You may have seen the political ad--a man dusted with the white hair of wisdom identified as a scientist speaking out against one of the many propositions Californians are facing in addition to choosing the next round of government leadership, injecting a non-partisan viewpoint based on facts so rare in politics today.
While it affects the environment, the proposition in question isn’t about whether to get energy by way of drilling, fracking or solar and wind power. And it’s not about hotly contested issues of unions or healthcare.
It’s about food.
Specifically, genetically modified food, and the people’s right to know if they are eating the stuff or not by forcing companies to label fresh produce and manufactured products containing plant or animal ingredients that are genetically altered.
A scientist guy featured the is calling the Proposition 37 advocating for this right an "illogical" and “ill-conceived”.
The reason, he cites in the commercial, is an apparent inconsistency in the labeling, as some products (meat, beer) will not be required to divulge their genetically modified, otherwise known as GMO, status.
But isn’t something better than nothing?
In saying No to Prop 37, the scientist is aligning himself with DuPont, Dow, Monsanto, Coca-Cola, Pepsi and other corporate behemoths, who are squaring off against other organizations in support of the label, such as the Sierra Club, California Nurses Association, California Council of Churches, Consumers Union, the Center for Food Safety and Public Citizen.
On the positive side, GMO has been credited for staving off famines by virtue of its ability to tailor crops to size, seed output, etc, resulting in greater yields that can be shipped straight to India, Ethiopia and anywhere else in the world devastated by starvation, a plight that is currently responsible for a fifth of all deaths of children under 5 worldwide.
It’s why Norman Borlaug, the guy who used GMOs to fight famine, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, as featured on an episode of Penn and Teller's show Bullsh*t.
But on the darker side, along with additives, preservatives, pesticides, MSG, hydrogenated vegetable oils, artificial colors, sweeteners, fillers and non-food ingredients sometimes associated with unhealthy side effects, it has crept silently into our food supply. The Institute of Science in Society has asserted that it’s presence can be linked to a host of health ailments ranging from allergies to cancer.
There’s a rule of thumb the that revolutionary foodistas of now are placing before consumers like a dinner plate--don’t buy food with a long list of ingredients that are unfamiliar and/or unpronounceable.
But how can you avoid something that isn’t even listed?
Of course, there are a plethora of unseen dangers facing food products on the market today. As a cashier at Whole Foods, I had a pair of regular customers who would insist that I manually enter the barcode of every single product they purchased in lieu of the streamline version of scanning them across the belt to ring them up. Surprised and annoyed, I nonetheless complied with the tedious task they requested of me, although not without inquests.
“Because,” one replied, adorned with a flower-encrusted hat flopping over long greying hair, alabaster skin that appeared to have never felt the kiss of the sun and a withering physique suggesting a strict vegan diet, “we don’t want our food irradiated.”
They were speaking of the scanners, the flash of red probing every packaged product that went out of the store with a Matrix-like glow, assimilitating into its system and infecting it with techno-pollution. The only problem was is that every product coming into the store also received the same treatment.
All deliveries unloaded from trucks were summarily scanned as they sat wrapped in sheaths of petroleum-based plastic after basking in the fumes of gas during their hours-long journey along freeways to their “holistic” destination.
Nothing in this world is pure as long as as we rely on the liquefied death from eons ago to feul our cars and fertilize our crops. This is effectively and artificially propping up our civilization on a unsustainable scope, which is apparently how GMO foods came to be in the first place.
And like Einstein’s tinkering with the atoms, the tinkering of god’s or nature’s creations can have unforeseen consequences.
Because while it’s true both plants and animals have been manipulated and cross bred to produce results benefiting us humans, whether the goal is plumper produce or highly specialized companions (just look at the family dog splayed out on the sofa for proof), GMO production now goes far deeper.
Scientists work on a molecular level to alter the DNA of food and while countries around the world have either demanded to know when this has been done or have banned the practice completely, in the U.S., the FDA has in the past denied our nation’s consumers the right to know.
“Today's techniques give breeders the power to cross biological boundaries that could not be crossed by traditional breeding,” said James H. Maryanski, Ph.D Biotechnology Coordinator for the FDA, to the house committee on science more than a decade ago. “For example, they enable the transfer of traits from bacteria or animals into plants.”
Maryanski also testified that consumers should be made aware if the product in question “differs significantly from what is expected for that food, or if the genetically modified food contains potential allergens.”
Whether the dangers associated with GMOs are real or inconsequential, if Proposition 37 passes--and it’s looking like it will despite inference from the same companies who claimed DDTs were safe--a little more clarity will be brought to the dinner table. And that’s always a good thing.