You are what you eat – GMO

Genetic engineering. It’s a bit like nuclear power, pesticides, feeding cows on sheeps brains. You either think it’s a great idea, don’t care either way because it doesn’t affect you, or you think it is an extremely bad idea.

The other thing they all have in common is that I came across them in my days as a press officer for the UK civil service. However, as I signed the Official Secrets Act, you are not going to be treated to the disclosure of lots of gory scandal for which I could be prosecuted.

Genetic engineering, nuclear power, and pesticides all came under the aegis of the Health and Safety Executive. As did Industrial Air Pollution (Rechem anyone?) until it was stolen by the Department of the Environment. At the press conference for this transfer, it was presided over by the obnoxious Nicholas Ridley (Sec of State for Environment) who was ironically wafting smoke around the room while we discussed air pollution.

Feeding cows on sheeps brains came under MAFF. Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

I digress. Although perhaps not so much, because all these topics are linked – pollution and contamination of our environment and the food we eat.

The civil servant in charge of genetic engineering was an extremely bright and personable man. I can still remember his name. I didn’t particularly deal with the topic, but because we were allocated on a desk system, when my partner wasn’t around I picked up on some GE queries.

So switching into journalist mode, because as a press officer, you have to anticipate the questions, I asked the obvious. ‘Is it safe?’

Of course it was. It was very strictly regulated, licences, tightly defined areas for experimentation, careful monitoring of the sites etc etc. Our expert was very convincing in the way he said it, but I wasn’t happy with the theory. My press office colleague was totally happy with the theory. I kept my doubts to myself. Wasn’t exactly my job to say it sounded dodgy to me. A bit like nuclear power, burning polychlorinated biphenyls to release dioxins, and pesticides. My job was to promote the government line that everything was safe and well-regulated.

And to be honest, I wasn’t an expert on any of those subjects, it was an instinctive distrust of all of these highly controversial topics that could potentially cause major problems. Or were – allegedly – already doing so.

Fast forward into the nineties when genetic modification starts to take off. A tomato called FlavrSavr. What a name! Apparently it took longer to go off after it had been picked. [Daily Wail]

And in whose interests would this be? We can keep old tomatoes on the shelves longer because they don’t go rotten as quickly? Of course, that is good for my health and I am eating very tasty tomatoes. It has nothing to do with big AgroBucks. AgroBucks are closely related to PharmaBucks. PestiBucks. GreedyGlobalConglomerateBucks. They are all the same.

Then after that we get the fuss about GMO tomatoes being used to make tomato puree.

Quote from the BBC:

1996: First GM food goes on sale in UK
The first genetically modified, or GM, food goes on sale today in British supermarkets.

Frankenstein food
The GM puree has been produced by bioscience company Zeneca, which says the product has a stronger taste and sticks better to pasta than conventional sauces.
The new tomatoes have been modified to respond in a selective way to a colourless gas, ethylene, which triggers both ripening and rotting processes in fruits.
Fruit importers have used ethylene for 50 years to ensure a regular supply of tropical fruits to Britain. They are picked unripe and then ripened here by exposure to the gas.
Zeneca’s Nigel Poole said: “Everybody wins; the farmer has a longer window for delivery, there is less mould damage, the tomatoes are easier to transport and they are better for processing.”
Consumer groups have called for the mandatory labelling of products which are or contain GM products – at the moment labelling is voluntary.

And just where did Mr Poole point out the benefits to consumers? Benefits to Zeneca and farmers sure.

Tesco on the other hand:

However, supermarket giant Tesco said it would not be stocking the GM puree because the new product did not offer any additional benefits to customers compared to normal puree.


By July 1999 Sainsbury and Safeway had been forced to clear their shelves of the GM tomato puree.

More on tomatoes:

1. ‘Conventional’ Tomato Production
About seventy million tonnes of tomatoes were produced worldwide in 1993. Today’s global food distribution system involves food being transported many miles and hours between producer, processor, retailer and consumer. It is important that ripe fruit and vegetables do not perish on the journey due to their soft skins. In the US, the problem is solved in conventional tomato-farming by picking tomatoes while they are still green and firm, transporting them, and then spraying them with ethylene (the natural ripening agent) to artificially ripen and redden them after the journey. 80% of American tomatoes are managed in this way. However, artificial ripening does not produce the flavour that the fruit has if left on the vine, and they are usually quite tasteless.

