Jo Wood on why we need to stick to what nature intended when it comes to food production
It’s getting harder to avoid genetically modified organisms (GMOs) these days. The easiest and most delicious way to avoid them is to carefully pick your ingredients and cook for yourself.
Here in the UK (and in the EU) foods must say on their label if they contain or consist of genetically modified organisms. Unfortunately for our US friends, GMOs remain unlabelled, despite consumers wanting to know.
GMOs are everywhere and are affected by mutations. Just as many bacteria become resistant to medications once they have been used to treat the illness, so do insects which mutate to feed on crops. GM corn, in particular, was designed to stop caterpillars from eating the corn, but now the hardy caterpillar has evolved to withstand the pesticides. Now GM corn is being sprayed with different pesticides to try and beat natural evolution protection.
This is where science gets more and more terrifying. There is a new kind of GM corn coming out soon and researchers have discovered a way to add a single E coli gene to the plant that enables it to be grown with an essential amino acid that is only found in meat. It’s all a bit freaky for me and miles away from what nature intended.
At first, GMO crops do well with good yields – these were introduced as a solution to tackle global hunger. But we’ve found the increase is followed by huge decreases in yields, and pesticides do their job until the pests evolve. The only way to keep crop yields high is to develop GMOs at a higher rate. We have created a vicious circle.
What I find amazing is that nature has done all the work for us and, with rotation farming, we really don’t need GMOs. They are proving to be a waste of time and, as I always say, Mother Nature knows best.
A real concern for me is the effect GMOs have on humans. The GMO supporters claim that trials show they are safe. There have been studies in the US on animals in factory farming conditions where the health of the animal is already poor. It’s hardly a conclusive test and certainly not one to act as a benchmark for healthy humans. So what exactly are the effects they have on humans? There have been many verified studies and papers that point to evidence suggesting that, since GMOs appeared on our shelves, autism rates have rocketed as well as food allergies and cancer. I agree that lots of this can be attributed to the air we breathe and the water we drink but logic suggests it has to be about the food we put inside our bodies, too. Big businesses would obviously disagree with me, not for the first time.
Originally GM crops were introduced to reduce the loss of crops from pests and to lower toxic pesticide and herbicide usage. This has gone out the window now as so many chemicals are used to combat the everstronger pests and we’re left with the worst outcome – nutritionally depleted soil. There is virtually no point eating food from soil that has no goodness in it.
But what we do know is good health is not profitable and GMO food is grown for high yields, uniform appearance and shelf life, not for our health.
This answer harks back to our past. We need small farmers and organic farming, but on a large, controlled scale and GMO rubbish.
There are hundreds of GMO products out there, dozens in most people’s weekly shop, and we must come together to avoid them. It terrifies me that traditionally beautiful ingredients such as papaya, squash, tomatoes, wheat, potatoes and even salmon have been tampered with by mad and greedy scientists.
Farmer’s markets are a lovely way to see your food and get to known your local producers. In supermarkets, remember if it doesn’t say no GMOs it probably will contain them.
GMO advocates say that more yield will help world starvation. Here’s a simple solution – rather than change nature’s food, let’s change our horrible habits of wasting most of the food we grow. It’s not rocket science.
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