Questions & Answers
What are GMOs?
Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are a product of genetic engineering, or GE. They are plants or animals that have been modified by various biotechnology techniques, such as gene splicing. By changing and combining the DNA of plants, animals, bacteria and viruses, biotechnicians hope to produce living organisms that have specific characteristics and behave in desired ways.
Bt corn is a major GE crop used today. A gene from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis is inserted into corn so that it expresses the Bt protein making it resistant to corn borers. Bt is “built in pest protection” thus growers use less insecticides.
Roundup Ready crops are engineered with a gene to withstand the spraying of Roundup. This enables a grower to spray the crop and any surrounding weeds, killing the weeds and leaving the crop unharmed.
It is important to understand that this technology is very different to traditional breeding and crossbreeding. The results are completely manmade, have never occurred in nature, are still experimental and are in the early stages of development.
What is wrong with GMOs?
The most common and most substantial complaint about GMOs is that there hasn’t been enough time to evaluate their safety. Biotech companies, who have invested heavily in the development of GMOs, are racing to get their products on the market, and have been intensely lobbying governments to fasttrack the approval process. They want to show their shareholders a return on their investment.
GMOs are not naturally occurring in Nature. They can only be made in a laboratory by man.
What Countries Other than
The introduction of GMOs is a global issue and is hotly debated around the world. At the moment, some 50 countries have restrictions or outright bans on GMOs, including Australia, Japan, Russia, and all European Union members. Large scale protests and demonstrations have taken place in the USA, Costa Rica, Mexico, Finland, India, Canada, Poland, Argentina, Japan, Peru, the Philippines, Spain and numerous other countries while groups such as Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund are active in questioning GMO policies.
The United States leads the way in GMO production and sales, but it is a fact that most of the GMO studies there were conducted by the same companies who so heavily invested in and produce GMO products. However, even in the US, the GMO debate is raging, with a growing number of people protesting not only its introduction, but the methods used to do so.
For example, the biotech industry has been successfully fighting attempts to have GMO food clearly labeled, even though a CBS news poll found some 87% of Americans want this to happen. Now more and more people are asking why the companies profiting from GMOs don’t want food containing them to be labeled as such. Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that another recent poll showed that 53% of Americans said they would not buy food containing GMOs.
What are the environmental impacts of GMOs?
|The fact that the same companies who produce these herbicides
are the same ones lobbying for GMO crops is something to think about.
It’s also been reported that GMO crops are responsible for the growth of “super weeds” and “super bugs” that need stronger and stronger poisons to control them. We understand how misuse of antibiotics created antibioticresistant strains of disease, such as Golden Staph. If this has become such a huge problem in hospitals, imagine something similar happening to crops around the world.
The most common and biggest fear is the fact that the long term effects of GMOs are unknown. It is one thing to study them in a laboratory, but something else to release them into the environment. And once released into the environment, they can never be recalled. This is probably the greatest worry about introducing GMO crops – once introduced, there is no going back.
Why the push for GMOs?
crops are compatible with, the profits are even higher.
Year after year, farmers will be forced to buy patented seeds and chemicals from companies holding the license, and this represents massive amounts of money worldwide.
Why the push against GMOs?
* Too much risk/not enough testing:
|* Food security, farmer sovereignty and cultural preservation:
As the world’s population grows, food security is becoming a big issue. Many people feel that world hunger is a reality and that there is simply too much at risk to take chances with the global food supply. Farmer sovereignty, and a farmer’s right to save and plant saved seed becomes an issue with GMOs. Belize’s Maya farmers have been planting seeds developed by their ancestors over thousands of years and there is a very real threat to the various Maya maize strains from GMOs. For a farmer using traditional methods and age old seed stock, contamination by pollen drift from GM products can be disastrous. The significance of life giving corn in indigenous cultures is both a religious and economical concern throughout the Americas and especially the Mundo Maya.
* Environmental Concerns:
Studies show that crops are eliminating habitat for monarch butterflies and pollinating bees. Butterfly numbers were cut by up to two thirds and bee populations by half in fields of transgenic canola, according to the final results of a three year study commissioned by the UK (royalsocietypublishing.org). Roundup is responsible for defects in amphibians and other animals. Use of GMO crops in Belize will damage our
well earned global reputation as a green tourist destination as well as our precious natural environment.
A PESTICIDE IN EVERY BITE!
* Legal issues:
Before Belize can even contemplate GM crop production, legal issues
need to be addressed. Who is to be accountable for problems uncovered in
future years because of GM production?