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JUNK SCIENCE: Frankenfood For Dummies

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JUNKSCIENCECARTOONCARROT_1.jpgBY ELIZABETH FIEND LIVING EDITOR Genetic engineering is a biological science that involves modifying plants, animals or any living cell on a genetic level using gene splicing and gene modification. Complex technology allows scientists to isolate DNA from a plant or animal, and also from tinier organisms like bacteria. The DNA is then cut and spliced and either removed from the original source or implanted into another organism. This allows alterations and direct manipulation of hereditary traits of either the original organism, or whichever new host organism into which the DNA has been implanted.

OLD SCHOOL

Hybridization, the old way of making new plants and animals, involves cross breeding (aka sex) between species that are related. This is a natural process and is TOTALLY different than modification on a cellular or genetic level. Be wary of any source, article or argument that tries to tell you they’re similar processes, they are not.

FRANKENFOODS

Foods that have been genetically modified are here and have the catchy nickname Frankenfoods. Genetically engineered crops have only been planted since 1996 but already account for 60-70% of the food in the grocery store. And almost all food that comes in a box or a package. Genetically modified products that are already in the store include dairy products; beef, pork and chicken raised on genetically modified feed; peanut butter; salad dressing; muffins; bread; cake; candy; chocolate bars; protein bars; veggie burgers; corn chips; French fries; cereal; tomato sauce; soy sauce; canola oil;Bacos; soda; beer; fruit juice; non-dairy creamer; pasta; Nutrasweet; corn; squash; potatoes; soy; strawberries and lettuce; not to mention non-food items like detergent, soap, aspirin. . . .

THE PROBLEM

Genetic engineering has already allowed scientists to take DNA from a fish and transplant it into the cell of a tomato frankenfood2_1.jpgplant — the purpose, to make the plant hardier in cold weather. Proponents ofGMO say that a tomato from the original tomato plant and one from the new plant, the one with the gene from the flounder, should be treated as indistinguishable. But are they?  What happens if you have an allergy to fish? Substance equivalence has yet to be proven. And there is no law that requires the makers of GMO products to do so. To make matters worse, there is no required labeling of products that contain genetically altered components either.

In the little over a decade since GMO has been here, there have been many documented mistakes in the biotech indusrty. Genetic engineering of plants and animals has already caused allergic reactions and even death in humans, not to mention the suffering of animals. GMO food meant for animal feed has accidentally made its way into the human food supply. Soy and peanuts are now very common allergens. They didn’t used to be. The reason why so many children have allergies to these foods now-a-days is unknown and very difficult to determine. But there is mounting speculation that the large amount of genetically altered foods on your kitchen table may be to blame. There is also great concern that the widespread use ofGMO in today’s dairy business might be leading to a crisis in antibiotic resistance in humans. MORE

ABOUT THIS COLUMN: At no time in recorded history have we possessed so much knowledge about health and nutrition, or had such vast and effective means for disseminating that knowledge. Yet for all that, we essentially live in a high-tech Dark Age, with most of the global population ignorant or confused about the basic facts of their own biology. How did this happen? Well, that alone is a whole six-part miniseries, and this ain’t the Discovery Channel. Suffice to say that the bottom line of many a multi-national corporation depends on that ignorance, and vast sums of money are expended to keep us fat, dumb and happy. But mostly fat. There was a time when newspapers saw it as their duty to truth squad the debates over health, science and the environment, but that’s a luxury most papers can no longer afford — not when there are gossip columnists to be hired! To help remedy this violation of the public’s right to know, Phawker publishes the JUNK SCIENCE column by Elizabeth Fiend, beloved host of the BiG TeA PaRtY. Every week, Miss Fiend connects the dots to reveal a constellation of scientific facts that have been hiding in plain sight, scattered across the cold, vast reaches of the Internet. With a background in punk rock and underground comics, and a long career as a library researcher, Miss Fiend knows how scientific facts become diluted by corporate-sponsored non-facts. Every week she separates the smoke from the mirrors. Why? Because she loves you, ya big dummy.

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