Serenity Midwest sent me this note in defense of GMOs as a response to the post Food Freedom how to feed the world without GMOs. Before anyone gets their panties in a knot Serenity is a fellow conservative Christian (Catholic), a long term subscriber to this blog, and long time supporter / commenter of the CCS. He is not a “Monsanto plant.” I appreciated his comments and all the comments we get. Rants are welcome here. Well, thought out rants are read and responded too. On this site, we try always to learn. No lay person has a perfect lock on the truth.
In reading through his defense of GMO you realize that Serenity Midwest has way more experience farming than I do. I have no hands-on experience. As I always repeat, the most important thing for an engineer to know … is what he does not know. That way he knows when to go look for a book. In my response, I would like to make points that I do feel comfortable making, how my libertarian principles frame my approach to GMOs.
1. GMO labeling is a must. I demand and will never quit in demanding GMO labeling. As a libertarian, my theory is based on people being responsible for their choices. To be responsible for your choice, you must be able to make an informed choice, we must have accurate knowledge. Coke has this many calories, this much sugar. Water has this many calories and this much sugar. You decided and then you are responsible for that decision. Some gasoline is E20, and some are E10, I need and want to know what is in my gasoline. To make that choice in food, I need to know what food is cheaper but has been “improved” by man. Thus, labeling for me is more a principle question. People have the right to know what is in their cars (does this have an airbag or not) and people have even more of a right to know what is in their food. BTW, Monsanto supported GMO labeling in Europe and is opposing the precise same labeling in the US.
2. GMO crops are about control. God gave us plants. For free. I do not feel comfortable with a man making patents out of plants. For example, a simple question when do these patents expire? It is my opinion that allowing companies to control our food seeds is a dangerous path to go down. What happens when we do not have easy access to affordable heritage seeds anymore? Can such a day happen? I am unsure. Right now, the price of your Roundup Ready corn and soy is x. But what will it cost when you are locked into the Monsanto model, and heritage seeds will no longer easily grow on your land? When Monsanto has more of a monopoly on food production? It will cost whatever Monsanto says it will cost. I will not cooperate with corporations “owning” seeds. It feels like the exploitative “sharecropping” system of the “general store” owning the means of production. Update Serenity Midwest provided this information: “…the patents run about 10-20 years on a GMO corn/soybean crop, but you have to have a parent female and parent male to make the hybrid. That is a whole other post you can do some day about the benefits of varieties over hybrids for self propagation.”
3. Comfort with long term effects. You are right in that there have been many studies showing the GMOs as safe in the short term. I know, I know, many people simply do not have confidence in those studies, but for this argument let’s say that science is valid. We scientifically do not know the long-term effects of genetically modifying our food. We cannot, as no one has eaten the “better” food long enough in a large enough trial. We know the long term effect of organic food. They worked for thousands (millions) of years. However, we do not know the long-term effects of GMO food. An example of something we “thought” was ok but turned out not to be is tobacco. Natural tobacco with no man-made additives has a certain level of danger. We thought we understood the level of danger when man started to “improve” nature’s tobacco, but over a longer term we found it to be a lot more dangerous than initially thought and a lot more dangerous than the natural, unimproved alternative.
I think we can use traditional breeding methods to continue to make things like Fuji apples which we have done for generations. Putting fish DNA in a tomato, well I am not as comfortable with that as naturally splicing one fruit to another. To ask any aware person to simply “trust” the large company that there are no negative long-term effects of doing something that has never been done in the history of mankind, such as putting animal or insect DNA in plant is ludicrous.
4. Increasing the use of Roundup and other herbicides. The Roundup Ready crop basically allows a farmer to put as much Monsanto Roundup as he wants on the crop and not kill it. You say you spray twice, however, another farmer down the road could spray as many times as he felt required. Many studies have found trace amounts of Monsanto Roundup weed killer in our food. If you are going to have any confidence in the studies that say GMOs have minimal negative medical problems in the short term, you must also have some level of confidence in the scientific studies that come to conclusions you do not like. Live by the scientific study, die by the scientific study. The most recent study that Roundup is “probably” cancer causing. I believe a reasonable principle is fewer chemicals on our food, the better.
Serenity Midwest has a point that the vast majority of people do not seem to be overly concerned with their food. He is right that farming organically is harder work. However, the average age of the American farmer is nearly 63 years old. A younger generation has to step into this market if we are going to remain food self-sufficient as a nation. That group seems to be very, very interested in organic farming. And the consumer seems to be responding. You can sell organics for more money than GMO crops. And that is a good thing. That is people making healthier food decisions. In my area, there are entire food chains growing that specialize in organic none GMO and free range non-antibiotic, non-hormone laced meats. Thus, I think when given the choice, enough Americans are choosing non-modified meats and grains.
I believe there are rational arguments for freedom loving people to prefer more information about their food and thus be supportive of GMO labeling. I believe there are rational arguments of freedom loving people to question having companies control our food seeds. If you are a person aware of our food and drug history, you would question the long-term effects of adding anything to our food. And if you are a person who desires a healthier food choice there are rational arguments to consume foods that limit or remove the use of man-made chemicals. These are just some of the principle oppositions to the unlabelled use of GMOs.