Green Thinking – From Someone Who Does

In my last newsletter I simply asked people to think and to challenge me and to question what they read, what they buy, what they hear about sustainability because it’s really important.  I will do the “I am not an expert” disclaimer one more time and I am sticking to that.  I want to thank Phillip Greene, author of Running on Empty and recent show guest on Mrs. Green Goes Mainstream, for the challange below.  He is not he first to question my beliefs on GMOs & other topics about which I write and hopefully he will not be the last to engage in the conversation.

Dear Mrs Green,

I am not convinced that genetically engineered salmon is really a “Frankinfish.” First of all most of our food is in some way genetically altered. You probably wouldn’t recognize the first ear of corn to appear in the wild. It would be about the size of your little finger. The “Engineering” was painstakingly done by cross pollination over hundreds of years. I was amused when Mugabe, dictator of Zimbabwe, refused shipments of genetically engineered corn when his farming community was in shambles and his people starving. He said it was an American plot to destroy Zimbabwe.

I prefer keeping an open mind on the subject. We readily accept mutated vaccines which are developed to respond to natural mutations of viruses, and the artificial development of body parts. The development of the human genome promises great strides in medicines, largely through engineering genes. Producing more food for the hungry people of the world may also hold great promise. If we destroy our environment it may be the only thing that saves us.

Phillip J Greene
Author

You can check out his book at: http://www.runningonemptybook.com/ It’s informative and understandable for mainstream people like me.


4 thoughts on “Green Thinking – From Someone Who Does”

  1. For those who would like to read more about genetically engineered foods there is an excellent summary by Deborah B. Whitman at http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/gmfood/overview.php.

  2. Bryan C. says:

    To be clear upfront, I am not wholly opposed to genetically engineered foods. I just see that there are too many potential pitfalls that those doing the bioengineering are not addressing upfront during development. Part of the problem I see, is that we are starting to bioengineer things in a monoculture fashion, and for one specific thing (in the case of the so-called “Frankenfish”, for size). What happens, if that one type of fish then escapes from the “farm” in to the wild, and replaces some or all of the existing genetic stock? What are the fish eating in larger quantity that is going to allow them to pack on the weight, and how does that “efficiency” actually factor into the environmental impact of the larger fish? Then what if the natural-bioengineered cross-bred fish ends up falling prey to a disease that then affects its growth rate and we end up with a decimated population of that item, and then the people that relied on its previous miraculous overabundance? Who becomes financially responsible (nevermind morally responsible) for those types of changes? I’d like to see a combination of traditional, slow-change cross-breeding techniques along with maintenance of a diversity of reproducible genetic stock – NOT a monoculture that is only available from one source and cannot be continually bred by farmers – combined with technological tricks to speed up but not grossly change the entire process and avoid any potential pitfalls such as these and many others that I .

    Change the word “fish” to “corn”, “rice” or any other animal or plant item. Technology is wonderful, but there are limits and a myriad of questions in working toward true food sustainability (should a poor country have to continue to receive seeds or animals either purchased or donated by a wealthy company or country to sustain itself? or be required to participate in a market that it may be able to afford for now but subject to price spikes that will reduce food availability locally?), the materials that are put in to growing your crop (do you have to use even more fertilizer, water, or other feed to sustain the growth) and the above considerations are only part of the factors to consider.

    This is not a yes or no question. It is something that needs to truly develop responsive answers to the many scenarios instead of being rushed through at each stage and pushed quickly to market.

  3. Bryan C. says:

    (missed the end of the middle paragraph – “… that I haven’t even mentioned or researched yet.”

  4. Bryan – thanks for your very thougtful, articulate comments. The issue of GMOs is extremely frustrating to me and I guess that is because I want a black or white answer – something somewhat atypical for me. If greed were not such a major part of this and it was more scientific advancement to help address world hunger, I would be far less suspicious. Monstano, and all that I know about that company, has truly impacted my thinking. I hope you keep me in the loop if you find more for me to read about. thanks!

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