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GM. A ticking time bomb?

November 22, 2011
GM. A ticking time bomb?

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Many people I’m sure, see the initials GM or GMO’s and their eyes glaze over, or worse they ignore them and skip onto something more interesting.

Why is that I wonder? Why aren’t people interested in knowing the origins of what they’re eating? Is playing around with genetics, or DNA,  something that many of us wish wasn’t happening but feel helpless to do anything about, much like battery hens or mass commercial farming?

I’ve thought of writing about genetically modified food (GM) ever since I heard Alfie from Old Farm talking about it at this year’s Food Camp at the Savour Kilkenny festival, but how do you encourage people to read about it with glazed eyes? More importantly, do I know enough myself to write about it accurately? Getting the facts straight is important whenever we write, but the more I’ve delved into the subject of GMO’s over the past few days, the more bogged down by legal documents, political declarations and scientific research I’ve become.

One thing I’m certain about however, is that I’m not happy that my personal choice over whether I wish to eat this contentious food source appears to have been taken away from me. Given that my housekeeping budget doesn’t allow my family to eat a diet made up entirely of organic food, it would seem that we are already eating food that contain GM ingredients, like it or not.

Although I knew scientists have messed around with genetics (cows producing human milk, come on!), it wasn’t until I heard Alfie speak so passionately about it that the dangers of using human beings as living, breathing test tubes for this branch of science, and where it’s potentially headed that it really struck home.

I’ve since brought the topic up in a couple of workshops and it seems that many people just aren’t informed, or have never heard of GM. So, rather than give you a detailed scientific list (which I’m not qualified to do anyway), the following are just a few points that I’ve gathered that we do know about. I’m sure this can be added to, and if you can and wish to, please do so in the comments…

  • Genetically modifying isn’t just another word(s) for plant breeding. Natural breeding occurs when closely related species are reproduced e.g. a tomato and a potato, not by mingling the DNA of different species e.g. a tomato and a monkey.
  • Once created and planted, there’s no going back. Genetically modified plants cannot be recalled, but as living organisms will multiply, passing any traits from generation to generation.We simply don’t know enough about them yet to unleash them to the world.
  • The Irish Doctors Environmental Association are very concerned about the possible health implications of foods containing genetically modified (GM) ingredients. They express serious concerns about the results of animal testing, and the lack of publications of clinical studies on the human health effects of GM food.
  • Food containing genetically modified organisms is already on sale in Irish shops. In a survey of soya based foods undertaken by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland in 2002, over a half of the products tested contained genetically modified ingredients. Such products included baby foods and soya products.Although Ireland does not grow GM crops, we do import animal feeds that contain them, so we are already indirectly consuming products containing them.The labelling laws aren’t strict enough. Milk, eggs and meat from animals that are fed GM food do not currently have to be labelled.
  • The weed-killer Roundup (produced by Monsanto) which is routinely sprayed on GM crops, has been linked to human cell death, birth defects, cancer, miscarriages and environmental damage according to a report released by an international group of scientists in 2011.
  • 90% of genetically modified crops belong to Monsanto. According to WikiLeaks, Monsanto have links with the US government and the US government have been putting Europe under pressure, threatening trade restrictions if they oppose genetically modified crops (just saying…)

This list could go on and on, but it wont. Instead I strongly urge you to watch the four-minute video that Greenpeace Switzerland have created that explains very simply why we should be concerned about genetically modified food – it’s well worth taking a few minutes to view it.

Then please take a look at the Irish GM Moratorium web site where there is a link to a petition urging the Irish Government to put in place a 5-year moratorium on growing GM crops and food in Ireland because not enough is yet known about GM crop effects.

Also take a look at some of the links to the science and research from the web page and make your own minds up.

Whatever you do, please don’t ignore the GM issue in the hope that it will just go away… it wont.