Genetically-Modified Food: the very antithesis of Slow Food

All genetically modified (GM) food crops presently grown around the world were devised to consolidate corporate control of the worlds food supply by patenting food, to improve the reach of industrial agriculture, and to increase dependence on corporate inputs.

GM crops are about controlling the entire agricultural food chain and about the commodification of food. Companies that were previously chemical companies (some with abysmal track records of pollution and environmental stewardship, see box) have in the past 10 years morphed into seed companies, buying some of the biggest seed companies in the world.

Monsanto, Dow Chemical Company, Syngenta, Bayer and BASF are just a few companies that have moved away from their traditional businesses of chemical and pharmaceutical production into the lucrative food market. Given what we know about these corporations appalling standards of management of their chemicals, can we be expected to trust them with our food?

Clearly not.

This short article is not going to get involved in the pros and cons of GM food – we will tackle that in future issues, bit by bit. This article is about whether GM is going to improve our food variety, diversity and security is claimed by its developers.

Only four major crops are presently genetically engineered; they are either made resistant to caterpillars (no other insects are targeted), or weedkiller, or both. These are soy, maize, cotton and canola; these are primarily commodity crops used in animal feeds and bulk food production. After all, when did you last say at a dinner party, “wonderful GM canola cake and mielie meal?” Not likely!

GM crops do not produce higher yields; several, such as soy, yield lower.

They also increase the use of chemicals – a logical progression for these chemical companies that have entered the global seed market. Chief amongst these are the herbicides (weedkillers) such as Roundup (glyphosate) and glufosinate, each of which have serious side effects. Glufosinate is tied to neurological, respiratory and gastrointestinal toxicity as well as birth defects in humans and animals. Aventis (now Bayer) found 100% increase in deaths of broiler chickens fed glufosinate-tolerant GM maize T25 compared to controls . Children born to users of glyphosate had heightened neuro-behavioral defects according to Food First Institute for Food and Development Policy in California.
The manufacturers of these chemicals have applied to have the amount of residual chemicals increased, in some cases by up to 300%.

This is not slow food, it is slow death.

Roundup use around the world has increased from a reported 600, 000 tonnes in 1999 to over a million tonnes in 2003. So much for the lie that these crops reduce both farmers’ dependence on agri-chemicals and consumers exposure to dangerous agricultural chemicals.

In a study submitted for an application to grow GM potatoes in South Africa, the tests show that over 20 applications of various chemicals is taken to be standard practice, even with supposedly more environmentally friendly methods such as GM. This includes soaking potato tubers in chemicals before planting.

My point in telling you all of this is simply to reinforce what most people know or are at least beginning to realise; that our food is no longer what we think it is. Instead of wholesome food we are eating a chemically dependent crops that have depleted nutrient and mineral value as well an added cocktail of chemicals. This is precisely the sort of food that the slow food movement is fighting about.

We know that food grown sustainably in healthy soils absent of chemical application has superior nutritional value, antioxidant levels, mineral composition and taste. If we ignore the impacts our modern farming systems have on the soil we equally ignore the health consequences.

There is a misplaced expectation that the web of life that sustains our food can somehow be safely and effectively replaced by this chemical and biologically altered chimera that passes for food. It may look like food, it may fill your belly for a while but what are the long-term effects of not only more chemicals but also their effects on gene altered foods? One need look no further than the skyrocketing rates of cancer globally for clues.

Another impact of the privatisation of agriculture is that a growing consumer taste for heritage food and vegetable seeds, the kinds of foods we used to eat as children. Consumers are rejecting the tasteless and bland hybridised, chemical friendly crops, where nutrients are valued less than yield. What we have is big, empty food. Empty except for its wonderful chemical load and big in unknown genetic scrambling.

GMOs are a bad idea for many reasons and a good idea for a very few. They do not need less water or fertiliser, they do not grow more quickly. These lies have been repeated so often that the terminally gullible majority has been led to believe that GM crops and chemical farming are good, just as they believed that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

GMOs are one of the biggest lies of our age.

Please don’t just believe me. I beg you to just research GMOs from every single angle and make up your own mind. I remain convinced that you too will see the lies obscuring the reality behind our food. The lie is repeated ad nauseam in attempts to grant it credibility. Remember the lie; don’t buy from liars.

There is nothing respectable about this industrial scale fast food.

Go for slow food, go for local food. Find out who grows food locally and what natural foods are available in local markets. Build a relationship with your food; don’t let the privatisers of food build a relationship with you on their terms. Take back your food, vote with your money. Go slow on your food, think about and taste every mouthful, cherish it. Food is life; we are what we eat.