English 165LB: Literature & Biotechnology (W11)

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Posted by rraley on March 2, 2011

// Discussion thread for genetically modified or genetically engineered foods


24 Responses to “Frankenfoods”

  1. Jason Whitehead said

    In response to the class discussion regarding genetically modified food that we had today I have found a very fitting article that came out today on the NPR website. The article is about the ongoing “Organic” food debate. From our discussion in class we went over the American consumer’s discourse of purity pertaining to food. We addressed this idea of “Naturally generated” vs. “Artificially produced” or “Genetically modified”. The article asks the questions, “What is Organic?” and more importantly “How Organic is the food that is labeled such?” Being that Organic certification is a process-based certification method and is not proven Organic by laboratory testing of the end product, an organic grower must display that all procedures used to produce the certified product meet the National Organic Program’s (NOP) certification standards. This creates a loophole in the criteria used to deem products purely Organic. Without testing the end product it is almost impossible to know if it is free of GMO’s.


    The page also has an option to listen to the All Things Considered story pertaining to this article, which is worthy of checking out.

    -Jason Whitehead

    • Denzel Henderson said

      This article really changes my perspective on what I call organic. Before this class I assumed anything that seemed natural was pretty organic. I have never really though about organic food as all the things that go into it and assumed that if a cow produced the milk it was organic as long as it came out the cow, and wasn’t processed in a laboratory, or made of another substance and stamped milk. Not so much as what you feed the cow that makes it organic. I remember the old sayings “you are what you eat” but never really thought much of it. This article along with the original salmon vs. time of growth of the genetically modified salmon presented in class, have me questioning the whole way in which I think of organic. Before this class I would of considered a cloned cow, able to produce milk organic. But what really stood out is how as little as 2 percent was debatable in the case of what they feed the cows. I usually don’t refer 2% being a problem. I mean something with 2% chance error sounds pretty safe. I believe a lot more than 2% of water found in everyday tap supply in the USA contains harmful chemical and elements that are unhealthy, but we have not deemed are water unsafe to drink, are bathe in. But we are questioning over 2% in terms of food we feed to cows. This really changes what is consider organic, and where to draw the line does a 100% natural un genetically modified cow who mates with a bull who has ate 2% of genetically modified corn, offspring classified as genetically modified? And is there milk when fully raised on all natural feed therefore considered genetically modified?

    • Rebecca Podesta said

      Interesting article. Strange concept to know that the ability to consume entirely natural foods is at such a threat. In the (pretty obvious) case that we continue to create food products via genetic modification, we will potentially be met with the complete inability to eat organic products. Genetically modified foods requires genes to mix, whether they are related species or not. This process allows for the combination of bacterias even if we are initially cross-breeding for a beneficial purpose. While we have become exponentially advanced in our understanding of and ability to manipulate the natural world, truth remains in the fact that we are not omnipotent. There remains the possibility of developing an unprecedented strand of disease which could potentially steal more lives across the globe than starvation does today. Are we ready to sacrifice the natural world for a created reality? A perceived reality? Technology reaches only to the end of human knowledge, so what happens if we step too far and can no longer turn back?

    • Chris Hackley said

      This article shows how people are totally, in my opinion, missing the point about organic food. I personally don’t care if my food is organic, but honestly in my opinion it should really be more about an ideal, that of attempting to grow crops with out drowning them in pesticides, about using sustainable farming practices, not about whether an organism has “unnatural genes” inserted in it. Hate to break it to the people in this article, but some types of viruses can inject their set of genes into crops, and have them stably carry from parent to offspring(actually some of our DNA own is derived from viral sources). So, are these plants then no longer “natural.” If infected with a virus, the tobacco mosaic is an old standard, they now have extra DNA, which has absolutely no relation to their own, just like if the process was carried out in a lab– albeit with the virus the effect is usually detrimental to the organism. Basically how I feel is this: people really should not worry about if their crops are genetically modified are not, but rather how the food that they are eating was grown using sustainable techniques which help to protect the environment, or not.

    • Calvin Shayer said

      After reading the article posted by Jason, it appears to me that many people are focusing on the small problems rather than seeing the problems faced by organic farmers on a larger scale. Pamela Ronald puts it best at the end of the article when she asks: “‘What really is important is, can we reduce the use of insecticides? Can we foster soil fertility? Can we feed the poor and malnourished?” she says. Those should be the goals of organic farming, she says, and they should be the goals of non-organic farming, too. According to Ronald, they’re much more significant than avoiding laboratory-spliced genes.'”

