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the gmo corn you hear so much about is field corn, not sweet corn.

From what I have read, field corn is what corn syrup is made of. So all of our sodas and such made with high fructose corn syrup are made with gmo corn. I would love to be wrong, though.

So? Corn syrup is so highly refined that it's chemically equivilant no matter where it comes from. There is no concievable way for your body to distinguish GM and non GM corn syrup.

Is this why the FDA does not require safety testing on GM foods? Or is it just corn syrup that is chemically equivalent?

I might be misunderstanding you, but FDA certainly does require safety testing for all transgenic crops, though they do not require seperate safety tests for the hundreds or even thousands of individual products made with or derived from a transgenic crop. This is the same way other ingredients are regulated -- i.e., food colors or artificial sweeteners are tested, but seperate tests are not done for every product that contains them.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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I might be misunderstanding you, but FDA certainly does require safety testing for all transgenic crops, though they do not require seperate safety tests for the hundreds or even thousands of individual products made with or derived from a transgenic crop. This is the same way other ingredients are regulated -- i.e., food colors or artificial sweeteners are tested, but seperate tests are not done for every product that contains them.

I understood all crops were tested, but that the testing technically was still voluntary. But since their website is hard to navigate, I could be wrong. The most recent documentation I could find where there were attempts to make testing mandatory were a year old. (And there's also the possibility that I am misunderstanding the entire testing process.)

Tammy Olson aka "TPO"

The Practical Pantry

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and, just to return to the topic of the thread, the argument about gmos has nothing to do with the argument about organics, though their proponents sometimes overlap.

i would really advise anyone who is interested in organics to take a little time to do some research. visit an organic farm and then visit a conventional one. see how they operate. at least talk to the farmers at the markets. then make an informed decision.

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Organic food is better for...the soil, the ground water, air, and the health of wild and domestic animals.

This is the reason why I like to buy organic. There have been so many publicized episodes of pesticides poisoning groundwater, wetlands (Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge), streams and rivers (we hear lots about the effect of pesticide runoff and salmon here in the PNW) and workers (there's a ton of documentation about pesticide poisoning and farm workers).

I'm certainly not perfect-there are times when it's just not economically feasible, and I'm not going to stop eating in restaurants that don't use organic products. I also buy from the small, non-organic farmers at the farmer's markets who tell me they practice sustainable farming, only spray when absolutely necessary, etc. But I really avoid buying the grocery store non-organic stuff from the big farms in the Central Valley, etc.

Edited by kiliki (log)
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and, just to return to the topic of the thread, the argument about gmos has nothing to do with the argument about organics, though their proponents sometimes overlap.

i would really advise anyone who is interested in organics to take a little time to do some research. visit an organic farm and then visit a conventional one. see how they operate. at least talk to the farmers at the markets. then make an informed decision.

Well until GMO's are labelled, buying organic is one way to know that I am NOT eating transgenic products.

And I live in a city very close to the valley that produces most of the produce in my province, so I have certainly been on both kinds of farm, and on canola farms as well, the latter of which reliably had crude oil extractors on them.

Edited by annanstee (log)

The sea was angry that day my friends... like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.

George Costanza

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well, maybe i am being argumentative. but this is something i feel strongly about. i have covered agriculture for 20 years and i know a bit about it. "organic" has become a shorthand phrase for a lot of very good practices that don't necessarily include organic. furthermore, it is reductive, breaking a very complex mix into organic (good) and nonorganic (filthy chemical users). this is just not real world. there are some farmers who overuse chemicals, but there are a lot more who use them responsibly. there is a significant gray area between pure and impure. there are many conventional farmers who use many of the techniques we might think of as organic--cover crops, beneficial insects, etc. but they do spray when they need to.

Exactly. This is something I argue to a lot of the organic-fiends over here--it's a false dichotomy. "Non-organic" just means it doesn't fulfill all the requirements of the Soil Association, not that it's been doused with pesticides.

In addition, the focus on things being purely organic means that conventional farmers have less incentive to invest in better techniques--they won't be rewarded for going partway. In its current form, organic agriculture can't satisfy all our needs and intermediate steps are necessary, but the crude division into organic and "conventional" fails to provide an incentive for this kind of improvement.

