Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hikers and GMO’s

I haven’t had a lot of time lately for the blog, I’m working on a big project, but here are a couple of quickies.

Hikers Wander Into Iran

Is anybody else a little suspicious about the story of innocent American hikers accidentally wandering into Iran? I’m an avid hiker and I’ve hoofed it in several exotic places – Borneo, Indonesia, Nepal, for instance – but I can’t imagine going to one of the most dangerous countries in the world just to walk in the mountains. I might go to Iraq just for the thrill of being in a dangerous place, but if I’m looking for scenery that’s about the last place I’d go.

The hikers have been in the news lately because of the release of one of the three and I’ve read lots of articles about them but they never give any background. Was it a day hike, or were they backpacking for several days?

And where have they hiked before? If it was the Congo, Yemen, rebel controlled Columbia then I’d believe their story.

Or was it the Appalachian Trail, where there are trail signs every couple of miles and facilities near the trail at regular intervals? There certainly are no signs in northern Iraq. And if there were they’d be in Arabic or Kurdish. One could not possibly go to a place like that without a local guide or at least really good topographical maps. And if you had accurate maps there’s no way you’d innocently wander into Iranian territory, especially if you were on a day hike.

The US has been funneling money into Iranian insurgent groups so maybe they were there to make contact. The idea that they were there only for the scenery beggars belief.

American Consumers Not Allowed to Know if Their Food Contains GMO’s

This is in the news because genetically modified salmon are about to enter the market. The question is whether it should be labeled as such. According to the FDA, the government agency charged with food safety, it would only confuse people to know what’s in their food, and besides, according to the industry, there’s no scientific difference between natural and genetically modified foods.

It’s easy to understand why FDA, which is basically an industry mouthpiece, doesn’t allow producers to label their food as GMO free: if they did, their sales would plummet. GMO’s, also known as frankenfoods, are allowed in Europe and Japan if they are labeled as such, but since nobody in those countries would knowingly buy GMO’s, American exporters don’t even bother trying.

As for there being no difference, someone should tell that to the Monarch butterflies who were subject to a little GMO experiment about ten years ago. In that study, milkweed, the only thing the butterflies eat, was dusted with modified corn pollen. In a short time half the insects died and the other half had serious stomach problems. The control group which ate milkweed dusted with natural corn pollen, suffered no ill effects whatever.

The New York Times published an article at the time which tried to put a little industrial spin on the matter by saying it really wasn’t a problem for the butterflies since they don’t eat corn. Yes, very true, but people do. Now I realize it’s entirely possible that a substance can be toxic to one species while it’s harmless to another, but still the two - GMO and natural – were shown in that research to be obviously, demonstrably different. That wasn’t the only study to show drastic effects on small animals and insects of eating frankenfood, but powerful as it is, Monsanto, the number one producer, has been very effective in burying results that effect its bottom line. No studies have been done on humans.

There has been a large and not easily explainable spike in cases of asthma and other more serious diseases in America over the last twenty years or so, coinciding with the introduction of GMO’s. Personally, I almost never buy processed food from America since anything produced there that isn’t labeled organic, contains GMO corn or soybean or canola. Fortunately we here in Cambodia always have the choice of buying European or from neighboring countries where GMO’s have not yet been introduced.

On a related note, researchers in North Dakota discovered recently that all the wild canola growing along the roadsides in the state was frankenfood. So much for the ability to contain GMO’s or the ability to grow non-GMO’s anywhere in North Dakota.

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