Genetic Modification of Organisms for Human Consumption

Part 2: Pro’s, Con’s & a Loss Becomes a Win
When I was researching GMO (see Genetic Modification of Organisms for Human Consumption Part 1), I was struck by how many one-sided information sources insist they are presenting both sides of the debate. Emotion routinely drowns out evidence and the mudslinging is on a level normally reserved for politics. Other impressions I had were:

- GMO opponents correctly point out there are no large independent studies on humans proving GM food is safe – but – these won’t be done for ethical reasons because if regulators don’t believe a product is safe,* they will not approve it.

- GMO opponents are also correct when they state studies showing GMO safety are predominately funded by companies in the industry and done by the scientists they employ. However, to dismiss these studies for that reason alone is akin to dismissing positive study’s on chiropractic because it was written by a chiropractor or funded by entities with financial ties to chiropractic.

- GMO supporters are correct when they point out there is a lack of quality peer-reviewed research from opponents.

- Many who trust major scientific organizations on subjects like climate change distrust their positions on GMO.

- Big business (normally against regulation) seems to support regulatory scrutiny - or at least they keep their complaints private.

- GMO is treated as a single entity when in fact each and every modification is unique requires individual evaluation.

Pro’s and Con’s

The major pro’s and con’s (in no particular order) remain hotly debated.

Improved drought tolerance
Improved temperature tolerance
Improved herbicide resistance
Improved pest resistance
Increased salinity tolerance
Increased crop yields
Increased nutrient content
Increased shelf life after harvest
Increased geographic growing ranges
Reduced requirements for other pesticides and herbicides
Phytoremediation (plants designed to treat pollution in soil, water or air)

Inadvertent creation of allergens, toxins & by products harmful to humans, animals &/or the environment
Environmental gene transfer between modified and non-modified crops
Adaptation by insects to insecticides aka ‘super bugs’
Adaptation by weeds to herbicides aka ‘super weeds’
Unforeseen soil and/or ecosystem and/or food chain problems
Potential reduction of agricultural biodiversity
Monopoly concerns of the seed market & lack of non-GM seeds

A Loss Becomes a Win
In November 2012 I voted for a ballot measure in California that would have required the disclosure of genetically modified ingredients . It was soundly defeated thanks to massive funding by agribusiness which outspent the proposition’s supporters by a margin of 34 million to 4 million. (See table 1 for the top donors) The irony of the election defeat is that label changes regarding GMO are appearing anyway. The twist is that instead of companies who use GMO’s, label changes have appeared from companies who do not use GMO’s. The result is consumers in California who care about this issue know that if an item does not say ‘no GMO’s’ or ‘GMO free’, it contains some ingredients from crops grown with genetically modified seeds.

Top Contributors Who Helped Defeat the GM Label Proposition in California
Monsanto $7,100,500
E.I. DuPont De Nemours & Co. $4,900,000
DOW Agrisciences $2,000,000
Bayer Cropscience $2,000,000
BASF Plant Science $2,000,000
PepsiCo, Inc. $1,716,300
Nestle USA $1,169,400
Coca-Cola North America $1,164,400
Conagra Foods $1,076,700
General Mills $908,200
Syngenta Corporation $821,300
Del Monte Foods $674,100
Kellogg Company $632,500

If you live in America, you have consumed products that included ingredients grown from GMO’s and now you have lived to read about it. I have not seen a single study that used evidence based design to conclude that a GM crop caused morbidly or morality in humans by itself or compared to the same non-GM food. However, I do not believe for a second that agribusiness puts my health ahead of their wealth -- but I also do not believe they are out to poison me or ruin the planet either.

Regulation of the GMO industry must continue in a transparent manner and elected officials must insure separation between regulators and industry is maintained in order to avoid the problems seen in banking and petroleum. Blanket condemnation of GMO products must be replaced by a case by case approach. The potential for unintended consequences (negative & positive) as GM technology expands is likely.

Saving the hardest for last, in part 3, I will attempt to sort out the myths and facts.

* Safe refers to not causing acute, short term illness. If we banned everything that has been proven to cause harm (let alone the mere potential to cause harm) with long term use, the shelves of your supermarket, drug store, liquor store and home improvement store would look empty.

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Copyright 2013, G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN, 916 E. Imperial Hwy, Brea, CA 92821, (714) 990-0824
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