Open Forum: Genetically Modified Foods

July 30, 2008 § 11 Comments

The recent global food crisis exposes a long standing problem that has not been addressed. As more countries move away from their agricultural roots and embark on the path of industrial expansion, citizens of these upstart countries are facing severe food shortages and massive food price hikes. In hope of putting an end to the current quagmire, some are calling for a greater increase in the production of genetically modified foods.

Recently, a number of famine-plagued African countries were offered large amounts of genetically engineered foods by the United States and other Western countries in the form of food aid. The offer was rejected by African leaders, citing possible health risks posed by genetically modified products. Disappointed U.S. officials denounced the food aid refusal as a crime against humanity. This begs the following questions:

1) Was the decision to reject the aid a valid one?
2) Are genetically engineered foods the right solution to the global food crisis?

Share your views on this issue.

Facts about GM foods

[Simon N.]


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§ 11 Responses to Open Forum: Genetically Modified Foods

  • PiedType says:

    If I were starving, I’d gladly eat any food I was given. I don’t agree with the government(s) that rejected the food and opted instead to let people starve.

    As for whether genetically engineered food is a solution to the global food crisis, I don’t know. I haven’t heard anything negative about such foods. I have heard good things, like more drought- resistent grains; bigger, faster-growing strains, etc. And is genetic engineering that much different from hybridizing?

  • madsilence says:

    Interesting story. Why would nations offer GMF as aid if the recipients would reject it? Better to offer culturally acceptable food, no? Maybe beggars shouldn’t be choosers, but arrogance in gift giving devalues the gift.

    As for GMF in general, mankind has genetically altered flora & fauna for generations, if not millenia. Genetic hybridization has proven risky in general: think of the risks inherent in the corn monoculture. Are these products so very different?


  • mimulus says:

    I’m not technically informed about it. But my intuition says that if it’s not natural, it can’t be good for health.

  • loobiesmith says:

    I am technically informed about this issue. I worked for a long time in university research here in Canada and worked my way up through the ranks until I worked for the “cream” in Research which in Canada is the organization called the Canadian Networks of Centres of Excellence. I was working in the sub group that specializes in food. So this happens to be an area that I learned quite a lot about.
    Pied type asked if there is anything different between hybridizing and GM and the answer is yes. GM can take genes from one thing and add it to another as well it can also take away the right of reproduction. both of which are HUGE problems both for farmers as well as for consumers. There is a very famous case here in Canada where Monsanto brought Percy Schmeiser to court. If you are truly interested I encourage you to look this up. There is a lot of information about it and it is shocking what our government did in the end!
    Mad Silence is wrong, we have not been eating GM food for generations but hybridizing and there are HUGE differences.
    I am not certain if you notices that I used the word WORKED as opposed to WORK when I introduced myself. The reason for this is because the longer that I found myself in this area of work the more I knew that what I was doing was just plain wrong. The final straw for me was the knowledge that on our BOD sat a fellow whose company crossed the genetic material of spiders with goats so that the milk which is produced by the goats contains a hybridized material which is now being used to make ballistic material for police. Don’t misunderstand me, I am all for the police being safe on the job, but what I am against is spider goat milk and what had to be done to get there? What else are the scientists doing? You cannot imagine just how scary it is and how sad it is that I cannot discuss the matter in any depth because of ethical non-disclosure issues.
    So your question leafless is what do you think about GM food. My answer is a resounding NO WAY!
    I know that this will come across as quite paranoid to those of you who do not understand the inner workings of the university system but while I am on this topic – not to eat up (pun intended) all your comment space… but you must remember that ALL university research MUST be matched by industry or some sort of financial backing in order to be funded. Therefore, we must beware what this research tells us. There will not be any money going into researchers pockets if they bite the hand that feeds them (pun again intentional). The system of university advancement and promotion is based almost entirely on the money that academics bring in to the campus, so the pressure is on and ethics can be very thin!

  • mimulus says:

    OMG! I’ll sure look for more information about it, though the one you shared with us is more than enough for me to say NO for it.
    I already consume less industrial food than most of people I know, due to all the chemical substances involved in the production. It’s a contradiction since I smoke :(.
    Unfortunately that’s what we find most at any supermarket, etc. GM makes much worse what is already bad then.
    Thanks for informing us!

  • According to Accordions says:

    During the Green Revolution, scientists genetically modified seeds as to maximize crop yields. However, these seeds would either die after every crop cycle, or have a patent with annual charges surrounding it.

    Maybe the African government was trying to circumvent this?

  • scietech says:

    I believe the African governments were right in rejecting the aid. The companies that produce GM food cannot dump them on other countries in the name of aid. GM food has to be completely tested and the genetic modifications carried out as well as the tests performed have to be put in the public domain if GM food is to be trusted.

    While GM food is not desirable, with climatic changes taking place at an alarming rate around the world (desertification of vast tracts of land bordering the Sahara in Africa, rise of sea level eating up large areas in low-lying countries like Bangladesh), newer varieties of crops that can grow in these harsh conditions are required. Genetic modification of food crops may be the key to solve the food crisis that the planet may face in the future.

  • leafless says:

    The citizens of Africa, no matter how impoverished they are, shouldn’t be made test subjects for GM foods. We just do not have sufficient data to determine whether GM foods are safe to use. In fact, the EU is against wide distribution of GM foods. If Europeans don’t want GM foods, why force them upon the African population? There is one thing that is even more precious than bread–human dignity. We should all remember that.

  • paul passarello says:

    The world has been made to depend upon oil, not only for heating and
    transportation but for so many other things. If this were a more benevolent world where greed ,ambition and power were not so pervasive we would now not have to be at the mercy of the companies that provide us with our basic needs and the most important of these needs are the foods that we eat. I would not hesitate to say that in the not too distant future consumers will have no choice but to buy GM foods. Malnourished and sick peoplewill be in the majority which will make todays obesity and diabetes crisispale in comparison. I think of companies like Monsanto behaving in a criminal manner and Canadian and U.S. governments being short sighted and totally unaware of the long term effect this could have
    on the population. Politicians have always been short sighted havent they?

  • loobiesmith says:

    A short addition to this topic.
    Thomas PawlicK wrote a book called “The End of Food” a book which is about the horror of industrial farming.
    He was fired from his job at the University of Regina for publishing this.

  • Sally says:

    Perhaps another crime against humanity could be putting untested foods on the market? GM foods ARE different, that’s the whole point, but perhaps not for the better. Cows and rats have shown adverse health effects after digesting GMOs, but we don’t need to test them on humans?
    Never mind their effects on the environment. Due to the abundant use of herbicides on GM crops, weeds have developed a herbicide resistance, and Monsanto recommends spraying more herbicides as a solution. Apparently, studies have shown that the chemicals stay in the surrounding environment for a long time after they’ve been sprayed.
    I don’t know much about the relationship between farmers and companies like Monsanto, but if I were a farmer in Africa, I wouldn’t want to deal with buying expensive, patented seeds every year.

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