Monday, September 21, 2020

Genetically Modified Foods — Say “No” to GMO


My advice on genetically modified foods is unequivocal—-avoid it!

Despite all the propaganda of the food industry, I do not believe that GM foods are safe to feed ourselves, or our children, and it is unfair to use children in an experiment whose results will only be known in years to come.

The very presence of such food on the shelves of our supermarkets is the result of bad science and bad democracy. To really understand the question of genetically modified foods, we need to take a look at how both science and democracy have been corrupted to allow our food to be manipulated in such a risky way.

Most scientific research on food safety is sponsored by the food industry itself. These scientists scorn the notion that their genetically-engineered foods are unsafe. With condescending smugness, they declare that there is ‘not a shred of evidence’ to show that GM food is unsafe.

In reply, I say there is ‘not a shred of evidence’ to prove that genetically modified foods are safe. Science is always incomplete and its conclusions tentative, until the next experiment comes along and overturns them. It is scientifically impossible, at this early stage, to know that genetically modified foods will not have harmful effects on future generations and on the eco-system we will be handing on to our descendants.

Yet, we, the concerned public, are continually bullied by the scientists’ mantra of there being ‘no evidence that genetically modified foods are unsafe’. It seems to me, that these scientists are deliberately misunderstanding the science of logic, in a cynical, disingenuous way. They are asking us to place blind, unscientific belief in their new-fangled products, as though it were a matter of faith. Yet they would pour contempt on such demands for blind belief if practiced by a witch doctor.

We should not allow these vested-interest ‘scientists’ override our intuitive wisdom. We should remember that these people are not scientists in the true sense, they are more like spin doctors, or spin-scientists, if you like.

As the question of science and ‘scientific proof’ becomes increasingly important in debates around food, I believe it is worth taking a closer look at who these scientists are and what type of science they practice—–true science, or false science?

When I think of what a scientist should be, I think of my father, who was a consultant pathologist and later a medical research scientist. His life’s work was to find cures for diseases which he once investigated whilst a hospital pathologist.

His metier as a scientist, was to lessen human suffering, not to sell product, like the new generation of scientists. In deference to him, I feel entitled to say what a scientist should be—–what he was. As I know it, a true scientist is on a mission, much like an artist, a quest of truth-seeking, one who embarks on a journey of discovery, whose work is informed by a spirit of open-mined enquiry. A scientist seeks knowledge.

This important question of what a scientist is, was once eloquently addressed by the naturalist Dr Bob Brain, a former director of the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria.

In conversation with Bruce Chatwin, who later quoted him in his book The Songlines, the aptly-monikered Dr Brain, defined the true naturalist (scientist) as “a man who is in love with the world”, a person who tries to see things as they really are “without filters”.

Dr Brain warned of the dangers of scientists becoming attached to a cause, even if the cause is only a fossil: “To find a beautiful fossil, and then hitch your reputation to it, is no longer to see the fossil.”

Bob Brain was described by one of his colleagues as a ‘scientist’s scientist’—-like my father and his kind, possibly a disappearing breed, outnumbered now by a more scheming, self-interested, ignoble species, the ‘corporation’s scientist’.

By these parameters, the spin-scientists of today, funded and employed by the business sector, pushing the agendas of the mobile phone industry, the chemicals industry, the food industry in general and the genetically modified foods sector, in particular, are not scientists at all—they are imposters, anti-scientists, seeking to manipulate the truth and to suppress knowledge.

One of the great problems we face as a society, is that the once hallowed halls of knowledge, the great universities of the world, have been infiltrated by corporatism, especially in the science faculties, where almost all scientific research is now funded by industry. As booker prize winning author, John Banville once put it, “the Academy has been sold.” So when we are told that genetically modified foods are safe by ‘scientists’, we should pause for thought and remain vigilantly sceptical.

Next to the problem of ‘science’, there is the problem of our weakened, corrupted democracies, also ‘sold’ off to the highest bidders, the political donors and lobbyists. It is anti-democratic that the food industry can lobby and bully and fund its way through our political structures until it gets its own way.

It is wrong that time and again, our political masters cave in to its agenda, which ultimately, is all about profit, at the expense of human health and the health of our eco-system. Yet this is what is happening in relation to E-numbers, agricultural chemicals and now, genetically modified foods. You can sign The Good Food Petition for better regulation of the food industry here.

It is salutary to remember that genetically modified foods were developed by Roundup, the weed-killer people, so they could spray vegetables with massive doses of their poisonous product and the vegetables would not die, only everything around them. Personally, I prefer my vegetables without weed-killer.

I also believe there is another, even more sinister aspect to the issue of GM food, which has been eclipsed by the more obvious concerns above and has come about as a result of bad democracy. This has to do with the ownership of food seeds.

When a GM food is ‘developed’, under patent law, the company that ‘develops’ it, is allowed own the genetic copyright for that food. Incredibly, under our legal system, GM companies are allowed claim ownership of the DNA of food they have ‘developed’, just by mixing up the patterns of DNA which occur in nature and are not owned by anybody!

