The GMO Machine: Beware the Tomato Tamperers

by on July 16, 2012 · 1 comment

in Culture, Environment, Health

By Jim Hightower / NationofChange/ July 16, 2012

Some people are too smart for your own good.

Food geneticists, for example. These technicians have the smarts to tinker with the inner workings of Momma Nature’s own good foods — but not the smarts to leave well enough alone.

In fairness, much of their scientific tinkering has been beneficial. But during the past half-century, too much of their work devolved from tinkering into outright tampering with our food. This is mostly the result of money flowing to both private and public research centers from big agribusiness corporations that want nature’s design altered in ways that fatten their bottom lines. Never mind that the alterations created by these smart people are frequently not good for you and me.

Take the tomato, truly a natural wonder. Agribusiness profiteers, however, wanted it to do unnatural things, so — voila! — the genetic tamperers in the 1960s and ’70s dutifully produced the Amazing Industrial Tomato. It’s a techno-marvel made to endure long-distance shipping, be harvested while green and then artificially ripened to appear tomato-y red and last an ungodly amount of time without rotting.

But taste? Forget it. There’s more flavor in the carton. This led to the “Upchuck Rebellion” — a grassroots movement of consumers, small farmers and local food artisans. In the last couple of decades, they’ve spurred phenomenal growth in farmers markets and stores that offer nature’s own locally produced and heirloom varieties untouched by the smart ones.

But, look out, the tomato tamperers are back in the lab! They’ve discovered that a mutated gene they had bred into the corporate tomato switches off other genes that would cause the fruit to develop flavor. The answer, they say, is not less technology, but more. By artificially re-engineering the DNA structure of the plant, they can bypass that naughty mutated gene and switch on some of the flavor genes. But do we really want to eat genetically engineered tomatoes?

Still, you can expect them to push the latest alteration of nature’s marvel.

I can just see the agribusiness ad: “Buy our industrial tomatoes — Now genetically flavored!” Better yet, buy the local tomatoes, which don’t need a smart geneticist or an ad to deliver real flavor.

Unfortunately, it’s not just tomatoes they’re tampering with. For instance, if you are parent you may be worried about the plethora of highly questionable bio-engineered organisms that the profiteers have quietly been slipping into everything from snack foods to school lunches.

Well, perhaps your own children can put your mind at ease, for science teachers around the country have been assigning a book called “Look Closer at Biotechnology” to the kiddos in their classes. It’s filled with colorful images, friendly cartoon faces, puzzles and more!

The very first page makes clear that the scientific wonder of genetically engineered foods pose no worries at all. “Hi, kids,” it begins. “This is an activity book for young people like you about … a really neat topic.” Why is it so neat? Because, say the authors, “as you work through the puzzles in this book, you will learn more about biotechnology and all the wonderful ways it can help people live better lives in a healthier world. Have fun!”

Fun? With genetically engineered food? That’s not fun, it’s serious business — and look who’s behind this book of fairy tales: the Council for Biotechnology Information.

Exactly what and who is CBI? It’s a PR and political front for the biotech industry, financed by such multibillion-dollar giants as Monsanto, Bayer, DuPont and Dow. It’s also now funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into the industry’s deceitful political campaign to kill a California “Right to Know” ballot initiative that finally would require food giants to label all products containing genetically engineered organisms.

This raises an obvious question for those of us who prefer food from nature, not from engineering labs: What are we to do about corporate powers that are so avaricious and arrogant that they’re willing to tamper with our food supply, our kids’ minds and our basic consumer rights? Defeat them, that’s what!

Here are three good sources for information and action: JustLabelIt.org, NonGMOShoppingGuide.com and OrganicConsumers.org

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

avatar reed barnes July 16, 2012 at 11:58 am

“Exactly what and who is CBI? It’s a PR and political front for the biotech industry, financed by such multibillion-dollar giants as Monsanto, Bayer, DuPont and Dow. It’s also now funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into the industry’s deceitful political campaign to kill a California “Right to Know” ballot initiative that finally would require food giants to label all products containing genetically engineered organisms.”

that is factually incorrect. The last financial statement I have seen for the campaign has been a nearly 10 to 1 financing of the Right to know side, mostly organic companies (Large ones) that stand to profit enormously with the passing of the bill. This has nothing to do about the right to know, it has to do with money. People get scared of things they don’t understand, so they will stick to what they do. Burying your head in the sand doesn’t do anyone any good.

Alright, first the tomato and flavour issue. Before the advent of targeted genetic engineering, there was breeding, which humans have been using since the dawn of agriculture. Everything we grow now has been selectively bred by humans for acquired traits. You name the food it has been selectively bred. This has actually resulted in sterile versions like bananas, cassava, sweet potatoes etc. These plants can only be reproduced via clippings.

When you selectively breed typically the physical characteristics are the one that dominate the decision. This is why corn is yellow now. We didn’t like the purple wild variant, so we bred it to be yellow by selecting the mutated strain.

For tomatoes, one of the traits we chose was even ripening. The gene that controlled this trait unfortunately was in close proximity physically to a gene responsible for photosynthesis in the fruit. This reduced the amount of sugars, ergo, loss of flavour. This was done via breeding techniques that all farmers use. Organic farmers use this to. This is the problem with breeding techniques, you often loose things you want by selecting another. That is evolution for you.

Now that we understand what happened, we can change that without using breeding techniques and causing that loss of other genes that may be responsible for antioxidants, or natural pesticide.

Why can’t we take something, that we understand thoroughly, and apply it! Mother nature isn’t always rooting for humans, in fact she is often trying to kill us.

Science is trying to help. Yes, GMO food should be tested. We do test it. Regulations are stringent for even simple removal of genes. Geneticists are helping make our food more nutrient rich, tastier, higher yielding and longer lasting. It is easy to have this holier than thou persona, but our judgements impact not only us, but people who don’t have anything else to eat, but a nutrient pour carbohydrate rich Cassava that causes them to go blind.

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