You all do know that a lot of your fruit are sprayed with ethylene to artificially ripen them don’t you? It’s produced in the petrochemical industry by steam cracking. That’s very natural isn’t it?

Let’s move on from tomatoes.

And have a look at the pros and cons of GMO.

This is easy. GMO is about making big money for big companies. Monsanto comes to mind.

First company to genetically modify a plant in the US in 1982? Monsanto.
Five years later, first field trials of genetically modified crops? Monsanto.

That’s a pro for them. This is a total financial move. Not only do the developers of genetically modified seeds/plants/whatever get to flog their new products, they can also sell even more herbicides (weedkillers). Because these GMO crops are herbicide resistant.

Biggest seller of glyphosate herbicides in the US through its Roundup brand? Monsanto.

Nice move. Sell the crops and the weedkiller too. One of the websites I read said that since introducing GMO crops, Monsantos herbicide sales had increased. Double win.

But where is the pro for the rest of us?

We’re eating stale food that has been mucked about with, not tested over a long period of time, and consuming ever more quantities of poison (ie weedkiller).

I should also add that Monsanto was big on Agent Orange, DDT, and bovine somatrophin.

If you don’t care about any of this and you think GM has nothing to do with you then you probably think that the tooth fairy still brings sixpences, even for your wisdom teeth (didn’t happen for me), Santa Claus comes down the chimney even when you don’t have one, or it is blocked up because you don’t like dirty real fires, and Tony Blair and George Bush really believed there were weapons of mass destruction. In which case I have no idea why you are reading this blog.

Supposed pros are … see the links at the bottom because they all boil down to money at the end of the day.

Some cons about GMO.

• No-one knows or cares about the effects.
• Potentially even more dangerous chemicals in the food chain.
• Monopolisation of the agri business by big companies.
• Eradication of small local business.
• Contamination of organic crops and heritage seeds.
• Loss of choice, loss of variety, loss of control.
• Trying to alter nature – but haven’t humans always chosen to do that? And when has it worked?

Glyphosate exposure is associated with cancer, birth defects and neurological illnesses (including Parkinson’s disease), and it may be a ‘gender-bender’ that interferes with human hormone balances and function. Research shows that glyphosate can cause damage to cells, including human embryo cells. A 2012 study revealed higher cancer and death rates for rats fed GM maize and Roundup.

– Environmental impacts of glyphosate include damage to rivers and on the animals living in them, disruption of soil nutrients and contamination of drinking water. Of increasing concern is the spread of “super weeds” that aren’t killed either and are forcing farmers to resort to hand weeding vast fields at considerable cost and effort – exactly the opposite of GM’s promise [watch Farmer to Farmer: The truth about GM crops). There are now over 20 weed species resistant to glyphosate affecting over 100 resistant strains on some 6 million hectares of otherwise good farmland in Argentina, Brazil and the US. Monsanto recommends using even higher levels of even more toxic chemicals, including some that had been discontinued as too dangerous, to control superweeds.

So that’s a good idea isn’t it?

10 reasons why we don’t need GM foods
1. GM foods won’t solve the food crisis
2. GM crops do not increase yield potential
3. GM crops increase pesticide use
4. There are better ways to feed the world
5. Other farm technologies are more successful
6. GM foods have not been shown to be safe to eat
7. People don’t want GM foods – so they’re hidden in animal feed
8. GM crops are a long-term economic disaster for farmers
9. GM and non-GM cannot co-exist
10. We can’t trust GM companies

Full link to gmwatch.
An excellent site.

Where are GM crops produced?

Back in the 90s in the early UK field trial days, they were being tested near my parents’ home in a crop-growing area. I shuddered. At one point you could look up the sites. Seems not so easy nowadays. Wonder why?

The US produces the most GM crops in the world, around fifty per cent.

In Europe, sadly Spain is well ahead of the game, one of the main GMO growers. Out of a population of 44 mill, only nine mill are in a GMO free area. For some reason provincía de Málaga is included. Probably because they are still too excited about using as many pesticides under the sun as they can manage.

