Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on August 12, 2013
What a piece of work is a man! How noble in
reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving
how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel!
in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the
world! The paragon of animals! And yet to me, what is
this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no,
nor Woman neither; though by your smiling you seem
to say so . . .
~Shakespeare, Hamlet, (Act II, Scene ii, 285-300)
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The capacity for modern science to extend and improve life was brought home to me quite directly this past week. A childhood friend of 57 years standing was hospitalized last week with faintness and dizziness. My friend, aFor him professor of mathematics, is a former martial artist and has always been whippet-thin, wiry, and fit. Yet he presented with symptoms that required a battery of tests.
Long story short, he had surgery to have a pacemaker implanted. It seems commonplace to us now, but such a miracle! An opening into shoulder cavity, insertion of wires through an artery into the surfaces of the heart, and voilà! A regulated heartbeat, with energy and color restored, and all right with the world.
Such advances in technology mean that through surgical and other means we can extend and save lives. A congenital heart condition and resulting arrhythmia are adjusted through the implantation of a small device– a moral and welcome use of technology. But what about immoral, and unjust uses? It seems apparent that our technological capacity has completely outstripped our moral dimension.
Here’s one small example. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are, on their website, quite proud to claim 10 great public-health achievements in the 20th century that have added 25 years to the average life expectancy of people in the United States. Among these are:
- motor vehicle safety
- workplace safety
- control of infectious diseases
- declines in deaths from heart disease and stroke
- safer and healthier foods, healthier mothers and babies
- family planning
- fluoridation of drinking water
- tobacco is a health hazard
- future directions of public health.
Now I would argue the single greatest improvement to public health has been public sanitation. There are both aesthetic as well as public health virtues in getting shit out of the streets.
Beyond that, some quibbles. Without doubt vaccinations have all but eradicated smallpox and polio from the United States. Yet other inoculations, such as Gardasil, are problematic. What “motor vehicle safety” and “workplace safety” are doing on this list I have no idea, except that CFC staff needed to pad out the list to get to ten. The “family planning” item is laughable in terms of our current politics, as right wing politicians have both demonized birth control and made women’s health clinics virtually unable to operate. A sizable contingent thinks that flouridated water is a communist plot. But of the ironies on this list, none is more poignant than the one that lists “safer and healthier foods.”
The CDC list and accompanying article completely ignores the phenomenon of genetically modified food. Those of us who actually consume foods in the real economy cannot afford to adopt the CDC’s position.
GMO foods are plants and bacteria which have had specific changes introduced to their DNA using genetic engineering techniques. Such organisms are designed to be treated with toxic herbicides and pesticides, chemicals which have been suspected to increase allergies and have been linked to decreased fertility, asthma, organ failure even cancer.
To briefly review the bidding on the dangers posed by genetically modified foods, we offer the following: Animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food. The GM process creates massive collateral damage in the plant, with side effects that are often unpredictable. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has even asked physicians to advise patients to avoid GM foods.
Most of us are aware that the FDA, like many agencies entrusted with the public welfare now held captive by corporate interests, decided to allow GMOs to be sold without labeling. State-level attempts to require labeling of GMO food have been met with intense lobbying and millions of dollars pitched in opposition.
Why the drama?
Consider this handful of research findings:
- Thousands of sheep, buffalo, and goats in India died after grazing on Bt cotton plants
- Mice eating GM corn for the long term had fewer, and smaller, babies
- More than half the babies of mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks, and were smaller
- Testicle cells of mice and rats on a GM soy change significantly
- By the third generation, most GM soy-fed hamsters lost the ability to have babies
- Rodents fed GM corn and soy showed immune system responses and signs of toxicity
- Cooked GM soy contains as much as 7-times the amount of a known soy allergen
- Soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% in the UK, soon after GM soy was introduced
- The stomach lining of rats fed GM potatoes showed excessive cell growth, a condition that may lead to cancer.
- Studies showed organ lesions, altered liver and pancreas cells, changed enzyme levels, etc.
Problems posed by genetically modified food are magnified by the fact that unlike drugs, there are no human clinical trials for GM foods. The only published human feeding experiment revealed that genetic material transferred into GM soy stays inside our intestines and continues to function long after we quit consuming them. The food may be gone, but the altered proteins remain doing their work.
