Thursday, August 30, 2012

Genetically Modified Sweet Corn: "Naturally" Delicious?

Good news, everyone! Wal-Mart is about to start carrying genetically modified sweet corn.

I honestly don't know where to start. Should we go with "But I thought sweet corn was the kind that wasn't genetically modified," or "Wait. Wal-Mart sells food?"

According to a recent article in the Des Moines Register by Iowa farmer Tim Burrack, everyone's favorite retail giant is scheduled to start providing delicious, ready-to-eat ears of genetically engineered sweet corn any day now, so start clipping those coupons.

The worst part of this, though, isn't the fact itself, but the way in which it was presented by the biotech advocate who wrote the article. The piece started off strong, grabbing the readers' heart strings with tales of this year's drought and its effect on the family farmers and their less fortunate neighbors who get charitable donations of corn chowder at church socials. It went on to talk about the wonders of modifying a species' DNA to be not only more drought-resistant, but more pest-resistant as well. Seven summers working on a farm gave me first hand knowledge of how near to impossible it is to grow corn without chemical pesticides, so, in a way, the argument for a genetically bug-resistant corn stalk...I see where this is coming from. The term "natural" maybe wasn't the best way to describe it, but not bad enough to completely dismiss the idea yet.

Even the fact that the whole article reads like it was paid for by Wal-Mart isn't the worst part. The worst part is the paragraph attacking the "enemies of biotech" who "oppose every innovation in agriculture." Here, take a read:

"People who want to keep GM food out of their diets, however, have a simple solution: They can choose to buy organic. Any food that is labeled organic by definition is not a biotech product. These people have a choice in the products they choose to purchase. Why can’t I?"

First things first. I really have to point out that if you write a clause like "people have a choice in the products they choose," you're going to be mocked, even if your actual point makes sense. However, if you use idiotic, redundant sentence structure and your logic is critically flawed, well, I can't be held responsible for what might happen.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's move on to the content. We all know how expensive certified organic products are, and they're not even always available. Is Burrack really saying that GM products should be the norm, and we should have to seek out specialty items to avoid them?

But here's the really scary part of all this. You know how wind, insects, birds, the bottom of your shoe, pretty much anything can cross-pollinate two plants, even if farmers don't necessarily want it to? Yeah, that's happening with GM crops. They're getting their cyborg DNA into conventional crops and there's not a whole lot we can do to stop it. Sure, sure, maybe there's nothing wrong with biotech crops and they should just get cross-pollinated with everything else and we shouldn't make a stink about it, but I'd feel better about that theory if anyone was doing any real research into potential downsides just to make sure.  Also, remember that farmer who got sued by Monsanto for growing their Round-Up Ready Canola when all he'd done wrong was operate a farm downwind of theirs?

One more reason to be wary of corn, I guess.

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