Tag Archives: GMOs

Nibbles: What We Didn’t Eat This Week (1/19)

20 Jan

Some news from around the world of food this week…

Many of you may have already heard that Paula Deen has (SHOCKINGLY) revealed she has Type II Diabetes. Now, my little sister has been insulin-dependent with Type I Diabetes since just after her ninth birthday, so I will refrain from unleashing my vitriol at obesity-inflicted Type II Diabetes here. But here are some interesting observations about the Deen situation: how conveniently the announcement coincides with (rather than a change of heart or cooking style) Deen’s contract to shill for a new (and dubious) medication, and the mounting evidence correlating meat-eating habits with diabetes.

On a more creative note, my awesome writer-friend Amy Weldon has a really interesting essay up on her blog exploring the connections between food and Southern femininity.

The “Just Label It!” campaign against unknown genetically modified ingredients in our foods officially launched this week with a new video by Robert Kenner (director of Food, Inc.), and Ecocentric has a good blog post covering the basics of GMOs and the labeling campaign for those who want more information.

This is a bit of a food tangent, but some may have heard that Newt Gingrich is gaining ground in South Carolina with a new ad calling President Obama the “food stamp” president (accusing him of putting more people on food stamps — not because the economy has tanked — but because he just looooves government handouts to poor people, is my read). This reminds me of my recent post taking down Rick Santorum for similarly offensive racial/food political slurs.

The Daily Meal released its annual list of the 50 Most Powerful People in Food. If you click through from the bottom up, you’ll spend the first half cheering at the familiar food advocate faces (Bittman! Bourdain! Allen! Mahler!) and then notice a very distinct shift into the corporate world. Here’s hoping 2012 is the year the balance starts to shift

In good news along that front: Food Corps is open for applications for its next cycle, and is expanding this year after a successful pilot program. They need more people in more states, so if you’re interested in pursuing a career in agriculture, nutrition, education, cooking, gardening or advocacy, this is a great way to — literally — get your hands dirty.

Now before you head off for the weekend, make sure to stop by last week’s post and leave a comment to enter for a chance to win a copy of the new, illustrated edition of Michael Pollan’s Food Rules, as We*Meat*Again celebrates our 10,000th site visit!

What’s so Scary About GMOs?

11 Oct

A coalition of environmental and agricultural interest groups launched this week a new initiative to flood the government with public comments to pressure federal mandatory labelling of genetically modified foods. This is a complex issue, and one many people don’t see as directly related to the pursuit of healthier and more sustainable food systems. so I thought I’d provide some background on how it is related, and on why GMOs aren’t as harmless as people believe.

What is a GMO?

A GMO or genetically modified organism is anything altered at the molecular level in ways that could not happen naturally. This means plants and animals have had their genetic makeup altered to exhibit traits that are not naturally theirs.

In the world of food, the most commonly recognizable GMOs are herbicide or insecticide resistant corn and soy crops. But our livestock animals also usually eat genetically modified grains, and biotechnology corporations have recently developed many GMO foods including produce, hogs and salmon.

What are the consequences?

There are several issues of concern with GMOs. First, there are potential health risks from human consumption. While no evidence exists to conclusively prove a serious health risk, that’s largely because little to no research has been done on these products, and much of the existing science comes from the biotechnology companies themselves. However, preliminary researches have found significant degradation to kidney and liver function from a diet high in gentically-modified corn, which is pretty much the standard American diet.

Many of the health consequences of GMOs, however, are indirect, results of the environmental degradation of genetic modification. What we know for certain about GMOs is that they significantly alter the agricultural landscape. Most organisms are modified to be resistant to insecticides or herbicides, so that the plants can withstand a constant spraying of those products, which should theoretically increase the crops’ yields. What we know this does for sure is lead to a development of so-called superweeds and superbugs — weeds and pests that are resistant to the chemical compounds sprayed to kill them. Plants and insects work on a very small evolutionary time scale, so they quickly develop the traits to combat the chemicals designed to kill them.

This, predictably, leads to an increased use of the chemicals. Which leads to more powerful super-pests. Which leads to more chemicals. Etc. The results of this endless cycle is a world of agriculture so completely doused in chemical that even free-growing wild weeds are now sprouting up with GMO traits such as pest resistance.

And all those chemicals are in our air, our water, our soil and our food. Which means they are also in our bodies. And we know for sure that it’s unhealthy for humans to consume RoundUp, which has been found in umbilical cord blood and the bloodstreams of average Americans, and has serious developmental consequences in vitro.

But don’t the benefits of GMOs outweigh those risks?

In a word, no. Comprehensive, comparative, long-term studies have shown that, due to the environmental degradation that these chemicals cause to soil and water, as well as the increased risk of pest exposures, GMO crops do not yield significantly more than conventional. And in fact, the report also concludes that organic methodology has a more significant increase on crop yields.

They are bad for the environment, certainly. They are bad for our health, maybe. (Since I’ve read all of Sandra Steingraber’s work, I’m not trusting anybody with chemicals in my body. So I say, likely.)

And all we are asking is that we be informed of their existance.

The campaign I mentioned above is simply asking that the federal government mandate labelling of genetically-modified foods. Nothing more. Currently, no laws exist regarding the presence of GMOs on food products, and this prevents a perfectly natural, reasonable option of consumer choice. People may have mixed feelings about the safety of GMOs, but we’re pretty certain we should have the right to make up our own minds.

And you know who once agreed with us? Candidate Obama. Let’s hold him to this promise.

Mass Famine & Super Weeds

22 Jul

Here are a few stories I didn’t get to covering on We*Meat*Again this week that are worth our attention.

The U.N. officially declared mass famine in two regions of Southern Somalia. While widespread, crisis-level hunger is problematic anywhere, under any circumstances, this famine is most surely a result of the creeping drought that is crippling the globe — that will also continue to grow as global temperatures rise. Which is to say, Somalia’s famine refugees are a sign of things to come.

Monsanto’s in the news a lot this week, for the usual creepy corporate stuff, and a potential glimmer of hope. First, a great piece by Tom Philpott that explains the proliferation of superweeds in response to RoundUp-ready products. Continuing to demonstrate a complete disregard for the well-being of people and the planet, however, Monsanto is pushing genetically-modified crops in developing African nations. Even better — the have help from the Gates Foundation. While the Foundation does great work in support of small farmers, unfortunately they apparently support outdated Green Revolution tactics.

The “good” news this week is that, while the USDA seems to be willing to turn a blind eye to regulating GMO crops, other governmental agencies are taking action. The Securities & Exchange Commission is investigating incentives Monsanto may have provided to customers to purchase their RoundUp ready products.

Michelle Obama also announced a fairly troubled industry-sponsored approach to fixing the food desert crisis this week, but I’ve got more to say on that. See you on Monday, all! Make sure to catch up & comment on this week’s posts until then.


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