      First, we must stop and consider the fact that humans have been genetically modifying their food since crops began being cultivated. Farmers choose their top performing crops and cross-pollinate them accordingly in order to produce the strongest, most fruitful harvest. Scientists are trying to do the same thing, only on a much more technical level. While I do not like the idea of fish-gene-infused tomatoes, I do understand the need for crops to be dependable in order to produce enough food for the public. While we may choose to eat organic and avoid GMOs, it is clear that they do increase yield in key crops such as corn and soybeans.

      The problems faced by organic farmers are much larger than contamination of organic crops, especially in the case of low risk cross-pollination in plants such as alfalfa. What is truly problematic for organic farmers is the seed patents that are granted to giant corporations such as Monsanto.


      This Vanity Fair article chronicles the extent to which Monsanto is willing to go to prevent people from using their patented seeds without their consent. What is so troubling about this is that if an organic farmer were to grow their crops next to a crop of Monsanto patented seeds, cross-pollination could possibly occur. The bad news for the farmer isn’t that GMOs have infiltrated their crops, it is that Monsanto now has grounds to sue the small organic farmer for patent infringement. As many organic farmers are small and Monsanto is a large corporation, they stand little chance at successfully litigating with the company and many are forced off their farms.

      While it may be unsavory to think that even our organic food is susceptible to GMO contamination, it is inevitable under current conditions. Organic farmers already have to compete with larger companies in order to stay in business and the added threat of people making unrealistic demands concerning the “organic-ness” of their food could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

    • I was looking at articles about genetically modified foods when I stumbled upon this ‘Time Magazine’ article called “How Frankenfood Prevailed” which simply by the title assumes that biotech crops have already beaten… something. It’s easy to infer that organic foods are what the article assumes genetically modified crops have prevailed over.

      It seems to me that a question many people have been asking is: “Should people allow genetic engineering to affect the food they eat?” But that question assumes there is a choice. There are standpoints to take now, however, and questions to be asked.

      Should the monopolization of genetically engineered material that Monsanto enjoys be regulated?

      What are the dangers of using genetically singular and identical crops in a widespread fashion?

      Can large-scale farming practices be supported without damage to the environment? etc…

      I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I find they are good to ask in this situation. The debate over organic foods often takes the wrong turn: the concept of pure, ‘organic’ food, comes from a myth itself. The practices of genetic modification used to alter genomes of biological organisms has been done in a Darwinian method far before microscopic science was involved in the process. Perhaps there are some uncertain answers to the questions I posed, and perhaps some will be answered in the time to come!

  2. Alisa Summerour said

    In light of the discussion we had yesterday about genetically engineered salmon, I did a little more research and found this article:


    As we discussed in class, AquAdvantage Salmon grow into full-sized fish in half the time that it would take a regular salmon to grow. The implication of genetically engineered salmon is that they may spawn potential health and environmental dangers. According to this article, the biggest worry is that if these genetically engineered fish do escape into the natural population, they will compete for food that is essential for the ‘wild’ salmon to survive, therefore further threatening an already endangered species. But can salmon really pick locks? AquAdvantage Salmon are to be contained in fish farms and therefore would not be exposed to salmon living in a natural environment. However, fish farms are already controversial because they create a larger demand for smaller species of wild fish to be used for fish feed. Genetically engineered fish farms could worsen this problem with the creation of so-called ‘frankenfish’ and their insatiable appetites.

    While AquAdvantage Salmon pose potential environmental consequences, I found another genetically engineered animal that seems to be much more environmentally friendly: Enviropig.


    In summary, Enviropigs are transgenic Yorkshire pigs that are more easily able to digest phosphorus contained in feed grains, leading to less phosphorus in their manure. Ultimately, Enviropigs should reduce the cost to feed these pigs as well as reduce the potential for water pollution, as the phosphorus in their manure can leach into fresh water lakes and streams. My question then is what are some possible implications of Enviropig? Do they truly offer a way to increase food production in a sustainable way, or in a way that is at least more sustainable than AquAdvantage salmon?

