Advancement in technology has enabled us to accomplish so much in our world today. Yet it is not something that is very mature. Many facets of our lives today are benefiting from various technologies, including the food we eat and how we produce it. When it comes to technologies centered around food production and supply, one of the more controversial ones is GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms).
Why is it controversial? The GM seeds are genetically engineered to produce nutrient rich and herbicide resistant foods among other supposed traits. Better yields and weed resistant crops are among the benefits claimed by companies producing GM seeds. On the other hand, there are many seemingly overlooked dangerous negative externalities – good old nature, responding with what are called as ‘super-weeds’ in response to increasingly potent herbicides and as a consequence of taming them, potentially dangerous chemicals making their way into our water sources – streams, rivers and soil, perhaps leading to an endless vicious cycle.
And then there are the unknown consequences in humans with the modification of something so fundamental as food. Is it possible that as a consequence of consuming genetically modified food, someday there might be new carcinogens that we discover? How good are the studies that seem to paint a neutral or favorable picture for the companies that stand to gain the most out of these technologies? How sound are the policies that seem to approve the use of increasingly potent herbicides and pesticides?
It also seems outrageous that someone can patent something so basic to human life as a ‘seed’. It invokes fears of where this might lead to eventually. What is most interesting is that some of the companies that use GM ingredients in their products are not ready to be transparent in their practices namely identifying that their food products use GM ingredients. After all consumers should be free to make their own conscious and informed decision about what they would want to buy.
While it is important to incorporate technical methods in agriculture/food-production in general and benefit from technology with solid grounding, it seems like a writing on the wall that the powerful forces of capitalism drive some of these companies to perhaps overlook the consequences in order to thrust a potentially under-cooked technology into market in hopes of quickly offsetting the often huge research capital involved in developing such technologies.
Fortunately there are organizations that do the necessary due diligence in these matters and offer great insights into the practices of such companies. The Cornucopia Institute has some nicely compiled scorecards of how many of these companies/brands fare when it comes to some of the basic food products. They have some great graphics (constantly updated) that clearly indicate the brands/companies that would rather not label that their food contains GM ingredients. For an average consumer who likes to make an informed choice of what to buy, it is a great starting point, for it is due to the choices of such consumers that corporations typically tend to respond eventually.