It’s election season again. Another year to struggle through election ads. Another year to get an article from us talking about propositions to label genetically modified organisms. This year, however, offers something different and interesting within the political arena.
Keeping in mind that this is just my views on the situation – I’ve heard as many things and done as much research into the matter as I can, so consider myself pretty well informed, – I’m reading between the lines here, but there’s lots of interesting subtext between those lines. I’m not involved in any of the political movements going on this year, not even as a voter. I can’t really speak for either side, but there have been enough patterns in the history of movements to label genetically modified organisms that I’ve been able to ferret out an interesting story within the story.
Recently, I discovered in my Facebook feed an interview with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson in which a question was asked to Dr. Tyson about his opinion of genetically modified organisms. Here is a link to the original video:
Dr. Tyson brought up some good points, but predicated his argument on something that I’ve heard a lot with regards to recombinant DNA modification of organisms: that this manipulation is just like the manipulation that we have done with selective breeding over many thousands of years.
In the first post about the Heirloom Exposition, I touched lightly on some of the issues with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), at least as they were discussed at the Expo. What’s the big deal with genetically modified organisms anyway? Haven’t we always been genetically modifying organisms through selective breeding?
Well, yes and no: through selective breeding, we can encourage traits in organisms that we find to be beneficial: grow faster, stronger, healthier. With genetically modified organisms, we tweak the genetic code directly to get a desired result.
The net effect may be the same: producing an improved organism. In fact, genetic modification can introduce traits that otherwise cannot be found in the organism, giving it an extreme advantage in its environment. Why on earth would this be something that people are opposed to?
Because it’s scary as hell.
“Know thyself.” – Temple of Apollo at Delphi
“You are what you eat.” – Victor Lindlahr, Bridgeport Telegraph, 1923.
The wisdom contained in these quotes have been with us for quite some time, If we accept them as true, then it follows that we should know what we eat. And yet, more than ever in history, we have lost touch with what, exactly, it is that we are eating.
It seems that every few years, a scare story pops up about people finding disgusting things in their fast food – inedible substances like plastic bags, vermin remains, you know the type. Most of the time, thankfully, these stories aren’t true – or, at worst, manufactured by a disgruntled employee trying to take revenge on their workplace. Tales like these tap into our fears about the strange things someone else has the ability to put in our food. They are effective because we know that chicken heads do not belong on our plate – but does a “boneless skinless chicken breast with rib meat”? What about “sodium acid pyrophosphate”?
What, exactly, is in my club sandwich?