153 Responses

  1. Genetically engineered foods have always been a concern of mine. Prior to understanding any scientific research, just the thought we were putting something engineered into our bodies was a red flag for me. I did my best to steer away from these types of food when feeding my children.

    In the past year my concerns were substantiated, even before reading this article. When visiting my naturopath, she described which foods to stay away from. Many of the foods you would think were healthy such as tomatoes, corn and soy, to name a few. But when questioning her she described the negative effects of engineered foods on our bodies and how they cause inflammation, which is a leading cause of disease for people in America.

    Engineered foods are not only a cause for our health concerns, but also as the article states it is an ethical issue within our culture. Using food as a negotiating tool, and forgetting those who are truly in need is unprincipled! And feeding food to humans without completely understanding the scientific repercussions is preposterous! When the animals feed on these types of foods, humans will eventually ingest them as well, without knowing! It is the deceit that is bothering me here. If the companies label an item as engineered, then purchasing it would be a choice. But when it starts to evolve into all of our systems, then we no longer have choices, it becomes a part of the overall food chain. This is another reason having my own garden is a priority for my families health. It is just unfortunate that I cannot have a complete system of all foods on my property (our land would not support a whole farm/ranch); therefore, I need to be able to purchase some of my food. And right now, my confidence in going to the grocery store to buy healthy foods is becoming less and less. I need to know I am feeding my family with healthy foods, and this information should be readily available, which it is not.

    Currently I am studying health psychology, which addresses the items we put into our bodies and how these materials affect our health. It may not describe GMO foods directly, but common sense surrounds the affects foods like these can cause. If a naturopathic doctor is stressing the importance to stay away from these foods, and they see many ailments to correlate with the patients eating habits, that is important for me to know when I make my food choices. I currently buy organic foods when possible, but they are slow to come to the marketplace. Possibly with getting this information out to the politicians, farmers, ranchers, and general public organic foods will become more readily available.

    It completely disgusts me that our political powers are willing to put my health and my family’s health at risk for loosely held ideas and strategies. Putting the future of my wellbeing into any governmental control is not a good choice.

    • Hi Marla, you are not alone in your concerns. I think there is absolutely no excuse for not labelling gmos– except that some can put lots of money into blocking this move. I also think is inexcusable that the US is forcing the EU to accept gmo imports.
      Watch the actions of our new EPA director; she is asking for more progressive moves on inhibing toxic chemicals in our environment; perhaps she will decide to do something about the labeling of gmos as well.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this issue.

  2. This in no particular way surprises me. We are an economic machine based upon profits and we do not generally look at the long term consequences of our actions. Will this food kill or poison our clients? Not of much concern as long as we hit the numbers for this year, not taking into account that if their customer base dies or becomes poisoned they will be unable to further consume their products. We are already quite aware that we produce enough food to give 4.3 pounds of food to every person on this planet every day. The problem lies in the unfair distribution and commercialization of food. It’s far more profitable to charge more and waste more, than to charge less and waste less. We aren’t designing GMOs to feed the hungry and any corporation that takes that stance is not only lying to you, but probably to themselves as well. This is the single largest characteristic I hate about our society, but I don’t know how to fix it. I watched Wetzel’s Pretzels throw away 50 pretzels the other day. If you give them out for free then you de-value the product people are paying for, so rather than feeding the hungry, they must destroy perfectly good food in order to protect profits. I can’t even express into words the level of anger this causes me, but I do not know how we can change it without abandoning capitalism completely. Perhaps the answer will come in not allowing food or water to be a source of profit any longer. With our corrupt system of politics and large multinational corporations with profits to lose I don’t see any changes coming in the near future.

    • Thanks for your comment, Damien. There are some powerful points here; perhaps we will change the notion of profit to include clean water and clean food and healthy communities… there are some businesses that understand that the good will they obtain by upholding such standards are worth far more than what manipulative advertising might buy them.

  3. Makes one want to grow a big garden and only eat the food from that. But then I get to wondering if the seeds you purhase are not engineered too.

    I also wonder if that is what is causing the increase in gluten allergies. I swear that everyone of my coworkers has a food allergy that is not the normal ones (nuts, shellfish). And also the rise in diabetes, MS, cancer and other diseases that were not common 50 years ago. I want to believe that it is just a better reporting system, but I know deep down that it is due to messing with out food and water supplies.

    Thank you for posting this article. Make you really aware of what you are placing in your mouth and where did it come from.

    • I think your last sentence is to the point, Adeena. And as for allergies to wheat: there is an unprecedented rise in celiac’s disease. One in one hundred persons in the US now have a serious allergy to wheat. Two things of note that may well play in: the off-label harvesting of large wheat fields by spraying them with Roundup (save have to harvest with a columbine) and the narrowing down the former genetic diversity of wheat seeds to one predominant strain– which has twice the gluten of the strain used in Europe, for instance– seems we like fluffier bread, which extra gluten provides.
      And seeds that are certified organic should not be genetically engineered. I don’t know where you live, but there are also seed saver’s networks growing up all over.

  4. A great story – a huge step forward for everyone who is concerned about where their food comes from! It just goes to prove you should never be intimidated by a bully. Monsanto may be formidable, but if we stand as a unified group against unethical behavior we really can affect change. You hear “vote with your dollar” a lot, but we don’t consider how true this is. If people stand as a group and refuse to pay corporations for poisoning our food sources, our water, and our air, eventually they will have no choice but to change their ways or go out of business.

  5. Monsanto and GMOs is just another example of how our consumerist society has degenerated what should be a program implemented for the good of the people, not for profit. I’m certain that the idea of GMOs at one point came from a desire to make things better, but it’s widely known to actually be a weakening factor in our agricultural system. Hybrids are making our fruits and vegetables more resistant to pests, but weaker in nutrient values – they affect the animals that are exposed to them and they are actually making some types of produce spoil more quickly. Tomatos used to be an item that could safely sit on a table for hours before you would have to worry about it going bad, but many varieties have been changed and are now considered a potentially hazardous food item that must be refregerated or discarded after a few hours of exposure to room temperature. I am not one to promote additional government control, but there has to be a process in place that ensures that situations like this are not allowed to take place. This is a group of dangerous people with just enough intelligence to destroy the livelihood of the entire world, but not enough to know how to fix it, or even enough morality to know that they should fix it. Monsanto has been fighting tooth and nail for years to corrupt systems in order to further their own agenda. I don’t know if they ever had a hand in actually attempting to do good with their talents, but they have degenerated into a corporation that has realized it can make more money through working the legal system and playing around with nature.

    • Thanks for your comment, Maria. The trend toward monocultures rather than seed diversity is a troubling part of the dynamic in gmos. To meet the environmental challenges created by current human action, we need more diversity, not less.
      It does trouble me to see dedicated young students go into scientific fields with excitement and hope, only to run into the wall created by greed, sloppy science, and poor ethics. We need that excitement and hope to elicit the creativity we will need to meet the challenges ahead–not to get trapped into situations like those in which this researcher found himself.
      You are certainly right about the dangerous potential of those who would attack the diversity of our food supply in the face of water shortages and population increases.

  6. I feel that, in general, there is an apathy in the U.S. regarding processed or modified food in general. In Europe, where there is a focus on the holistic and preventative, Americans seem to hold a cultural tendency to gravitate to “quick fix” solutions without too much thought as to the long-term effects of such decisions.

    The risks to one’s health concerning the ingestion of genetically modified foods over a long period of time are not fully explored or studied. I have to say that in cases where the only alternative is extreme hunger and malnourishment, I cannot be completely opposed to them. I do, however, feel that they should be constantly scrutinized to maintain the highest possible standards, and any negatives discovered – not only in their consumption, but also in the steps leading to their production, manufacture, and distribution – should be put under the microscope as far as plausible long-term effects are concerned.

    As much as I think that it is nice to have options, I do not believe it fits into the mental image I have of the future, or at least the future of sustainable living which I envision, with long-term goals of eliminating world hunger. At best, GMOs are an act of mitigation while we find a better solution to what is, hopefully, a short-term problem.

    • Thoughtful balance in this response, Hannah. For my own sense of things, I haven’t seen that gmos have any potential to actually increase our crop yields without at the same time endangering our food supply. The essay, “Green revolution– whoops!” indicates some further problems with this technology. I haven’t seen where this is even a short term solution that helps.

  7. Scary to think that the USDA may allow genetically produced alfalfa. This article again reminded me of the movie, The Informant, not only were they price-fixing but they promoted their biologist to vice president. Why would a major U.S. company promote someone who specializes in the biology and chemicals department to vice president? Well as the movie states, because the company wanted to give this scientist the money and clout to persuade him to produce more products at the cost of consumers and ingredients in their products.