MÁLAGA, Spain, Mar 27 2013 (IPS) – Spain has more large-scale plantations of genetically modified seeds than any other country in the European Union (EU).
Based on the number of trials conducted and the area of land planted, Spain accounts for 42 percent of all field trials of genetically modified crops in the EU, according to figures from the European Commission Joint Research Centre.


I’ll leave you with this link:
The USM. The United States of Monsanto.

The one where a nice little number for Monsanto was tagged onto the federal shut down legislation. Rather like the anti-gambling law was tagged onto the Safe Port Act.

Really America, I love the way you add totally irrelevant legislation to some major acts just to sneak it through. Devious in the extreme.

And Mr Gates. Apparently vegetarian, or vegan or something. With 500,000 shares in Monsanto. Worth some 23 mill bucks. Or whatever depending on the rate on the day. It comes as no surprise that he considers GMO foods to be the saviour of the world.

The very same company that has been caught running slave rings in Argentina in which workers were forced to work 14+ hours a day while withholding payment, has used their massive finances to fund organizations that literally fake FDA quotes to support GMOs, and of course peddling through GMOs that have been linked to numerous health concerns.
This is not even taking into account the farmer suicides that occur around every 30 minutes due to Monsanto’s failing GMO crop yield bankrupting small-time farmers in India’s notorious ‘suicide belt‘

Oh and I haven’t started on GE/GM on animals …

The GloFish is a patented brand of genetically modified (GM) fluorescent zebrafish with bright red, green, and orange fluorescent color. Although not originally developed for the ornamental fish trade, it became the first genetically modified animal to become publicly available as a pet when it was introduced for sale in 2003. They were quickly banned for sale in California.

You want cheap food? There is a price to pay. And we are all paying it.

Credit for inspiration on this post goes to EllaDee, links to her two posts on GMO are below.

And on a related theme, my post on World Environment Day (5 June)

Some other links:

Daily Wail

BBC- scientists highlight hazards of GM foods

BBC – GM blunder

BBC – GM crop impact lasts two years

golden harvest organics

GM Freeze

Good list of pros and cons

About roughseasinthemed

I write about my life as an English person living in Spain and Gibraltar, on Roughseas, subjects range from politics and current developments in Gib to book reviews, cooking and getting on with life. My views and thoughts on a variety of topics - depending on my mood of the day - can be found over on Clouds. A few pix are over on Everypic - although it is not a photoblog. And of course my dog had his own blog, but most of you knew that anyway. Pippadogblog etc
This entry was posted in animal rights, animals, consumerism, environment, environmentalism, health, vegetarian, WPlongform and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to You are what you eat – GMO

  1. Iquitoz says:

    Thanks for your wonderful post. Can’t agree more heartily. Why is the U.S. surprised with the newly discovered renegade GM wheat in Oregon? It was only a matter of time and I beleive it’s not the first incident but consumers are now more aware of the true dangers on GE products. If you think about it, I do at least, genetic engineering began thousands of years ago when the the first “wheat” (for want of a more accurate descpription) head was selected by the first “farmer” because it had more kernels, lager kernels or whatever. The same goes for selecting a better looking or healthier, etc. animal. All to increase production, flavor and again, the etc. If the result proved successful great. The failures usually died away with few or no bad results. Unfortunately man kept some of the badly “designed” canine breeds they came up with to the discomfort of the animal but the “Ahh effect for humans. I digress as usual.

    Now with the invasion of GM/GE crops, allowed by the corrupt FDA, USDA and the many other consumer safety organizations you mentioned an “organic” food cannot now be truly organic due to cross pollenation with GM crops. How does a bee, fly, bird, bat, wasp differentiate between the two? They can’t. At this time there is no true organic food crop in the Western world. Perhaps in some remote field there is but transportation costs and the carbon footprint prevent its use.


    • Hi Iquitoz. I tried to comment on your G+ account but wasn’t allowed. Only to say that I agreed with you and that I was going to post about GM.

      I don’t have a problem with cross-breeding, per se. But is that messing with DNA? In terms of animals, many cross-bred dogs are stronger and less susceptible to disease than pedigrees.

