This post concludes the review of the movie, The Future of Food. To read Part 1, go here.
The second part of this film deals mostly with the risks of GMO food, namely the health risks and other unforeseen risks.
An example of a health risk with GMOs is the allergic reaction to StarLink corn, which contains Cry9C, an insecticidal protein. This protein does not seem to agree with some of the people who ingest it - they go into anaphylactic shock. Unfortunately, the StarLink corn wasn't tested before it was unleashed on the public.
Why, you ask? Because they didn't need to - it wasn't approved for human consumption. But, as we saw in the Part 1 post, cross-contamination of crops is rather prevalent. Or, in this case, many farmers may not have been clearly instructed not to sell the corn for human use, or were told that the unapproved variety would be approved by harvest time.
Part of the problem lies with the fact that the USDA doesn't require any environmental assessments with GMO crops. And the EPA regulates insecticides, but not food. Since insecticides are genetically engineered into all GMO crops and this is considered classical breeding practices, it is not regulated. Yet companies want to patent it without regulations. In other words, GMO falls through the cracks of all the agencies supposed to protect the consumer.
And if this doesn't make your blood boil, none of this fiddling with the food stock requires labelling. Polls show that 80 - 90% of people want GMO foods labelled, yet the manufacturers are still not required to do so in the U.S. The corporations want to make money by using GMOs but they don't want the responsibility when things don't work out.
Yet, biotech offers nothing for consumers. If offers no more nutrition (save for Golden Rice, and even that's debatable). Globally, starvation has nothing to do with quantity of foods. Farming is not a production problem, but an access problem and the U.S. subsidies prevent subsistence farming in other countries.
The U.S. farmers are overproducing crops like corn even when they can't cover production costs. So, we subsidize crops, undercutting the developing countries. For example, in Mexico it's cheaper to buy U.S. corn than the corn grown there (and our GMO corn is cross-contaminating the stock there, too). This system of subsidization has benefited U.S. corporations and not the developing countries.
Something that is also an issue to both U.S. and global farmers is the introduction of what's called terminator technology or the suicide gene. What this means is that farmers can't save the seed from generation to generation because it's sterile. So, they have to buy new seed each year. There are 15 patents on this suicide technology. What will happen if this gene pollutes crops around the world? Promoters say there is no out-crossing that can happen with GMO, but this is not true. And how do you switch off the terminator gene? Well, you need to spray it with a proprietary chemical to get it to germinate.
And last but not least, another issue to consider is the consolidation of food retail: Kraft and Nabisco own a huge market share; 80% of beef is processed by only 4 companies; and the vast majority of seed comes from four clusters of companies. In the next 10 years, all our food supplies will be controlled by a handful of companies, only one being from the U.S. - Walmart. Talk about a biosecurity risk.
So, what do we do about this? Well, you can start by supporting sustainable agriculture and avoiding big box grocery retailers and the national brands. CSAs create relationship with local families and create a connection with the community and provide a wide variety of produce rather than the monoculture of agriculture. Farmers markets also provide the community connection where you can meet the person that grew your food as you are purchasing it. You have the opportunity to discuss with the growers their farming techniques and philosophy. Consumers can't exercise their rights if GMO foods don't need to be labelled, but we can do so with our dollars elsewhere.
In other words, support your local farmers.
Disclaimer: This review is my account of the movie and may be highly fraught with inaccuracies. If you have any comment to add or to help clarify, please feel free.