    • Taylor Marks said

      I agree that if the AquaAdvantage salmon managed to enter the ecosystem by escaping their controlled environment the number of ‘wild’ salmon would dwindle due to lack of food. Although the long term implications of these GM salmon on environmental health are unknown, the known is that the new augmented species of salmon offers significantly more food to the ever growing population. As for the Enviropigs, this GM pig seems to reduce environmental destruction by having the capability to digest phosphates. The Enviropigs do not threaten the order of nature as the AquaAdvantage Salmon do but rather give pig farmers a species that is inexpensive to feed and thus reduces the price of such food for consumers. The reason behind GM animals boils down to the population’s growing need for a larger food supply.

      I found this quote from the subsequent article to be a straightforward explanation for genetically modified plants and animals:

      “Dr Mart Gross, of the University of Toronto, used to oppose the idea of GM crops and animals. Now he has changed his mind. Feeding the human population, he says, must come first, and GM animals and plants may help.”

      It is not a matter of sustainability but necessity. Since mankind proceeds to cater to its own interests despite its effect on the environment, it will continue to do so by genetically altering animals in an attempt to gain profit and consequently produce more food.

      Here is a link to a list of pros and cons in regard to GM foods that I found interesting.


      • Cailean Kilroy said

        I thought the article posted by Taylor, did a great job of providing both sides to the GM food issue. I am still torn on this issue, but I thought some of the beneficial points of GM foods was interesting and lead me to ask more questions. One of the pro arguments (number 4) states, “Genetically engineered foods will save the world from global famine.” With our global population increasing, food shortages will be common. However, I see developing countries needing and relying on GM (or GE) food first. I think its interesting that people of high socioeconomic status say its okay to give developing countries GM food, but then they will only buy organic food. This reminds of Harvest, in that the people who receive the “donations” think its okay to use people of lower socioeconomic classes in order to make their lives better. So when GM food becomes more present and available in stores who will be the ones purchasing it, the rich or the poor?

      • Jason Whitehead said

        I found Taylor’s link to the pros and cons in regard to genetically modified food very interesting and insightful. The issue has lots of weight on both sides of the debate, which makes it that much more entertaining. On one hand, solving world hunger seems like an obvious winning argument, but on the other hand GE food has many problematic drawbacks that seem dangerous. I will for sure, pay more close attention to this debate in the future.

      • Joshua Bandy said

        Sustainability is a necessity. Tampering with GM foods on a large scale instead of seeking alternatives is a bad idea. This article discusses how new studies are showing that certain GM foods have potential to reduce the efficacy of antibiotics. I am personally a bit of a hypochondriac in this regard as I even avoid taking medicine often times. I do so because I want the medicine to actually work when I really need it. I understand that there is a growing demand for food, but there are other things we can do aside from GM food. “A person existing chiefly on animal protein requires 10 times more land to provide adequate food than someone living on vegetable sources of protein.” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_vegetarianism ). This extra land could be used to grow more vegetables and feed more people. The reality is, we don’t even need genetically modified food right now to feed the world. Moreover, “750 million tons of grain is required to feed cows. However, ‘we only get one-tenth to one-twelfth of the food value we put into those animals,’ he [Peter singer] noted. ‘We’re wasting 90 percent of the food value.’ ( http://themhnews.org/2010/11/news/australian-philosopher-peter-singer-discusses-food-and-global-poverty ) If necessity is the topic in question, GM foods are NOT the answer. Perhaps at some point we will absolutely need to turn to GM foods to survive as a species, but that time is not now. Given the problems of GM foods–(1) The foods are inherently unsafe to consume and may be dangerous; (2) Genes released into nature cannot be recalled; (3) Science does not know enough to be able to assess the environmental hazards; and (4) The genetically engineered food products are of little if any value to humanity–I would say we should look at our other options before choosing this one. In the meantime, we should do as much research as possible to reduce the negative side effects and increase the benefits. Until then, we should look for other alternatives. Vegetarianism isn’t necessarily the only option, but it’s a great one!