      But back to crops. It was 20 years ago when I started to worry about GMO. Why is everyone else still asleep? OK some people aren’t, but it is such hard work. I feel like I have been banging my head against the wall for so many years. The headache is still there. Anyway, thanks for your comment, great to hear from you 🙂


  2. bluonthemove says:

    I am very opposed to GM crops. I think its a step too far, we need to be very careful what we put into the food chain. I’m glad that here in the UK we import little or no meat from the USA, as they seem to feed animals on a diet of growth hormones and GM soya. I pay extra for grass fed meat, particularly lamb which we are now seeing again imported from New Zealand; never been a great fan of beef.

    I’d be quite happy for people to grow GM corn on the cob, so long as it was solely used for biofuels and not for people to eat. We really don’t know what trouble we might be storing up for the future by eating GM foods. When I’m in the mood I make my own Orecchiette* pasta, it has quite a rough texture so sauces stick to it; far better than making GM pasta sauces.

    * Orecchiette pasta is the only pasta I know of that is easily made without one of those pasta rolling devices which require people who have been genetically modified to have three arms to operate.


    • As an early teen, I always remember a lesson in school where we were discussing advances in science and technology. The negative side obviously being the capacity to develop nuclear bombs. Most of the class agreed with no further development but I actually spoke out in favour of it, saying how else would be advance medical research and find cures for cancer, for example?

      How times change. Or, how opinions change over time.

      You know my views on eating meat, but back when I was eating it, I did try and source ethical/organic meat. But it comes at a price. One that people either can’t afford or choose not to afford. The alternative is eating less. QV the world env day post.

      I’d be happier for people to drive less, and consume less energy fuel anyway. I’m not even happy with GM maize for biofuels, it can still contaminate other crops.

      The line about tomatoes sticking to pasta is just garbage. I made a pasta dish today, broccoli, olives, capers, chili, onion, garlic and tomatoes. All the veg were organic. I’m far more interested in not consuming pesticides/herbicides/GM food than I am on measuring how much the sauce sticks to the pasta.

      I can’t make pasta. I don’t think is is because I only have two arms. My few miserable attempts have been a disaster. I buy whatever organic pasta Morries has around. Currently they are out of org lasagna. Have you been buying it up? Someone has.


  3. Jim Wood says:

    Reblogged this on Time for Action.


  4. Andrew says:

    Excellent post. Good to see this hasn’t fallen off the radar. The problem we have with ‘organic’ here is that a lot of it isn’t and some that is has been fertilised rather too naturally, using human by-products. We also avoid Japanese fruit & veg because soil samples still suggest a risk from the Fukushima fallout. And it costs a lot more. HK used to have a reasonable agricultural sector but they have built on most of the land. One solution might be grow your own but 95% of people (estimated) live in apartments. So what is truly safe to eat? No idea.


    • Thank you. There is a fuss in American right now about Monsanto (qv Iquitoz’s comment above), and I was reminded about GMO and Monsanto thanks to EllaDee (I’ve added her links at the end of the post). Last month was March Against Monsanto on May 25 (?) but I was too busy to write about it then as I wanted to do a bit of reading around to choose some appropriate quotes. It’s always difficult to know where to start with a topic like this but as my readers seem to be an intelligent lot, I didn’t bother stating the obvious (ie GMO crops have had their DNA mucked about with in order to produce a superplant that is drought resistant, disease resistant, pest resistant – and produces overall higher yields, I figured everyone knows that).

      If it wasn’t for Morrisons we would have no access to organic food, ie some veg. Health food shops in Spain do sell organic veg. But who’s to say how organic it is? Although there is a scheme in Spain, it doesn’t seem anything like as rigid or as well-policed as the UK one involving the Soil Association. And how organic is organic? I know what I grow is, unless I get drift from José’s fly spray – which is the point about GM crops polluting others. Even within organic certification schemes, they do allow some use of ‘nice’ pesticides. If I can grow decent crops in a tiny plot, I fail to see why commercial growers can’t. They could, if they looked after the ground properly, ie a fallow period, using a green crop eg alfalfa, clover, using good compost, following correct rotation – and all that pushes up the price. Much easier to go for faster turnover with as many crops as possible per year whatever the cost. And I do blame the consumer for demanding everything as cheap as possible. Interesting that it is easier to get a political decision like the poll tax overturned than it is to halt Monsanto (or Astro-Zeneca or whoever) in its stride.


