Saturday, April 8, 2017

Genetically Modified Food - who do you believe?

I watched a program recently about this and thought it would be an appropriate and relevant to offer some view on Genetically Modified Organisms (“GMO”) or Genetically Modified Food (“GMF”) as it’s commonly referred to.

As someone who likes to be well informed before expressing my opinion, I spent a number of hours researching including trolling the internet and trying to seek out someone who could shed some light on the topic.  All that effort was in vain as I still do not have a definitive view on the topic, primarily because it would seem that everything written has a predetermined agenda, in other words it’s phenomenally biased.   Moreover it seems nigh on impossible to find some person who can give you an independent view on it.

It was just like the program this last Sunday,  in my opinion the organic apple grower in the Hawkes bay was more concerned about protecting his organic export sales, than discussing the pros and cons of GMF.   His rationale was that the possibility of cross pollination from GMO crops to non GMO would mean he couldn’t market himself as GMO free or indeed organic.

The argument wasn’t about what the actual risk of this happening was or how this could be safeguarded against.  Moreover the grower thought that the government should not be able to override the Hawkes Bay district council labelling itself as a GM free zone, which was essential to the marketing of their apples.   An argument which was pretty farcical given that there is no difference between Hawkes Bay and other apple growing regions in New Zealand (in terms GMO crops at least) and if one day we had GMO crops in other regions, then the risk of cross pollination could of course easily come from another district outside of the Hawkes Bay, which makes a Hawkes Bay declaration as GME free bloody stupid (Yes it’s a decision to be determined on a National basis). Note as far as I am aware we don’t have any GMO crops in this country at all to date.  Although I would be surprised if we are not eating some food already that has some GMO food ingredients in it from overseas.

The apple grower’s other principal argument against GMO food was to say “go around the world and ask consumers what they want?”  Yes people with a good discretionary income (not poor or impoverished people) responded that they would rather buy organic food (which is not necessarily  the same as non GMO food).   From my reading it appears most consumers apparently buy organic food because they believe they are avoiding all pesticides”.  However one thing I did learn from my reading of various biased articles was the misnomer that organic farming means no use of pesticides.   Apparently a lot of pesticides are used (and often more regularly than conventional pesticides) so long as such pesticides are derived from “natural sources”, it’s okay.  Moreover there is some debate about the risk to human health and the environment with many of these pesticides organic farmers use.   The apples on the program I watched the other night looked amazing not like the ones grown in my backyard, that do grow naturally free of any attention from me whatsoever.  My point being that to justify your argument by saying this is what consumers want is pretty weak, when realistically these same consumers base their opinions on a marketing story that almost certainly doesn’t disclose all the relevant facts.

Unfortunately I am not in a position to advance the debate on what we should do in regards to GMO crops.  However I can recommend that if you want a short article that addresses the pro and cons of the debate, then google an article “Genetically Modified Food Pros and Cons List” written by a Crystal Lombardo. It’s a good starting point.   From this I agree wholeheartedly with the following quote:  If used properly, the science behind genetically modified food could be used to end hunger. If used improperly, the science could be misused and potentially endanger (sic) our entire food supply. This means that if we are to pursue this field of food science, we must have responsible management of the research being done and have third party independent verification and monitoring of results so that it becomes possible to distinguish fact from fiction.”

As such I conclude is this is definitely a decision to be determined by Government having regard to the above quote, not on adhoc basis by various regional or district Councils.

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