Are You Eating Genetically Modified Foods? Relax. We’ve been eating GMOs for many, many years

Plums that have been genetically engineered to...

Plums that have been genetically engineered to be resistant to the plum pox virus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You people in the developed world are certainly free to debate the merits of genetically modified foods, but can we please eat first? – Dr. Florence Wambugu of Kenya


Over at Environment Forum, EcoBlogger has posted an article titled Are You Eating Genetically Modified Foods? 7 Tips to Avoid Eating GMOs!

I would comment there at, and be done with it, but I don’t feel like registering for yet another user name and password to forget. So here goes…

Ecoblogger recommends, avoiding GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) by avoiding “conventional sugar,” soy, corn, Canola and cottonseed because, “Most blended oils in North America contain canola and cottonseed” and “Over 90% of this year’s sugar beet harvest will be Monsanto’s GM Roundup-Ready Sugar Beet.” Correct, according to a 2010 National Academies of Sciences study, more than four-fifths of the soybean, corn, and cotton acreage in the United States uses genetically engineered crops.

As you who have followed the Timberati blog for awhile know, I’m not afraid eating GMOs. After all, we already eat GM (also called GE for “genetically engineered”) soy, wheat, corn, rice, canola, tomato, sugar beets, cassava, and other crops with no ill effect. In fact, a thousand million meals from GM crops have been eaten with no ill effects. That track record should tell us something about their safety.

Genetic engineering is more precise and predictable, yet it is regulated,” says Martina Newell McGloughlin, director of the University of California’s Biotechnology Research and Education Program. “There is no regulation at all on the traditional breeding system.” A traditional system that uses gamma radiation to force mutations.

And, never mind that, by definition, most of our agricultural crops are ‘genetically modified’; corn and wheat bear little resemblance to the grasses they started from.

Of course, almost by definition, all crop plants are ‘genetically modified.’ They are monstrous mutants capable of yield unnaturally large, free-threshing seeds or heavy, sweet fruit and dependent on human intervention to survive…Wheat has three whole diploid (double) genomes in each of its cells, descended from three different wild grasses… Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

Ecoblogger writes, “Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of research, testing and results documented on the effects GMOs have on humans.” Hmmm….

There is broad scientific consensus that GE crops currently on the market are safe to eat. The National Research Council (NRC), a non-profit institution that provides science, technology and health policy advice to the US Congress, reports that the process of genetic engineering poses a similar risk of unintended consequences as conventional approaches of genetic alteration. After 14 years of cultivation and a cumulative total of 2 billion acres planted, GE crops have not caused a single instance of harm to human health or the environment. – Pamela Ronald, Professor of plant pathology, University of California, Davis

Ecoblogger recommends, “Buy Organically Grown Food – For now, the organic certification process is a relatively safe bet to ensure your food is free of GMOs, although this may not be the case in the future. Help support global sustainability by purchasing certified organically grown food.”

There’s global sustainability if you don’t mind losing rainforests. I’ve noted before:

[O]rganic farming needs more land to grow sustainable yields for the world. Worldwide, crops require 80 million tons of nitrogen to feed our current population. Generating that amount of nitrogen organically would require about six billion head of cattle plus the land to grow feed. [Now, do the math for the additional one billion on the way] Fossil fuels allow conventional farming to use less land than organic methods. “By spending not much energy to make fertilizer and run machinery — and trivial amounts of energy to ship the stuff we grow from the places it grows best,” writes Stephen Budiansky, a former editor of the scientific journal, Nature, “we have spared and conserved hundreds of millions of acres of land that otherwise would have had to be brought into agricultural production. That’s land that protects wildlife, that adds scenic beauty.” That means we spare wetlands, grasslands, forests, and rainforests from being cleared for agriculture.

Despite the fact that we:

  • have eaten lots of GMOs already and haven’t become ill;
  • are living longer;
  • have the ability to target only one gene instead of nuking all the DNA and getting collateral damage in hopes of producing a desired trait;
  • know that traditional method are no safer than genetic modification;

many still worry about GE/GM and the debate goes on. On its website, the Sierra Club uses up its hyperbole allotment going for simple lizard-brained terror, calling GM crops, “radically new and environmentally hazardous technology.” And Greenpeace is just plain crackers. “Do you ever eat major brands of bread, crackers or cereal? Are there canned soups or frozen dinners in your diet? If so, there’s a good chance you’re ingesting genetically engineered soy.” Oooh, boogedy-boogedy, I’m scared now.

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