What the GMO?

GMO has become a dirty word and a symbol for Monsanto’s corporate control over our health. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are the result of slamming DNA (genetic material) from one organism with the DNA of another, yielding altered characteristics. The bizarre results are discarded and the profitable ones, like being unaffected by the herbicide Roundup, are reproduced. Current approved GMO crops include Roundup Ready corn, soybeans, canola and this year, sweet corn. The advantage with these crops is that a farmer can have easy perfect weed control, by spraying the whole field with the herbicide Roundup, killing the weeds but not the crop.

         This “perfect” solution does have undesirable consequences. While the top of Roundup Ready plants may be unaffected, the root system and the beneficial soil life around the roots are suppressed. This lowers the plants’ immune system so that minor disease organisms become major problems. Also to compensate for smaller roots systems, plants need additional fertilizer. The Roundup itself adds extra problems because of its residual toxicity, (Roundup is not biodegradable) and 2-4D Ready crops have already been approved.

         Right now GMOs are not regulated by the government. The EPA  declared they are  “not significantly different.” But there is a growing body of evidence indicating genetically modified foods suppress our bodies’ immune functions, causing increased allergies and many digestive problems. And contamination of other crops is likely. The pollen from GMOs do what pollen does: rides the wind and bees, jumps fences and mingles with the neighbors. Some of their offspring are seeds of GMOs that could be used or sold by the neighbor. But even if he did not want that contamination, Monsanto has sued many of these guiltless farmers for patent infringement, and Monsanto has won many cases. Finally this spring, a group of 63 small farmers, seed companies and organizations are suing Monsanto so Monsanto can’t sue them. To protect itself, Monsanto requires that anyone buying GMO seeds, sign an agreement that they will not use the seed for research or testing, and that the buyer assumes all liability for any problems that might come from using the seeds.

         California has recently introduced legislation to label GMO foods.

And the three Boulder County Commissioners said they support labeling genetically modified foods. Citizen groups around the US are trying to stop the spread of GMOs on our land and in our grocery stores. And several European countries have banned them. Most processed foods in the US contain GMO corn, soybeans or canola. Organic foods are not allowed to be genetically modified.

         Humans, like soil, are environments where many microorganisms live, more often, to our benefit. Weakening their ecology is not good for our health. Many people are very concerned that we should do more testing before approving the use of GMOs. 

         In 2011 citizen groups in Boulder County appealed to the County Commissioners with three minute talks at several public meetings, emails, a rally, and even a fully crafted alternate Open Space crop policy plan. This public-input process went on for months, and in the final stretch of the decision-making process, the Farm Bureau and local conventional farmers rallied to dominate a major meeting. They communicated that they represent a strong agricultural community. And in the end, the Boulder County Commissioners delicately delivered their verdict that one more GMO crop will be allowed on Open Space land:  GMO sugar beets. (GMO field corn was already allowed). The Boulder County Comprehensive Plan clearly states that agriculture is to be supported. Since the conventional farmers are the majority of farm families in Boulder County, they must be supported along with their pesticides and GMOs. Like it or not, this is the culture we are in. The organic farming community needs to develop and grow in order to produce healthy food locally and sustainably. And the Commissioners did decree that the percentage of Open Space farmland dedicated to organic culture will be increased from 10% to20%.

         More information on GMOs is coming in all the time, and citizens have not given up their opposition to genetically modified crops with their linked pesticides and herbicides. They still threaten to contaminate our local organic food, and cause more health problems than can be discussed in this article.

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