Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Movie Night: The Future of Food: Part 2

The Future of FoodThis 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.


Deb G said...

I'm so glad that this movie was made and that you're discussing it. This has been going on for quite awhile and I've always been surprised by how few people knew about it. This is really scary when you start thinking about it....

Greenpa said...

Ah, golden rice. The biotech boys still point to this as a really great success of theirs, and don't understand why no one else thinks so.

Here's another piece of that problem that is NEVER mentioned, or discussed.

Is vitamin A deficiency a problem in the tropics? Yep, it is, and kids do go blind sometimes.

Wanna know what possibly THE richest source of vitamin A on the planet is?

Raw palm oil. It's red. And great stuff for frying plantains or fish or whatever in.

How about a program to get every house in the tropics their own oil palm tree, right in their backyard?

Nah. The modern oil palm producers prefer massive chemical driven plantations, with serf/slave labor.

Phelan said...

the U.S. subsidies prevent subsistence farming in other countries.

Who said that? The movie? In the world of Subsidies, the US pays out a lot less the other Countries, it is who the subsidies are paid to that is the problem. Our farmers are unable to keep up with the finical growth of other "civilized" countries because of the high rate of subsidies that they (other nations) pay out. Yes, subsidies are what causes coke to be cheaper then milk, but they are the lesser evil of all our problems.

GMO's and "hybrids" mislabeled is a monster of a problem. The use of organic on items that are not, the misiformation and the education of consumers. The Terminator seed, that is being used overseas, is a concern. Huge companies sueing the small farmer because they were unautherized to grow a expermintal crop (doesn't matter that the crop was wind blown onto the land) and the USDA's definition of all things farm. Remove government and big ag from the equation, and we would have a healthy and sustainable food supply.

But we have grown complacent, and relay on big brother to protect us.

Theresa said...

Thanks for posting this very important information Crunchy! It makes me even more determined to support my local farmers and to tell others about the dangers to our food supply!

Christy said...

In addition to buying local from people I've met, I do constantly write my representatives telling them we need labeling of GMOs and more testing before new things are approved. They hear from me about once a month.

Anonymous said...

I'm so pleased you took the time to watch and review this film. It affected our family profoundly and needs to be seen by more people.

When will we learn that entities like the FDA are not necessarily protecting us, the consumer has to be informed and protect him/herself. These are kids whose bodies cannot tolerate the toxins that we are allowing.

Natural Louisville said...

You might want to watch "King Corn", if you haven't already -- it's relevant to this issue, and also really funny and entertaining. Two friends who know nothing about corn move to Iowa to grow an acre's worth, and try to follow their crop into the food chain.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for moving into this area with your blog. You have just scratched the surface of US food insecurity. Be careful you do not give your readers nightmares. The whole story is scary and enraging. I wish it were not that way. All of this is a good motivation to start next year's garden of backyard plenty if you have the yard, readers.
I was happy to read about your potato crop, Crunchy. It was a nice encore to the growing season.