    How can the US and the world overcome these issues that these major companies bring upon us? With such a large population today can we grown enough organic food? Maybe if we all relied on organic food we would decrease our populations issues with health disorders and obesity.

    • Hi Kerri. I think your question about growing with organics comes down to the fact that this is the ONLY sustainable way to feed our populations; for with our burgeoning population, if we don’t care for the land, we will really be in trouble. This is why the statements of corporations that we need gmo foods to feed our population is such a sad mistatement; not only do gmos not produce the bumper crops boasted for them, but they have serious problems to boot– especially with terminator seeds.
      We really do need to disconnect science from greed and corporations from decision-making power that they now have over us. As you indicated in another comment, this begins with each of us making indiviudal choices in good conscience after we inform ourselves on the issues.

  8. For scientists, it is important to ensure that all of the possible consequences of our endeavors are addressed before implementing them in a real world situation. This means, for most issues, that experiments need to be conducted in a closed environment. The only problem is that agriculture is not a closed system and GMOs’ proliferation into unwanted areas is difficult, if not impossible, to control.
    The long term effects of GMOs have not been fully studied and by releasing them into our environment we are hoping that our guesses as to their effects are correct. Serious questions as to how “pests” will respond to these organisms need to be addressed; will the results be similar to bacterial tolerance? Will inadvertent cross-breeding occur with “weeds” and create “super-weeds”? Scientists are already delving into these questions and many more. Failure to Yield, a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/food_and_agriculture/failure-to-yield.pdf, sheds a lot of light into the true nature of GMOs and, to me, is worth reading.

  9. What the researcher said about his experience working with GMOs is in accordance with other information I have read about it. Basically, we hardly know anything about Genetically-Modified-Organisms yet we are changing the biological face of the planet with them. What else can one say about GMOs? It leaves me “speechless” with amazement at the baseness of the business world. Madronna, I commend you in probabilistically holding your tongue from negativity on what is such an ugly matter and still being informative on a such a highly consequential issue.

    I’ve filled out many petitions for preventing them with Congress and other organizations over the years (Center for Food Safety). That is my answer to the question which is the problem of GMOs. It’s too bad that it’s not guaranteed we can avoid GMOs’ even as an organic consumer. I remember when I learned that earlier this quarter and I was appalled if not surprised. I think about the world like a literal mixing pot where particles mix it up so when I learned that this is what genes do in cross-pollination it fit and so did the fact that it is how GMOs spread.

    About his take on the people buying the “feeding the world” quip, I would say that didn’t even need to be in there, because people do not essentially trust corporations nor would they trust such a statement so it’s inconsequential really.

    • Thanks for your comment, Sky. I think your point about the problems with “filling the world” with genetically engineered foods when we know so little about them is well taken. I would hope that you right about people not trusting the assertion about “feeding the world”– but I am not so sure. I have seen many comments that assert how we “need” such technology in order to feed the burgeoning human population–when of course the opposite is true: we need sustainable technologies with positive rather than negative effects on our seed stocks and ecosystems.

  10. Creepy stuff. The development of genetically engineered crops and terminator seeds has effects we don’t understand yet . Once again, the scientific community has been paid to work very hard to devise formulas which serve to create profits but which also undo the health and wellbeing of people and ecosystems. Some people attribute the decline of bee populations to the proliferation of GMO crops and terminator seeds. Perhaps what the bees are eating makes them vulnerable to the mites? There are some very very scary consequences for us if the bees continue to die. What we can do in this moment is support local and organic food production and quit supporting fast food chains which rely on GMO crops.

    • I agree, Kellie. I also think it is a serious problem that the World Trade Organization is pressuring the EU to take genetically engineered foods when they have perfectly good reasons for choosing not to. It is a serious danger to all of us whenever profits trump science and sense.

  11. I really do not know why I always seem to be surprised when I hear of issues like this. It is not the dishonesty of one or two parties that bothers me, it is the wide scale dishonesty and carelessness with concern to health hazards committed by all parties involved here. There are two very big obstacles at hand here – one is the role of the shareholders of large processed food corporations out to make a profit at any cost – the other is the role of the government in allowing, and sometimes even encouraging , genetic mutilations in our food markets. Not only do they allow it, but also they haven’t even required that these companies tell us the truth about the food that we are eating? WOW!
    The genetic alterations taking place and the future implications of these alterations have not been researched anywhere near enough. As far as I am concerned, genetic alterations should be more of an area of research rather than a marketable trade (at least until we understand this process much better). DNA is so extremely complex – and holds the “instructions” for all life within – it is just not something that humans really have the right to modify. The thing about DNA is that it replicates these gene changes – even when there is an “error” in the DNA sequence – this is the case with cancer. Once the DNA becomes corrupted or damaged it starts to exist and replicate in a seemingly uncontrolled, unusual manner – and the real mechanics of this level of biology are vague.
    Due to our obvious lack of knowledge in this “life altering” (literally) process, there is no fathomable way that we could be genetically altering our food. I feel that the government should stand up to protect the best interests of the American people – by requiring A LOT more research to be done about all current/future implications of genetically altered food. They should then take the precautionary steps to disallow this kind of food processing – or at the very least by informing the public of this possible health hazards so that they can make an informed decision about their own health. The shareholders of these companies are out to make a profit – and there is nothing wrong with that. However, there is something wrong with losing sight of what is right or wrong. There is something wrong with the fact that they are unable to make an unbiased business decision because they are more concerned about profits than the health of the American people. Don’t they worry about their family members? Friends? Or even themselves? Do they care about their stockholders….maybe they should do some research behind the economics of how the health of stockholders affects their profits… Processed food is not only a reality in the U.S. – it has become the way of life – and even if you want to avoid processed foods, it is very hard to do so. There must be more research done. There must be disclosure of information. And there must be more (available) alternative to genetically altered food for the public.

  12. This article doesn’t really surprise me. I’ve read about Monsanto’s pursuit of Mr. Schmeiser, although I didn’t know that he had won over Monsanto. I’ve very glad that he did, because it sets a strong legal precedent that will be useful the next time Monsanto tries to extort money out of farmers that way.
    I’m not a scientist, but it’s not hard to figure out that we are capable of doing a lot of things with DNA without really understanding what we are doing. Profit-based genetics labs probably don’t have the patience to wait and see how their GM plants act in the wild before pushing the seeds to farmers all over the world. The result is that they are playing with fire, and sooner or later, that is going to end up burning all of us.
    I strongly believe that GM crops are significant factor in the recent loss of entire hives of honeybees. Granted, there are probably many other factors as well, but I’m convinced that GM plants have tipped the scales against honeybees.
    I wonder how much of my son’s Crohn’s disease is linked to eating GMO foods. Maybe he had a predisposition to it; the GMO might have pushed him into a full-blown disease. I guess there’s no way to tell, but it would be nice to know the truth someday.

    • Hello Roxanne,

      I have read your son has Crohn’s disease, as do I. I am 23 years old and my family has NO symptoms or sign of Crohn’s disease in its present or past. Before my severe “incident” which left me with huge medical bills and one less foot of my large intestine, I ate nothing but junk food since I moved away from my Mom and her delicious home cooked foods. I feel GM foods and rBGH are a HUGE factor in causing my disease and am trying my hardest NOT to consume either, although it is quite difficult due to my poverty. If you haven’t seen Food Inc I HIGHLY recommend it. I really wish big business would be concerned about people’s health over their BOTTOM LINE, as I believe this is a growing epidemic (obesity, cancer, Crohn’s, etc.) Sadly, I don’t feel like we can do much but vote with our dollars, urging other people to steer clear of GM foods as well. I wish you and your son good health!

      • I have heard three other possible contributors to the unprecedented rise in Crohn’s disease along with genetic engineering: the illegal but still common use of herbicides to harvest wheat, the use of a wheat variety with double the gluten of European varieties (US folks like fluffy bread), and the predominant form of ONE variety of wheat where previously there had been dozens. I am glad you found a way to care for your health, Michael. I think it tragic that people your age are being hit with so many allergies. Food Inc has much to offer!

      • Hi Michael,

        I am so sorry to hear that you are suffering from Crohn’s disease, too. Justin was diagnosed about five years ago (when he was 13), and he’s been miserable because of it. Thankfully, he seems to be in remission right now, and I hope that trend continues.
        I’ll definitely rent Food Inc. when I have a chance. I have no doubt that corporations could care less about the health effects of their products; after all, they would probably argue that nobody is forcing people to eat their products, and that allows them to claim innocence when it comes to the quality of their foods. It makes me sick just to think about it.
        It’s a sad commentary about our country when healthy food costs more than junk food. I hope that you will be able to continue eating well and get the help you need to battle your Crohn’s symptoms. Take care of yourself, and thank you for responding to my post.