  5. veghotpot says:

    So interesting! I was trying to explain to a friend yesterday about how gm and pesticides and hormones added to our food and meat is actually a direct cause to the increase in cancer rates but she brushed it off and didn’t want to know. I try to just eat local and seasonal but even then you can’t be 100% sure exactly how it’s been grown! Thanks for your insightful article!


    • Thanks for your visit and comment Becky. I think a lot of people like to stick their head in the sand because it is all too difficult if you actually acknowledge the problems. That’s why I said in my intro that some people like to think (wrongly) that it doesn’t affect them. I had the same ‘discussion’ with a work colleague years ago, who thought I was barking for buying organic veg, when all she wanted was cheap.

      Just as people want cheap, wanting out of season fruit and veg is just as bad. Bad for the environment, not remotely fresh, frigi-trucked or ‘planed all over the place, and as with the tomatoes above, sprayed with ethylene to ripen them.

      I write what I can on here, although I don’t know if I make any difference! You can find posts about vegetarian ethics on here, but recipes are actually over on my main blog – roughseasinthemed. I see you have a fine recipe blog, so I’ll be having a browse around.


  6. I am sure that you are right but equally I believe that some of this scientific development is carried out by people with genuine reasons i.e. not just corporate profit (mostly, but not entirely).
    I also agree with you that the consumer is at fault for demanding cheap produce, driving down prices and thereby funding cheaper methods of production and inevitable reduction in quality – you cannot buy a good tomato product in the UK!
    We will destroy the planet eventually and something else will get its turn!
    I have eaten powdered or processed stuff and I am sure everyone else has too but by contrast this weekend I opened my twelve month old home grown organic green tomato chutney and it was wonderful!


    • What genuine reasons? Career development? I can muck about with DNA so I will? on a par with Everest is there so I’ll climb it. Doesn’t benefit anyone and degrades the environment. Health benefits? None. Environmental benefits? None. Which leaves one benefit. Financial. The only thing wrong with farming is that people abuse the land, don’t carry out sound practice and, as we’ve both said, people demand ever cheaper prices.

      I think we’ve passed the point of no-return regarding the planet. Too many people, and too many greedy people (in all respects). But I was at a lecture last year at our local hall and the amount of time homo sapiens has been around in terms of the existence of the earth is peanuts. The question really is, how long will it take us to work ourselves into extinction, and what will be able to survive with what we leave behind us? Apart from oockroaches of course.

      I’ve eaten freeze dried on a camping trip (for lightness of weight). Not good. Didn’t try that again. Went back to calling at village shops and struggling with shopping bags as well as the rucksack 😀

      I quite liked Batchelors dried soups. Well golden vegetable and chicken noodle ones. But that was more than 40 years ago. I haven’t eaten them since.

      My chutney doesn’t last 12 days let alone 12 months. I did pickle some cauliflower a few days ago, so looking forward to that.


  7. EllaDee says:

    Thank you for the credit… which I didn’t notice at first because I was so overwhelmed by the post. Your efforts and writing are extraordinary 🙂
    I received a newsletter from True Food Network (links not working currently but if/when they do you can get there from last week which illustrates further influence of Bucks… and Australia is subject to Bucks vs Consumers pressure …”Will Australia be next? Australian farmers and consumers could be the next victims of GM wheat contamination. The Australian Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) has already approved fourteen GM wheat field trials in five states and territories across Australia and commercial varieties could be authorised as soon as 2015. The GM wheat currently tested is based on dsRNA technology prone to unexpected and unpredictable effects that have not been considered in the risk assessments done by the OGTR and other international regulators. From the USDA findings and many examples of contamination around the globe, it is clear the cultivation of GM wheat carries unacceptable contamination risks for farmers and consumers…. No appetite for Australian GM wheat. Wheat is Australia’s most important agricultural commodity, estimated to be worth $7.5 billion in 2011-12. About two thirds of it is exported. Despite the value of wheat to the Australian economy, there is little understanding about the potential impact of growing GM wheat in Australia. A new report details the results of an extensive investigation into attitudes towards GM wheat of major wheat buying companies in Australia and in key export markets. The response is overwhelming. Twenty five major food companies, including Barilla, Bakers Delight, Carrefour, Sanitarium, and General Mills state that they are not interested in buying GM wheat, or have a policy excluding all GM ingredients. This is clear indication that growing GM wheat would have devastating economic consequences for tax payers, wheat farmers and the food industry.”
    I’m hoping Australia, and the rest of the world will fight, and show the Bucks we want their GM wheat and we don’t give a stuff about tomato sauce that sticks to pasta or dayglo coloured fish…
    Yes, Mr Gates… how very interesting. All those Bucks connections are so incestuous.
    I need to do more reading and research, your links will be good for that – thank you… and dissemination. There’s not a lot scares me but the GMO threat does.


