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GMO Awareness Week

By October 6, 2011

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GMO Protest

This week is GMO Awareness Week, and I've been surprised by a recent group of postings from vegan bloggers supporting the development and use of genetically modified organisms. The postings seem to stem from a recent talk by Kevin Folta, Assistant Professor of Horticultural Sciences at the University of Florida, who spoke in support of GMOs at a recent Vegan Chicago event. An audio recording of the entire talk is available here.

While I do believe there are many unfounded fears of "frankenfoods" (a term embraced by Folta because Frankenstein's monster was a victim of unwarranted fears), there are also serious concerns and unknown risks. From an animal rights standpoint, GMOs are a nightmare because of the animals being used directly as GMOs and also because of the testing involved to try to prove that GMOs are safe.

As animal activists, maybe we should be grateful that Monsanto has used its influence to push their GMOs through FDA approval without rigorous toxicity testing on animals? I'm not. Not because I want these products to be tested, but because I believe there are better ways to feed the world.

What you can do:

If you believe that GMOs should be labeled, Food Democracy Now is asking the public to contact President Obama and demand that he keep his campaign promise to require labeling of genetically modified products. You can use this webform to contact the White House, or if you're in a hurry, you can just sign FDN's online petition.

Also, if you'd like to avoid GMOs, look for USDA certified organic foods, which are not allowed to contain GMOs. Also, avoid the eight genetically modified food crops that are now on the U.S. market: soy, corn, cottonseed (oil), canola (oil), sugar from sugar beets, Hawaiian papaya, some varieties of zucchini, and crookneck squash. For more tips on avoiding GMOs, Mercola.com offers a free pdf of their Non-GMO Shopping Guide.

Learn more about the arguments for and against GMOs, including special animal rights concerns about GMOs.

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Comments

October 6, 2011 at 4:47 pm
(1) SkepticalVegan says:

Hi, Dorris. Thank you for posting the link to my blog. My interest in Gm technology began before I had heard Folta’s talk back when I was a less skeptical activist. I too once though it was a irresponsible use of technology and that organic was always best. It was only after I had started to question other pseudoscientific beliefs that I finally realized that the claims surrounding GM food threw up all the same red flags as more out-there conspiracy theories. Once you stop assuming everything the other side says is lie it starts to become clear that the sensational claims of the anti-gm crowd just don’t stack up against the evidence.
Also expressed support by some vegans of GM plants should not be seen as tacit support for either genetic engineering of animal or of animal research. I personally have protested against vivisection many times. But just like with vaccines, boycotting them will not end animal research but forgoing the benefits of vaccination is a dangerous proposition. Speaking of vaccines, Gm researchers are currently working on plant-based vaccines that could save both human and non-human animal lives similar to how GM insulin has saved pigs from use in its production.
Its one thing to be wary of Gm technology but quite another to support campaigns that seem to want to ultimately ban it.

October 7, 2011 at 12:22 am
(2) Doris says:

Thanks for your comment, SkepticalVegan!

“But just like with vaccines, boycotting them will not end animal research but forgoing the benefits of vaccination is a dangerous proposition.”

Unlike vaccines, people will not endanger their own health or the health of others by choosing not to buy GMO products. In fact, there’s a pretty strong argument that buying organic is better for everyone’s health.

“Speaking of vaccines, Gm researchers are currently working on plant-based vaccines that could save both human and non-human animal lives similar to how GM insulin has saved pigs from use in its production.”

Vaccines from plants will certainly lead to testing on animals. If we truly believe in animal rights and oppose vivisection, experiments on animals can never be justified by a new vaccine or any other medical advancement.

I agree that boycotting current vaccines does nothing to help the animals who have already died during the testing phases of those vaccines. But that’s not a reason to support current and future vivisection.

October 7, 2011 at 3:19 pm
(3) SkepticalVegan says:

“Unlike vaccines, people will not endanger their own health or the health of others by choosing not to buy GMO products.”

I would disagree for numerous reasons. Increased yields produce more food and more income for farmers, both are rather helpful in developing nations. The production of biofortified crops such as Golden Rice has been held up largely by efforts of anti-gm activists, fortified cassava which exists in the lab would be another benefit to many peoples health. There are also studies showing that transition to Gm crops has reduced poisonings among farmers, one such is available here http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800911002400

“In fact, thereís a pretty strong argument that buying organic is better for everyoneís health.”

When we have reports stating that food production must double by 2050 to feed the world we can not exclude any useful tool, failure to act could be more dangerous that the proposed risks of GM technology. Land use for agriculture is already a big issue, inefficient farming technique done merely on principle out of mistaken belief can end up being disastrous for animal habitat.

“If we truly believe in animal rights and oppose vivisection, experiments on animals can never be justified by a new vaccine or any other medical advancement. ”

I did not say I supported animal research in the production of the vaccine. I would much prefer that they are produced and tested using in vitro testing, humans,ect . I’m opposed to the regulations requiring animal testing, I feel it is legitimate to fight those regulations while supporting the idea of plant based vaccine using GM technology, I still feel that the use of animals in such projects should be opposed but we should not ignore the impact of insulin of pigs and humans or the potential impact of plant-based vaccines on chickens, cows, pigs, ect.

October 7, 2011 at 9:43 pm
(4) DaveD says:

Thanks for your article Ms. Lin,

I’m the organizer of Vegan Chicago and while we did sponsor a joint event with the Chicago Skeptics in bringing in Dr. Kevin Folta to speak on genetically engineered foods it is not entirely related (unfortunately, as of yet!) to the groundswell of vegan defenders of science in regards to GM.

I think GMO awareness week is a great idea and Vegan Chicago is proud to advocate more awareness of this agricultural technology. We would conclude maybe a bit differently though than how you did in this article.

If you, dear reader, are in support of animal rights and are unsure about GM, here is really…

What you can do:

Think critically about the issue and come to a rational decision on the issue separate from the emotional arguments you may hear. Make sure your sources are credible and science-based. I think you’ll find it a bit more complicated than what anti-GMO activists make it out to be.

Thanks.

October 8, 2011 at 1:15 am
(5) animalrights says:

Thanks for your comments.

SkepticalVegan, you wrote, “failure to act could be more dangerous that the proposed risks of GM technology.” No is talking about inaction. I’m saying there are better things we can do – educate the world about human overpopulation, increase access to birth control, educate women, spread veganism, etc.

DaveD, as someone with a science background, I believe I’ve presented a fair and balanced summary of arguments for and against GMOs. If you find anything unfair or emotional in what I’ve written, please let me know.

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