  13. Wow this is very eye opening. If the producers know of all the risks that GMO’s come with why are these foods still in production? If they are not going to solve a hunger crisis and they are doing more harm than good Why would anyone want to eat GMO foods? This story makes me want to never buy produce and processed foods from a store. To know they can even be an onset of adult allergies is crazy to me. I will always be checking my labels now to see if GMO’s are a part of my food. Great article!

    • Good perspective, Jayne. In fact, consumers (largely) DON’T want gmo foods, which is why Monsanto has worked so hard to prevent labeling of gmo products, since their research tells them it would cut into their profits, since consumers would tend to avoid such foods.

  14. It doesn’t surprise me at all to read that the intent of GMO companies is not really “to feed the world” but rather “to feed the fat pockets of our CEOs and shareholders.” I feel like these companies try to trick us into believing that what they do is okay. We think, “Well, they’re trying to feed the world? Who could say no to that?” Really, though, what they are doing is just furthering capitalism and patriarchy under the guise of saving the world’s hungry. In my opinion, what we need to realize is that we all hold the keys to ending world hunger. We have enough resources on this planet to give people a basic standard of living. The problems come in when we want more than that. We want more, more, more. Our standard of living becomes so impossibly high that we are, in essence, making it impossible for others to have even a basic standard of living. The fact is that companies like Monsanto are looking out for themselves, not the world, and while we continue to let it happen, we are also to blame.

    Another thing that scares me about this essay is that scientists are basically manipulating our food on a whim. It’s a gamble, a crap shoot. They do not truly understand what they are doing or what they are making. The implications of this are petrifying. If we blindly eat genetically modified foods just because science says that it’s okay, what’s going to happen 10, 20, 30 years from now when it comes out that it’s not okay. We will have been putting things into our bodies that really do not belong there. It’s naive of us if we think that this will not have consequences at some point.

    I think I may have gone a bit off topic there, but these are the thoughts I had while reading.

    • I don’t think you went off topic at all, Amanda. I can’t imagine a more important consideration that the long term effects of “manipulating our food supply on a whim”. I am heartening by the responses of those who this weekend put together a “propagation fair” to share locally saved seeds and hundreds of heirloom apple, pear and plum varieties– just to keep them growing. This fair was at the community college in Eugene. A wonderful event indeed!

  15. In response to GMO’s in general but also as a response to the “propagation fair” I thought this was of some interest. Not only is the threat of GMO’s problematic but the seed companies utilizing GMO’s and Biotechnology will strong arm small agriculture communities world wide as these seeds will have attached Intellectual Property Rights. IPR’s could potentially decrease farmers livelihood as the seeds of hybridized crops must be purchased annually. While a hybrid crop might be better suited to specific environmental challenges it actually increases the corporate concentration in a specific community aiding in a loss of genetic and cultural diversity. This could ultimately lead to a steady decline of long term sustainability of food supplies in developing countries. The very nature of seeds is in the ability to self reproduce. This has allowed farmers the ability to re-seed trade or sell the seeds from a previous crop. GMO’s and IPR’s threaten a farmer’s ability to maintain crops making them increasingly vulnerable. After reading your response to Amanda I thought about how terribly tragic it would be if these small farmers could not share and profit from the “fruits” of their labors.

    • There can hardly be a more profound difference than that between Monsanto’s gmo patents and the propagation fair in which folks trading plants and knowledge for free. It would be tragic indeed, as you note, Stacie, if we lost this ability to share in community, to grow our own food- not to mention if we lost such a treasure of biodiverse food stalks. Thanks for your comment.

  16. Again we find that it is our societies lust for wealth that harms our well being. The idea that we have to make our quarterly earnings, sacrificing actually understanding one of the most powerful systems known to man is outright stupid. The dangers that go along with genetics are so far out of our understanding that we might as well be teaching our children how to create nuclear weapons. If a professional is going to be randomly sequencing DNA without taking into account the possibility of an unknown outcome we are going to be in a world of hurt. Especially when we are consuming the products as well.

  17. Since I originally wrote this article, not much has changed in my mindset. If anything, I’m becoming increasingly aware of more issues pertaining to this industry. Since being in OSU and talking with other Agriculture and Forestry students and graduates, I’ve noticed many of them are naive to what they will most likely end up doing once they graduate. Most agriculture students will go one to work for large food corporations. Students that graduate with organic farming objectives are openly ridiculed at GMO company functions. Organics and interest in organics is relegated to delusional hippies, and idealists destined for a lifetime of poverty. I’ve personally watched a student majoring in organics take a summer job at a biotech company, realize the difference in salaries he would be making upon graduation, and immediately accept a job at the biotech company he originally joined “to find out more about what he was fighting against.” In the end, he was working in GMO rice and Canola spliced with fish that was to be used in baby food. (by baby food company we all immediately recognize)
    Ethics and morality all come clearly into focus when we are talking about bringing home nearly a hundred thousand per year, versus living in a commune driving a rusty pickup truck. Organics is for dreamers. That’s the general consensus among people I know who work in GM technology. At one particular lab in North Carolina associated with the company I once worked for, where much of the genetic transformations take place, nearly every car in the parking lot is an Escalade, Jaguar, or Benz.

    Most of the people I know who work in the industry, drive big beautiful company trucks that have free gas, insurance, and unlimited free personal usage. They get company cell phones where all their bills are paid for free. They get stock options and investments portfolios. The average employee gets top notch health insurance, eye insurance, dental insurance, and 2 to 5 weeks of vacation per year. In many cases, the recent graduate will be offered a full relocation package that includes a free trip to Hawaii, a free house to live in until they find their own, and Matson shipping containers to move all their belongings in for free. Not to mention the free college education for continuing studies in the GM field, and opportunities to work in GM research. When you put all this together, it is literally impossible for most recent graduates I know to turn it down.

    They may think the company is totally evil and a threat to the planet, but when their bank account starts filling up and their driving around in their brand new lifted truck, you’ve be surprised how fast their idealism melts away. The next thing you know, they’re in a suit at a board meeting discussing profit objectives for the next quarter, and how to sell more patent licensing to indigenous peoples. It’s a slow process for many, but eventually they often find themselves neck deep in the tar of corporate bewilderment. It’s like a diamond ring sitting in a pool of quicksand, as soon as you reach out for it you start sinking, and getting out is very difficult.

    Agriculture students get churned out of Universities daily and have no idea what they are in for. Often times, before they realize it, their life becomes everything they originally set out to be against. I’ve seen it so many times, it’s like a re-run. Getting organics majors into the GMO industry is a running joke at company meetings because, “they’re just such easy prey.”

    • This is a powerful ground level portrayal of the self-perpetuating system of “economic blackmail” that keeps corporations in place that continually degrade the environment in order to make an extra buck. It is also a warning as to the ease with which we might slide into a place that is precisely where we do not wish to be.
      There are many cautionary lessons in these tales, and I have the good fortune to have seem some who move the other way, out of this industry–as did you yourself. The organics industry is actually booming in Oregon (I don’t know about Hawaii), and many of the small farmers involved know rewards (and security and community) that is beyond parking a jaguar in an exclusive parking lot.
      But you have an excellent point here that deserves airing and debate in a larger forum. It plays directly into an upcoming essay I am writing on “economic blackmail”.
      Thanks for your provocative and important insight here, Josh.

  18. GMOs are an aspect of science that worries me. Like this researcher stated in a recent post, those behind the manufacturing of these products are living quite comfortably, which means they probably won’t be too readily concerned and give up their careers. The same can be said for those who make a living off of other forms of environmental degradation. Those who benefit from manufacturing and promotion of consumption are less likely to be concerned with its negative effects or even investigate them so that they can continue their work guilt free. While everyone needs to support themselves and their families by some method, it does not need to be unethical. The fact that GMOs are so loosely regulated and so little is known about them should be of great concern to those who dictate their production and send them out for purchasing. Simply knowing that animals can creep in and eat imperfect crops, then go on to be food for people is concern enough to enforce more harsh regulations. When we tamper with the DNA of organisms that go into our bodies, extensive research needs to first be done to have some sort of idea of the long term effects. If it takes an extended period of time to work out the kinks of GMOs, wouldn’t that suggest that perhaps over time some of those kinks might manifest themselves in consumers?

    • I think this is an essential point, Elllie–that we should not be rewarding environmental degradation. In fact, the execs at Monsanto are living more than comfortably. On a level more of us can relate to, I once asked a class of dislocated workers in Coos Bay how many would be supporting clear cut logging if they had another way to earn a living wage, not a one raised their hand–and in terms of their own daily experience with the woods, they had ample reasons why this is not a good strategy. We need economic alternatives so that “economic blackmail” does not lead to our making unethical choices.

  19. Hopefully more genetic research like Barbara McClintock’s work “listening to the corn” will come in future years. GMOs can be a great thing, hopefully more than a corporation’s bottom-line will be the motivation for research in the near future.