        This is also a great little lecture on what is wrong with all the food that we eat. It’s definitely worth checking out:

    • Mike McFarlin said

      In response to Alisa Summerour’s questions, I think the best way to approach GE foods is ecologically. The problem with the GE salmon is that if it escaped into the wild or bred with the wild population there is no telling what would happen to the already endangered Atlantic Salmon and the ecosystem as a whole. The GE pig seems like a smart concept. The engineering reduces pollution from the pig, which is only a problem when they are raised in enormous number like they are for human consumption. Such engineering is lessening our impact and would a be good idea for other animals we raise in large numbers like cattle(possibly reduce methane production). Golden Rice is an example of a well engineered GE organism. The nutrition is the only thing that is changed and if Golden Rice bred with wild varieties it wouldn’t change the impact on the land it was grown in. Pesticide containing and herbicide resistant plants seem a bit pointless as they are already finding plants and insects that have developed resistance to them and they also pollute many of the waterways they are around once decompose; doesn’t seem like a healthy thing to be polluting out water too. GE food that can lessen our impact will benefit us as we will be able to produce more of it that what we are now.

  3. Celia Katz said

    I was reading “The Time Machine” by H.G. Wells, the sci-fi writer from the Victorian era that we all know and love, when I came across a passage from chapter four that practically screamed relevance to this discussion:

    “After all, the sanitation and the agriculture of to-day are still in the rudimentary stage. The science of our time has attacked but a little department of the field of human disease, but, even so, it spreads its operations very steadily and persistently. Our agriculture and horticulture destroy a weed just here and there and cultivate perhaps a score or so of wholesome plants, leaving the greater number to fight out a balance as they can. We improve our favorite plants and animals–and how few they are–gradually by selective breeding; now a new and better peach, now a seedless grape, now a sweeter and larger flower, now a more convenient breed of cattle. We improve them gradually, because our ideals are vague and tentative, and our knowledge is very limited; because Nature, too, is shy and slow in our clumsy hands. Some day all this will be better organized, and still better. That is the drift of the current in spite of the eddies. The whole world will be intelligent, educated, and co-operating; things will move faster and faster towards the subjugation of Nature. In the end, wisely and carefully we shall readjust the balance of animal and vegetable life to suit our human needs.”

    I feel that this passage points out that breeding by sexual means is equal to the needle selections that scientists are doing now. With this in mind, I wonder why people who are opposed to genetically modified things (that happens in one generation/instance) have either forgotten, ignored, or don’t know that selective breeding by humans of plants and animals that we consume and/or keep as pets (lets face it, people do have pet pigs and ducks) is not also a problem? Does Wells, in this case, cry for people to lessen their grip on controlling Nature in order to live in a more symbiotic relationship with it instead of parasitic?

    • Anne Schofield said

      I would argue that in this passage, Wells has a very optimistic view of what humanity would be able to do if we gained greater control over Nature. He seems frustrated that knowledge at that time was so limited, and is calling for a future in which we take charge and “readjust the balance of animal and vegetable life to suit our human needs.” However, I can see how in a sense, he is echoing the sentiments of someone like Crake–he is calling for harmony between man and nature. The key difference here is that Wells appears to be advocating that we change nature to suit us, not change ourselves to protect/preserve nature. The key to this passage is that, in Wells’s mind, the general trajectory of human progress is good “in spite of the eddies” and that someday we will all be “intelligent, educated, and co-operating.” Seeing as this still has not yet happened, I’m considerably less optimistic than Wells. However, I would agree that it is far more pragmatic and realistic to assume that, in spite of individual ideals, as a whole the human race is far more likely to change the world to accommodate ourselves than to change ourselves to accommodate the world.

  4. Shaun Moinpour said

    Read this passage from Winter’s Tale in another class that also addresses our class’s debate on ‘nature’ and what it means to be ‘natural’

    This quote is a response by Polixenes to Perdita regarding the issue of crossbreeding of flowers; it is a reply to the notion of purity Perdita hopes to defend by not grafting “streaked gillyvors”

    “Say there be; yet nature is made better by no mean but nature makes that mean. So, over that art which you say adds to nature, is an art that nature makes…This is an art which does not mend nature – change it rather – but the art itself is nature.” (IV.iv.88-97)

    While we have been looking at these issues in a modern – or perhaps even post-modern – view, it is important to look at things in retrospect in relation to our reality. Whether the concern be crossbreeding of plants or the genetic modification of salmon, a manipulation of the ‘natural’ order of things seems to be causing distress throughout time, making our anxiety for naturality a timeless concern. The simple fact that this exchange takes place at a sheep shearing event adds to the irony; a debate on purity during the practice of capitalizing a natural resource for profit. Polixenes, however, gives a good answer to resolve our anxiety, insinuating that whatever we seem to be manipulating and making unnatural, the means of our manipulation fall in the realm of ‘natural.’ Relating this to our conversation about genetically modified food, while we may be innovating the means of our utilization of foods, the practice of innovation is a natural art of humanity.