If you want to understand why the corruption of our political system is such a dangerous thing, this is the reason—-laws are being passed in the corridors of power which are not in the interests of the people. Patent law could just as well have been written to outlaw the ownership of juggled-up DNA, but it wasn’t, because that was not what the GM companies wanted!

This scenario now poses a serious danger to all of humanity, because when a company owns the DNA of a food, no farmer can grow that food, without being licensed to do so by the owner and paying the owner for those seeds. This is a frightening prospect, because unless it is stopped in its tracks, there will come a time when the GM business will have expanded so much that possibly most, or all of our food, will be in the ownership of the shareholders of GM corporations.

It is the nature of business to expand. It is the nature of Big Business to swallow up Little Business, so that Big Business ends up with a monopoly. GM production is nothing if not Big Business, with a Big Long-Term Plan to own all of the world’s food. We need to wise up to this agenda which is already underway by stealth.

The notion that GM and non-GM food can co-exist harmoniously, side by side in the world, is a nonsense. The more widespread GM production becomes, the more impossible it will be for small non-GM farmers to continue growing natural crops. The inexorable force of unfettered capitalism knows no bounds and will put paid to the independent farmers.

As well as the impetus of Big Business to contend with, these farmers would be struggling in a destroyed eco-system, within which they could not grow their crops. On our delicately balanced planet, everything is linked to everything else. When GM crops are grown, they alter the eco-system for everybody else. They wipe out insect species and contaminate non-G.M. foods, through the natural cross-pollination carried out by bees and other flying insects.

The very existence of genetically modified foods within the eco-system changes the environment in which non-GM farmers have to work. As GM crops encroach more and more, non-GM crops will eventually be wiped out.

Our grand-children, or great-grandchildren, will be born into a world, where farmers cannot sow the seeds to grow food, as they now do. All the food in the world will be privately owned, by stock-exchange investors, or super-rich individuals, some, possibly, with megalomaniac tendencies, who will be able to control the price they charge farmers for the license to grow food and the price it is sold at.

Furthermore, it is utterly Orwellian for GM propagandists to say that genetically modified foods will alleviate famine in poor countries ‘by providing higher yield crops’. Genetically modified foods will cause famine, by placing the control of food in the hands of business, in the hands of the rich and the few, instead of the many, as is the case today. This would be the grim reality of food politics in a Brave New GM World.

As we know in Ireland, famine is not caused by food shortages. Always, the underlying reason is human stupidity, greed and, of course, food politics.


  1. Paula

    To date, the only GM crops to have been released commercially are soya, corn, cotton, canola and sugar beet. However, if the GM lobby is successful we might soon be adding wheat to this list. Monsanto has created a herbicide-tolerant Roundup Ready version, and is hoping to see it reach the market soon. In May, a number of industry groups from the US, Canada and Australia met to lend support for the commercialisation of GM wheat, and to make plans to further this goal. Transgenic wheat has the support of a few Australian groups including the Grains Council of Australia, the Grain Growers Association, and the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of Western Australia.
    On the other side of the argument, 15 farming, consumer and other groups in the three countries have endorsed a statement opposing the commercialisation of GM wheat. These include Greenpeace and the National Farmers Union in Canada (NFU.) Other groups interested in adding their names have until August 31st to do this.
    …there would be no realistic way to segregate GM and non-GM varieties
    Other concerns have come from the Canadian Wheat Board, which acknowledges that there would be no realistic way to segregate GM and non-GM varieties. In addition to the lack of existing sorting infrastructure, a large quantity of wheat is likely to remain in the combine after harvest, and equipment is often hired or shared.
    According to the NFU, 82% of the international customers for Canadian wheat have stated that if a transgenic variety reached the market they would source their wheat from another country. For the GM industry, the ideal strategy would be to introduce it into all major wheat-growing countries in short succession to remove most of the opportunities to obtain a non-GM supply on the world market.
    Likely negative effects would include the effective destruction of Canada’s organic wheat sector. Extra weed control would be required for Roundup Ready canola appearing in wheat fields and Roundup Ready wheat among the canola. To this could be added the potential health uncertainties such as allergies and other environmental impacts.
    …negative effects would include the effective destruction of Canada’s organic wheat sector
    In Australia, other than cotton, so far the only GM food crop to be grown here is canola, which was first cultivated last season in New South Wales and Victoria. However, both edible oil giants Unilever (Florafoods) and Goodman Fielder (Meadow Lea) are refusing to accept any of the GM variety.
    Most GM ingredients are unlabelled here, either because they are refined, or used as animal feed. However, wheat is nearly always used in food in a relatively unrefined form, and any GM wheat ingredients would almost certainly be subject to labelling rules. Consumer sentiment, combined with the existence of labelling laws in many countries, presents a major stumbling block to its introduction.

Emily Murdoch
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