Thus we fail to study one possible vector of danger to public health that could conceivably create super diseases resistant to antibiotics, or, alternatively, turn our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories. Hopefully this will put the “good work” of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (and the captive FDA) in context.
Citizens are starting to get the word out and educating other citizens about the dangers of GMO foods. As the Occupy movement was suborned and destroyed by sweeps of militarized police under direction from DHS, the tents disappeared, yet the anger and disgust at our nonresponsive politicians has remained, and has been transformed into specific, single-purpose movements.
One of these is Occupy Monsanto, which has emerged to stage numerous protests at companies connected to the global trade of GMOs. Occupy Monsanto is calling for a day of action on September 17 of this year. Basic themes include the idea that Monsanto’s push to control agriculture poses a threat only to consumers in this country, but also throughout Latin America Africa and Asia. Also, if GMO foods are perfectly safe, why not allow them to be labeled and compete in the market?
“There is something wrong when a chemical manufacturer, the same company who made Agent Orange, controls the US food supply.” ~activist Jaye Crawford.
Local groups in southeastern Virginia staged an anti-GMO rally in May of this year. We handed out leaflets, engaged passersby in conversation, and otherwise did our best to create awareness. Much like our government, the last thing Monsanto wants is people talking to people creating awareness and providing education about the real issues posed by GMOs. To that end, Monsanto has mounted its own public relations counteroffensive:
Plant Biotechnology Companies Launch “GMO Answers”
7/29/2013The following release was issued by the Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI). Monsanto is a member of CBI.
Washington, DC (July 29, 2013) – The agricultural biotechnology companies that develop genetically modified seeds — or GMOs — are coming together to launch a broad, new initiative to provide accurate information and answer the toughest questions about GMOs and how our food is grown. GMO Answers (www.GMOAnswers.com) is a new conversation, public Q&A, and central online resource for information on GMOs, their background, use in agriculture, and research and data in one easy-to-access public resource for the first time.
“GMOs are a growing topic of discussion today, with a wide range of questions and emotions,” Cathleen Enright, Ph.D., spokesperson for GMO Answers, said. “Food is personal, so we want to open the door for personal discussions. We recognize we haven’t done the best job communicating about GMOs—what they are, how they are developed, food safety information—the science, data and processes. We want people to join us and ask their tough questions. Be skeptical. Evaluate the information and decide for yourself. We look forward to an open conversation.”
GMO Answers is produced by the members of The Council for Biotechnology Information, which includes BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences LLC, DuPont, Monsanto Company and Syngenta. Together, their commitment to openness and access to information is outlined in the GMO Answers five core principles:
- Respecting people around the world and their right to choose healthy food products that are best for themselves and their families
- Welcoming and answering questions on all GMO topics
- Making GMO information, research and data easy to access and evaluate and supporting safety testing of GM products, including allowing independent safety testing of our products by validated science-based methods
- Supporting farmers as they work to grow crops using precious resources more efficiently, with less impact on the environment and producing safe, nutritious food and feed products
- Respecting farmers’ rights to choose the seeds that are best for their farms, businesses and communities and providing seed choices that include non-GM seeds based on market demands.
The statement of Dr. Enright notwithstanding, if Monsanto “wants people to join and ask tough questions,” and “looks forward to an open conversation,” then I am the rightful King of France.
You want the truth? Follow the money. Open labeling of GM foods would permit an “open conversation,” but that is the last thing that the members of the Council for Biotechnology Information want. What they want is for you is to put your head down, eat, work, consume, and die. The last thing they want you to do is to talk to one another, to educate yourself and others on the real-life dangers of the poisons that have already entered our food supply, and the failure our so-called government regulatory agencies to do any actual regulating.
Find a local action group, get the word out, and resist, resist, resist. And plant your own food before it becomes a crime to do so, and the moving thugscrum that used to be local law enforcement comes to make you tear it out.
As David Cobb of Move to Amend recently said in an interview, “There is no doubt that this government is afraid of its people.” So too are the agribusiness giants who have gathered together to control the food supply of the American people in the name of profit.
As we collectively chase the daily profit motive, and busy ourselves in continued worship of Mammon, our actions stand revealed as far different from those of “the Angels.” Neither noble in reason, nor infinite in faculty, certainly not admirable. And as to “apprehension like a God?” We would settle for the apprehension of a single conscious human being with a decent regard for the welfare of his fellow man.