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Selective Breeding VS Genetic Modification

th-1It’s been a loooooong time since my last blog post – March of last year to be precise. I really have no decent excuse except life happened. The two major things that occurred within that time; I got a certificate from the University of Washington in Food, Health and Wellness and my husband and I moved. However, there is no time like the present.

Being a resident of Washington State, we were the second state (behind California) to vote on the labeling of GMO’s. This initiative passed in Vermont, but they are having a heck of a time fighting lawsuits from the food industry. Recently I’ve seen a great many hits in the media about this very subject as well as the differences between traditional agricultural breeding techniques and genetic modification. I myself was curious about that very answer – and this is what I found.

Many folks are under the impression (unfortunately Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of them) that traditional agricultural breeding techniques or selective breeding (that’s been around since farming began) are the same as genetic modification or GMO’s (genetically modified organisms). This is NOT the case. They are indeed quite different. Let me explain.

For the sake of argument let’s call selective breeding, SB and we’ll call genetic modification, GM.

thIn a nutshell with SB, one must take species (from plants or animals) that are already closely related, so they can achieve sexual reproduction. For example, two different breeds of cats or two different varieties of squash. Two species with specific desired traits are mated and their offspring hopefully have the desired trait(s). This process may or may not involve human assistance. SB can occur naturally in nature in all sorts of different ways – pollination, mating, as well as the evolution of species or natural selection. Seed saving is also a method of selective breeding. SB is also a timely process (as it occurs in nature) because time is needed to achieve the complete growth cycle. Again, the two key points that are stressed here are: A. (by nature’s hands or human hands) SB occurs in nature and B. the species must be closely related. Otherwise it would not be successful – IE you cannot breed a mouse and a potato or a wild fern with a Bumblebee.

GM happens in a laboratory by selecting genes from vastly different species (including viruses and bacteria), that do not naturally occur in nature together (nor be able to achieve sexual reproduction). Not only do the two species being “genetically mated” not occur in nature together, but their “offspring” certainly do not naturally occur. By splicing together DNA from completely different organisms, the ramifications and safety for consumption are still yet to be determined.

Round-Up ready corn is a good example of GM. The pesticide Round-Up is injected into the corn’s DNA to make the corn resistant to pests. So when a bug eats the corn, the pesticide causes it’s stomach to rupture. I think it’s very naive to think that this has no consequences for humans. The biotech industry says it’s safe, but it’s also the very company making the product. I, personally find that to be a conflict of interest? And it’s a fact that adequate testing has not been done to prove the safety of GMO’s. It’s no coincidence that allergies, gut issues, cancers and a whole host of other illnesses have been on a dramatic rise since the introduction of GMO’s into our food system.

GMO’s entered the food scene in 1986 with the introduction of the Flavor Save tomato. Due to the biotech industry (the people who made GMO’s) being in positions of power within our government, they ok’d these products going into our food supply without us even knowing – or approving. In Europe and many other countries, GMO’s are labeled. It seems they know something we don’t.

The following examples were taken from the web site of The Institute for Responsible Technology.

 What combinations have been tried?

It is now possible for plants to be engineered with genes taken from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans. Scientists have worked on some interesting combinations:

  • Spider genes were inserted into goat DNA, in hopes that the goat milk would contain spider web protein for use in bulletproof vests.
  • Cow genes turned pigskins into cowhides.
  • Jellyfish genes lit up pigs’ noses in the dark.
  • Arctic fish genes gave tomatoes and strawberries tolerance to frost.
  • Potatoes that glowed in the dark when they needed watering.
  • Human genes were inserted into corn to produce spermicide.


th-2So as you can see, SB and GM are not the same – this is not a debate, these are facts. One can argue the other side, but I imagine once the facts are learned, a change of tune might be in order. Just like one does not debate that 2+2=4 or that the sky is blue – these are also facts.

The solution is really very easy. Label all GM products. If they are really as safe as the biotech industry would lead us to believe, then they should have no problem labeling their product. It’s really that simple. In fact – they should be proud to label them. They should want to label them, so people choosing to eat them would be proud of eating their fine work. It’s absolutely ludicrous to think that changing labels will result in a rise in price. Food manufactures change their labels all the time! This silly point is just a smokescreen put up by the GMO corporations.

But Monsanto for example has fought hard and has invested millions and millions of dollars to fight the labeling initiatives. Why? If it’s as safe as they say – then there shouldn’t be a problem with labeling. But there is a problem. Monsanto knows that if you label GM products then people have a choice and they become more informed. Right now, the majority of people don’t know GMO’s are in the lion’s share of the food they eat. People are buying products containing GMO’s, making Monsanto rich. If people know what products are GM and what ones aren’t, then there is the chance that people won’t choose to buy the GM products and their revenue will take a serious hit. Not to mention when the studies come out in 5, 10 or 15 years that GMO’s are indeed bad for us – then they will be out of business and or slapped with the mother of all lawsuits.

GM foods can be patented. New genetic crop modifications make huge profits for companies like Monsanto. IE Monsanto currently owns the patent to all their seeds and products. And this is growing to include our nation’s (and global) food supply. I’m not sure patenting Mother Nature is a good thing.

If you want to eat GMO’s great. In fact, I’ll support you. However, I have the right to know what’s in my food and I have the right to not eat GMO’s. It boils down to the right to choose.

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