wonder? If GMOs are so great, why are these companies so hell-bent on preventing us from knowing we're eating them? We know that the GMOs are safe to consume, don't we? The government has approved them, so they must be okay. Right?
Oh, wait a second: who does the product safety testing for GMOs? You'd think they'd either undergo rigorous testing by the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, and the Department of Agriculture, or at least be sent out for testing by independent labs acting as "honest brokers".
Yes, you'd think. But they don't. The declaration of safety for GMO foods comes from the companies that create them, and the government agencies responsible for the integrity of our food supply essentially just rubber stamp the test results provided by the companies. Now, if you were the suspicious type, you might think that was a bit of a conflict of interest, but we needn't get sidetracked with technicalities.
But isn't someone somewhere looking at GMOs with a critical eye? Of course there are, but it isn't something for the faint-hearted. If you poke around a bit on the internet, you'll find some interesting tales of the fate of scientists who have tried to carry out independent testing of GMOs and their effects on animals and humans. In short (based on what I saw, at least), any attempt at independent testing and verification are immediately steamrollered, and a number of scientists have had their reputations smeared and their careers ruined.
"Oh, come on!" you cry. "There's no way!"