    • McClintock did NOT do gmo research: genetic engineering is not the same as genetic research. Did you read this essay about the problems with this kind of research? You might be interested in other essays that indicate even more problems.
      Perhaps you are thinking of hybridization or even stem cell research– which are very different things than gmos.

    • GMO’s can be a great thing? I’m sorry, Findlay, have you not been reading everyone’s comments?
      The ONLY reason that genetically modified organisms are being created is for profit.

  20. GMO’s are another example of man screwing up nature. Will we ever stop?! It sounds good in the short run because we get more for the money. It’s not worth ruining our health over though. It’s like we’re watering down what we pleasure. Not only are GMO foods less tasty they are not as beneficial. Add pesticides and you’ve got a backward product. It’s no wonder people who go organic stay organic. It’s the only way to eat healthy…..…..and the food tastes better.

    • I absolutely agree with you on this one. And I think another serious is the attack on biodiversity (inadvertent and otherwise) with “terminator” genes. Thanks for your comment.

  21. I also have many hesitations concerning the use and integration of genetically modified seeds and foods into agriculture and into the market place. From what I have read, genetically modified foods pose significant environmental, socioeconomic and health impacts, including threats to wildlife and overall biodiversity and threats to small farmers by creating a situation in which increased control is given to large-scale corporate agriculture through the use of patents, terminator seeds, and the consolidation of producers of genetically modified seeds. I wish that the United States would take a more precautionary approach to the regulation of genetically modified foods. I know that several bills have been introduced into Congress, requiring stricter regulations and labeling requirements, but none have been successful. Lastly, I thought that this researcher brought up several good points within the article but I would like to add that I see a shift back to localized and small farms that are adapted to the local environment as the means to achieving a sustainable and productive food system and not simply though organic farming which has become a big business.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Natalie. You raise a good point about organics: there are some agribusiness ventures that have decided to take advantage of the growing organics market. There is an evaluation of “good” (sustainable small farms, humanely treated animals etc.) vs. supposedly “organic” factory farming on our web links under the farms and gardens section. Pointedly, there are rules for humane treatment of animals in organic certification that have been violated by some of the agribusiness labels– who should therefore lose their certification.
      As far as I am concerned, local, sustainable, humane and diverse agriculture goes hand in hand with organics: we certainly cannot accomplish any such sound farming through chemicals.

  22. I’ve known that food was being genetically modified. I hadn’t known the high number of these foods that are already on shelves is at 90%, and possibly more. This does explain why so many more people develop allergies (that they’d never had before). We just accept these increasing health problems and give other explanations for them. It is scary to think about, and a little overwhelming to think of how much of our food should be deemed unedible. Our ancestors may have lived (somewhat) shorter lives than we do today, but they ate healthier than we do!

    • Thanks for your comment, Mary. I just want to re-assert that that is 90 per cent of PROCESSED food-not all fresh foods like fruits and vegetables. Allergies continue to be a problem with gmo foods since the Starlink corn that caused deadly allergic reactions was pulled over a decade ago.
      And actually, industrialization caused shortened lifespans from those of hunters-gatherers. Though we have made up the difference in the last few years, we are going the other way again. The President’s Cancer Panel (quoted in the “quote of the week” sidebar) noted that children born today are the first generation predicted to live shorter lives than their parents.

  23. GMO foods really scare me. They aren’t tested well enough and all the companies are concerned about is money. Learning that GMO foods that are still in the experimental phase enter our world just by other animals getting in and eating them is really frightening! Something needs to be done. Monsanto shouldn’t have such political power. If GMO are allowed into organics, I don’t know what I’ll eat!

    • I agree with you; this technology is untested and dangerous–a scary combination. So far, consumers and farmers have maintained a hard fought battle to keep gmos out of organics. And in any event, it never hurts to get acquainted with local farmers and to garden in your own backyard or neighborhood. Thanks for you comment, Jennifer.

  24. I do not think that blind refusal of GMO food is the best option. Without a doubt, the population should have every right to know what it is that they are ingesting.

    Every single product that contains GMOs should have to be labeled as such. If this is done, consumers can make their own decisions based on the research they have or have not done.

    Once the products are correctly labeled, the free market will determine whether or not these GMO products will sell or not.

    There is emerging research that very convincingly shows that GMO products are unhealthy for human consumption. The decision whether to heed these warnings or to blindly trudge on should be place solely on the consumer. Once the products are divided into GMO and Natural categories, people will work harder to discover the differences between them.

    • There are actually two reasons why biotech corporations have fought so hard to stop labeling of gmo products. There research tells them that this would cut into their profit share, since consumers would be far less likely to buy the products containing gmos if they knew it. Further, without labeling, the negative health effects of such products lead less of a traceable trail, as discussed in the documentary, the Future of Food.
      I agree with you on the free market– if only we had one, so that we could truly vote and vote knowledgeably with our dollars. I am posting a essay on precisely this point within the next day or two.

  25. I find genetically modified crops to be very sketchy. This researcher’s first hand report solidifies that belief. The researcher’s perspective makes the process sound pretty sketchy and potential dangerous. It scares me that we don’t know the long term affects of these actions. I find it frightening that members of our legislative body are obviously in the hands of these corporation’s lobyists. Can we have government financed elections already? The example of Percy Schmeiser’s legal problems with Monsanto are pretty ridiculous. The thought of gene migration with these genetically modified crops if often troubling and in the long run who knows what could happen with that.

    • Great points, Ben. Thanks for your comment. Government sponsored elections would certainly cost us less in the long run than all the clean up (not to mention, health costs) of picking up after actions that we would never have allowed had it not been for industry lobbyists.

  26. I absolutely detest Monsanto. Their newest idea to “save the world” is to dump 475 tons of genetically modified seeds laced with highly toxic thiram on Haiti.

    They would never get away with this in the US because the chemical is banned here. Yet they can just send it to a country that is already suffering. We don’t need these GMOs to increase food production.

    Like is stated but too few people know, the real problem with feding the world is access to the food. The infrastructure is simply not there to distribute the food. Food is often rotting in warehouses because there is no way to get it to the hungry.

    Europe in this case has the right idea. They are steadfstly denying permission to plant GMOs in Europe. In my view, that is about the only thing that Europe has gotten right.

    • They are certainly not my favorite corporation, Jeff, between their product, their manipulative ads–and their legal assaults on both the diversity of our food supply and hundreds of farmers trying simply to make a living who wound up with gmo seed in their crops through no actions of their own. Oh, and there is a expensive battle against labeling their products they have been fighting for decades– the failure to be proud enough to claim their work ought to clue us in to the quality of their product– if nothing else does.
      Europe is also doing better than we are in regulating chemical usage with the precautionary principle–and outlawing chemicals that we still sell.
      Unfortunately, the WTO is pressuring Europe to buckle under and take gmos.

    • Proverbs 13:23 says, “A poor man’s field may produce abundant food, but injustice sweeps it away.”

  27. my sister recently had to undergo a full mastectomy to remove brast cancer. She didn’t smoke, ate mostly vegetables and stayed very active. There is no prior history of breast cancer in the family. The question is where did the cancer come from? My unprofessional answer is from the food we eat and/or environmental contaminants. This article is just another peice of evidence that proves to me that the foods we are eating are in fact killing some of us. I would have never imagined that 90% of all processed food in the United States contain genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). And that is just a small part of it. All of the fertilizers, pest controls, etc that are used are having very negative effects on the human body. As if the food we eat isn’t enough to shock us into doing something about this, consider the fact that the breast milk that a lot of mothers feed their newborn babies, thinking it’s the most natural form of food for them is in fact full of these same toxins. We are poisoning our kids before they even get a chance to make the choices for themselves.

    • Yours is a sad personal testament that is all too often parallel to so many others who themselves or their family members have cancer. Your observations about our environment should create a wake up call to support the President’s cancer panel (see quote on sidebar here) to take the stance of prevention to deal with destructive environmental acts. I am sorry for your sister’s cancer, Mildred and wish you and your family all the best for healing.

  28. Interesting article. I agree that there are still many questions and issues involved in the development and use of genetic engineered plants. The consequences of widespread use GM crops is still largely unknown, but it seems that biotechnology is not going away anytime soon and will continue to play a role in increasing agricultural productivity in the future.
    Transferring genes from one species to another can seriously affect the environment, can harm human health, and clearly benefits the large agribusiness corporations. I think there should be a great concern about private sector monopolies of GM technology, and we should all question how much advantage these crops really offer. For change to occur, people will need to demand more organic foods and sustainable agriculture systems.

    • You have some important points, Kimberly. We need not only to support alternatives to gmo food, but to demand labeling of it–and independent research on its effects.
      I don’t think it is a given the biotech (as gmos) MUST play an increased role in agricultural production in the future. By the way, I think stem cell research– especially in the use of stem cells from our own bodies to heal ourselves is a promising aspect of biotech.

