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Genetically modified foods weasel into bill

Tyler Smith, Opinion Writer
April 24, 2013
Filed under Opinion

Genetically modified food has made its way into our markets whether we like it or not, and the potential side effects appear to be of little concern to manufacturers.

According to International Business Times writer Connor Sheets, Obama recently signed House of Representatives bill 933, which was meant to prevent government shutdown from financial issues. However, Section 735 was slipped in as a rider that will be enforced for six months, Sheets said.

“Section 735, branded the Monsanto Protection Act by its opponents, strips federal courts of the authority to halt the sale and propagation of genetically modified seeds and crops if concerns about health risks arise during safety tests,” Sheets said.

A claim such as that is enough to make me question government practices. I had never heard this issue was on the table or much of anything lately concerning genetically modified crops. I will admit that what I have heard about these mutant crops does sound relatively appealing on paper.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, genetically modified foods have their genetic makeup altered to make them resilient to pesticides, capable of producing vaccines or simply mature quicker.

I understand the world around us is changing. Simply shoving some seeds into the ground and cultivating the land in hopes of feeding the whole world is less than viable these days. Mass production has become the answer to feeding people, and as technologies improve, we want to enhance and better all of our products. So why not improve food and create vegetables that last longer and are allegedly healthier for us?

This sounds great, but I don’t find the thought of vegetables produced from a lab appetizing. Nor do I really want something put on my plate that came from a company with blood on its hands.

Monsanto’s own website hosts a section pertaining to its past involvement with a chemical commonly known as Agent Orange. This is the same chemical used during Vietnam to destroy forests and help U.S. soldiers kill Vietnamese soldiers. Monsanto’s site references the outcomes and consequences of exposure to such a potent herbicide.

“There have been a number of lawsuits,” the company said. “Monsanto and the six other chemical manufacturers reached agreement with U.S. veterans in a class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in 1984 that involved millions of U.S. veterans and their families.”

Monsanto’s site further states the Supreme Court absolved the company of any guilt because it was under government contract during the war. Also, any consequences of the war and Agent Orange “should be resolved by the governments that were involved.”

This already seems like a company that’s more than willing to shed responsibility and try to shift the blame. Regardless, I have trouble finding comfort in a company that not only produces less-than-natural food, but also blatantly professes to having created a poison that devastated a nation. I don’t recall ever going to a grocery store and seeing the lab-created foods section.

According to Sheets, the U.S., Mexico and Canada don’t require manufacturers to label any product containing a genetically modified organism or any other GM food as such. The nations that do require labeling include the European Union, Saudi Arabia, Peru, Russia and China, he said.

I’m surprised our own nation, which seems to jump on all the health band wagons whenever it can, isn’t offering consumers the option to even know what is in the food they’re eating. Sure, we can just ignore the vast majority of the grocery store and head straight to the organic section, but what about the times we don’t feel like forking out twice as much cash for our produce?

How am I supposed to know what my steak ate before I consume it?

According to Mail Online, a global news source, health writer Sean Poulter said there could be risks. An independent 2011 study by a team of doctors at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre  showed 93 percent of the pregnant women it tested had traces of Bt toxin in their blood, a chemical used in GM crops as a pesticide. Approximately 80 percent of umbilical cords showed positive for containing the chemical as well, he said.

This goes against claims that these chemicals would be destroyed in the stomach of humans or animals feeding upon the millions of GM crops within the Americas, Poulter said. More tests are required, but it appears the chemical is capable of reaching a fetus, he said.

“It isn’t known what, if any, harm this causes, but there is speculation it could lead to allergies, miscarriage, abnormalities or even cancer,” Poulter said.

Consumers have a right to know what they’re consuming. Companies have an obligation to make more of this information readily available or, at the very least, comply with testing to ensure what we ingest isn’t about to cause us harm, especially before a product is mass distributed. I would love foods that better destroy my chances of cancer and other illnesses, but when genetics are manipulated, there are going to be consequences. And when tests aren’t allowed to be fully carried out to determine these consequences, someone is going to pay.