Anti-GMO: Trendy but Questionable

The long lunch line at Chipotle consisted of all sorts of characters, all people who, more or less, seemed to fit the image of someone who fit the bill for making an appearance at this now-trendy eating venue. I’m guilty of loving not only the savory foods, despite the disturbing cultural appropriation of Mexican cuisine, but also all that this restaurant establishment stands for. In a nation where companies and corporations are viewed as people, many of them also carry the traits and qualities of people, such as standing for certain values and not others. This may often determine the types of people that might be in support of certain companies while protesting others. Certain companies have now made a reputation for monumental court cases, such as pinning the arts and crafts haven, Hobby Lobby, as being misogynistic after denying contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act citing a trespass on a corporation’s right to religious freedom (because that’s exactly what James Madison had in mind while penning the Bill of Rights).

But not every company necessarily takes a stance that stifles human liberties; Apple, the technological equivalent to the Taj Mahal of abodes, has taken an open stance on citing climate change as an important factor for the corporation. In a similar vein, Chipotle has also been regarded as the hipster, cultured, and eco-conscious kid on the block. As such, it has a reputation of catering with a focus on minimizing its impact on the environment by trying to purchase locally, boasting “more humane” meat-growth (despite the inevitable slaughtering that still awaits the tender yet unwilling contributors to the franchise’s success), and finally, glaring me straight in the face as I waited for my mouthwatering burrito, a new additional label: “GMO-free”.

Chipotle has since claimed to be “the first [national restaurant] to cook only with non-GMO ingredients.” With the health-conscious sweep that is finally starting to make its trendy way through the nation’s eateries, we mustn’t brush away all propositions with the same smile and nod that are granted to other buzzwords such as “all-natural”, “fresh”, “organic”, “antioxidant”, “low in sodium”, “diet”, “lite”, “whole-grain”, “multi-vitamin”, etc. Instead of taking the words at face value and swallowing the food pundits’ reassurances whole, we must take time to chew on these presented suppositions with the fierce and critical chompers we all have known as scientific literacy.

As difficult as it may be for the vast majority of Americans to spend the time to understand the not-so-difficult concepts of climate change or evolution, it is vital to take the time to understand the world around us, especially went we start taking chunks of it and putting it inside our bodies. The ignorance around what GMOs actually are is astounding and especially discouraging as the generally liberal camps that champion science are often also those who espouse the ideas of being “all-natural” and fall, unfortunately, as also being anti-GMO without completely understanding them, as one recent street interview revealed.

For starters, “GMO” stands for “genetically modified organism”. Fair enough. Now what? People generally think of two unappealing notion of GMOs, which are not necessarily wholly true. Firstly, people conflate the entire notion of GMOs with the megacorporation Monsanto, a company that has a giant monopoly allowed to thrive under a capitalistic regime. Secondly, the idea of “genetically modified” raises a false notion of scientists injecting chemicals into crops and seeds, creating mutant variants of foods, contaminating the otherwise pure and organic versions of food into these supposedly radiotoxic biohazardous, ungodly monstrosities of nature. But that’s not exactly the case.

Instead, any food item that has existed has been “genetically modified”, technically, by natural selection and evolution, given that, well, genetic selection and mutations over generations are the driving principles behind the process of speciation and variation amongst individuals of a species, something that astrophysicist superstar Neil deGrasse Tyson explains.

Before we allow this rhetoric to easily make its way through the media and our nation’s restaurants, let’s make sure that we are able to correctly identify and isolate those aspects of GMOs that may actually be harmful, whether they be our corporate overlords made incarnate in the form of Monsanto or truly dangerous effects that are verifiably and empirically tested by the scientific community. Until then, we must realize and embrace the potential that this new field of genetics and agricultural science has to offer.

This article was written by Amar Ojha, founder and writer at dusk magazine. 

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