You'd think I could escape this issue in my daily life, but can I?
When I speak of genetically-modified foods, I am not speaking of the age-old practice of creating hybrids. Rather, I am speaking of the hacking of DNA and insertion of unrelated DNA by biotech scientists. The reasons behind the latter are vast, and all have to do with profit margins, despite any claims to the contrary.
That's just to clarify, in a nutshell.
Can we afford to ignore this issue, or be half-hearted about it? After all, our society is issue-weary, I believe. We've been inundated with the enormity of global crises, natural disasters, famines, grass-roots efforts struggling to survive, Davids of emergency causes dwarfed by the money and litigation of corporate and legislative Goliaths. We're often tired and discouraged as we sit in the shadow of mountains that seem to be immovable.
Well, that's a perception I think the Goliaths want to perpetuate. Often, it's the niggling little irritants, us, that are the squeaky wheel that brings attention to and some consistency to these very important milestone issues...we're in the midst of making history, not at the backside of something unchangeable.
The GMO/GE foods issue has invaded my daily life now, whether I like it or not. I just had a contraband (oh the poor diet) handful of Fritos. Did I eat GM corn, and if I did, where is the testing to show what the risks are? More protected than my rights to know are the rights of BigAg to market these without any truth in labeling standard that would allow ME to decide FOR MYSELF about consuming genetically altered products. Allowing the government to be my "parent" in this way is too Big Brother for me. No, in a free society, I get to decide for myself, and I get to demand transparency in access to knowing my food's ingredients.
I believe this movement perpetuates itself through misinformation, and by perpetuating societal assumptions. We are so quick to be influenced.
We watch very little TV, and are really ignorant of the latest shows...we get no TV reception here, and don't pay for any. When I was in hospice during the my late MIL's illness, I did watch TV for the first time in literally years. My interest in it soon flagged, so accustomed I have become to less noise. Most of the TV "noise" I noticed was in the form of advertisements, and I began to count the number of pharmaceutical ads and such...they predominated. Two such ads most recently featured were promoting High Fructose Corn syrup, and the ads mocked opposition to high fructose corn syrup as an additive in our foods. It was interesting what information the ad excluded, their sole pitch being that "HF corn syrup, in moderation, is no worse for you than sugar." I remember the actor in one of the ads responding to her friend's hesitancy in eating a food with HF corn syrup asking him what his objection to it was. His reply about his health concerns was incoherent, and her response to him was "What, (you object) because it's corn??" It made him seem like he's a dork who doesn't like his vegetables.
Well, in the comparison of high fructose corn syrup with cane sugar, these days neither can escape sobering GM realities. BOTH are mass-produced, mass-utilized as food sweeteners, and among the highest percentage crops altered genetically. And neither are labeled, so you never know if you're getting genetically modified crops in your foods, or not. Read any label and you'll soon find it's hard to find much of anything at the store without high fructose corn syrup or cane sugar as an ingredient.
What further mystifies me is how ignorant a lot of science-related professionals themselves are regarding this issue, and why they so strongly resist objecting to the potential and real health concerns. Whenever this happens, I think it points to nepotism or some unhealthy inter-dependence among healthcare industry and the pharmaceutical/bio-research industries and government monetary "national interests" protecting potential overseas trade. That's an entirely different subject...
I went to the doctor yesterday, for a very basic visit. When I entered the office, I noticed they were promoting a high protein diet program for their overweight patients...the samples were on view in the waiting room, along with a lot of promising literature. The program incorporates high protein drinks/soups/etc along with basic healthy eating, minus a lot of carbs and fat. Being overweight myself, I waited to ask the doctor more about it. The nurse gave me literature on it to read while waiting for the doc, and I looked it over. They've had many patients who've lost weight on the program, so it seems to work. I've been down this road before, though, and I know there's no magic bullet. In the past, I've done dietary things I've lived to regret, one of the foremost being trusting the "experts" during the Fen-Phen days. Those "experts" approved me for the use of Phen-Fen even though I have a heart murmur. I temporarily had stunning results, but never truly knew what I was putting in my body (the testing had not been long-term) and was left with regrets late for being so hasty to compromise my health overall for the promise of instant results. That, and so many other guniea pig situations related to not only weight loss but also infertility treatments, etc in the past has made me a very cautious and slow-to-jump consumer presently. I consider my reluctance wisdom gained at a high price, not shortsightedness.
My doc visit went well....until...
the end, when the doc was wrapping things up. She was congenial, worked with me, helped me update things that needed updating. Then I asked the Forbidden Question...."what's in the protein supplements?"
She said I could pick up an ingredient list at the front desk. I asked if the primary protein in the supplements was soy, and she said yes.
I have a condition that soy aggravates due to its effect on estrogen, and I mentioned this to her. Her face began to contort. "Well, I think most of that is just a lot of hype," she said. "I think the point is to lose weight and a lot of people like to make more of the estrogen connection and soy than they should."
OK, that's not exactly giving me scientific reasons why, but then I made the major mistake, and asked,
"my additional concern is that soy is one of the highest percentage genetically-modified foods, and I'm cautious about wanting to consume things that are genetically-modified."
At this point, it was like I had kicked her. Her lightning reaction was to become downright sarcastic and almost hostile. She went from congenial to actually sneering! She stood up, looked at me like "YOU aren't the doctor, and YOU know nothing at all about your body," and said "Yes, soy is mostly GM these days. I guess you also have a problem with roses? Roses are genetically-modified. It's completely natural."
And she looked at me with disdain. I said, "I am meaning something different...I understand roses are hybrids and hybrids occur both naturally and through man-made means. But by GM I'm meaning products whose DNA were hacked into and unrelated DNA inserted into by means nature can never accomplish." She snorted and walked out of the room, and I heard her in the other room going off about it to one of the nurses.
Whew, helpful to hostile in mere seconds! It didn't upset me that she supports GM foods, though I would have reason to disagree -- it upset me that she believes DNA-bio-hacking is the same thing as cross pollinating a red rose with a white one, and produces plants as natural as roses. It also bothers me she is giving misinformation to a patient who is wanting to be cautious for health reasons, rather than the other way around...if I were in there asking about the viability of a product KNOWN to have some risks, she'd run an arsenal of tests, look at my health history and genetic predispositions, and make a cautious decision based on benefits vs risks, acknowledging that there ARE risks.
This issue is not going away.
And I'm still going to opt for REAL food vs. engineered anything. I'm tired of our being unwitting guinea pigs for others' gain. You can always find a statistic to back up anything. 50 years ago, doctors were promoting cigarettes as a healthy thing to smoke. I'm not about regulating people's choices of what they eat, or smoke...it's a free country. I AM about giving them all the facts so they can make informed choices.
Here's some of the latest on the GM issue -- from the Organic Consumers site:
The Food and Drug Administration released a "draft guidance" document on September 18th that outlines the regulatory approval process for Genetically Engineered (GE) animals. To date, the process has not been transparent, and maintains that GE animals, like their plant counterparts, do not need to be labeled. Food derived from GE animals will not be labeled and represents a huge risk for human health and the environment.
Full article at http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_14724.cfm
If we think this is an issue that's harmless, here's a reminder that there is a lot of money and lobbying behind this issue that is striving to silence the folks who openly question and ask for the facts: http://www.gmwatch.eu/archives/5-Interview-about-attacks-on-GM-Watch.html
Gently and consistently, we must insist on honesty in labeling and on protection of our rights to decide for ourselves, as citizens, whether we want GMOs. We can NOT hand this decision over to the government to decide for us, because if we do, they will.
And they'll continue to convince us that GM soy is as "natural" as growing a pink rose.