  5. Julie Jacobs said

    After reading the article on genetically modified foods and discussing it in lecture, I found the part about treating these foods as drugs really interesting. To integrate genetically modified foods into society Shapiro suggests starting by “running field trials, just as when you introduce a new drug you run clinical trials to see if people really keel over. But, just as the human body is a subtle and complex thing, it may be that only one time in a million some side effect happens.” This portion reminded me of lecture where we discussed drugs and placebos. If genetically modified foods come to stand-in for drugs, it seems as though each product would have to list all the possible side effects—just like drugs do. Shapiro also promotes the idea of, “a world where there are not simply foods and drugs but foods that take the place of drugs.” The complete elimination of drugs seems extreme to me, what with people’s dependency on drugs. Also, because of people’s strong dependency on certain drugs, it seems that these people may become obese if they eat foods at a level consistent with their popping of pills. Although I find Shapiro’s fantasy a little far-fetched, I realize the number of benefits of using genetically modified foods for nutrition purposes. The bananas that would protect against hepatitis B, and the golden rice with Vitamin A in it, would certainly help many people, especially people living in third world countries. Yet, overly large salmon and strawberries that can ward off frost may be excessive. It seems that the production of genetically modified foods should be monitored so that they may be implemented into the marketplace for nutritional purposes, not merely because scientists can produce them. I also think the widespread production of genetically modified food and products makes it important that these items are labeled so that consumers are at least aware of what they are buying. It seems like many people don’t know much about genetically modified foods, and how common they are. If products are at least labeled then maybe people will do further research on the subject, and make their own choices concerning whether or not to buy and consume these items.

    • Paige Kensil said

      I completely agree that our foods should be labeled. When going to the grocery store I constantly find myself reading the ingredients on the back of the boxes to try and find out if the food has anything hydrogenated or with nitrates because I try to eat as naturally as I can, but even if I can look there to find out if something does have nitrates or is hydrogenated, there is no way to find out if it has been genetically modified which bothers me. I think we all deserve to know what we’re putting in our bodies, whether it be food or drugs. Bringing the drug market into this conversation also made me think about how many pharmaceutical producers are only out to make a profit and don’t truly care about the consumers who are buying their products as long as they make money off of them. It is scary to think that big food companies that use genetically modified crops are also just out to make a profit by making faster and better growing plants, but it is likely the cause. It is disturbing to think we live in a world where corporate big-wigs only care about their money and their mansions and sweep the health of the people they are selling to under the rug.

      • Andrew Real said

        Recently I was perusing the articles on Cracked.com (an extremely mindful comedy website), when I stumbled upon an article titled “5 Horrifying Food Additives That You’ve Probably Eaten Today” by Adam Brown. While I know this article does not divulge too far into the realm of genetic food modification, it does show, pretty explicitly, how the majority of people, me included, have no idea what kind of garbage is put into the body daily. The fact the we as a society rarely question the make-up of our food makes us incredibly susceptible to ingest such intuitively horrendous materials as, shellac (basically wood varnish), bone char, carmine (ground-up insects), and, perhaps most horrifying, bacteriophages. Brown writes,

        “In this case, six viruses, to be exact. There is an excellent chance that ham sandwich you had for lunch this afternoon was sprayed with a mixture of six different viruses in an effort to fight a microbe that kills hundreds of people a year. Hundreds. Approximately the same number of people that die in plane crashes. Because of this clear and present danger, your lunch meat is slathered with a buffet of viruses. This probably sounds bad enough already, but wait until you hear Intralytix, the company that developed the bacteriophage mixture, explain exactly how the virus works. “Typical phages have hollow heads that store their viral DNA and tunnel tails with tips that bind to specific molecules on the surface of their target bacteria. The viral DNA is injected through the tail into the host cell, where it directs the production of progeny phages.’”

