Is GMO-Foodception Fear Mongering?

I’m envious of the way my grandpa folded his newspaper.  I remember that there were never any new marks on his New York Times; he simply reused the creases that were created during printing.  My newspaper doesn’t have many marks on it either, but that’s because during the week I’ll use the NYT app.  It’s not exactly “the paper”, but I think he would laugh about it.

I have a habit of checking up on the latest news before bed or while I cook; real news, about Washington state, not North West.  Over the weekend I found and shared an article with this headline:

U.S. Approves a Label for Meat From Animals Fed a Diet Free of Gene-Modified Products

I know; that’s a damn catchy headline.  Pulled me right in.   When you’re reading that at 3:30am, you don’t assume you’ll have feedback, but that’s just what happened, and it was totally awesome.

I frequently get feedback from my Brother and friend John, who happens to be an academic dynamo.  John’s a pretty even keeled guy, and we enjoy trolling each other on a variety of topics, playing devil’s advocate, and when necessary, saying, “Dude, where the hell is the science?”  I’d like to share our comments with you, because I think you’ll enjoy them, and also because it’s a great reminder that we mustn’t swing the pendulum too far.  John’s a scientist, and I hope that the idea of stopping a pendulum in motion doesn’t irk him too much.  Okay, I’m trolling; I know this is a Newton’s Cradle.  Sorry, John.


The NYT article was pretty sure, and I suggest you read the whole post for the details.  Given the colorful headline, you can figure out what it basically said.  I’ll label each comment with our names so it’s easier to track.

John – First there’s a controversy over GMO food, now there’s a controversy over our food’s GMO food? This is just silly.

Harold – GMO foodception. It would be alright if we had the idea ourselves, but since Monsanto planted it, it’s not cool. We need an organic, non-GMO derived/supplied totem.

In all seriousness, this is Bio-101. Hell, this is rewatching the Lion King for the Circle of Life. We eat what our food eats, and should eat less shit. I’d rather give my money to an organic farmer than give money to Monsanto (for example) and then more to Pfizer (for example) when the first foods gave me cancer.

John – Thankfully, I’ve taken a bit more than Bio 101 (thinking of CHEM643, intermediary metabolism). The genes of your food’s food don’t have any effect on you unless they are transcribed into enzymes that produce something poisonous which is then retained in tissue. Genes and gene products are broken down completely in digestion, so the idea of a direct link between artificially-introduced genes and any negative effects is ephemeral at best.

The majority of the criticism seems to be “We don’t know what the effects are, despite the fact that we haven’t observed any effects when these foods are consumed.” Anti-science and fear-mongering, which I’m sure leads many people who don’t know better to buy overpriced organic foods.

Harold – John, it’s not anti-science and fear-mongering, it’s preventative behavior. GMO products are being used in sub-Saharan Africa (and other 3rd-world countries) to feed people who would starve otherwise. In that case, you could say that GMO/non-GMO is a 1st world problem. So be it.

I don’ think very many people look at eating GMO products as gene transportation. If that’s the case, they need to make sure they hit the 101 pre-req before they hit 643. We’re looking at toxin transfer, similarly to how mercury can accrue in aquatic critters as they head up the food train. Correct me if that occurrence is inaccurate.

As for the observed effects; you can probably cross most streets without looking, and a car wouldn’t hit you. That doesn’t mean you’re going to blindly cross streets; you’re going to look both ways (several times) before you cross, and it would
advising to wait for a ‘Go’ signal from a crosswalk just in case. (Which is a metaphor for seeing what you feel more comfortable eating, and waiting for a systematic review by da Scientistz.

Paying for genetically limited food is only a component of the organic market. People are paying for foods that are grown with less or no pesticides, closer to home and have a lower carbon footprint, and that have been sung lullabies by the farmers. This picture is appropriate:

599277_400846079954185_756279354_n2John – That’s just it, though. Your picture sums up the problem well. There’s no conclusive proof that eating non-organic produce even remotely causes cancer. GM produce would only contain toxins related to modified genes if they were engineered to be toxic, which is counterintuitive. Maybe you’ll concede that worrying about the *genes of the food of our food* is, as I originally said, patently ridiculous.

Harold – We’d be remiss to eschew organic/non-GMO produce and non-GMO raised meat as overpriced simply because there’s no “conclusive proof”. Is the zealotry and fear-mongering in the organic/natural food movement off-putting? Hell yes it is. Organic pop-tarts and soy-based ice cream are still pretty shitty, despite the ‘healthy’ image that marketers create with slick phrasing. The scientific community is still out on how this food effects us, and I’m sure that once they’re done kicking around an industry-funded meta-analysis, we’ll find out that GMO and GMO fed foods aren’t all that bad for us. At least compared to washing down Oreos and ice-cream with Diet Coke.

Will this be an issue for some people? Sure, probably on subjective grounds rather than objective science. Do we have bigger fish to fry, err, grill in the national and global nutritional climate? Hell yes.

That was the end of it.  Like usual, John called attention to something that might be getting a little bit too much hype.  Is GMO food an issue?  Yes, it is, for the 1% of the population that considers it.  Depending on where you stand, they’re either elite or elitist.  Do we have conclusive evidence that eating strawberries with salmon gene in them is going to make us grow scales or seeds?  Not at all.  Are there issues?  We’ve seen some, yes, but those are smaller issues compared to what else is going on.  Please excuse the f-bomb:


We still have folks who subsist primarily on processed white flour and low-fat food like products; mockeries of natural foods.  That Standard American Diet (SAD) may be driven by poor nutrition education, poor role models (Hello, parents.), or absolute apathy.  To be honest, I think that promoting a shift towards eating some damn vegetables is a little bit more important than speculating about growing a third nipple because somebody wanted blueberries that would survive a frost.

Is GMO-foodception fear-mongering?  I’m leaning towards John’s argument; it may very well be.  Things could go wrong if we have uncontrolled GMO-ing.  Hell, maybe we’ll have Robert Kelly rounding up the X-Men; Fox News would provide great coverage.  The thing is; we don’t know.  So where do you go?

Maybe we don’t have enough science, but I’m not sure that’s as important as we’d like to believe.  Say it was statisically unlikely for you to get hit by a car by crossing the street whenever you damn please.  Are you just going to walk across all willy-nilly like?  Hell no, you’re going to look.  Do the same thing with your food.

Eat your damn fruits and vegetables.  Check out the dirty dozen lists, so you know which one’s are better as organic, and which ones have lower toxin levels.  Even if you’re not worrying about sprouting a tail from GMO products, you can still avoid some of the nastiness that’s in pesticides, and locally grown food should have a lower carbon footprint than the stuff that’s flown across the world.

tumblr_lq4rtog5KO1qf4zb3o1_500Eat to support a healthy, strong body, and a healthy, strong world.  Choose real food whenever possible, and you shouldn’t have to worry nearly as much as the folks who blow off labeling while having “organic” pastries.  While we’re on the topic, can somebody make a GMO squid/onion so I can double up on onion rings and calamari?  Thank you.

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