    • Thank you. I think because I was aware of GM right from the start, and having a work perspective as well, it was pretty easy to right about. I could have written twice as much, but I think 2000 words or so is long enough. And I want to write about pesticides too 🙂

      Call me cynical, but life is simple. Governments want to remain in power and need money for campaigns, publicity etc. Big business wants more money, more power, and to influence government. No-one, with the exception of a few principled individuals, cares two hoots about the person on the street.

      People who believe the sheer drivel that is trotted out (or choose not to even think about it), probably deserve to be impaled on a genetically modified stake. I was sent the following link by email:–uk-pushes-europe-to-embrace-gm-crops-8654595.html

      If you read it, GM has ‘the potential’ to do this that and the other. We can have food that has extra nutrients courtesy of GMO. If we ate properly in the first place we wouldn’t need extra nutrients. I’m cross enough about flour being enhanced with folic acid because some pregnant women don’t eat properly. So everyone else is force fed it. As a side point, over consumption of folic acid isn’t good for vegans but who cares about us?

      Governments would do far better banning the crap that clutters the supermarkets shelves and making people eat proper food. If we have to have a nanny state I would rather have a healthy organic one and not a genetically modified, pesticide, fortified folic acid one.

      Like you, all I can do is write about it and bring it to peoples’ attention. But I am probably preaching to the converted. You only have to read most of the comments to realise that.


  8. timethief says:

    Though I read this article right after you published it I chose not to respond as the whole GE and GMO subject grieves me so.

    When first introduced, GMO crops and GE animals were touted as the answer to world hunger. The claim was by developing pesticide and herbicide resistant crops there would be increased yields and decreased costs to consumers. The costs to the environment, biodiversity and even to human health were not calibrated, of course.

    The jackbooted corporations working hand in glove with politicians marched over the land changing it, the air, the surface water and aquifers forever. Government regulation of genetically engineered animals (frankenfoods) and crops has become a legalistic maze that the corporate kings can navigate very well. Meanwhile the insects and weeds became resistant to applications of the chemicals, leading to increased use of yet more chemical cocktails. We know more spraying means more costs for the farmers, more damage to the environment and more health concerns, yet we little people are powerless to stop the corporate machine which consumes and pollutes our planetary resources day in and day out.

    The whole subject depresses me – oh, when will we ever learn?


    • It is depressing isn’t it? Especially as I feel like I am only talking to people who agree with my perspective anyway. If I could change one person’s point of view about GE/GMOs i would feel I had achieved something in life.

      You sum it up very well. But it was fairly obvious to the cynics out there (us) what it was all about. What I don’t understand is why people are such dupes. It’s hardly difficult to work out. Are people really so utterly thick that they believe chucking poisons all over the place and messing around with DNA is the best idea ever?

      What gripes me is that people don’t want to know, don’t care, aren’t interested, think it doesn’t affect them, are so selfish blah blah. It doesn’t take Einstein to work out that it was always about money for Big Business and who cares about health and the environment?

      Anyway, I’ll write about pesticides next. Just to depress us both even more.

      Thanks for the comment. Sometimes it’s nice to know I’m not the only one out on a limb.


  9. Genetic Engg and cloning; both fact and fiction are the words one thinks of Science fiction like Jurassic Park. One wonders how fast science is growing that might bring science fiction to reality.


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