We hear time and again that there are two camps in the GMO debate. We hear that one side is pro-science, arguing that GMOs are perfectly safe and beneficial. We’re told the other side says that GMOs are harmful, and they have been painted by the media as fear-mongers, using “frankenfood” imagery to scare people into believing GMOs are bad. Both sides are supposedly battling it out about whether food containing GMO ingredients should be labeled as such, and whether tighter regulations should be placed on such foods.
I am here to tell you that I don’t fall into either camp. When it comes to GMOs, I fall in the camp of reason. I acknowledge that GMOs are a form of technology, and that technology has given us many things over the years that have led to improvements in our quality of life that our distant ancestors could not have dreamed of. I’m glad I can get an antibiotic if I get a potentially life-threatening infection. I’m glad I can put on headphones and listen to music while I’m sitting in the airport, preparing to board a plane that will let me travel thousands of miles away. I like that I can go onto YouTube and learn how to make Japanese omurice, then later go to the store and find vegan egg and chicken substitutes and try that at home. Just a scant few generations ago, my ancestors would have had almost no way to learn about recipes from the other side of the world.
GMOs are the same way. If I heard about GMO almonds that required far less water to produce, that would interest me. If I heard about GMO rice that contained more iron and iodine than normal rice, that would interest me, too, because iron and iodine deficiencies are alarmingly commonplace throughout the world. If I heard about GMO crops that made sustainable polyculture more economically feasible than destructive monoculture practices, I would want to learn more. There is no limit to the potential benefits of GMO. New GMO should be investigated to insure its safety, but I am not one to dispute that GMO, in theory, can be a great boon to humankind. But, is that how GMO is used in practice?
What is really going on?
We live in a world where corporations are driven chiefly and, in many cases, almost exclusively by profit motives. GMO that is developed and employed by corporations is done so in accordance with said profit motives. This is one of the major problems that underpins the entire food industry, and why, despite more efficient food production than ever, people all over the world are still starving. GMO is no exception to this, and to think that it will be employed to benefit humanity “because science” is naive.
To understand what is really happening, let us turn to how GMO is used in practice, today. We analyze two major GMO crops, GMO soy and GMO corn. We see right away that both crops were commercialized in the 1990s by Monsanto. What could we say about Monsanto that hasn’t been said already? Not much, but the relevant thing to say about Monsanto is that, as the producers of Roundup, they are a company deeply invested in toxic chemicals, and we see from those articles about GMO soy and GMO corn that Monsanto developed them as “Roundup Ready Soy” and “Roundup Ready Corn.”
Toxins are designed to kill, and they do. They kill weeds, the insects that eat those weeds, earthworms that fertilize the soil, as well as the other insects present. They also kill or harm other things. Including humans. They are poisons, after all. It is for this very reason that Monsanto developed and commercialized GMO crops in the first place. It allowed them to produce soy and corn crops that were resistant to the toxins they produce, meaning those crops could have vastly more chemicals dumped onto them than non-GMO crops. This, of course, gave Monsanto a double-win. First, they got to sell their GMO crops to farmers, which then let them increase their herbicide sales to those same farmers. The farmers were interested, despite paying this double fee to Monsanto, because they could ultimately produce more soy or corn per acre since less of it would be lost to so-called invasive vegetation.
This is the corporate game of transferring private costs onto the public. Monsanto has supplied farmers with the means of lowering their costs, but has transferred the costs onto the rest of us by way of the myriad problems that come from herbicides. They have then gone onto lobby and infiltrate government so that we have to keep eating those costs, literally, and now they want to make sure we have no idea that we’re eating them by keeping us in the dark about which foods contain GMOs, and by reassuring us that GMOs are safe.
This, then, is why I want GMO labels. I don’t think it is controversial to know what is in foods. Food labels have all sorts of other information. Why not this? I personally would rather not eat food that has been modified such that it has even more chemical residue than non-GMO conventional foods. I am not interested in risking exposure to even more harmful toxins than I am already forced to just by breathing the air or drinking the water in 2016. I am not opposed to GMO in principle, and I am not scared of GMO technology. I just don’t want to eat poison. Ideally, I don’t want to have anything to do with this practice of systematically destroying the environment through the widespread use of toxic chemicals.
So, let’s not get distracted by what corporate media says the controversy is, or the straw man arguments about how the opponents of GMO have no scientific leg to stand on. Let’s not get distracted by the false equivalency of assuming that just because someone wants GMO foods labeled as such that said person is “anti-GMO.” Let’s keep the discussion centered in reality and remember who is looking out for whose best interests and what those interests are.