Today I am reviewing a brief video that packs a punch – titled GMOs and Health Safety, presented May 9 of this year at the UCLA Women’s Health Conference. The speaker is Alan McHughen. an Oxford-educated molecular geneticist with a focus on crop improvement and sustainability.
There are four things I especially appreciate about this video.
1. It is relatively short and accessible to any non-sciency lay person (which would be humanities-major me.)
2. Dr. McHughen emphasizes that all the hullabaloo over GMOs in foods is really a moot point because by the time the much maligned ‘just-label-it’ foods hit store shelves, there isn’t anything close to an organism in them let alone a genetically modified one. So yes, all this hysteria that has large sections of the public in a snit is really much ado about nothing. He says (emphasis mine):
Genetically engineered corn, soybean, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets – they’re the ones that you’re likely to encounter (in the marketplace). But the food products that you get from those are things like corn oil, soybean oil, vegetable oil, cottonseed oil, canola oil or sugar from sugar beets – those aren’t genetically modified organisms. In fact we don’t have GMOs in any of our foods because there are no organisms in any of our food – except maybe pro-biotic yogurts and things but the organisms stay behind. In fact, even the genetically engineered plants stay behind when you process a corn plant for oil. You’re removing the DNA and the proteins. What you get at the end is corn oil which is identicle whether its squeezed out of a genetically engineered corn kernel or a non genetically engineered corn kernel. When they say 80% of our food contains GMOs, number one: NONE of our food contains GMOs or even organisms, except probiotics which are not genetically engineered as far as I know. There are no remnants of the GE process in what is called genetically engineered corn oil. It is identicle to traditional corn oil.
Folks, this is one of the big reasons the farm and food industry object to labeling, and who can blame them? The term “GMOs” is misleading as it infers some kind of ingredient, where there is none. Genetic engineering is a technology, just as is the extremely common mutation breeding, which is way worse in my opinion, but no one seems to care. I’ll eat a genetically modified product any day.
3. McHughen reminds us how many farmers worldwide willingly choose to grow the most common varieties of soy, corn and cotton crops using the Roundup Ready and Bt seeds. Farmers are NOT unwitting victims of Monsanto, as is commonly believed across the web. They are wise business people who want to make a good living like anyone else – while offering an excellent product to consumers. They make decisions based on productivity. And no one, absolutely no one is as concerned about their land as they are. They’re not going to just blindly poison it.
4. Somehow, and in a very short time, McHughen touches on many of the lesser known but wide spread benefits derived by GE technology while simultaneously dispelling myth after myth. He mentions the genetic engineering process used to create insulin, chymosin (used in the making of cheese) and the cystic fibrosis drug dornase alfa.
In closing I’ll admit that McHughen doesn’t paint an entirely rosy picture when it comes to genetic engineering. He does briefly introduce areas where actual danger could be lurking but more importantly, he underscores the absolutely crucial fact that the fear of our current food supply being somehow tainted or toxic because of GMOs is ERRONEOUS.