Do I actually know anything about GMO foods? For that matter does anyone? We all just assume that the boffins (as known as scientists) have our best interests at heart - but do they? First off I had to look up a definition of GMO foods. I had a vague notion that the process involves transferring genes from one organism to another to produce desirable qualities in the resulting genetically modified plant. These desirable qualities can be, among others, resistance to a particular disease for example, meaning that the yield of the crop would be increased. A brief search yielded the following link http://biotech.about.com/od/faq/f/GMOs.htm.
Modern agriculture has for decades concentrated on growing small numbers of plant varieties that are primarily high yielding. Selective breeding has been carried out so that many old varieties of crops have been cast aside. Seed Savers have done some amazing work to try to reintroduce and save these old varieties. The problem with mass-growing of specially selected, high-yielding crops is that should a new pest or disease get hold the losses can be devastating. For this reason the crops need to be sprayed with a cocktail of pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilisers. The pro GMO lobby will tell you that the new genetically modified varieties will need less spraying and so will be better for you and for the environment. However, many of the varieties of plants discarded have better flavour, taste and in some cases are even more resistant to disease but are not high yielding.
The natural environment is a very finely balanced ecosystem and if disrupted, the consequences can be serious. I don't believe that there has been enough research carried out on ensuring introduction of genetically modified crops will have minimum impact on the environment or the delicate balance of the ecosystem. What impact these crops will have on the animals they are fed to or in turn what impact will they have on us - the end consumer? After all BSE was caused by feeding animal remains to animals that were natural herbivores.
Apparently Teagasc are about to start trials on GM potatoes to increase late blight resistance. This is unbelievable especially with the recent furore over the raw milk debacle. The reason the department of agriculture gave me for wanting to ban raw milk was to prevent any damage to the image of Ireland as a clean, green and tuberculosis-free producer of milk especially to our export market. It would make a lot more sense to promote our image as a GMO-free producer of food.
On balance, I made a decision a long time ago that I did not want to be a guinea pig for the biotech industries' trials on GM foods. I avoid all soya as over 60% is genetically modified and it is virtually impossible to guarantee that any source is completely GM free. Maize apparently is also genetically modified. I heard years ago that tomato puree is made with GM tomatoes. But far more difficult to avoid is eating meat from animals fed genetically modified cereals in meal. For now there is not enough public demand for such meat or even if there was there are not enough producers. One thing for sure though, is if the demand were to increase, the industry should want to zealously guard the image of Ireland as a clean green GMO free producer of food!