There's a hot debate brewing not just in the U.S. but all over the world about something called genetically modified organisms or GMOs. Unfortunately, some people have decided to either stay away from the issue altogether or take the much safer, less-controversial approach of defending it, in line with government and big corporation agendas--"safer," that is, than questioning or opposing what some consider a very dangerous approach to extending or protecting our global food production capacity.
The fact that GMOs, at least theoretically, have the potential to improve our capacity to feed the world is one of the things that are making this debate a delicate matter to delve into. Like other things which ultimately attract opposition, GMOs appear to be embedded in good intentions.
What's wrong with wanting to come up with crops that are less vulnerable to the many pests that have always made agriculture so difficult? What's wrong with produce that doesn't need pesticides because, instead, pesticide-like chemical qualities have been genetically built into their genomes?
In theory, GMOs can lead to bigger, hardier crops. In companies like Monsanto's views, in fact, GMOs can help end worldwide hunger and starvation by at last creating vegetables and fruits that are no longer subject to the many vulnerabilities that have plagued agriculture from the beginning.
That's the good, albeit somewhat woolgathering-like (since even in the sciences well-intentioned "dreaming" doesn't necessarily turn out the way some envision it) aspect of this debate. But, like everything else, there is another more sinister side that you need to be aware of, if only so that you can make a well-informed decision regarding which side you should take.
What's at Stake in This Debate--Is It Just About Taking Sides on Two Equal-Merit Positions?
There are debates out there that, indeed, do pit two sides with equally-beneficial, defensible positions. In those debates, you may have the luxury of just choosing sides, depending on your mood, which way the wind is blowing and what a coin-toss tells you to do. There is more to this debate, however, than most people realize. What happens to GMOs may very well decide (depending on who is right scientifically):
- Whether we ultimately live in a paternalistic "new world order" society (where most decisions are made for you by big corporations and totalitarian governments) or in free democracies (where you take part in major decisions and have a say about things that may ultimately harm you and the world you live in)
- Whether people in high places can use the masses, with impunity, as experimental guinea pigs
- Whether we hang on (especially in the US) to "the right to know" (such as through the Freedom of Information Act) about things that may strongly affect our lives, as opposed to being denied information the powers that be have arbitrarily decided we simply shouldn't have access to
- Whether seeds upon which we depend for survival as a speecies may be changed in such ways as to ultimately render some (if not all) crops unable to yield healthy harvests for future generations
- Whether ways can be found to ameliorate the cancer epidemic now presently raging, if indeed glyphosate and other pesticides are playing a major role (as is suspected) in promoting this epidemic
- Whether GMOs are the panacea for global agriculture or the bioengineering Pandora's box many experts fear
Clearly, the stakes are very high regarding the GMO debate. Consequently, this is not something we can just frivolously take sides on or simply hide our heads in the sand about. Like it or not, this is a polemic issue with the potential to drastically change the world, for better or worse.
Whose Side Should You Take?
Before taking any "side," perhaps the best approach is listen to both sides of the fence. There are many articles out there that will tell you why those who oppose GMOs are wrong, misinformed or the victims of healthcare threat alarmism. By all means, read those articles, making sure that you pay attention to any science alluded to and practical arguments given. On the other hand, beware of political, social and philosophical rhetoric (on either side) that may sound good but refuses to address the most basic question of all:
"Are GMOs safe for me, my family and the rest of humanity?"
Are there practical, verifiable and cogent reasons to defend GMOs? Make a list of those as you conduct your own investigation. Since most mainstream media is presenting arguments in favor of GMOs, we thought it only prudent to give you practical reasons for questioning the efficacy/safety of GMOs. If you don't hear both sides of an argument, how can you possibly make a well-informed, unbiased opinion?
To that end, here are 10 well-founded reasons to question (if not outright oppose) GMOs:
1. At the center of the technology for the creation of new, hardier vegetables and fruits which have been genetically bioengineered is the use of double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs). We happen to know that such technology carries many potentially dangerous caveats, as demonstrated in some studies. Actually, there is great potential for scientific advances in this area (as there is for stem cell research) but the problem is that we presently lack the technology and know-how to safely use this technology to its full potential.
2. Historically speaking, we can cite hundreds of examples that have proven that every time we have undertaken a "play God" approach to science (without adequate safeguards), trouble has followed. Being adventurous and proactive is not what is meant by "playing God"--but, rather, this idea that we can take action using other people as experimental pawns (without their knowledge or permission) in order to supposedly accomplish things beyond our realistic capacity (while at the same time unnecessarily inflicting harm).
