Want to know something almost as scary as an Obama re-election?
Many news sources reported over the last couple months how Monsanto, the world's biggest vegetable seed maker, will begin selling biotech or genetically engineered (GE) sweet corn this fall for U.S. consumers.
There are at least three alarming aspects to this particular vegie-gene mutation and its distribution.
First, if you wonder why the sweet corn's genes are being triple altered, wonder no more. Bloomberg reported, "[T]he sweet corn seeds are engineered to kill insects living above and below ground and to tolerate applications of the company's Roundup herbicide, Consuelo Madere, Monsanto vice president for vegetables, told reporters at company headquarters in St. Louis." In short, this is the first time seeds have been genetically modified to allow farmers to spray their fields with Monsanto's Roundup herbicide.
Madere added that, while Monsanto is presently in dialogue with companies that can and freeze corn, the new sweet corn seeds will at first target the 250,000-acre market for fresh corn in the eastern U.S. (roughly 40 percent of the sweet corn market).
Second, corn is used in more products than any other produce, though admittedly much is grain corn. For those who think they can merely avoid corn-based products, consider that out of the 10,000 or so items in an average grocery store, roughly one-fourth (2,500) use corn in some aspect of recipe or production, according to the Ontario Corn Producers' Association.
Consider just the ABCs of corn – that is some of the products that begin with the letters A, B and C that utilize corn. Ready? You're going to be surprised. They are adhesives (glues, pastes, etc.), aluminum, antibiotics (penicillin), asbestos insulation, aspirin, automobiles (wheels and tires, cylinder heads, ethanol – fuel, windshield washer fluid, spark plugs, etc.), baby food, batteries, beer, breakfast cereals, candies, canned vegetables, carbonated beverages, cheese spreads, chewing gum, chocolate products, coatings on wood, paper and metal, corn chips (of course), cosmetics, crayon and chalk, instant coffee, etc. Imagine what D-Z might contain!
Third, the science of genetic food tampering is still spurious at best and hazardous at worst. A plethora of reports have been published to show the potential dangers not only to crops and the environment but also to humans. The UK Daily Mail news reported in 2010, "According to the research, animals fed on three strains of genetically modified maize created by the U.S. biotech firm Monsanto suffered signs of organ damage after just three months."
Despite tests supporting that genetically altered organisms in crops become a part of the bacteria in even our own digestive tracts, and that polls show the American public wants more labels on foods that utilize genetically-engineered ingredients in their production, the USDA now wants to eliminate any controls from genetically altered corn and cotton! The Los Angeles Times reported a short time ago that President Obama's administration has approved an "unprecedented number of genetically modified crops," like ethanol corn, alfalfa and sugar beets.
The Food and Water Watch organization, or FWW, warned in a recent letter, "Monsanto's sweet corn variety flew through the approval process, because it combines two genetically engineered traits that were approved in 2005 and 2008. The USDA does no independent testing of GE crops, and the 'stacked' combination of these traits for herbicide resistance, and pesticide production has never been through a safety evaluation of any kind."
Most alarming to me are the hazardous warnings offered by those like the late George Wald, Nobel Laureate in medicine or physiology and Higgins Professor of Biology at Harvard University, one of the first scientists to speak out about the dangers of genetically engineered foods:
Recombinant DNA technology [genetic engineering] faces our society with problems unprecedented, not only in the history of science, but of life on the Earth. … Now whole new proteins will be transposed overnight into wholly new associations, with consequences no one can foretell, either for the host organism or their neighbors. … For going ahead in this direction may not only be unwise but dangerous. Potentially, it could breed new animal and plant diseases, new sources of cancer, novel epidemics.
Again, if Monsanto's own confession is, "The sweet corn seeds are engineered to kill insects living above and below ground and to tolerate applications of the company's Roundup herbicide," what exactly will the long term effect be upon humans?
Answer: We don't know, but you can bet we will, in due time.
Currently at least 14 states have introduced legislation on genetically modified organism labeling, but most face government gridlock. So please take action and keep foods safe (non-genetically engineered) by contacting your representatives, as well as the FDA and the USDA, and tell them all that you are demanding that genetically modified food must be labeled on every package.
The Center for Food Safety, another great watchdog organization, offers a new and free "True shopper's guide" download on its website and even a mobile application for smart phones, to help you find and avoid GE ingredients wherever you shop. Go to TrueFoodNow.org.
Help make sure GE sweet corn is not sold in your local grocery store by signing FWW's petition. They'll be delivering the petition to the top 10 grocery store chains in the country in the pursuit of stopping GE sweet corn from reaching your plate. Go to FoodAndWaterWatch.org.
Mostly, remember to buy certified organic products, because they are not allowed to use GE ingredients.
Incidentally, Monsanto told the LA Times it doesn't expect much consumer outcry. I guess it didn't know about my culture warrior column and its readers!