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GMOs love you

February 6, 2014 - Harry Eagar
GMOs like you

This post is by request from someone involved in the bill before the Maui County Council. Glad to oblige. I should have testified.

Because a lot of people who have no idea what they are talking about have testified about the GMO/pesticide bill, let’s review our junior high science. Those of you who managed to wriggle out of the science requirement (you know who you are) shut up.

The VI Commandments of Eating Genes

A gene is a package of DNA. Unless inside a working cell, it is inert. Think of it like a CD full of information without an optical reader to access it. There is not much of it. All the DNA in a whole cow wouldn’t cover the period at the end of this sentence. DNA is digestible. It readily breaks up into its components, which are amino acids. Your alimentary canal is accustomed to absorbing amino acids. You couldn’t live if it didn’t. A loose amino acid is indistinguishable from any other. Your body cannot tell whether it came from an organic peanut, an “inorganic” peanut or a test tube. (This is why paying extra for organic food is a bad investment, but that’s a topic for another day.) Mixing amino acids is OK. Once it passes your gullet, the system down there cannot tell whether the proteins (made of amino acids), vitamins, minerals etc. came from a GMO strawberry that includes an antifreeze gene from the fish called the arctic char; or whether you blended a natural strawberry and a natural char in the Vitamix for a delicious fish smoothie. If you eat a mushroom cheeseburger, you are mixing genes from all the main kingdoms -- funguses, plants and animals. Eating GMO food cannot make you sick. (The only way it could would be if a food were engineered to contain a poison. Most of the food we eat contains some poisons. Plants have their defenses against insects, and we eat those poisons. We do not usually get sick because we are big and insects are small. The amount sufficient to repel an insect is too small for us to notice. But some plants [and animals, too,like some shellfish] can contain so much poison that it could kill us; that is why we do not eat poison arrow frogs.)


This is a big issue, and I will address only the problem -- if it is a problem -- of the link between growing GMO crops and using pesticides, because the bill is premised on a link GMO = more pesticides.

This is unlikely.

Farmers were using pesticides before genetic engineering came along, and frequently they used too much, with bad consequences. (Atrazine is one of the chemicals the anti-GMO people are worried about. Atrazine has been used for a long time, and when oversprayed it can leach into groundwater. In northeast Iowa, atrazine in farm wells was blamed for the deaths of several newborns, but that had nothing to do with GMOs. As it happens, atrazine is in the news. The NPR report tells us something we already knew about the legal and public relations departments of big corporations -- they can be awful -- but nothing about atrazine.)

However, the consequences were overwhelmingly good. We do not experience crop failures, like you get with organic farming.

Will GMO crops require/induce greater use of pesticides? Probably not, for a couple of reasons.

First, GMOs are helpful in no-till farming, which addresses the real biggest threat to farming, which is erosion.

Second, GMO farmers are likely to be better educated than ordinary farmers, and so more likely to adopt best practices, like no-till, integrated pest management and -- yes! -- following the labels on pesticides.


No, this is too silly to go into, but a lot of people are worried about it.


I have been shooting up GMO insulin since 1982.


Article Comments



Feb-25-14 11:33 PM

Population estimates in Hawaii range from 200,000 to over a million, and yet by all accounts the people were well fed with no signs of hunger or starvation.

How on Earth did they manage to do this without pesticides?

Probably because Hawaii is the most fertile land on Earth. I could see if you were advocating GMO crops in the Sahara, or Siberia, but we are talking about a place with abundant sunshine and rainfall. Tell me again why we need GMO's in HAWAII?


Feb-09-14 2:57 PM

OneAikea's post validates Harry Eager's premise that GMO opponents do not understand the scientific basis of the subject on which they are commenting. Roundup is the trade name for the chemical glyphosate.

The EPA considers glyphosate to be noncarcinogenic and relatively low in dermal and oral acute toxicity. The EPA considered a "worst case" dietary risk model of an individual eating a lifetime of food derived entirely from glyphosate-sprayed fields with residues at their maximum levels. This model indicated that no adverse health effects would be expected under such conditions. Glyphosate does not bioaccumulate in animals. It breaks down quickly at variable rates, depending on the particular environment.

Agent Orange was composed of a mixture of equal parts of two herbicides, 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D. The 2,4,5-T used to produce Agent Orange was contaminated with 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD), an extremely toxic dioxin compound. The EPA banned 2,4,5-T in 1985.


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