And then some of them go and buy organic food from Tesco... well, what's the point?! Especially when it's been flown thousands of miles.

(don't get me started on The Great Fairtrade Rip-Off.)

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I attended an asparagus festival at Verrill Farm, here in Concord, MA last Spring. They are a small family owned farm that supplies a number of restaurants in the Boston area. Part of the tour consisted of a tour of their asparagus fields conducted by one of the elder Verrils. Our group was small enough that I was able to talk to him about organic vs. integrated pest management. He said that he believed in organic, but for crops like asparagus, IPA was the only thing that worked. He tried organic asparagus and lost nearly all of his crops.

Jim

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Certainly IPM is a middle way, and one that I am not critical of.

There are many factors at play here.

Again, I would by local sustainable before organic non local (esp large scale).

The sea was angry that day my friends... like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.

George Costanza

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Organic food is better for...the soil, the ground water, air, and the health of wild and domestic animals.

This is the reason why I like to buy organic. There have been so many publicized episodes of pesticides poisoning groundwater, wetlands (Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge), streams and rivers (we hear lots about the effect of pesticide runoff and salmon here in the PNW) and workers (there's a ton of documentation about pesticide poisoning and farm workers).

I'm certainly not perfect-there are times when it's just not economically feasible, and I'm not going to stop eating in restaurants that don't use organic products. I also buy from the small, non-organic farmers at the farmer's markets who tell me they practice sustainable farming, only spray when absolutely necessary, etc. But I really avoid buying the grocery store non-organic stuff from the big farms in the Central Valley, etc.

I have my own beefs with the large-scale farms on the western side of the San Joaquin Valley, but I think you've thrown a red herring in here. (Sorry for the mixed metaphor.)

As I recall, the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge problems were from selenium. That's neither a pesticide nor a deliberate additive; it's a natural compnent of the soil in that part of the San Joaquin Valley. As farming increased upstream of Kesterson, more selenium-rich soil ran off into the streams. The grasses in the wetlands took it back up - which was good for cleaning the water, but not so good for the waterfowl that ate the grasses and were poisoned by the selenium. Blame the large-scale farmers for tilling the soil in those parts and adding it to the runoff, if you want, but I don't think you can use Kesterson to argue against pesticides or in favor of organic farming.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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There are other issues though- other than the chemicals one ingests from non organic fruits and vegetables.

I do prefer them, and probably 50-60% of the food I buy is organic- most of the fruits and vegetables- yoghurt, eggs, and butter, meat and chicken when I can.

Why?

You are right- part of the reason is that alot of the organic stuff is raised by smaller producers who seem to care more about what they are doing.

They also often produce a more interesting variety, not the same old species all of the time.

The real issues for me are health, sustainability, and GMO's.  I just don't feel comfortable having Monsanto own the patent on my food.

I have to add my agreement to those of you who want to support locally grown, sustainably produced (and preferably organic) food.

I have watched Manitoba's small family run farms dwindle and fail over the years, and seen the transformation as the land has been bought up by large corporate farming operations. Many farmers in rural Manitoba agree that although Monsanto and others promised to make their lives easier through the use of GMO pesticide resistent crops they have not benefited from these products. The only ones who seem to benefit from these arrangements are entities like Monsanto who keep marketing and selling their products and services. I am not a journalist, and I am writing this from a more intimate and personal experience, so I can't cite any studies or stats. I can give you the perspective of someone who comes from a rural community whose water and land quality has suffered at the hands of run-off from pesticide laden fields and giant hog barns and I can attest to the damaging effects that I have personally witnessed. Our aquefers were always clean until the last 10 to 15 years; now communities across the province are no longer able to draw potable water from their wells, among other problems.

I have a friend who runs a local organic grocery delivery service here in Winnipeg, and as you can imagine our local crops are pretty slim during the winter here in the Great White North. However, we do our best and augment with food shipped from warmer climes when we can't get anything but long stored Turnips and Carrots.

My friend Marnie puts it this way:

"Why is buying local important?

• fresher taste - with less distance traveled, produce will have more vitality and will taste more alive.

