Saturday, May 25, 2013

My Latest Anti-Anti-Transgenics Tirade

'They're invading us.'
These very sincere folks were demonstrating on Ave. Septima today against transgenic seeds, which they claim are destroying everything from Colombia's seed diversity to everybody's health.

The fear of transgenic organisms and demonization of Monsanto Corporation have become deep-rooted, self-perpetuation psychosis which is going to be with us for a long, long time.

But the specific criticisms of transgenics seem completely baseless. I asked several of today's demonstrators why they opposed transgenics. 'They're damaging our health,' they told me; added another 'We're being invaded,' and 'They're manipulating our food.'

'Because of love for life.'
Except that humans have been manipulating their food genetically for at least the past 10,000 years, since agriculture began. For hundreds of thousands of years before that, nature was manipulating our food thru evolution and random genetic mutations.

Transgenic methods are faster, more dramatic and less random - but not fundamentally different.

Do transgenic techniques have dangers? Sure, just like anything else, altho they're far outweighed by the technique's potential benefits for humans and the environment. And what the protesters were objecting to: coporate agriculture, loss of traditional biodiversity and the proliferation of unhealthy, processed foods, aren't caused by transgenics but by wider economic trends like globalization, monoculture agriculture and mass marketing. Transgenic crops may have accelerated those trends, but that's all.

Free seeds now!
As for transgenic foods infiltrating your genes and creating a third eye sprout on your forehead - that's impossible. A transgenic food's genes get digested your stomach, like all proteins, and broken down into their basic building blocks. If transgenics did cause health damage, don't you think that lawsuit-happy North Americans, who've been eating transgenics for decades, somebody, at least once, would have been able to prove some harm? But they haven't.

Eating ice cream. Transgenic or not,
too much junk food is bad for you.
Transgenic crops do have environmental impacts - but many of them are positive. For example, some insects have recently begun to develop resistance to Monsanto's BT crops - and that's causing farmers to return to using old fashioned pesticides. Those pesticides are bad for the land, rivers, ocean and plants and animals, including people.

Tragically, the U.S. and other parts of the world are experiencing a wave of extintions: Bats, honeybees and many kinds of amphibians are going fast - and they're only the ones we've noticed. In the bees' case, at least, pesticides are a leading suspect.

'Monsanto out of Colombia and the planet.'
Certainly, loss of seed biodiversity and junk food are real problems - but focusing on transgenics as the villains just hides the true, fundamental threats.

But transgenics make a wonderful enemy because the concept is new and strange and in Monsanto opponents have a great big corporate villain with a strange-sounding name to attack.

By groundlessly attacking transgenics, activists are depriving many millions of people, including perhaps malnourished children in Colombia's El Choco Department, of cheaper and sometimes healthier food. Take, in particular, the insane campaign against golden rice, a transgenic seed fortified with vitamin A, which has the potential to save the lives of millions poorly-nourished children the world over - if only anti-transgenics activists quit standing between kids and their health. Opponents of Golden Rice have blood on their hands, just as surely as do the paranoics who oppose a life-saving vaccination.

'Yankee corn out of Colombia'
But, to me, the most tragic part of this is that intstead of fighting a life-saving solution, these activists could instead be fighting against the the real threats to the environment and our health which are all around us - but go ignored because their not so simplistic and exciting as fighting an imaginay boogeyman.

Can anybody say air pollution? Deforestation? Fast food and sedentarianism? Smoking? Climate change? Malaria?

Sunday's New York Times contains this tremendous commentary about how, since the beginning of agriculture, humans have selected vegetables, including corn and potatoes, to make them sweeter and softer - and much less nutritious.

Transgenics and genetic manipulation have likely accelerated this trend, a case in point being the conversion of nutritious Indian corn into low-nutrition sweet corn. But transgenics probably offer the best way to put nutrients back into vegetables.
Different kinds of potatoes, as well as corn, yucca and other fruits and vegetables in a Bogotá market. None of these are transgenic, but all undoubtedly have been genetically manipulated by farmers.

Danger - Monsanto.

'Out with Monsanto.'

Traditional seeds. 'Seeds are the real gold in life.'

'Do you know that your food could be poisoned?'

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Stuart Oswald said...

First time in a long time I agree with you and it feels good. :) Although some parts are condescending. ;)

mauricio forero l said...

Get lost Stuart, for at least one year.
Excellent post Mike!!!

mauricio forero l said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ally Brown said...

great post Mike

Miguel said...

Thanks Ally.


Carlito said...

couldn't agree more, you nailed it

Robert Davies said...

Good post this. It seems there is not even any debate in Colombia, people just spout nonsense about GM and it is accepted as fact.

Miguel said...

Of course, nonsensical thinking doesn't happen only in Colombia.