Genetic engineering is not paleo

GMOs are so not paleo.  Grok didn’t consciously meddle with the genetics of his food sources through selective breeding, and he certainly didn’t use chemicals or viruses to insert specific genes from one species into another.  The former was born of the age of agriculture, and the latter only within the past generation.  Companies such as Monsanto are working to gain and hold market share by developing and patenting varieties of food crops that produce their own pesticides, or which can survive heavy applications of existing ones (which they also produce) – or which possess various other “desirable” traits.

Is this genetic tinkering harmful?  There is much controversy, but a lot of people think it is. Many nations around the world have banned genetically modified organism (“GMO”) derived foods or greatly restricted their use.  About 50 countries currently require GMO ingredients to be disclosed on product labels.  The United States is not yet among them, but there is a large and growing movement to pass this country’s first GMO labeling law: Proposition 37, “The California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act.”What are the potential risks in growing and eating these foods?  GMOs haven’t ever been proven safe. In a sense, we’re all part of the experiment.  The FDA, for its part, conducts no independent testing of GMOs, saying they are “not substantially different” from non-GMO foods.  I’ve never had a great deal of trust in the FDA, largely due to the “revolving door” between the regulatory agency and the food industry.  A wide variety of interest groups are concerned about a plethora of risks: cancer and other health issues, reduction of global genetic diversity, the creation of super bugs and super weeds, soil degradation, even the private control of entire food groups.

Already most non-organic US corn, soy, cotton and sugar beets (the basis of many sweeteners and additives used in processed foods) are genetically engineered. So is the feed given to many of the animals we eat. In fact, 75 – 85% of the processed food in grocery stores contains unlabeled GMOs.

Opposed to labeling what’s in your food are corporations like Monsanto, Dow, BASF, and food conglomerates like Pepsi and Coca-Cola – who along with others have donated nearly $33 million to defeat Prop 37.  Why?  If the law passes in California, some manufacturers have admitted that it may as well be a national law. They don’t want “this product contains GMOs” on their labels, so they will reformulate their products. If they do it for California (with an economy the size of many small countries) they may as well do it for all of them.  Early voting on Prop 37 begins on October 9. By November 6, this initiative will have passed or failed.

My friends know I’m not one to seek new government regulations or mandatory anything.  I take a pretty strict constitutionalist/libertarian view, preferring to let the free market work and consumers to exercise their power non-coercively.  I don’t think it’s the business of the government to decide what is good or bad for us.  But I do think protection from fraud is a legitimate function of government, and I see the current “marketing” of GMO foods as a massive fraud.  Unless told otherwise, a consumer should be entitled to assume that “tomatoes” are tomatoes as typically understood and found in nature, with roughly the same nutrition profile, allergenic potential, etc.  It should be safe to assume that the tomato’s DNA hasn’t been adulterated with fish genes, for example, or altered to allow the plants to survive massive doses of an herbicide that the seed company also holds the patent for.

I don’t think we should (or need to) ban the development, production, or sale of these products.  I do support the requirement that it be disclosed when food ingredients are so altered.  If you do as well, you can sign this petition asking the FDA to require disclosure of GMO ingredients.  But honestly, California Prop. 37 probably has more hope for success.  Regardless of how much (or little) you choose to ask the government to protect you, I hope you’ll vote first with your dollars and buy foods as close to their natural state as possible.

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Author: Paleo Joe

I've been paleo since approximately December 2011.

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