Here is the question – with my answer on the question of GM food. My conclusion: avoid it, if possible. Try to eat non-GM foods if at all possible. I know the evidence seems to anecdotal, but – I think it’s true, nonetheless.
2. Genetically modified foods are sometimes derided as “Frankenfoods.” Is this a fair way to characterize them? Do you have any qualms about consuming genetically modified foods? Why?
I think calling them “Frankenfoods” is a good, quick way of defining what we’re discussing – just like Dr. Frankenstein “unnaturally” sewed body parts of dead people together and “endowed life” to the artificial creature, so genetically-modified foods were brought to some kind of an artificial life. They were never supposed to have existed, just like the Frankenstein’s Monster. It distorts the reality of the situation, though. Geneticists making GM’s (which, unfortunately, would be a good way to identify them, but people would think we’re talking about General Motors or the General Manager of a sports team) are not artificially causing non-life to become life (as in Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein); they are artificially modifying genes that already exist. Of course, most people think Frankenstein is the Monster, who can only grunt and flail his arms stiffly when confronted with flame, like the 1932 movie. Today, many young people have no idea what Frankenstein is, other than some kind of Monster with bolts in his neck, like on a box of “Frankenberries” (although that Monster is pretty cute!) But seriously – it can be misleading, giving people the idea that it is somehow monstrous. Maybe people think it will change them into a zombie, which is somewhat similar to the common image of Frankenstein’s Monster. It’s not fair, then, because it really isn’t like that at all.
I, personally, had no qualms about eating genetically modified food. It is essentially, as the book said, very much like the selective breeding that was done to produce the grain crops we have today. Instead of artificial selection, though, it’s adding genes that never existed in nature to our food supply. But – does it really affect me? After all, am I affected by the food I eat now? When I eat “natural” corn, isn’t it just as much broken down by the digestive process as GM corn? Does it matter that the DNA carries instructions to resist diseases? Isn’t that DNA going to be digested just like any other DNA. DNA is DNA – why should it matter how it was produced? I doubt my digestive system recognizes “real” corn DNA from “artificial” corn DNA. In fact, it doesn’t even recognize that it came from a plant or an animal. The genetic code is exactly the same – I don’t see why it would be a problem.
But – on the other hand – there is evidence that GM food has caused problems. As I always say in debate, “Evidence of something that has happened is much stronger than speculation on what COULD happen.” There are people (including my colleague, our school’s Middle School Science teacher) who take a strong stand against GM food. Most of the reasons are some of the things stated in the book, but her strongest argument is from her own family. She is convinced that ingesting GM food is what caused her daughter to have severe allergic reactions to things like pollen and certain foods. She points to scientific research that has supported this position. Primarily, it involves paying attention to something we all have noticed: the preponderance of kids allergic to many things people our age (late 50’s) were never allergic to. Why are so many of our students allergic to peanuts or peanut butter – we never remember anyone “from our day” who was allergic to peanuts. Students today have all kinds of allergies to things that nobody used to be allergic to. One girl, who graduated two years ago, was allergic to many different kinds of fruits (strawberries, apple, nuts, and many other strange things to be allergic to). Why are so many kids asthmatic? We speculate (supported by studies) that she was allergic because of growing up with GM food. Of course, these observations can be skewed for a lot of reasons. Maybe just as many people were allergic in our day, but didn’t know it because there was no simple way to measure it? Or, maybe there’s another factor causing these increases – perhaps unrelated to food. Correlation does not mean causation: just because there’s an increase in GM food in our diets, it doesn’t mean an increase in allergies has been caused by it.
My conclusion: avoid GM food, if you can, if you feel that it is dangerous. If it’s not already the law (I think it is), require companies to label the percentages of GM ingredients in food products (anything people ingest). Otherwise – leave those of us who have no problem with it alone!