Monday, June 18, 2007

Friday Night at the Movies

I kicked off the weekend by watching The Future of Food, a documentary about GM (genetically modified) food. It was the Simpson’s Tomacco episode minus Bart, Homer, and a happy ending. Depressing stuff, but worth watching.

I went to the screening wary of our (the USA’s) current food system for a myriad of non-GM reasons. That’s a whole ‘nother post. Heck, I was even wary of GM foods specifically. Cross-pollination and the spread of seeds is effectively impossible to control, so once we release GM plants there is no going back. That reason alone had me solidly behind safety studies, and labeling GM products as such.

What I hadn’t yet wrapped my mind around was how shortsighted and thuggish GM companies are in their pursuit of profit. On the one hand, Montsanto sues farmers who are the unwitting growers of their crops due to seed spread, cross-pollination, etc. How farmers can avoid that? I am not sure. As long as there are birds, humans, wind, seeds & pollen will spread. Adding to that threat is the fact that agricultural areas are chock full of Montsanto test plots, but farmers can’t know whether they are near one. That’s proprietary information. On the other hand, they are inserting terminator genes into their product. Plants with these genes don’t reproduce. That is a huge threat to the food supply, and renders ludicrous claims that GM companies are trying to end world hunger. What they are really trying to do is make farmers, and in turn eaters completely dependent on their product.

In a similar spirit of sly greed, Montsanto patents plants. Ordinary old plants, not just ones with designer genes. They didn’t invent the plant. They didn’t discover the plant. If they are the first to the patent office though, the variety is theirs, and if you are growing it you have to pay up. No one patented sarcasm yet---race you to the US Patent & Trademark Office.

In case you were wondering, here’s why the movie picks on Montsanto so much: with “roughly 90 percent of GE soy, cotton and canola seed markets and has a large piece of the corn seed market” they are the biggest game in town.” Moreover, they are mighty cozy with the US gov’t Don’t worry, Dems too, its fair and balanced.

I wanted to run straight from the movie to the farm stand. My craving for local veggies, was tempered by the prevasiveness of GM foods. If its organic you know its not GM, but that’s about it. I really don’t know whether the family farm down the road is GM free. Chances are better there than at the supermarket though, and at least that produce hasn’t taken a fossil fuel powered journey around the world before it hits my stomach.

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