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Barbara Walking in the Valley
A weekly column for those who live and walk in Silicon Valley

by Barbara Dahlgren

It's in the Genes
Column for the week of September 23-29, 2002

The "GM' in the phrase "GM food" does not stand for "God Made." It means genetically modified (GM). It looks like Oregon voters will decide whether or not genetically modified (GM) foods should be labeled as such. Oregon consumers are taking their frustrations straight to the ballot box this Fall. Scientists, grocery owners, and the agricultural community do not feel genetically modified foods are unsafe for human consumption. Others are not so sure and would at least like the option of knowing which foods have been genetically modified. Thus, we have the labeling controversy. Japan and some of Europe already have these labeling requirements but as of yet, there are none in the U.S. Did you know that up to 70% of all packaged foods sold in the U.S. contain some sort of genetically modified ingredient? "You are what you eat," they say. I guess we'd better hope that's not exactly true. Reruns of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles flash through my mind.

So exactly what is a genetically modified (GM) food? The definition is, "any product that gets some of its content from an organism that has been genetically modified." Okay, then what does genetically modified mean? The definition is, "some sort of manipulation of an organism," which again tells us nothing. Then it goes on to say, and I'm not making this up, "as people push for labeling of genetically modified food, the phrase will have to be more strictly defined." So they can't exactly define it so we can understand it, but that doesn't prevent them from doing it to our food.

There will be other things to consider in the labeling process. For example, how do they label products that get just a small portion of GM food and those which get more? You know, sort of like only a certain number of rat droppings are allowed in our food for it to pass inspection for human consumption. Yeah, I know it's sickening but you and I know it's true. Then they will have to consider how to label products that don't have GM stuff in them directly but what it's made of may have come from plants or animals that have been genetically modified.

It appears that in man's zeal to make life easier for us all, he continually complicates it more and more. It's true that being able to genetically modify food can increase crop yield and improve resistance to pests and herbicide tolerance. But at what cost? Serious questions have been raised. Some GM crops have antibiotic resistant genes inserted into them. There is a fear that if this passes to humans, it could reduce the ability for the body to fight infections. The truth is we don't know what the ramifications could be of these GM foods on humans but that doesn't stop anyone from putting them in our food. Ah, the joys of modern technology! Leap first, look later!

I don't know about you but food is a very personal issue for me. I love it. I eat it when I'm happy. I eat it when I'm sad. I eat it when I'm hungry. I eat it when I'm not hungry. I eat it in the morning. I eat it at night. Now, not only do I have to worry about what some waiter is doing to it before he serves it to me, I have to worry about what's in it if I go to the trouble to prepare it myself. It kind of takes my appetite away. Oh, how I wish that were true, but it isn't. We have to eat to live. It gives new meaning to the old custom of saying a blessing before we eat. Not only do we need to thank God for the food, we have to pray it doesn't kill us before our next meal. And people think we don't need God! Boy are they genetically modified!

"Oh, Lord for this manipulated DNA organism infested genetically modified substitute for real wholesome food, let me be truly thankful. As it goes in my mouth and over my gums, prepare my stomach 'cause here it comes! And if I should die before I finish this plate, I pray the Lord my soul to take." Amen!

©September 2002

Be sure to visit this page every week to read the next edition of Walking in the Valley. You can write to the author at bdahlgren@wcgsouthbay.org.



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