Do You Know Why Crops are Genetically Modified?

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Genetically modified crops

Why are crops genetically modified? What are genetically modified crops modified to do?

Those questions were asked to about 250 people who were in a presentation about microbiome health that was being held in an organic grocery store. I presume that if you asked them their thoughts on genetically modified crops, most of them would say that they are anti-GMO. But at least a dozen wrong answers were shouted before the correct answer was given.

Most genetically modified seeds are modified so that the crops can withstand pesticides, specifically glyphosate.

This isn’t common knowledge, but it should be. People should realize that the majority of GMO seeds are not genetically modified to provide more nutrition or even greater yield, they’re modified so that glyphosate can be poured over the fields indiscriminately.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “While some GE (genetically engineered) seeds with traits that affect a crop’s nutritional content and agronomic properties are already being commercialized and many more GE seeds are under development and testing, nearly all the GE seeds marketed to date to U.S. farmers are for pest management (pests here are defined to include insects, weeds, and some other organisms that interfere with the production of crops).” (Emphasis added.)

Glyphosate is an herbicide. It kills plants—crops as well as weeds. Genetically modifying seeds so that crops are resistant to glyphosate allows farmers to spray glyphosate all over their crops, killing the weeds but not the genetically modified corn, cotton, soy, sugar beets, etc.

The genetic modification proponents have skewed the conversation so much past reality that people think they’re arguing over increasing the nutritional content of rice, or feeding the world, or saving the papaya industry, or reducing pesticide use (the people who believe that one must be really good at cognitive dissonance). Feeding the world is a worthwhile goal, and increasing the nutritional content of rice may or may not be a good thing to do (the consequences of genetically modifying rice so that it has more vitamin A in it haven’t been played out), but when we’re arguing about whether or not genetic modification of consumable crops is appropriate, the reality is that the majority of GM/GE crops are being modified so that they are resistant to herbicide, not so that they can be better for consumers in any way.

Did you think it was a coincidence that Monsanto sells both genetically modified seeds and RoundUp?

It’s a shrewd business move, but it’s not good for consumers or for the planet.

Genetically modified crops put consumers at risk, much of that risk currently unknown, and provide zero benefits to consumers. The cost/benefit analysis doesn’t work at all for common people, because crops aren’t genetically modified for consumers, they’re genetically modified so that glyphosate can be used indiscriminately and so that Monsanto can dominate agribusiness. We’re guinea pigs in an experiment that doesn’t even benefit us. Welcome to lab-rat status.

Are genetic modification proponents really in favor of exposing people to as-yet unknown health risks so that glyphosate can be poured on crops? Because that’s what “nearly all” genetically modified crops are designed to do.

People need to be aware of what they’re fighting or supporting when they are pro or anti GMO.

I’m anti subjecting myself and everyone else to potential health risks so that Monsanto can sell more RoundUp. I’m anti Monsanto, Dow, Cargill and every other corporation involved with creating and selling genetically modified seeds. These agribusiness corporations are turning once-fertile cropland in the middle of the US into a wasteland (the NPR article, “Cornstalks Everywhere But Nothing Else, Not Even A Bee” illustrates this problem). They’re polluting our water and soil. They’re making farmers throughout the world dependent and indentured. They’re buying our Congressional representatives and putting us further down the path of corporatocracy. They do nothing to serve consumers, they only serve themselves and the monied interests that align with them.

I’m not anti-feeding-the-world—of course I’m not. But that’s not what the reality of the conversation around GMOs should be. The reality, straight from the USDA is that, “nearly all the GE seeds marketed to date to U.S. farmers are for pest management.

Know that fact next time you get into an argument about GMOs, no matter what side of the argument you’re on.

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