Is The Hybrid Fruit You’re Eating GMO?

image

 

This past Sunday as I made my way through the crowded aisle of my favorite Farmer’s market, my eyes landed on a sign.  It said: Mango flavored nectarines $3.00/ lb.  Underneath the sign were about 30 or 40 ball-shaped yellowish-brown fruit with a pinkish tinge. The fruit looked like it had been badly sunburned. It was spotted with dark brown spots, which made the skin look tough and leathery, sort of like the skin on a mango. Definitely not the most beautiful nectarines that I’ve ever seen. However, the fruit was at one of my favorite organic fruit stands.  It’s often the last stand that I visit, so by the time that I get there, my canvas farmers market bags are full and my $40 produce budget is a few dollars shy of being depleted.   Just above the 30 or 40 nectarines was a clear plastic container that housed samples of what looked like short mango wedges–coral-orange, and brightly beautiful.  I took one and tasted it.   As the sweetness and acid from the mango flavored nectarine hit my taste buds, I moaned, a Mmm…escaping my lips. It was sweet like a mango, but crisp, with the slight bitterness of a nectarine–in short–AMAZING!  I guess my moan must have been louder than I thought, because a woman standing next to me, who had been eyeing a bin of seedless watermelons, turned around to ask me what it was that had elicited that response from me. I told her, as I stuffed another sample into my mouth, all while simultaneously loading a brown bag with as many of the nectarines as the $3.75 I had left from my $40 farmers market budget could afford me.  The lady leaned in and asked me in a low whisper–“are those GMO?”

It is a question that I have heard more than once.  It usually comes in the form of “how do they get the seeds out of watermelon without genetically modifying them?” If you’re reading this, then you’re probably wondering also. It’s also an argument that I’ve heard used as proof that GMO’s are safe–I’m eyeing you, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye–I’m giving you both the side eye actually #unamused.  So I want to answer it here.   But in order to answer it, I must first pose the underlying question of what that lady was asking me, and what proponents of GMO foods imply when using it as an argument in favor of GMO foods.  The question being:  Is there a difference between the centuries-long use of hybridizing by farmers and  the modern use of biotechnology to create GMO produce and animals, and is it the same thing? The short answer is NO it’s not the same!  Now let me explain why.

GMO

Genetically modified foods cross the species barrier.  They are for lack of a better analogy, a frankenfood–which is actually a spot on analogy if you ask me! They are conceived in a lab and can be the amalgamation of DNA from the same species, or they can be an amalgamation of DNA from a completely different species–something that is totally not possible in nature.  One such example of such an amalgamation is that of the “fishy tomato.”   This was a case in which, the genes of an arctic flounder fish were combined with those of a tomato.  The hope was  that it would prevent the tomato from freezing–thus allowing tomatoes to grow in even the coldest weather.  Fortunately for us, these two species were not a love match, and the company that created it dropped it, and never sent it to be sold on the market. Some people say the reason they did not put it on the open market was because, people found out and protested.  Either way, I, for one, am glad that it never made it to the market.  Beyond linking the DNA of animals and plants, genetically engineered foods have also been created to withstand specific pesticides like Roundup, and to produce pesticides within their own tissues, to ward off pests.  The latter of the two has resulted in insects that are even more resistant, superbugs if you will, and instead of farmers needing to spray less because the pesticides were added to the DNA of the plant, farmers are spraying more than they ever have.  So those who consume these plants are effectively risking a–in my best Robert De Niro voice– double dose– of pesticides–not good for us or our pollinators! See this article on the plight of bees.

Hybrid fruits and vegetables

Tyson and Nye are right about one point,  farmers and breeders have been using artificial selection to manipulate our food supply for some time.  But the process by which they do that, and the food that they produce, is far from the foods produced through biotechnology. Unlike with GMO’s, farmer’s and breeders can only create within the confines of what is naturally possible.  They can only match species to species, in order to create a different variety of that species. As in the case of my mango nectarine.  Mango’s and nectarines are both stone fruits. As are pluots–which is a plum and apricot mix. The process is simple, farmers cross-pollinate two different plants/trees within the same species, and that creates a hybrid with the desired characteristics of the parent trees/plant. Other examples of hybrid produce include, different varieties and kale, broccoli, carrots,  seedless watermelons and grapes, citrus like tangelo’s, and grapefruit–the list could go on and on, however, unlike with GMO’s hybridization is not man-made–it is nature made, and as such it occurs in nature without the help of man. So all of the aforementioned produce could be made in nature over time. Through hybridization, man has sought only to guide the natural process that is cross-pollination.

 

GMO foods have ventured completely outside of the box of guiding, by splicing the DNA of animals with insects, or animals with plants, or plants with bacteria–we are no longer guiding, we are playing GOD. These GMO crops have had a disastrous effect on our environment and our ecosystem. For the first time in human history, we are faced with the possibility of living in a world without bees. Considering the fact that bees pollinate a large portion of our food supply, pause and consider, what living in a world without them could mean! The worst part of all of this–as if that weren’t bad enough–is that we have no idea where any of this will lead us, or if it’s safe. We need long term, third party testing to know for sure.  Maybe, just maybe we are at a tipping point?  One thing that we can always be sure of is that natural selection always wins out–hopefully it will continue to be on our side.

3 thoughts on “Is The Hybrid Fruit You’re Eating GMO?

  1. Your assertion that more pesticides are being used is actually incorrect. Organic producers (non-GMO, obvi) tend to use more pesticides, in greater volumes, because the chemicals available to them are not as effective as their synthetic counterparts. With respect to genetic modification, or genetic engineering, the advantage that the latter has is being to enhance food without the decades-long processes of hybridization and selective breeding. Engineering in a laboratory is also specific to one or two genes (the most I’ve seen was recent work with camelina seeds, where seven genes were targeted), and no other genes are affected (this is tested and re-tested, in field trials). With hybridization, the procedure is quite random, quite possibly producing unseen and unwanted effects, because you’re relying on chance. From the scientific perspective, knowing exactly what’s happening to a plant, when using it as a test subject for enhancement or creation of a new species, it is advantageous to the random crapshoot that can be selective breeding (or, mutagenesis). Genetic engineering has some incredible prospects. I’m very excited about the Arctic Apple, where one gene was silenced to prevent browning via oxidization. How amazing will this be for reducing food waste? Another prime, and popular example, is golden rice. Not only was it created by a non-profit organization, it brings the possibility of increasing nutrition for some of the world’s most impoverished regions. Isn’t that amazing? I sure think so, and I’m glad notable organizations like the World Health Organization agree. Cheers.

  2. Pingback: Is the Hybrid Fruit You’re eating GMO? | Lazy Girl Dinners | WORLD ORGANIC NEWS

  3. You make some important points here. There is so much misinformation about GMOs and how “safe” they are. They claim that by placing a specific gene sequence into the host, you can precisely get a specific protein. Not so. It’s a crap shoot, and anyone that tells you otherwise is lying.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s