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What Part of GMO Don’t You Understand?

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A few of you may still have doubts about global warming, even though the overwhelming scientific evidence says it’s a no-brainer. Regardless, some dissenters will say the argument for global warming is based on crap science

Comedian Andy Borowitz wrote a satirical piece for the New Yorker, called Many in Nation Tired of Explaining Things to Idiots. The polls confirmed: “…a majority… will no longer bother trying to explain (global warming) to cretins.”

While Greenland melts, let’s move onto another hot button topic: GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms).

Most of my friends are convinced that GMOs are bad. Period. End of story. Maybe they are bad?

At a dinner party with friends a few years ago, I recommended that they read another New Yorker article, Seeds of Doubt. I received scolding stares. My argument didn’t go well

Your mind may be made up about GMOs. I can’t make a scientific argument for, or against, GMOs. I’m not schooled in the subject. I’m not saying there is no cause for concern. (I’ve got a few.) Yet there is ample evidence to suggest that not all GMOs are harmful. And there are supporters where you’d least expect them. There’s even a Facebook page called Hippies for GMOs.

Before you start piling on hippies and the bad boys of agricultural, genetic seed manipulation—Monsanto, Syngenta and Pioneer—let’s roll back genetic modification a few thousand years. We’ll call it GMO creationism.

Recently scientists discovered that grafted trees have been swapping mitochondria for thousands of years. In other words, there is a flow of DNA between the understock of an apple tree and the grafted scion wood. Bingo: genetically modified apple trees.

And next time you sample sweet potato fries, you’ll be nibbling on a GMO product that’s 8,000 years old, thanks to a soil-borne bacteria.

In late June, more than 100 Nobel Laureates condemned Greenpeace for their stance against genetically modified rice—infused with beta-carotene. The GMO rice could inexpensively prevent a major Vitamin A deficiency in the developing world. Is that so bad?

Congress just passed a confusing GMO food labeling law with bipartisan support. That’s the good news. The bad news: It will be hard to decipher labels to tell what’s really a GMO product.

I’m not trying to diminish the potential harm of GMOs. And it doesn’t mean that I’m eager to have GMO crops on my plate every evening of the week.

Still, over half of European Union members have put a block on GMO food crops. This may exclude the possibility for GMO Cannabis availability in Europe, but who cares? Hippies are producing fine Cannabis buds, already, thank you

I enjoy French fries and potato chips as much as the next slob. A new GMO potato promises to make fast food better for me. Wait a minute…. This has a bit of a Diet Mountain Dew ring to it.

I am skeptical of the hype on both sides.

Genetic manipulation, through traditional F1 hybridization or genetic modification, has increased the number of bushels harvested per acre. Farmers like a good yield and deserve an occasional return on investment. Farmers were contending with burdensome capital costs, bad weather, pestilence and commodity price fluctuations, long before GMOs became controversial.

I am worried about the monopolization of seed genetics. Market dominance is a businessperson’s dream-come-true. But we need more varieties, not just the handful of GMO patented seed options.

Control the seed options, and you rule the farm and table.

This is worrisome for both farmers and consumers.

In my starry-eyed fashion, I would prefer non-patented, public domain, save-them-for-sowing-next-year-if-you-want-to seeds. This could be extrapolated across the food spectrum, but you’ll need to grow the crops yourself or pay more to local farmers to grow non-GMO food.

Dane County Farmers’ Market on Augusts 6th on Capitol Square in Madison, Wisconsin. The largest producer’s-only farmer’s market in the U.S.




Wendell Berry, Kentucky author, farmer and activist is quoted in the recently released documentary, The Seer: A Portrait of Wendell Berry. “The traditional farmer, that is the farmer who was first independent, who first fed himself off his farm and then fed other people, who farmed with his family and who passed the land on down to people who knew it and had the best reasons to take care of it… that farmer stood at the convergence of traditional values… our values.”

Neglected, aging values.

The world is becoming increasingly urbanized and disconnected from its food sources. The average age of a Kentucky farmer is 63 years old.

Farm-to-table on a Social Security check.

Dinner with 105 of my favorite Perennial Plant Association friends at Tangletown Gardens and Farm, Plato, MN on August 2nd.

We will need to pool all of our best resources. Wendell Berry, his wife Tanya and daughter Mary know that the values of farming and the culture of rural communities have been badly damaged.

Love of place, community and neighbors is essential for a healthy world. Tanya Berry, in The Seer, quotes her friend, the poet Gary Snyder: “Stop somewhere. Be somewhere.”

Stay someplace.

Plant your backyard. Support your local farmers.

Help the Berry Center resettle America.


Posted by

Allen Bush
on August 10, 2016 at 6:57 am, in the category Eat This, Ministry of Controversy.

1 Comment

  1. We have the capacity to do such amazing things. I’ve also wondered if GMO foods might be a smart and environmentally proper way to feed the world. Its a shame that the big companies seem to use the technology tyrannically, forcing small farmers out of business and ruining indigenous seed sources and to sell more pesticides and herbicides. But if they could make green beans taste like New York Super Fudge Chunk then I’d be svelte!

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