  29. It’s scary to me that there are people out there who would not only allow, but also encourage, people to put foods into their bodies that we have so little information about. I have also heard about different kinds of corporate greed, but I just can’t wrap my head around the idea. Where did their conscious go? Something that I did not know was that we can produce enough food to feed everyone, but we don’t. All because it wouldn’t bring in as much profit? Ridiculous.
    It’s also astounding to me the lengths these corporations will go to violate our rights. I believe that everyone has the right to know what they are putting into their bodies. I had no idea that 90% of processed foods contained GMOs and I’m sure that I am not the only one. I really hope that something legislative is done to put a labeling system into action soon.

    • Sadly, there was a labeling law for gmos initiative in Oregon a few years back that was defeated with the input of huge bucks from industrial agriculture. We need more than ever to think about our choices–and not reward those who are acting so irresponsibly for the sake of profit to influence those choices.

  30. (PHL 443 Reply) Wow! I knew it was better to eat organic, but this article really brought to light the reality of GMO’s in our food. The farther I get in this class, the more I would like to move to Sweden! What makes it the most difficult is the hard economic times we’re in right now and the price of organic and unprocessed food over the others.

  31. So, I read a study the other day about pesticides and their effects on younger children. The researchers found that there was a definitive link between pesticides ingested and the instance of ADHD. This was a positive correlation, wherein as the amount of pesticides ingested went up, the risk of ADHD went up. I don’t mean to imply that correlation necessarily equates to causation, but this study was certainly eye-opening. When I read this article, I considered this study. We’ve been using pesticides for a very long time, and we still don’t know all of the effects that they can have on the human body. We’re still learning. This is what makes GMO foods so horrifically scary. We simply don’t know. Scientists don’t even know exactly what they are doing to the foods, and there could be huge ramifications down the road, maybe 50-100 years into the future. I, for one, don’t want to learn that we incorrectly labeled something as safe when it’s actually going to impair the lives of future generations. The precautionary principle really needs to be in effect here, and I don’t think that genetically modified foods should ever be considered acceptable. Why modify foods, when we have perfectly natural alternatives? We need to be a bit smarter with our resources, and a little bit quicker to sound the alarm of caution when something isn’t right. And genetically modified food–that isn’t right.

    • I absolutely agree with you about the precautionary principle, Amanda. I also think that we need to act when we DO have the research– as you indicate in the ADHD case. My latest essay on this site speaks to the issue both of why we don’t get enough independent research on such issues and why we don’t act– when we really need to. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  32. I did not realize the prevelance of GMOs within the US food supply. With so much of our food products being processed it is scary to hear that over 90% contain these highly suspect ingredients. Though I was surprised by the quantity, I cannot say I was surprised by the motivation. The information provided by the former GMO researcher stating that this science is all for profit was no shock. Rarely do we hear of any large company honestly working for the good of the people; money makes the world go round. The biggest concern I have of this entire situation is the secrecy that abounds. These companies know that we would not typically choose a GMO product. So, rather than investing in reasearch to assure their safety and be able to advertise them as perfect product, they spend the money on finding ways to hide their deficiancies without ever making improvements.
    Though now I have one more factor to consider when making purchases, I appreciate the knowledge I have gained by in this forum.

    • Remember that that is ninety per cent of processed food, Clayton. Gives us another reason to avoid such packaged foods. Check out a critique of the results “money makes the world go round”, in the latest post here. It needn’t– and shouldn’t- be the organizing basis of society.

  33. I have to say, Monsanto is one of those companies that just gives me the creeps–it just seems like their technology and patents are geared toward controlling and “owning” the world food supply (consider the number of suits against farmers who either allegedly save seed or are victims of gmo migration). The researcher’s story regarding just how little researchers actually know about what they’re doing makes me shudder–I’m sure many people would feel the way I do about unwittingly playing the “guinea pig.”

    Unfortunately, foods labeled “organic” often come with a higher price tag (although I will admit to some recent improvement), which prices them out of reach for many people, even if they were aware that the stuff they’re buying is likely a gmo product. In reality, many people are simply looking for the “biggest bang for their buck,” meaning getting the most food for a relatively small amount of money, particularly if they don’t make much money to begin with. This is yet another problem I have with gmo crops being so predominant in many parts of our society–they essentially take away many people’s ability to consciously choose what they put into their bodies.

    • I am with you in your response to Monsanto, Crystal: the documentary you mentioned in a previous comment, “The World According to Monsanto”, gives many reasons to be fearful of a company with so little ethics and so much power to effect our shared environment. The argument that the public are the guinea pigs for release of such dangerous materials into the environment is a well founded one–and we haven’t any right (or any right to allow others the license) to experiment on other humans and other lives in this way.
      The prominence of gmos– linked to their lack of labeling, which Monsanto has fought with big bucks since they put their first gmos on the US market– has been the market goal of Monsanto all along– to make them so prominent that the public accepts them. This prominence has, as you note, taken away the ability to choose. Organics are always suffering from “perverse subsidies”, in which conventional products are priced lower because of government subsidies to industrial farming. Time to give our subsidies instead to those farmers who care for the land and consumer health!

  34. It is frightening how we are so in to producing GMO foods while we have little understanding of what we are doing. A big part of it is putting junk DNA where it does not belong, making it unknown how our bodies process this. For all we know, this could cause serious health problems down the road to a large portion of the population, and it is all in the name of profit. Even worse, this profit relies on putting human lives at risk because human lives cost more and can turn a bigger profit. The more GMO foods are produced, the more it is inevitable that we will ingest them through animals and processed foods. Also, there is an ethical concern of us using these genetic alterations on other forms of life, and on ourselves some day. Producing GMO foods is walking on a dangerous line for an unnecessary reason. These companies have become so powerful that, in my opinion, the government needs to step in to control the freedom these companies have. These foods are putting the population at risk both in health and ethically and we need to take action before it is too late.

    • It is indeed sobering to be producing so much gmo seed when we know so little about its behavior in the field–much less about its actual nature, Kyle. The issue of health problems is a real one: as Rachel Carson first found with pesticides, the most destructive results may not show up until the grandchildren of those consuming such chemicals (or in this case, foods). Though there have been reported health effects already, especially in the case of bovine growth hormone– which is why is outlawed in both Europe and Canada.
      It is a sad situation when companies and their profits have “become so powerful” that they can override the health of the rest of us– and natural life itself. I am watching for ways to support Lisa Jackson’s attempt as EPA administrator, to introduce the precautionary principle into US chemical policy. Informed citizens will have to support this battle for change.

    • Frightening indeed, Kyle. I absolutely agree that the government needs to step in to curb the power of corporations to ruin the land for ourselves as well as future generations. I like CEO Jeffrey Holldender’s essay, “Regulate me, please” on this point.
      We really cannot afford to, as you put it, “walk a dangerous line for an unnecessary reason.”

  35. I hope that the world becomes more and more aware of the harmful effects of GMOs. The EU’s steps to label GMO foods is an important step forward, but there are still many parts of the world where people are ignorant of the problems. I think that if more people were educated about the issues there would be much more backlash against companies like Monasanto. I honestly don’t know how Monsanto executives sleep at night.

    • I don’t know this either, Hannah. But I guess this somehow manage to blot out the effects of their actions from their consciousness–or they might worry about their own children, if such a worry ever enters their minds. I think one first step is the labeling of gmo foods: see the action alert on this site.

  36. This article is seriously frightening. Playing around with something as powerful as genetics, and knowing full well how easily they spread. This is a recipe for catastrophic failure.

    What good does bigger and tastier vegetables do us if our bodies cannot digest them? And with such little regulation and knowledge of what they are doing, I can easily see why the EU did not want to accept US imports.

    • I agree that this is a scary as well as careless use of technology, Frank. I have actually not heard folks declare gmo foods tastier (though I have heard that about organics): indeed, studies have indicated serious nutritional deficiencies in commercial versus organically raised foods.
      A recipe for failure indeed. Thoughtful point– which is why I have placed on “action alert” on the front page of this site to allow you, if you wish to support a house bill to label gmos, so that consumers can make the choice not to purchase them.

  37. It is interesting to here the other side of genetically altered organisms. I had taken a Animal Science course a couple terms before reading this article and it would seem they have opposing thoughts on the subject. After reading Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser’s story it would seem that there are a lot of holes in the system right now in regards to genetically altering our food sources. It would also seem that there is a big problem in getting quantitative product out more so than qualitative product from businesses that own these genetically altered food sources.

    Does anyone know of any really good breakthroughs with this science that hasn’t resulted in creating more problems?

