Friday, August 29, 2008

Genetically Modified Food Crops: Too Good To Be True?

After experiencing several “food riots” from the poor regions of the globe over the skyrocketing prices of staple foods during the start of 2008, is the global community deliberately resisting genetically modified foods at their own peril?

By: Ringo Bones

Often referred to as “Frankenstein Foods”, foodstuffs derived from genetically modified or GM crops never fully gained widespread acceptance outside of the United States. Especially in Europe, where their resistance of anything with a semblance of genetic tinkering being passed of as fit for human consumption, unexpectedly made the organic food industry – which started supposedly as a fad in the middle of the 1990’s - into a multi-billion dollar leviathan that it is today. Despite of selling food that’s too expensive for those people living on less than 2 US dollars a day.

The issue surrounding the debate between GM crops versus their organically (grown without the aid of pesticides and factory-produced chemical fertilizers) produced counterparts have become the de facto herald of every pro-environment / anti-globalization / anti-capitalist movement in search of “Imperial Ambitions” in legislating their various agendas as legally-binding laws. An ambition that’s ruled mostly by political demagoguery – rather than scientific rationality – for citing the rationale of these various “pressure groups” in resisting the large-scale production of GM crops. Unfortunately, political demagoguery can work in anyone’s favor when it comes to publicly admonishing large corporations – especially ones with very terrible sins in the past like Monsanto.

Monsanto’s sordid avarice for profit over corporate social responsibility had bequeathed to the world products and services that not caused only unprecedented negative social upheaval during the 20th Century. But also, those said products and services’ negative repercussion, are still continued to be felt till this day. Take for instance polychlorinated biphenyls or PCB s. Developed near the end of the 1920’s, PCB s are sold to other manufacturing concerns, like the electrical manufacturing company GE, without thorough understanding of the human health and environmental impact of that particular product. Given that PCB production and use in the United States was banned around 1977, its hormone-mimicry effects still wreak havoc of the endocrine systems of humans and animals around the world. On Monsanto’s “patriotic duty” of bolstering the US Military-Industrial Complex battle against the spread of Marxist-Leninist Socialism in South East Asia, it provided defoliants to be used in Operation Ranch Hand during the 1961 to 1971 period of the Vietnam War. This resulted not only causing undesirable health defects to Vietnamese civilians near the defoliant-sprayed sites but also unusual forms of cancer to US servicemen who happened to be exposed. Monsanto later divulged that the Agent Orange defoliant batches used in Operation Ranch Hand contained high levels of dioxin – a very aggressive carcinogen – due to the hasty manufacture. Given Monsanto’s lack of corporate social responsibility, why should we – the consumers – trust this somewhat untrustworthy company to provide us with our daily bread? Does this lead to a compromised global food security? Especially to those people living on less than 2 US dollars a day.

When Monsanto became the sole monopoly of genetically modified crops, the company was hailed by the technocorporate elite for its pioneering efforts of spearheading a new economic venture – namely the marketing of crops that are genetically designed to be better than Mother Nature’s. Throughout the 1990’s, Monsanto was poised to rival – by fair means or foul – the market dominance of the world’s leading computer software company Microsoft. But the general public’s concerns over the “terminator gene” aspect of Monsanto’s GM crops has denied the company’s dreams of market dominance. Given the company’s “spotty” track record, no amount of scientific study backing the safety of their GM crops to both human health and the environment can calm the general public’s furor over “Frankenstein Foods”.

But it seems that Monsanto never learned lessons from its past sins. Many environmental pressure groups are vehemently criticizing Monsanto’s Mafiosi-style business practices. Like small family farmers being sued by Monsanto for using their “patented” GM technology without permission just because these small farmers live downwind from Monsanto-owned fields and their crops are “accidentally” cross-pollinated with Monsanto’s Roundup-ready crops. Even His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales have recently joined in the resistance movement against Monsanto’s GM crops citing the product’s yet unproven possible negative side-effects on biodiversity. Given that Prince Charles is also busy campaigning for the protection of the albatross in the Southern Ocean, this high-level support of resistance against GM crops has further bolstered the movement against widespread cultivation.

Maybe it’s just bad luck that Monsanto’s GM crops safety concerns manages to coincide with the yet unproven safeguards against BSE / mad cow disease contaminated beef could be the products undoing. After all, testing for prion misfolded proteins via protein misfolding cyclic amplification or PMCA test for prion proteins in only just a few years old. Yet, we don’t yet have reliable test studies that prove GM crops are 100% harmless against human health or our ecological biodiversity.

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