        All of this, and more, is of course added to our already unhealthy food in order to increase shelf-life, and cut costs. Most of the discussion in class has revolved around what is natural and unnatural in our food sources. I doubt anybody can make any valid case defending the “naturalness” of adding shellac to apples so that they shine when you buy them. The scary thing is, though, food manufacturers do not even need to make any argument. To appease the FDA (who I am quickly losing faith in), all manufacturers have to do is add a conveniently ambiguous disclaimer in the ingredients section, “natural flavor.” Brown reveals,

        “The problem is, natural flavor can, literally, be anything that isn’t man made. Cat urine could be a natural flavor… One potentially disturbing example of natural flavor gone bad comes from, where else, McDonald’s. Back in 1990, amid constant public outcry about the amount of cholesterol in their french fries, McDonald’s started using pure vegetable oil in their fryers. Wait, what were they using before? Why, beef lard. When they stopped using it, and McDonald’s realized fried potatoes don’t taste as good without some molten beef added, it was ‘natural flavor’ to the rescue.”

        What is at all “natural” about eating acetylated monoglycerides? I can’t tell you, probably because I have no clue what in the world acetylated monoglycerides are. I have no doubt that General Mills wants to keep it that way. As I look at the snack food in my pantry I am beginning to realize that; the less we know and question, the more likely we are to blindly ingest these mini chemistry sets that they call “Fruit Roll-Ups.” Examples like this just go to show you how the term “natural” can be so easily manipulated. It is almost as if these large manufacturers don’t care about the health of their consumers… I think now it’s probably time to torch everything in my pantry, because, frankly, all of has that ominous “natural flavor” label, and I am becoming increasingly frightened at the fact that I have not the slightest idea of what is going into my body.


      • Julie Jacobs said

        This article definitely sheds light on the degree to which most people are unaware of what exactly is in their food. It seems so unnecessary to add shellac to make apples shiny, or to use bone char when filtering sugar so it’s white instead of brown. I’m sure American consumers would still buy apples even if they are a little less shiny, yet techniques like this appear to be so commonplace and accepted in our society. The extent to which people seem to compliantly accept the inclusion of food additives like the ones discussed in the article, or even just genetically modified foods in general, surprises me. It is evident that many people inherently dislike the concept of the production of food that is unnatural—yet, not much is done about it. Stricter rules regarding the production of food seem necessary. Also, I think it would be extremely valuable to educate people more on how to read food labels. When I was younger and went grocery shopping with my mom, she would always read the label of each food item I asked for, and most of the time I wasn’t allowed to get whatever it was. At the time, I would get pretty angry about this, but now after reading articles like these I am finally starting to appreciate my mom’s strictness during grocery shopping time. I am very interested to learn more about this topic, so that I can do smarter grocery shopping in the future, by actually understanding food labels and what “natural flavors” really entails.

      • Nicole Rogers said

        I know that this discussion is on FrankenFOOD, but ambiguous ingredients not only affect our food supply, but personal care products as a whole. Last summer I worked for a eco website that had a strict criteria towards completely safe and eco-friendly ingredients for everything lotion to shampoo. Since our skin is the body’s largest organ, roughly 80% of what we put on it goes directly to our bloodstream. My job at the company was to search through every ingredient in potentially “Natural” products. I was amazed at how small an amount of the “natural” advertised products passed our criteria.
        “All Natural” means nothing in hard scientific terms. The FDA describes it as “a food can be considered ‘natural’ if “nothing artificial or synthetic” has been added to it that would not normally be expected to be in that food”, which shows that “All Natural” is just a marketing scheme. I know companies also like to put things like “Paraben-free”, (Paraben is a nasty chemical used to make shampoo frothy) or “Organic” in order to mask other ingredients you wouldn’t want in your bloodstream.

        It seems like even what we consider safe or natural is a marketing scheme…

        These new High Fructose Corn Syrup ads are a good example…they make corn syrup seem like something housewives could make from scratch:

        “…high fructose corn syrup isn’t something you could cook up from a bushel of corn in your kitchen, unless you happen to be equipped with centrifuges, hydroclones, ion-exchange columns, and buckets of enzymes.” (foodnavigator)

        Don’t forget to watch the SNL spoof:

  6. Andrew Rubino said

    The discussion of genetically engineered foods closely relates to the topics discussed in my other English class covering nature and the environment. In particular, Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” exposes the underbelly of industrial food processing plants called CAPO’s, and the genetic means used to “enhance” the life of livestock in order to grow faster and produce more efficiently. His research and personal anecdotes closely relate to the findings documented Food Inc. and reveal the harsh conditions and unnatural ways of raising livestock in order to efficiently get it to consumers on the market. Pollan states,

    “What keeps a feedlot animal healthy-or healthy enough- are antibiotics…. Most of the antibiotics sold in America today end up in animal feed, a practice that, it is now generally acknowledged (except in agriculture), is leading directly to the evolution of new antibiotic-resistant superbugs.”