  38. This article was kind of an eye opener to me. I remember years ago about the all the controvery on genetically engineered food and being completely ignorant of the dangers. I guess I was shocked to know all the foods that we consume that contain them, especially soy products. I eat alot of soy and drink Silk soy milk. I guess after reading up and obtaining the risks pertaining to genetically engineered food, I will be more mindful of what type of food I am purchasing. My only concern, is the price attached to organic foods. In order for Americans to buy healthier alternatives they have to pay more money. It is sad to me that providing Americans with a healthier diet automatically means to the corporate and Instrialized world, “Jack up the Price”. Again, true capatalism at work.

    • Much of the price of organics is due to the “perverse subsidies” with which we support non-organics. Time to get rid of those. It is also due to the costs of transitioning out of commercial growing–since the latter leaves the land with some deficits to make up in order to effect this transition successfully.
      It seems to me that organic soy is pretty comparable in price to commercial soy–and you can also look for the label that says there are no gmos in particular products. Thanks for your comment.

      • Madronna,
        I am researching agricultural subsidies for another class and have a great chart on subsidies from Environmental Working Groups that shows the billions paid to the top Farm programs to grow certain crops. It’s shocking here’s the link:

    • I can agree with you more. Its like the saying the rich only get richer. I think that genetically altered foods should be priced much more then organic products. How much can organic products cost to maintain? It seems like some water, some sun and some love is all that is needed to grow organically. My family has started our own garden in our backyard growing anything that we can think of and want to eat on a daily basis. This has helped us cut back on buying these GMOs on the shelfs. And quite truthfully, I think the food taste better when it comes from my backyard.

      • Congratulations on your family garden, Will. I can think of few things more rewarding than tending such growing things and reaping the benefits in healthy sustenance. As you say, you are developing a form of independence from the larger markets on which gmos are dumped (especially without being labeled).

    • Elizabeth.
      this article was an eye opener for me , too. I thought I was aware but soon realized that I didn’t know the extent of the GMO’s. Yes, you are right, true capitalism at work!

  39. Once again, money is behind the destruction of lives and health. As i said in a previous comment how there will be no change done, regardless of being able to move forward and fix our mistakes, lobbyist in Washington will always push our elect leaders to do their bidding and not the people they represent. This is a major problem since GMOs are so harmful to every generation. There needs to be strict guidelines and laws for this type of production of food. I admire how the EU took a stand, and if not for the WTO to step in and say for economical reason GMOs are allowed, that would have been a big win. The WTO to step in and say that their decision was purely economical was their bases of their decision is unthinkable. Why would anyone put economics before health? With out a health future generation, there would be no economy.
    As a country, we must take a stand united to fight these lobbyist and large companies producing these GMOs and get them off our shelves. Or at least adopt what the EU is doing.

    • Thoughtful point, Will. I wish we might do something better with the money that is “behind the destructive of our lives and health”. I agree that we ought not only to follow the leadership of the EU–but weigh in against the WTO’s minimalist stance in terms of environmental protection and justice.

  40. The idea of eating genetically engineered food definitely bothers me, especially when I wonder what effects this food will have on my child’s life. But, what really upsets me is our countries ethical dilemma when weighing wealth over the health of its people? First of all I believe they have it all wrong because it’s the people that make up this country strength in the first place. The information on the subject of how these GMO companies are unable to keep their “trials” confined is very discouraging. He talks about how it can take years before the “undesirable” characteristics, involved in these foods, can be removed and yet there is no way of knowing there affects on those that will end up ingesting them. He really sums up the big picture when he states that the bottom line comes down to profit margins. I found it completely ridiculous when I read about the European unions’ refusal of GMO product was overturned by the World Trade Organization due to economic concerns. I can only hope that this recent ruling will help bring light to the American public as well, so we can also educate ourselves and hopefully stand against such tyranny.

    I also want to thank you for the tips on avoiding GMO products. Thank You Dr. Holden.

    • You are welcome, Ryan. The WTOs actions in this case–and a number of others– can be called “tyranny” indeed– as can any authority that tells communities they cannot choose which type of technology to invite in– and/or allow their communities the knowledge to make those choices.
      The WTOs emphasis on narrow economic concerns has also led to injustice in the social arena– as when they threatened Massachusetts for its ban on products from Myanmar as long as they were engaged in genocide against their own citizenry. I think we need ethics rather than economics for our bottom line.

    • Is there a huge difference between breeding plants (flowers) and breeding different types of food?

      I just always see how different plants are bred, and animals. I realize that is a bit more natural, but I am not sure if ethically it is really that different.

      • Hi Sarah, there is indeed a vast difference between selective breeding and genetic engineering: in the former, you are dealing with a whole animal or plant; in the latter, you are manipulating dna– placing dna from one species into another, for starters.

  41. It appears from this researcher’s testimony that there was never any intent to feed the world’s populations with GMO”s but the whole idea was to create fast foods with dangerous properties for profit with no concern for the effects on people, place or long term consequences. My belief is that the corporate decision makers never really know the true outcome of their Frankenstein experiments and iniquities and don’t care. These “genetic engineers” truly don’t seem understand the underlying creative nature of genetics, just the surface layer that they manipulate with no concern for the deep consequences of fooling with Nature. And how can they as so many Indigenous wise one’s state there are some things that will always be a mystery and should be.
    I have heard and read many other stories of gene migration and the very scary effects on neighboring crops. I have little hope in our Country with the incoming political influence that we will have any support to get to the nasty depths of the GMO scandal. Like so many other topics and issues that are so relevant for the present, I believe it will be up to us as, individuals, and NGO’s to find the means to address these problems and come up with workable solutions.

    • I appreciate your perspective about the genetic engineers who only work on the surface level of genetics rather than delving into its true “creative potential”. The behavior of corporations like Monsanto indicates they are interested primarily in the bottom line (and the power of controlling it). When they talk of “feeding the world” it is about increasing their market share.
      I think it is all the more important that we stand on our ethics with the new political shift– though I share some concern with you on this score– especially in the fact that so many voters seem to have voted out of fear that was manipulated through media ads funded by corporations.
      I second the resolve expressed in your statement that it is up to us as individuals (and perhaps communities?) to address the issues facing us and come up with solutions.
      Thanks for your caring and thoughtful comment, Maureen.

  42. GMO’s or genetic engineered food is a term I rarely heard of until this class and a couple other classes. Having lived in the farm belt of the U.S., ethanol and corn was the two terms I always heard. In the small town we lived in, there was a ethanol plant about two miles from town. I knew about growth hormones in the milk and fish farming but that was about it. The media makes an issue about every ill in society but when it comes to food it is almost completely ignored except for a few programs here or there. It is unfortunate that large companies like Monsanto and the WTO dictate what the world eats and if people die, it is just a statistic. I took a class a few years ago on what foods to eat. Produce is food that is living and everything on the shelves is dead and from reading these articles, it can kill as well. I have changed from buying foods in the Supermarket to local fruits and vegetable stands or markets. Since one cannot depend on labels to know what is in the foods, preparing foods the old fashion way is essential to knowing what is in the food which is just doing it by hand and not depending on premade/fast foods. Slow is not so bad after all.

    • Slow is indeed not so bad, at least as the “slow food” movement indicates. It sounds like you have chosen a healthy course for your family and for the environment, Tina. And though some would say this course (abdicating “convenience” food) is more work, I would factor in the joy of shopping at farms and farmer’s markets–and I make enough soup, etc. to consume them for more than one meal and freeze the rest. Also fun to have other folks (in family or not) to help with the prep work.

  43. I am not sure where I stand on this issue. At one point, I think foods that do not use genetic modifications in general seem like a better idea. On the other hand, I see how unpractical and expensive this can be for a person shopping in a supermarket. Organic foods are always much more expensive, and i have read articles that say just because it is marked organic does not mean it is completely organic, so check labels!

    I personally think the problems lies in the politics. If politicians and corporations were not so intertwined, the food and drug administration might be doing a better job rather then sleeping with the enemy.

    • Organically certified labels should tell you WHO certified it (USDA or Tilth, for instance). I would especially trust Tilth certification.
      There are also labels that indicate non-Gmo foods–which may or may not be organic. As I think I noted, Oregon dairies decided to avoid the bovine growth hormone (genetically engineered)– and many of them state this on their labels.
      I agree with you about corporate influence trumping concerns about public health far too often: the link in the most recent post on biotech’s attack on labeling also traces some “revolving doors” in which the personnel of the FDA and political oversight bodies intersect.

    • Great points. I know that I tend to avoid organics simply because of the cost. Being on such a tight budget (like I’m sure many of you are), I am lucky that I can afford any food, let alone try to afford often much more expensive organics. If given the option and cost were equal, I would buy the organics hands down. However, until costs become equal, this simply won’t be the option I can afford.

      • I hope we are able to implement cheaper organics as well, Andrew– as well as more support for students. There are places in the civilized world where higher education is free.
        I think one step in the right direction would be the removal of “perverse subsidies” that has been a thread of conversation here.

