Wednesday, October 20, 2010

From GMO Chemistry Set to Table?


First and foremost, I am very honored and humbled to be taking part in this worthy project of raising awareness and generating solutions to end world hunger.  For 21 Days 5 Conducive Chronicle writers will be eating a diet similar to the almost 1 million of the world's hungry and presenting research on the topic.  And a very special thanks goes out to Kenda Swartz Pepper, whose idea this was, and to the talented and motivated writers with whom I am collaborating.

I was inspired to join this project because the more I read and learn about the world's food supply, food politics and how food is produced and distributed, the more I am convinced that everyone should know where our food comes from and what's in it.  It is a very complex system and should not be taken at face value from what we see and buy at our supermarket or grocery store shelves.  As we go about our daily lives, many (if not most) of us are unaware of the choices made by large corporations that affect what and how we eat.  And essentially many of us are sleepwalking as we fill up our grocery carts.

The focus of my portion of the 21 Days for World Hunger series will be to raise awareness of large food producing corporations known as "Big Agra" and the prevalence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our every day food supply.   It is my belief that in the pursuit of low cost mass production and large profits, these Big Agra corporations have literally poisoned us with unnecessary chemicals, hormones and bacteria -- leading to many of our current societal illnesses and diseases.  And perhaps these are things we should not be spreading to the rest of the world. 

So, how do corporations and politics, food production and distribution tie in with world hunger?  As previously mentioned, it's complex.  While there are many "experts" who point the finger at overpopulation for the reason that nearly one billion people in the world go hungry, I submit that the root cause lies within inherently flawed production and distribution systems.   According to an UTNE Reader article entitled The Rich Get Richer, The Poor Go Hungry:

Inequity and politics, not food shortages, were at the root of almost all famines in the 20th century. Brazil, for example, exported $20 billion worth of food in 2002, while millions of its people went hungry. During Ethiopian famines in the 1980s, the country also exported food. Many of even the poorest nations can feed themselves—or could in a society with fairer allocation of resources.

This is where the "Big Agra" corporations like Monsanto, DuPont, BASF, Bayer, and Syngenta come in.  Their answer to world hunger, and the seemingly logical next step is to produce more.  Grow more wheat.  Raise more cattle.  Quicker, faster, cheaper... better?  These Big Agra companies, which are, incidentally, also chemical and pharmaceutical companies,  use  GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) and GE (Genetic Engineering) to allegedly produce higher yields on crops and food production.
Okay.  So what?  Seems reasonable, right?  More people = more mouths to feed = more food to produce.  Well... maybe.  Let's take a closer look at what a GMO is.  According to The Institute for Responsible Technology:

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are the result of laboratory processes which artificially insert foreign genes into the DNA of food crops or animals.  Those genes may come from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans.  Although banned by food manufacturers in Europe and elsewhere, the FDA does not require any safety evaluations.  Most Americans say they would not eat GMOs if labeled, but the U.S. does not require labeling.  GMOs are not safe, but have been in the food supply since 1996 and are now present in the vast majority of processed foods in the U.S. 
Yummy!  Doesn't that sound just downright delicious?

Unless you've been eating strictly certified organic foods and organically-raised grass-fed meat, chickens, etc., you've been eating this stuff since 1996.  YIKES!!  But how bad is it?

The Institute for Responsible Technology summarizes the crops, foods and food ingredients have been genetically modified as of May, 2010:

Currently Commercialized GM Crops in the U.S.
(Number in parentheses represents the estimated percentage that is genetically modified.)
Soy(91%) Cotton(71%) Canola (88%) Corn(85%) Sugar Beets (90%) Hawaiian papaya (more than 50%) Alfalfa (at Supreme Court), Zucchini and Yellow Squash (small amount) Tobacco (Quest® brand)

Other Sources of GMOs:
• Dairy products from cows injected with the GM hormone rbGH
• Food additives, enzymes, flavorings, and processing agents, including the sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet®) and rennet used to make hard cheeses
•  Meat, eggs, and dairy products from animals that have eaten GM feed
• Honey and bee pollen that may have GM sources of pollen
• Contamination or pollination caused by GM seeds or pollen

Yeah, GMOs are pretty much everywhere.  Unfortunately, the whole premise behind the development and use of GMOs to create higher yield and pesticide-resistant crops to solve the world's hunger problem has been debunked.  In their report Failure to Yield, the Union of Concerned Scientists evaluated the performance of genetically engineered crops.  And the results?  Here's the biggie:

Despite 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialization, genetic engineering has failed to significantly increase U.S. crop yields.

21 Days for World Hunger
Day 1
Day 2 Focus on Hunger: Interview with Vandana Shiva
Day 3 Cambodia: Portrait of Hunger
Day 4 A Mindful Approach to Food Fosters Compassion for the World's Hungry
Day 5 How Does Mindful Farming Help Solve World Hunger
Day 6 Sustainable Vegan Farming Practices Empower the World's Hungry
Consider purchasing a World Hunger: Be the Solution Tee.  Proceeds from the shirt will go to Navdanya, the Small Planet Institute Fund the International Fund for Africa.  All tees are sweat free and available in organic cotton. To see the selection of World Hunger tees at Conducive’s Humanitarian & Human Rights Tee store, click here.


  1. Yes, genetic modification is scary! And companies like Monsanto do not allow independent testing of their products! So how can we know what we're eating is safe? Just yesterday I blogged about a genetically modified pig created at the University of Guelph. Check it out:

  2. Hi Andrea,

    Thanks for mentioning your blog. I will check it out!