3. Should governments and big corporations have the right to use citizens as guinea pibs in bizarre experiments that carry huge unknown risks, while not promising anything concrete? Why have GMOs, for example, been okayed by the U.S. government instead of, as would be expected in a free democracy, putting the matter to a national vote? More importantly, why give the green light to something for which long-term toxicity/safety studies were never conducted?
4. Can those who defend GMOs continue to assert that there is no danger whatsoever when so many experts disagree so strongly? Without question, this fact was behind California becoming the first state to require glyphosate (the main ingredient in Roundup) to be labeled as a carcinogenic substance. Since glyphosate is used on most if not all GMOs, how can they continue to call GMOs perfectly safe?
5. The altered genes in GMOs (which is what makes them qualify as GMOs) may pose a short and long-term threat that the food industry itself may not have foreseen or perhaps merely underestimated. Suggesting, for example, that the genes that will kill some pests will magically deactivate before being harmful to the humans that consume such Franken-veggies and Franken-fruits (what opponents are calling these man-created produce) is, at best, an educated guess. How the human body will process these GMOs once ingested no human being alive can predict. More importantly, it's difficult to map out what substances will do at the molecular level; to put it bluntly, we have no control over such things, especially in regard to things for which nature provides no model that has been safely observed in studies and in the lab.
6. The most glaring problem with GMOs is that they have not been subjected to long-term toxicity/safety studies using humans as subjects (with proper controls and design paradigms). For that reason, we don't really know how GMOs will affect us 10, 20, 30, 40 and more years down the line. You need such studies, for example, to accurately assess whether GMOs pose any carcinogenic threats since it takes that long to denote carcinogenicity. Pro-GMO persons may claim that this is not true but the studies that they allude to are not long enough to qualify--a long-term safety study needs to be 5 years or longer, needs to include humans and appropriate controls and needs to be designed with scientific objectivity (not profit or politics) in mind.
7. Why has the food industry and the well-financed pro-GMO lobbies fought so hard to not have GMOs labeled? The two main conclusions we can draw from this is that these people think that consumers are too stupid to be given a choice so they can make their own decisions; the second glaring reason is that there is something to hide. No one who truly thinks something is safe will work so hard to hide such a fact--it's ridiculous for anyone to suggest otherwise. By the same token, if people think that something potentially very profitable may pose as yet undisclosed dangers, such people will definitely not want people to know that the substance in question can be found in foods they eat everyday! For the record, all foods containing GMOs should be clearly labeled as such--there is no reason for this to be up for debate in supposedly free democracies.
8. Do Americans (and people in other free industrialized nations) have a right to full disclosure or not? In matters of national security, one can see why blatant secrecy might be defended (even if morality and ethics suggest otherwise). Especially in regards to the Freedom of Information Act (and similar laws), people have a right to know not just what foods contain GMOs but what were the actual results (as opposed to amended versions meant to cover up health threat issues) of all studies conducted thus far, as well as the results of studies conducted in other countries and by organizations labeled as anti-GMOs. A cloud of secrecy, though, has existed over GMOs which is hard to defend by anyone siding with truth (even if it interferes with profit).
9. Why are GMOs banned in other countries if they are so wonderfully safe? The food industry, instead of providing verifiable scientific evidence that the objections are unfounded, often resorts to political diatribes that may simply sound good to the mostly-uninformed masses. They play political games when what we need are more intense studies and closer scientific introspection that has been seen thus far.
10. It is not true that there is no scientific evidence to support serious concern about the potential health threats of GMOs. There are a number of studies which at the very least raise serious questions.
Unfortunately, this may simply become yet another topic about which many people will simply take sides. This is, to put it mildly, tragic. If possible, don't fall into the same trap many people can't avoid. Instead of taking sides, join the fight for transparency, for the right to know (so you can make your own decisions), and for the protection of our environment, our food sources and the means by which we feed the world.
Whether you like the ideas/intentions behind GMOs or not, you have to recognize that GMOs are a great gamble. If they pay off, it will be a wonderful thing for humanity (especially the millions of people affected by hunger and starvation); but what if they turn out, rather than improving our capacity to feed the world, to destroy many of the crops on which we depend?
Pairing this with the extermination of bees (which some people are blaming on the same pestcide giants, like Monsanto and Syngenta, behind GMOs), if GMOs bring about an agricultural debacle of crops, this may spell a disaster capable of ending life on this planet or, at the very least, greatly depopulating it.
Can you see now why some experts are saying this debate is too important to not take seriously or fail to manage properly?
References: See embedded links.