    • I agree with you that many people are not able to afford much more expensive organic foods. I also think that an argument can even be made that many companies in the organic foods industry, such as Whole Foods for example, are taking advantage of people’s concerns by selling food at a premium that may not necessarily be any better for you. You could check a site such as eatwellguide.org (I’m sure there are many others including those in the links section on this site) for stores, farms, farmer’s markets, or organizations in your area that practice and promote local sustainable agriculture. Where I live, the produce sold at the local farmer’s markets is cheaper than even the inorganic produce sold at the large chain supermarket stores.

  44. It’s scary to think that companies like Monsanto are essentially toying blindly with the fabric of life. It’s even scarier when you take into account genetically modified genes can migrate from one plant or field to another through a process that’s not even understood. I really like the current trend in the EU of rejecting questionable bioscience and returning to more sustainable and organic agriculture methods. The battle for GM crops is still ongoing there, however. I’ve read recently in a Guardian news article that more than 20 requests for GMO cultivation are currently pending in Europe, with only Austria, Hungary, France, Germany, Greece and Luxembourg rejecting them flat out.

    • Thanks for the update in terms of the European situation, Roman. English farmers originally burned test fields of gmo crops out of their fear the genes would migrate: now they are being mightily pressured by the WTO to change their tune– the WTO is also pressuring these other countries you list to take gmo. They are fighting back with labeling laws which will drop their consumption but not, as you point out, their distribution and possible spread.
      “Toying with the fabric of life” with so little clue as to what you are actually doing, is very scary indeed– especially with companies with so poor an ethical track record as Monsanto.

  45. I wish that some of thesethings would have been taught to me earlier. I knew that GMO’s MIGHT be bad for us, but I had no idea that it could cause some of the problems mentioned here. Perhaps I had tunnel vision, but some of the problems mentioned here were definitely new to me. Technologies of any and all kinds need to be tested before being fully implemented.

  46. After reading this essay I can’t decide which is more scary, the fact that animals used for meat production were routinely seen eating experimental genetically engineered food, or the fact that the “terminator gene” used to make seeds sterile also threatens our worlds natural seed stock. I guess these are some of the consequences of letting food become “big business”. I only hope that as cancer and food allergy rates increase that people will finally wake up and realize the potential dangers of GMO’s and make a stand to discontinue them from our food supply.

    • I hope so too. It would be even better if more safety rules got put into place before we needed the failing health of our population to change this.

    • it is terrible to think that this is what people are doing just so they can continue to make money off of the suffering of people. it is terrifying to put together the ideas that the same people that are supporting the genetically altered food are also supporting the anti-universal healthcare movement. Maybe when they get the Cancer they will stop and think about the people they are hurting.

      • Making money from suffering is a terrible thing, indeed. Perhaps we might someday change our system such that there those who produce and release toxins will have not only to pay for their clean up, but see firsthand the damage they cause to the health of others.

    • I definetly do hope that changes are made soon, but it would be even better if changes could be made before more and more diseases are diagnosed.

  47. Biotech companies like Monsanto don’t care about anything. They are all about money. I have heard about Monsanto before I read this article. Because of the “evil” seeds of Monsanto, many Indian farmers killed themselves. Monsanto has used Bollywood actors to sell illiterate Indian farmers genetically engineered seeds which are much more expensive than regular seeds. Along with the seeds, Indian farmers have to pay for pesticide and fertilizer which are also belonging to Monsanto. Eventually, Indian farmers go into huge debt. At the end of the season, it turns out that the genetically engineered seeds need to be irrigated. Ironically, the seeds are selling in the area called Vidarbha, where there is no irrigation. The instruction is on the bag but the farmers are not able to read it, and the instruction is in English. Indian farmers got set up. In addition, Indian farmers are not allowed to collect crops off their own land because the seeds are patented to Monsanto. It means that the farmers have to buy seeds from Monsanto again for the next season. Monsanto have interrupted a natural thing in agriculture, in which a farmer grows crops and then saves seeds for the next season. Finally, because of debt and poor harvest, some Indian farmers killed themselves. Monsanto wants farmers to rely on it so they can monopolize seeds industry. I don’t know about how genetic foods will help the world in the future, but right now they are causing more trouble than benefit.

    • Thanks for sharing this tragic story of Indian farmers and their suicides, Vu. I know Vandana Shiva has written on this– perhaps in Stolen Harvest if someone wishes to read more.
      A wretched example of “mal-development” when that development is in fact exploitation for the sake of a multi-national’s bottom line. Very sad indeed and something we should all be aware of if we wish to support the development that, as Vandana Shiva says, “globalizes peace and democracy” instead of human and environmental tragedy.

  48. You have some good tips here for steering clear of GMOs. I was unaware that USDA certified means that no genetically modified foods could be used. I am curious to know if the USDA genetically tests fruits and vegetables to be certain. At this point in time it seems eating GMO’s is unavoidable if you go out to eat or pick up a snack somewhere. I am glad to hear the Canadian farmer won his case against Monsanto, but how would the US courts decide?

  49. This article scares me. It is true that for some reason, people these days are swayed by fancy, scientific language, not really knowing what they are getting themselves into. Monsanto and GMO’s are very dangerous for our environment and our health and these plantations/farms need to be eliminated. I don’t understand why there is such a demand for efficiency in today’s world. A lot of our manipulation towards nature can be tamed down to efficiency and cheap costs being the primary cause. I think that people are looking past the big picture and are only looking at “now.” How they can get rich quickly right now. How they can get cheap food that will last right now. It is a sad situation and scary for our health, however, I think that there is a turning point now that more and more people are becoming aware of the corruption with our food production.

    • The tragedy here is that gmos are not even more efficient (in terms of their yield, for instance), but they are more profitable. The growing use of gmos is scary from many perspectives — but perhaps if we are scared enough about this issue we might lend some energy to changing the “corruption” (an apt term you use) in our food production– in whatever we can and however is appropriate to each of us.
      Thanks for your comment.

  50. If you follow the link to Monsanto’s website, you can read all about sustainable agriculture, using less water and causing less disturbance with genetic modification and Round-up. They don’t tell you about the small independent farmers they sued for having Round-up Ready seeds found on land that was never intentionally planted with it. That should be enough to worry us about genetic drift and what happens when all of this GMO stuff starts mixing with native plants. Many heirloom seedbanks are being lost as Monsanto takes over and the Green Revolution robbed indigenous farmers of time-tested techniques and seed stock. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Whole Foods, and Monsanto need to know from their customers and constituents that they cannot force Americans to eat beet sugar from unregulated genetically-modified sources that isn’t disclosed to the consumer as they are doing right now.

    • Indeed, Amanda. Thanks for this perspective and the important information that is not being shared by Monsanto here. Another point missing here is the Union of Concerned Scientists’ report, “Failure to Yield”, that documents the fact the gmo crops do not actually produce greater yields than non-gmo ones.
      Thanks for your point about what Monsanto needs to know in turn about what conscious consumers will not eat.

  51. I heard that it has been found by researchers that GMO foods are not as nutritious. That compared to native species foods, they don’t taste as good and have less nutrients. Their only redeeming quality is that they are more profitable to GMO industries and their investors. In a recent article by Common Dreams I read that Obama has set the stage to approve GMO species onto natural habitats in wild refuges;


    • That would be a sad event indeed–and it seems, against the stance of the EPA director he appointed, Lisa Jackson, who is pushing for the precautionary principle. However, Obama does a few unfortunate links to Wall Street folks: I hope corporations are not influencing the choices of the only president whose family planted an organic garden on the white house lawn.
      And obviously, this “redeeming quality” is one that only the biotech industry benefits from.

  52. a line that I had to reread twice was that the scientists observe the animals breaking out and going to eat in other places that weren’t genetically modified, this is another example of the tragedy that comes from animals not being able to speak our language.They have been forced to undergo horrific treatments that damages their species indefinitely. The next part of this article is difficult to read as well where outlines the dirty politics that keep us from learning the truth about GMOs. I grew up with my own garden I’m used to the taste of natural vegetables and I believe that I will continue to be a strong believer in natural foods over synthetic foods.

  53. Industrial agriculture is unsustainable in many ways, including the use of GMOs. It seems the biggest complaint the researcher has is hubris – we don’t know what we are doing. While we seem to be able to implant genes into organisms, we are doing it crudely and imprecisely, with no knowledge of what the effect might be or ability to control it once it escapes into the wild.

    It’s certainly an argument for the precautionary principle – we shouldn’t be meddling with such things until we have the ability to predict the consequences of our actions and some way of reversing effects we don’t like. That would restrict GM research to the lab and keep it out of the farmland, but I for one could accept that consequence.