    I commented about this in class, and I’ll repeat what I said: I have an idealized view that the cattle, chicken, and other meat I eat are roaming freely on a ranch eating from the grassy fields, and not unhappily cramped into CAPO’s standing in their own feces unable to move. As if I didn’t have to worry about other matters like cross-pollination, now I must take into account that the food I eat has been treated with antibiotics that has been found to create antibiotic resistant superbugs. Balancing one unnatural way of raising animals by feeding them corn with giving them antibiotics to promote growth only exacerbates problems. Now that’s how I like my food: with new bugs we’re creating, and if they’re in our food, they eventually end up in us. Pollan continues by stating,

    “Public health advocates don’t object to treating sick animals with antibiotics; they just don’t want to see the drugs lose their effectiveness because factory farms are feeding them to healthy animals to promote growth. But the use of antibiotics in feedlot cattle confounds this distinction. Here the drugs are plainly being used to treat sick animals, yet the animals probably wouldn’t be sick if not for the diet of grain we feed them.”

    Giving antibiotics to promote growth may not necessarily address the issue of genetically modified foods, but the nutrients we feed them are undoubtedly genetically modified. I found the article on cross-pollination very interesting. Should I expect the food I buy from a local farmers market to no longer be “organic” if what we are feeding the livestock is not natural? In the end, this will not stop me from visiting my local Panda Express, because as a consumer, is there really much we can do when choosing the foods we want? Everything that is genetically modified seems to be cheaper, and to me, cheaper is better. It does, however, surface this issue to my conscious mind, and I will always think twice about how many cows combined are in my cheeseburger, but what drugs have been supplanted as well.

  7. Alexander V Dang said

    In discussing genetically engineered foods, it’s hard not to think about the scope and scale of biological experimentation as a whole, and what kind of heights we’re actually reaching, and what kind effect these discoveries will have on humans as a whole, for instance, in this article on Wired (http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/03/memory-virus-neurons/) they discuss the “memory virus” that has shown a significant boost in memory recall in mice. Though the scientists in question can’t quite pinpoint what processes are occurring that are effecting the mice in such a way, it speaks in volumes towards the type of human modifications that could be available in the coming years.

  8. Francisco Rodriguez said

    “Wired: Have You Eaten Your Genetically Modified Food Today?”

    This is a great article detailing Monsanto’s current public image and massive profit margin. The GE corporation made $689,000,000 in net income during 2006 alone, and the funny thing is that these profits in no way correlate with Monsanto’s public image and consumer market acceptance—they’re actually registering the opposite. The article cites the Center for Food Safety’s quote stating, “the depth of market rejection of GE foods is arguably unparalleled by any other consumer product.” Further, their GE ‘specialty crop varieties,’ which are the produce section foods, have been highly rejected by the consumer market. What then explains their staggering profit margin?

    “GE crop adoption of their big three products, corn, soybeans, and cotton, which just happen to compose 75 percent of the revenue generated from non-fruit and vegetable cash crops.”

    The staple varieties make the bulk of their gains, which go to primarily to big agribusiness farms and food processing plants to make High Fructose Corn Syrup, Doritos, and Twinkies. So Monsanto doesn’t really care about its public image because it’s a corporate-to-corporate company—and because that’s Frito-Lay’s job, apparently:
    “The attitudes towards GMO that matter to Monsanto are those held by big agribusiness seed buyers and corporate farmers, not Joe Six Pack. And the IT managers of the farming world love Monsanto.”
    So basically Monsanto won’t spoil until the twinkies do. We really love to hate it, but there’s almost no way to avoid their GE without spending either a lot of time or money to invest in clean food—things most Americans don’t have.

  9. Joshua Bandy said

    I’m all for enviropig! That’s the kind of development that should be promoted! I would be apprehensive to start mass producing these animals, but theoretically it seems like a great idea. If they are cheaper to feed and there are no negative effects on our bodies, I am all for them. I am wary that this will be the case only because GM foods tend to be not so good and it would at least appear to follow that GM animals are no different. That said, I am excited that developments like this are being researched because I have hope that one day we will be able to remove the negative consequences and have greener, healthier foods!

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