• more nutrients - nutritional content is kept intact with less time from harvest to ingestion. Foods that are frozen or canned within a couple days of picking have more nutrients than fresh produce that has been in transit for over a week.

• seasonally attuned - by eating local produce, we are attuned to the seasonality of growing. Eating seasonal foods grounds us within our environment and place in time.

• puts face to the food - honors the age old tradition of bond between eater and grower. It feels good to know those who grow and to help them keep doing it.

• promotes genetic diversity - by purchasing from local market gardeners who grow many fruits, vegetables and herbs of several varieties, more types of seeds are saved and transmitted through plant generations, creating a more biodiverse ecosystem which thrives to encourage diverse wildlife and lowers extinction rates.

• preserves green landscape - we take for granted our picturesque landscape of lush crops, meadows and pastures, the red barns disappearing at a disheartening rate. Family-run farms encourage green spaces that are habitat to diverse plants, wildlife, insects and birds, while agribusiness brings mono-cropping and hog factories.

• rebuilds rural economy - with this years farm profit margin at an all time low, the family farm is a vanishing breed and sucked down with it the health of our rural communities. If less primary crops (which Manitoba is a fertile centre for) were exported and more were consumed and processed here in our province to be eaten by prairie people we would create jobs while reducing the use of fossil fuels and reducing pollution emissions.

• ethical local economy - Spend your money or barter with personal and global responsibility in mind to increase the chance that it will circulate among ethical locally-owned businesses, not greedy multi-national corporations like Monsanto (biotech & seed), Phillip Morris (cigarettes and food) or Wal-mart (the largest retailer of food in America) that place dollars above the environment and human rights. Keep the cash circulating within your community and it also comes back to you quicker! "

I think that Marnie has a good argument for organically grown, locally source food. I also think that a key element of Organic food is the principal fo sustainability you can't (or shouldn't) have one without the other.

I wish that I did have a more scholarly or statistically justified argument in favour of organic food. I just have my own experience, common sense, and my meager research based on my personal concerns for my family.

We must demand a more principled and ethical approach to food production through our consumer choices if we hope to make a better world for our children.

I could go on but I'll refrain from further impassioned declarations.

By the way, should you wish to read more Marnie's website is here. (I hope I did that right I am new to this web forum thing)

I edited because I forgot a word, sorry.

Edited by LaurelH (log)
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What a great discussion! Sorry I haven't been around - I just finished my internship and have been running around crazily trying to land a job. (Which I did today! Yay me!) Thank you everyone for the vast array of responses on both sides of the issue. It has been incredibly informative, and I hope the topic continues.

Personally, it is not fiscally viable for me to buy all organic. For the friend I mentioned, however, it doesn't really matter. Since learning about the practices of the conventional poultry industry in culinary school, I have switched to all organic chicken, turkey, and eggs. It's really not that much of a price difference, it really does taste better, and I feel better about buying it. Vegetables, however, are another story. I buy local or organic when I can, but a lot of the time it is simply so far out of my price range as to be absurd. ($10 per pound asparagus, anyone?) This is one of my problems with the organic movement. I'm a big proponet of fiscal equality - I guess my years living in a communist country somehow warped me to that - and it bothers me that so much of this organic product that is touted as being so much more healthy and chemical-free is avaliable only to a certain segment of the population while the rest of the unwashed masses are left to GMO enhanced, pesticide laden, dirivatives. I'm being a bit dramatic, I know it's not all that way, but sometimes I can help but be a bit irked by it. I do understand that not all farmers use tremendous amounts of pesticide, but I think it would be good if a rating system were somehow put into place so that we would know, when not buying orgainc, how much or how little pesticide was used.

Another issue for me is that fact that no matter how dilligent the farmer, there really is no way to control run-off from other farms. So, how organic is your organic $10 per pound asparagus, anyway? How can we REALLY know? And besides all that, as other people have mentioned, how does buying organic from a farm a thousand miles away from you really have an impact when it is delivered in a gas-guzzling 18-wheeler going 80 miles an hour down I-10? By the way, I know that others have already basically said these things, I'm just sort of rambling. Anyway.

