Saturday, October 11, 2014

Neither Label nor Eat

As a follow-up to the labeling post the other day, this wonderful article by Dr. Joe Mercola came through email this morning. As my daughter pointed out to me, the companies that care about my health (or rather whose profits are more tied to ensuring that I'm getting food I feel I can trust) are already avoiding GMOs and/or labeling their products to reflect their stance on the subject.

As the Mercola article points out, Genetic engineering is complex and unpredictable, resulting in pieces of DNA interacting with each other in unexpected and potentially dangerous ways. Genetic engineering of food is too new. We simply do not know what it will do to our bodies, and frankly, I'm not okay with having my body and the bodies of my children and grandchildren serve as the proverbial guinea pig to find out what GMO foodstuff will do.

I'm not even okay with using guinea pigs, actually.

There is enough evidence to show that organic farming techniques of non-GMO foods can feed the world's current population.

But I would also like to point out that every famine in the 20th century, every incidence of food shortages and hunger in our modern world had nothing to do with not enough food to go around, but rather has been a political and/or economical issue.

The Irish potato famine that killed a million people in Ireland happened because there was a failure of the potato crop (a fungus that was probably imported from somewhere else - kind of like the tomato and potato blight that hit the northeast a few years ago). The tragedy is not that these people depended solely on the potato for their food, but that the other crops that were being grown - and there were many, many crops being grown - were being exported to England and other places. The Irish, literally, starved to death, not because they lost their potato crop, but because the food that was being grown where they lived was being sold to someone else. It was economics and politics - pure and simple.

The same thing has played out in other countries. The famines in Ethiopia and across the sub-Saharan Africa, were a result of war and political unrest with millions of people fleeing the fighting and ending up in refugee camps. Some weather anomalies played into the failure of local crops, but there was plenty of relief food sent to the region. Most of it sat rotting while the people starved. Political.

Millions of people go hungry every day, not because there's not enough food, because millions of pounds of food - even in the poorest countries in the world - get wasted. In India, an estimated 40% of the produce in the country (where 40% of the population is vegetarian) rots before it gets to the customers.

The companies that engineer these genetically modified foods will tell us that we can't feed the world's population, but that's simply not true. There is plenty of food. In fact, I find food every time I go for a walk.

It's not a shortage of food that is the problem. It's access to the food.

I'm not sure we need labeling of GMO ingredients. What we need is a concerted effort to stop the large-scale production of these products, because everything they're telling us is a lie. They don't know what the long-term consequences of using these products will be - on the humans who consume them or the environment where they are grown.

And they are definitely not necessary to feed the starving masses. In that case, what we need is a complete overhaul of the system that outlaws kitchen gardens in front yards or packs people into slums where nothing grows, including the people themselves.

When land and food and water become commodities, some people can afford to the buy them and some people can't. Manufacturing pretend food is not what will feed us. Decommoditizing food and land, and more equally distributing them is what will.

I'm no longer calling for labeling GMOs. Now, I want to see them outlawed.

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