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Questioning Our Own Paranoia

Posted by on August 9, 2014
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Several years ago I was having a discussion with a self-proclaimed “health food nut”.  She was going on and on about how we are all destroying our bodies with chemicals and that she would never dream of touching anything that wasn’t purely organic.  So I ask her if she thought the government should go through with a ban on foods containing Alpha Tocopheryl Acetates.  Absolutely, she was all for such a ban.  That was until I told her that ATA is better known by its more common name Vitamin E. 

Most people tend to freak out about scary sounding things simply because they sound scary.  This same concept holds true when it comes to GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) related foods.  If all you ever want to do is buy into whatever the scary sounding hype of the day is then you’ll typically miss out on most of the real story.  For example, most people I know that fear GMO’s will quickly paint a mental picture whereby eating a modified ear of corn will automatically produce roughly the same type of affects as what Jeff Goldblum endured in the move “The Fly”.  However, what most people don’t realize is that they’ve been consuming GMO related products practically since birth.  After all, the simple cross pollination of plants is considered a form of GMO and that’s been going on for centuries. 

Many of the forms of foods we eat today weren’t even around a few centuries ago in their current state.  We’ve just never known the non-GMO versions.  For example, how do you think we’ve come up with so many different varieties of apples?  Take tequila as another example.  If you’ve ever had a shot of tequila you’ve most likely had the by-product of a genetically modified plant.  Most modern tequila comes from a plant that was modified to produce what is considered to be the perfect blue agave plant from which tequila is derived.  That perfect plant was then cloned such that now a farm with 10’s of thousands of the exact same cloned plant produces the bulk of the world’s supply of tequila.  Each plant is exactly the same as those around it and produces exactly 11 bottles of tequila. 

When most people think about GMO’s they think about all the potential chemicals that might be associated with the process of altering a plants DNA, but what they never seem to question is what chemicals are no longer involved.  For instance, GMO plants can often be generated that are bug resistant, hence no more need for pesticides.  Also, these types of plants can also be made to naturally fend off things like plant disease, poor soil, etc. so once again extra chemicals can be avoided during the growing process. 

However, the most important aspects of GMO’s aren’t just related to how they can grow, but what their growth means.  For example GMO fields can offer much greater yields to protect our food supply.  They can grow in environments that normal plants can’t grow in such as warmer or colder weather, poor soil quality, minimal moisture, etc.  This means that food sources can be kept closer to the food consumers for less spoilage.  Even more important still is that those foods that are grown can be of an enhanced variety so that each bite consumed presents greater nutritional value to the consumer which is important in famine prone areas to prevent malnutrition. 

The purpose behind why I’m writing this commentary isn’t to convince anyone to suddenly go out and fall in love with everything related to GMO.  In fact, it’s not really even about GMO’s at all.  The reason I wrote this is to prove a point that if we all stop instantly buying into whatever the popular hype of the day is and simply start asking questions about everything around us we’ll quickly find out that the hype we’re hearing is more often than not just an exploitation of our mental laziness.  What we should be doing anytime someone is trying to lead us down a specific path either through a hype of fear (i.e. global warming) or a utopian hype (i.e. Obamacare) is to automatically begin asking questions and looking for facts, and ALL the facts at that, before we start formulating any conclusions.  After all, when a wolf invites sheep to dinner it’s the foolish ones that fail to ask if they are going as the guests or as the meal.

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