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By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Frankenfood on your table

Posted 12/15/15 (Tue)

Do you remember Dolly, the sheep that was cloned in Scotland in 1996?

When that happened, there was outrage all over the world that science was mettling in nature’s affairs.

Two years later, Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser was sued by Monsanto because he was growing genetically modified canola the St. Louis chemical company “owned.” He insisted it was volunteer. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled in favor of Monsanto.

In 2002, hearings were held in Bismarck to discuss whether or not genetically modified wheat should be allowed to grow in North Dakota.

A professor from McGill University in Montreal testified that since GM canola became a reality, it was growing all over road ditches in Manitoba and nearly impossible to eliminate. He said wheat would become the same issue.

Another professor from Iowa State University warned the lawmakers that making GM wheat legal would be the worst mistake an agriculture state like North Dakota could make.

Yet lawmakers hammered away at the possibility of producers getting better yields.

At the time, you could just feel the presence of the Canadian Wheat Board. The CWB knew if North Dakota allowed GM wheat, it would create a vaccum from North Dakota’s market losses and the CWB would step in and assume nearly every overseas market North Dakota had in 2002.

This was all going on when numerous European countries had already warned they wouldn’t import American wheat if it became genetically modified.

So yes, there would be better yields, but to whom would we sell this grain?

In 2011, the FDA told us that genetically modified alfalfa could be grown in the United States.

That set up some serious risk factors, like cross pollination that can never be reversed, as well as glyphosate-resistant alfalfa growing in places where it isn’t supposed to just like the McGill professor talked about regarding canola.

In addition, that decision made it nearly impossible for organic dairy farmers en masse to continue feeding alfalfa to their herds.

Yet, organic dairies have continued to find a way to thrive in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and California.

Nearly two years ago we got news that genetically modified honeybees had been created in a laboratory.

One can only hope GM bees remain in the lab.

Now, just in the past several weeks, genetically modified salmon has been made available to the public in select stores and restaurants. The Food and Drug Administration told the media these fish are modified to grow larger and faster.

There was an almost immediate backlash and in the past month, major retailers Costco, Target, Whole Foods, Kroger and Trader Joes said they will not sell the GM fish.

However, Al Jazeera has reported that AquaBounty the company in Massachusetts and Prince Edward Island that farms the GM salmon, will not be required to label the processed fish as genetically modified.

The FDA says the fish don’t pose a material difference, thus it doesn’t need labeling.

So how are these retailers going to know that the salmon is genetically modified? And how are restaurant customers going to know whether their salmon entre is genetically modified or not?

What’s next, genetically modified beef cattle?

Do you see the trend here? In all these cases, there have been controversies with nature, lawsuits in the courts and plenty of dissent from European countries that call it “Frankenfood.”

In a sense, it does remind us of the 1931 movie “Frankenstein,” in which a crazed doctor brought a man back from the dead. His theory worked, but it later destroyed him and the monster.

In another sense, it is unprecedented that companies like Monsanto and AquaBounty are allowed to alter nature like this and have enough lobby power to influence American lawmakers.

But there’s another force at work here that,  just like Frankenstein, will destroy the scientist and the monster.

Consumer demand is already evident with the major retailers not accepting the salmon. Organic food consumption has increased 20 percent annually for the past 13 consecutive years and Europe continues to denounce GM products. Who do you believe?