For myself, this whole topic becomes political, but for the friend I mentioned in the beginning of the thread, it is a health issue, and I really see where she is coming from. I would be very interested to see a study done in several years time that tracks people on an all or predominately organic diet versus those who are not and see who, if anyone, is healthiest, who lives the longest, etc.

After reading through this thread, I'm going to recommend we take a day trip out to a local organic farm and to a conventional farm and weigh the differences. It will be highly educational in a number of respects, not to mention the fact that I've always been curious as to how a real farm works. Also, thank you to the person who recommended "Agarian Dreams." It will be on order with Amazon.

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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And whither GMO's?  There is simply not enough evidence out there to tell me whether it is safe to graft - say blowfly- genes onto corn.

Well, no one to my knowledge has yet created a transgenic corn cultivar with blowfly genes, so that evidence couldn't possibly exist. For those transgenic cultivars that do actually exist -- like Bt corn-- there is an enormous amount of literature.

You're right- and that was meant to be kind of a joke.

To me there is a distinction between transgenesis between widely variant species and cross breeding.

Just as an aside, there seems to be a fair amount of evidence that transgenesis occurs within nature. Not long ago, someone discovered a way to wipe out an entire species though genetic manipulation. It has to do with the fact that there are actually certain portions of the DNA sequence that _always_ get passed on and the whole recessive / dominance issue does not apply. There are places where this might make lots of sense -- in particular the Anopheles mosquito that transmits malaria. Here it would be possible to eliminate only that mosquito and none other -- saving literally millions of lives annually.

Why do they not do it? Clearly there are a number of issues involved but perhaps most importantly, there is some evidence that it is possible through natual vectors (such as viruses) that genes actually move between species and in fact the latest research indicates that viruses are perhaps one of the prime motivators of rapid genetic evolution. In my example above, this genetic modification clearly would _not_ be a good thing if it were to make a cross species jump.

I'm not arguing here about the ethics of moving genes from one species to another -- simply saying that it appears that it occurs within the natural world without human intervention.

Finally, the very latest research is showing that viruses were the original life form on earth -- not bacteria. They have since evolved to the point where most (not all) can not reproduce without a host and are much smaller than their original size.

-Art

Amano Artisan Chocolate

http://www.amanochocolate.com/

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Here is the first in a series of articles on GM Foods from the David Suzuki Foundation web site.

Thanks for the link.

I read the article and have some thoughts.

First--the "Suzuki Foundation" has a clearly stated mission.

They are not unbiased.

The piece is interesting in that it presents an argument against

GM foods based upon a "what if worst case scenerio" with no scientific support.

Interesting coming from such a well credentialed scientist.

The truth is--this issue has been "hijacked" by various special interest groups

(on both sides).

Change is sometimes good sometimes bad but always met with trepidation.

That is a good thing--but only if we are reasonable and rational in our debating these issues.

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For myself, this whole topic becomes political, but for the friend I mentioned in the beginning of the thread, it is a health issue, and I really see where she is coming from. I would be very interested to see a study done in several years time that tracks people on an all or predominately organic diet versus those who are not and see who, if anyone, is healthiest, who lives the longest, etc.

I've been thinking about this because I generally prefer to buy organic foods when possible, because not only would I rather not have additional pesticide or herbicide residue in my food, I consider damage that can be done to the environment with runoff, etc. This is probably based more on feelings than hard science (although I have read about damage in the Gulf of Mexico near NO that is blamed on excess nitrogen from fertilizers).

That being the case, I don't think that eating organic will necessarily keep me healthier or allow me to live longer because there are so many other variables to consider, not the least of which is environmental exposure to carcinogens and other nasties. I live near a bunch of chemical plants, and often in the early morning hours a putrid smell permeates the air. I figure if I can smell it, it's probably not good for me. I think about all the "healthy" California eaters inhaling LA's smog...I guess what I am getting it is there is a more to health than the food one eats and the amount of exercise one gets, and a lot of it is beyond our control.

Maybe that's just an excuse for me to eat poorly and not exercise enough :hmmm:

Guess there's no sense in compounding the negatives, huh?

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