Stepping out onto the precipice of the GMO controversy

I remember driving through Kansas.

As far as the eye could see were fields of wheat, softly swaying in the breeze. The sky was so blue it was almost azure. The sun shone brightly over the heartland of America. The occasional silo interrupted the blanket of gold; a reminder that these are the homes of farmers. These are the people who feed us and the world.

It was a breathtaking sight.

Stopping for a moment to stretch my legs, I walked into one of the wheat fields. The wheat felt unyielding, like straw waiting to be packaged into neat cubes of hay. I was surprised it wasn’t what I expected. Little did I know that years later, the farm industry in this country would be involved in a prickly controversy that was far more of a surprise than that special day.

Genetically modified food was a distant thought back then; an idea with promises to increase crop yields, eradicate pests damaging cotton and corn and making our favorite vegetables look prettier and last longer. Maybe we could finally make a dent in world hunger, if we could get rid of that pesky distribution problem in some nations.

It sounds too good to be true.

Studies are now showing crop yields are not larger, pests are becoming superbugs resistant to these genetically modified seeds and farmers are dependent upon them since they are designed to sprout for one season, then they have to buy more.

By contrast in North Dakota, canola sprouts from Canada are found growing through cracks in the sidewalks and out in the wild. These genetically modified plants are combining with our plants and spreading at an unknown pace, possibly into organic farms, making it impossible to certify them as organic any longer.

National Institute of Health studies are showing toxicity levels higher than the standard in Roundup Ready harvests. Farm workers are getting sick and so are the livestock that eat the leftover plants. Studies are showing infertility problems and concerns about new allergens showing up in the food supply. With upwards of 90 percent of soy crops being modified, what does that mean to families buying soy formula and people on a vegetarian diet? The people most dedicated to health are those most at risk.

No one is really trying to stop any of this. At this point it might be impossible anyway. What do 80 percent of those polled in California want? They want genetically modified food to be labeled as such. They want to know what they are eating, as was promised in 2007 on the campaign trail for the presidency.

For years now, people have been afraid to talk about these issues in a public forum. I do so at risk of retribution to myself and my family. I’m doing it anyway, because it’s important enough to take that step in the hopes we will start really talking about it, without fear and with a positive outcome in mind.

The former Monsanto employee appearing on my show this Saturday has a research background and left the company of his own accord after he was disheartened and afraid of some of the actions he felt were irresponsible and possibly dangerous.

His claims are backed-up by research scientists in the field of genetics. The scientist we spoke with had even more concerns about the future of our food supply.

Every week I wonder if it will be my last show. This week is certainly no exception. “See you” on the radio and pardon me now, while I go make sure I’m registered to vote in the next election.

About elizabethd

Elizabeth Dougherty has been cooking and writing about food intensively for more than ten years. She is the fourth generation of chefs and gourmet grocers in her family with her mother, Francesca Esposito and grandmother, Carmella being major influences in her early cooking years. As a teenager, her family sent her to Europe where she became focused on French and Italian cuisine. She survived a year and half of culinary tutelage under a maniacal Swiss-German chef and is a graduate of NYIT, Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality, Business and Labor Relations. Food Nation Radio has won two news awards for content. Broadcasting LIVE each week, nationwide, on and stations around the country.

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