Organic Food vs. Genetic Engineering

by Denise Palmer - Date: 2007-02-21 - Word Count: 737 Share This!

It's always helpful to step back and take a look at things from an objective perspective, especially when we are personally involved.

Creating and sustaining an organic lifestyle means we are in the "center" of that activity, daily. Among all the other things going on in our daily lives, as moms, we are also trying to develop new habits for our family in regards to their health and well being.

So I thought it would be helpful for us all, myself included, to just take a step or two back and revisit the basic questions and reasons why we are pursuing an organic lifestyle to begin with.

What Is Organic Food?

Certified organic food is most commonly described as food grown and packaged without the use of chemicals, preservatives or additives. Food that is either completely or at least 70% all natural.

Another way to explain it, from a bigger picture standpoint is:

"Organic food is produced through a system that is based on ecological balance and humane care for the plants, animals and people that make up the farm environment."

One important reason to consider organic food, and an organic lifestyle, that I've not read much about previously, is genetic engineering. The Sierra Club site states:

"Eating organic food is one way you can avoid genetic engineering. All certified organic produce and ingredients are produced free of any genetic engineering"

What Is Genetic Engineering?

In layman's terms I would translate it to be the taking of genes from one species of plant and injecting another plant with those genes to force certain characteristics. For example, if you had a corn plant that was delicious and seemed to be resistant to pests, you would take its' genes and inject it into another plant of a different variety, in the hopes to force the taste and/or pest resistance onto the other.

Doesn't sound too bad, but when you understand the "risks" associated with genetic engineering, it doesn't sound so good either.

Here's a more technical description of genetic engineering and the associated risks:

"In genetic engineering technology, genes are isolated and transferred using a "gene gun" or a viral vector from one species into a foreign species, crossing over what is called the "species barrier." An example is the transfer of an insect-resistant gene from a soil bacterium (called Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt) into corn plants to confer insect resistance. This kind of genetic transfer never occurs in nature and cannot be achieved through traditional plant breeding methods. The new gene lands in a random spot in the genome of the recipient organism, and can disrupt normal functioning of that organism in unpredictable ways."

Risks of Genetic Engineering

Non-target insects, including ones that are beneficial to farmers are harmed by genetically engineered crops.

Genetically engineered organisms have harmed soil microorganisms, leading to stunted or killed crops.

Plants engineered to be insect- or herbicide-resistant can lead to resistance in weeds and insect pests. This means more chemicals or new genetic engineering.

New allergens and toxins are the potential result of genetically engineering food. Some are detected before market approval while others are not.

Pollen from genetically engineered crops can drift into wild environments and breed with wild relatives of crop plants.

The effects of this genetic pollution cannot be predicted. Once genetically engineered organisms are released into the environment they cannot be con-trolled and they cannot be recalled. Genetic pollution is irreversible.

So we can conclude that organic food is grown WITHOUT the use or need for genetic engineering. And if organic farming can help us avoid "genetic pollution", AND it's better for our health and well being, doesn't it just make good sense for everyone?

The Sierra Club article goes on to conclude that:

"The industrial approach is to "improve nature" and make food products exempt from natural systems and laws. Harmful consequences are corrected using new and more technologies, usually leading to further problems. In contrast, the organic approach is to understand these laws as much as possible and work with them. Organic farmers practice prevention, not correction."

I think any reasonable consumer, without a financial interest in the mass production of genetically altered foods would agree that when it comes to the foods we eat and the environment we need, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure".

Organic farmers, like organic moms, care about the food and sustaining the land for future generations. We all know, whether we want to admit it or not, what the large corporations who mass produce traditional food crops are most interested in.

Related Tags: organic farming, genetic engineering, organic lifestyle

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