    My least favorite consequence of GM research is the patenting of organisms, making farmers dependent on corporations for their seed, and making farming even less sustainable. It seems both ridiculous on its face to patent a living being, and a greedy short-sighted move to stop farmers from saving seed to replant in future years.

    • Indeed, Anders. There is Vandana Shiva’s “no patents on life” campaign in the global arena that argues that life cannot be patented. The worst offense in the GMO arena is Monsanto’s spread of gmo seed into fields where these seeds have never been purchased– whereupon the corporation then proceeds to sue the farmer receiving this tresspass for possessing “their” seeds.
      As one farmer put it, that is like having your neighbor’s bull break through your fence and ravage your fields — and then being sued because you didn’t keep him out.
      I think the precautionary principle is the only sustainable way to go; we simply can’t continue to diminish the fertility of our soils and add toxins to them and our water systems and call that sustainable as we bring in more fertilizers and pesticides to compensate for the fact that soil quality continues to diminish.

    • I completely agree with you, it seems like we are blindly injecting organisms with chemicals and providing them to the public when we really dont know the effect they will have on humans. It reminds of of a reading from earlier in this class about how chemicals are considered safe until proven otherwise. I think this is opposite of how it should be. Chemicals should have to be proven safe before they are placed into products and sold to consumers.

      • Indeed, Courtney, I agree that we need to prove these chemicals safe rather than releasing them and waiting for bad results before withdrawing them from the market.

  54. GMO’s or genetically engineered food has always been a concern of mine. I try to stay away from food that has been genetically modified but these days so many things have either been genetically modified or have a ton of added chemicals. It seems like ‘organic’ has almost disappeared. I know when I have a home of my own I am going to have a garden so I know where my food is coming from and what is in it, but right now, I am a college student, living in an apartment, with a very limited budget so it is really tough to get ‘real’ good food.
    Something that really caught my eye in this essay is the part when the animals were breaking out and going to eat in other places that weren’t genetically modified, this is a prime example of the tragedy that comes from animals not being able to speak our language, these animals obviously dont want to be eating the genetically modified food. We shouldnt make them.

    • Thoughtful idea on the escaping animals here, Courtney, in addition to their consumption of GMO products. It is great that you are eating organic–and would be even greater were we to label gmos for consumers.
      It will be wonderful when you have your garden; in the meantime, perhaps you can cultivate a relationship with another gardener or your local farmer’s market.

    • Yeah, definetly agree on the budget idea, being a college student too. It is hard to eat healthy and wise-choice foods, but we just try our best 🙂

      and I too plan to have a garden!

    • I also can’t wait to have a garden. It is sad that healthy food is more expensive and difficult to get than unhealthy, modified, processed foods. We are also on a tight budget, but have been able to make healthy organic food a priority. We find it helps a lot to cut out the unnecessary (and often unhealthy) foods like sodas and sugary drinks, snack foods, frozen meals, too much meat,and pre-made items. It opens up a lot of money for healthy foods! And it helps to buy produce that’s in season. We also notice that when we eat healthier, we need less food, which also helps the budget.

  55. It is scary how little we know about what we are trying to do. The anecdote from the GMO engineer about how they don’t really know what they are doing is both scary and infuriating. To make a product and not know all of the harmful side effects seems like a huge ethical misstep by the engineers in that company. The first and foremost rule for all engineers to follow is to protect the public. How is what they are doing protecting the public when they don’t even know what they are doing. This is very troubling to me as an engineer.

    • I am not glad this situation exists, but I am glad that it troubles you– since it indicates you are the kind of engineer who does indeed “protect the public” as ethical rule number one.

  56. Along with most of everyone else’s comments, I too am much more observant of the foods I now eat, because of the chemicals, alterations, possible diseases, etc that can come with so many of the foods on our grocery store’s shelves. The fact that animals were sneaking out to find food elsewhere is a huge red flag that whatever is in this food, clearly is not suitable for consumption. I’m very much looking forward to having a garden of my own that I, myself can tend to and know what I am eating!

  57. Genetic engineering really scares me. The technology is amazing and terrifying. We have all seen the sci-fi movies of cloning and DNA tampering gone awry. I think modern science is completely capable of some of the things imagined up for a movie.

    I was shocked to learn that 90% of processed foods in the US contain GMOs. Even more apparent that I have no idea what I am eating. I have recently started to eat more organic and whole foods, not only for health reasons but also as a matter of principle. Americans were much healthier only a few decades ago—today a large number of Americans are overweight, obese, or ridden by some sickness that can be traced back to bad diets and poor quality food. I become more and more aware of what I am eating and learning this about GMOs and processed food makes me want to eat it even less.

    Weren’t all these foods just fine before genetic tampering?

    • There are plenty of good reasons to be concerned about this, Morgan. Good for you in checking into what you are eating– good for your health and for the environment.
      Ninety per cent of US citizens also want GMOs labeled — obviously there is something wrong with our democracy when Monstanto is able to override this with laws in its favor gained through lobbyists.

    • I do agree with you that the food that we are putting into our bodies as Americans is not usually the best and is a major cause in why so many of us have become overweight but lets not forget about how seditary our lifestyles have become which is also a huge contributing factor.

      • Exercise is certainly essential to our well-being. But there is more and more news, unfortunately, about chemical obsegens– the chemical disruptions of our bodies linked in inappropriate weight gain. I think you will find some info about this on the Safe Chemicals/Healthy Families. org site– there is other info you might also be interested in there as a parent.

  58. It is scary to hear this researcher say that scientists are tweaking genes they don’t understand. Without fully understanding the genes (if that is even possible), we can never know what the potential consequences are. I don’t think it’s worth the risk, when there are so many other sustainable, healthy ways to produce food. Just the presence of one potential devastating consequence, like spreading a terminator gene to the world population of a particular plant should be enough to say this isn’t worth it. By the time we understand the long term consequences of GMOs, it is going to be too late to do anything. And there isn’t going to be any way to fix it.

    I don’t understand the laws around imports, but I can’t believe that GMO companies are able to force their way into countries that don’t want them. That is too much power!

    • I agree that it is not worth the risk, Isabel. Our society has allowed Monsanto and other biotech firms to profit by shifting the risks to the larger community and the environment. This is totally unacceptable as far as I am concerned.
      Too much power (without responsibility) indeed. You might find some sense of hope in the Millions against Monsanto movement.

  59. It makes me so mad that the United States has been the front runner on the push for GMO’s. I hope there is a freeze on all non-organic food products that are exported out of the U.S. in order for our government to figure out that no one in the world believes GMO’s are safe and that the jig is up because GMO’s don’t produce more than a native strain of a plant will. There is absolutely no way to control the spread of GMO’s and food should never be under the control of a patent. Hopefully people will realize the risks involved when buying food created in a lab and realize that poverty is not going to be helped when the food supply is controlled by a few corporations with a lot of power.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more on the lack of safety of gmos, Stephanie. I saw of quote recently that says US agribusiness and food is a secondary product, which I think is too often true.

  60. GMO’s are interesting to me because it shows how we have been able to use our minds to change something one one hand but on the other hand we do not fully understand what we are doing and it might end up being harmful to our bodies. If it does become harmful hopefully we will be able to solve the problem in a quick fashion before it completely devastates us and if it does it will be nature telling us that we are not all powerful.

  61. What’s wrong with good old farmer grown foods? The only answer I can come up with is ease and time. It makes no sense to me why we buy foods that are not grown locally, in our back yards and by people we know.

    This article makes we wonder what the person thought when he/she said I am going to create fake food. GMO’s are terrible; everything we see wrong the world these days points to what we put in our bodies. What gives us (Americans) the right to be so lazy; and greedy. I am not sure what it would be like to be a CEO of one of the businesses that creates foods that are tained, but I think it would be hard to sleep at night.

    • Unfortunately, I think what is wrong with “good old farmer grown foods”, Danielle is, too often, the profit motive– a large corporation cannot make money from neighbors saving and sharing seeds– which is why Monsanto went after some small seed savers/farmers with such vehemence.

    • Its very sad what this product has done to the farmers and I completely agree with the eating locally and organic. I think the main problem is that this are so expensive these days and the cheaper option is more convenient for people. This product is really about doing the least amount of work for the most profit and you’r completely right.

  62. It makes me extremely sad that life is so hard for real farmers now and that GMO companies get away with so many of the terrible things they do like putting farmers out of business, bullying them, and even suing them because pollination ruined their natural crops with GMO pollen. Reading about GMOs is always disturbing to me and now days I rather spend the extra money for local and organic so I know that I’m not unknowingly ingesting something that I don’t want but cant always tell when food has them since GMO’s aren’t fully regulated.

    • Good for you in supporting ethical as well as healthy food choices, Molly. Each consumer and each purchase they make in this way makes a difference. It all adds up with respect to corporations who don’t see any other values than profits.

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