Charles Rehn - Democrat for President 2004

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Genetically Modified Foods


The shock and awe diplomacy of the Bush Administration has continued in yet another example of the Bush Administration acting on behalf of American corporate interests

The bellicose remarks of the Bush Administration imply that Europeans are against free trade because they are apprehensive about American genetically modified foods, that they are against feeding the millions of people in Africa, and, generally, as with every other international issue, George Bush is right and the rest of the world is wrong.

I thought I would give a brief primer of what the actual issues are.

If you consider the "art" or "practice" of farming, it has always been to plant seeds, then harvest some of the produce for market, and harvest some of the produce for seeds to plant the next crop.

The way that genetically modified foods, such as corn or wheat, are produced, farmers must license the seed they intend to plant. Most often, the plants produce sterile seed.

When the crop is harvested, they are not allowed to harvest the seeds for later crops. They are required, instead, to license additional seeds. Farmers would be completely dependent, as compelled by law, to adhere to these practices based on intellectual property laws: patents.

You might ask, why don't they just stay with the old seed crops? Simple. Part of the features of genetically modified foods is that they are bred to be resistant to diseases, wart off insects, things that would normally require pesticides. They even have plants that are resistant to specific pesticides that would otherwise kill them. So, there are some theoretical benefits to GM foods.

The problem is, if you develop an anti-biotic of any sort, and in a way, pesticides are that, the attacked organisms generate a tolerance. That means that traditional crops would be put at greater risk by the use of GM crops. And remember, this doesn't affect just the crops being grown: this affects all of the plants and organisms in surrounding natural environments, which will have no defenses to the ever-strengthening plant diseases and insects that would normally be kept in check by a balanced environment.

Further, as in Mexico, countries that would prefer to address environmental issues over scientific dominance of nature, are concerned that their natural seed crops will be compromised by cross-pollination, which then leads to additional litigation issues of intent regarding the potential theft of technology through cross pollination.

In Mexico, Vicente Fox has become angered over the undesired cross-pollination of it's corn. Their corn is a strain that dates back to the Aztecs.

As an additional concern, scientists worry that global dependence on engineered foods could lead to global starvation should something go wrong in the production or distribution of the next season's seeds.

Anti-globalizationists contend that it also provides an opportunity for a very few multi-national corporations who could ostensibly control the world's food supply, heeding the warning that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The final arguments regarding genetically modified foods has to do with effects on people, having to do with health implications - allergies, impact on the immune system and long-term nutritional consideration - most of which remain relatively untested or completely unanswered.

It's true, the United States has been eating genetically modified foods for quite some time. In fact, in Santa Cruz Country near Watsonville, I recall seeing fields of strawberries being tested for the effectiveness of an enzyme developed to protect them from the morning frost. That was way back in the late 80's.

The truth is, as GM foods began to enter the marketplace, the American public was squeamish, and so public debate on the issue was muted and policies were adopted to promote its use. The most recent article I read says the more people learn about GM foods, the more apprehensive they become.

I actually believe that GM foods, and biotech in general, has its place. However, I also believe that something of this importance requires scrutiny, as well as transparent discussion that provides the due diligence compelled by the far-reaching implications of the practices involved.

Personally, with experience over the years regarding products intended to replace basic, natural consumables, I've had one policy: if God didn't make it, it probably isn't good for you. If I had a choice, I would choose not to eat GM foods for many years until the long-term effects were known. It's the same reason I won't eat foods with artificial sweeteners.

Certainly, you could find inconsistencies in this personal policy of mine. And, I have no desire to convince anyone to do as I do on this matter. But, my personal decisions are much different than those that would impact an entire planet of people.  That's why the best research on all sides is important before GM foods becomes dominant, and the effects are irreversible.

So, when you hear the Bush Administration speaking of genetically modified foods, and how Europe is being mean to U.S. farmers by not allowing us to sell our products, and that Europe is to blame for the famine in Africa, remember that the Bush Administration has a habit of casting any country or interest with a differing view or question as having some sort of evil intent and an enemy of America.

For the record, those claims are simply false to cause you to become annoyed and ignore the valid, underlying issues, and to get you to join the president in standing up to our foes so that when the next election comes around, he'll seem like the hero, when in fact, he's the guy stirring up the hostility with other nations on this, and many other issues.

They say that what you are is what you eat. Do you know what you're eating?


US-EU war over genetically modified food intensifies Brussels is characterising this dispute as a misunderstanding. The situation is not at all black and white, it believes, and the two approaches to famine in Africa – the short term US one and the longer term European one – are compatible.

Critics Slam Bush for 'Ignorant' GM Foods Comments   "He can only have been informed by the multinationals, the Monsantos of this world, to make a statement which displays as much ignorance as that," Patrick Holden, of the environmental group the Soil Association, told Reuters.  "If Bush thinks that getting his way with Europe over Iraq was a precedent for this GM decision, he should think again because the degree of informed public opposition to commercialisation is growing by the day," Holden said.

GM crops 'won't solve hunger' Genetically modified (GM) crops could pose a considerable threat to poor farmers and will not feed the world, a UK-based development agency said on Wednesday. ActionAid, in a report called "Going Against the Grain," said GM crops are "irrelevant" to poor farmers' needs and could push them deeper into debt as they become more reliant on expensive seeds and chemicals.

Cambridge Scientific Abstracts Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful?

In the UK: National Center for Biotechnology Education

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(C) 2002,2003-2009 Charles Rehn Jr IV  All rights reserved