Jezebel: Stick with Women, Stay Away from GMOs

5 Jun

I’m sorry.  This is really long.

Okay, so, there was a time when in the mornings, after checking the headlines on the New York Times, I would head over to Jezebel and see what was happening in the world of women, as represented by feminists (some of them not so much) on Gawker’s payroll.  It was a pretty good way to keep up on all the happenings surrounding that Susan G. Komen debacle, gave me a link to an amazing speech by Sandra Fluke, and strengthened my extreme dislike for Donald Trump (I previously hadn’t thought that particular strain of dislike could be strengthened but there you have it).  In the last few months, however, I have found myself, for reasons I could not quite pinpoint, abandoning my daily visits to Jezebel.  Maybe it was because of those damn “thighlights” that I found both hypocritical and gender-normative, maybe it was the Jezebel staff-writer who had a few drinks at my bar and was a total asshole, or maybe it was the fact that the site was straying from it’s gender-focus and moving more in the body-snarking, celebrity-obsessing, semi-women related fluff direction.  Whatever the reason I didn’t have a particular aversion to Jezebel, more a feeling that we had just grown apart.  Until, that is, I read an article titled “Everyone Just Shut Up About GMOs.”

I don’t know if all you readers actually know me but here’s a little background.  I stopped eating meat when I was 11-years old because the texture grossed me out (still does!).  As I grew older I started having moral objections to the way we in the United States raise and slaughter our animals for consumption.  I don’t like the way we grow feed, the damage that concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) do to our environment, the lack of oversight of CAFOs and slaughterhouses at the state and federal level, the power the meat lobby has in Washington, the immunity that packaging plants seem to have to any regulation whatsoever, etc.  I could go on for days, literally.  This is not to say that you should stop eating meat or that I think any less of you if you do.  Educate yourself, if you want to (I know some good places to start), or don’t.  Your choice.  My interest in food and agriculture just sort of spread out from there and, during my junior year in college, I became incredibly interested in genetically modified organisms.  Over the last ten years or so, I have done quite a bit of reading on this topic so to come across an article on a relatively high-traffic site that was as poorly researched as this one was really infuriating.  I am actually sort of convinced that the author was being paid.  Let’s just look at some of Meagan Hatcher-Mays more…um…simple-minded points.

1. “A lot of people are wary of GMOs because of long-term public safety and health concerns. These fears are misplaced—not only are genetically modified foods regulated by the same rules as ‘regular’ food, but there is also a broad consensus in the scientific community that genetically modified food is safe to eat”

If GMOs are regulated by the same rules as regular food, we are fucked seeing as how regular food is hardly regulated.  Or, more specifically, that regular food is regulated in such a way that protects industry over consumers.  Ever heard of “veggie libel laws?”  Or the story of Stephanie Smith, a children’s dance instructor, who ate an ecoli-tainted burger in 2007 that rendered her paralyzed, with cognitive problems and with severe kidney damage?  Her case was settled in 2010 largely because she was profiled by the New York Times in 2009, lending her experience the added boost of national interest.  Also, there is no scientific consensus that genetically modified food is safe. Short-term studies seem to reveal it is fine, but GMOs have not been on the market long enough for anyone to decisively say they do not cause long-term harm.

2. “Monsanto… has genetically modified its seeds to make crops resistant to pests, herbicides, and disease. But the crops’ ability to repel these dangers reduces the need for pesticide use, which is actually good for the environment.”

Actually, no!  The result of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready seeds have resulted in the creation of super weeds, against which Monsanto’s seeds are not resistant.  This is because of evolution!  As it turns out, weeds and insects also want to survive and will evolve over time to be able to tolerate the use of Roundup.  The result is that farmers all over the United States are forced to use greater amounts of more hazardous pesticides in order to deal with this new generation of pests.  This was discovered by Charles Benbrook, who is a research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University.  He found that herbicide use has increased by 527 million pounds from 1996 to 2011, and although insecticide use had initially decreased by 123 million pounds,  it is now on the rise.

3. “GMOs can provide much-needed vitamin supplements for populations that are deficient. Two ounces of golden rice can provide almost 60% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A.”

Here, Hatcher-Mays completely disregarded the scandal revolving around the tests of “golden rice.”  This rice was tested on children in China without the proper research approvals and without informing the parents of the children that the rice was genetically modified.  As someone who enjoys occasional forays into academia, this fact is incredibly problematic and also reinforces the feeling that many consumers have that they are not being provided proper information regarding their food by the agricultural industry.  Hatcher-Mays insistence that people against GMOs are therefore against poor people shows her inability to do even the smallest amount of research into the topic: I found a wealth of information in a 5 second Google search. Treating the poor as guinea pigs is not exactly a good thing.

Also, “golden rice” is not as new as Monsanto and other GMO supporters might have you believe.  I learned about it when I was in India in 2004 and Marion Nestle, a professor of Nutrition and Food Studies at NYU published a letter to the editor about it in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association in 2001. In her article she does not completely dismiss the usefulness of biotechnology in reducing diseases caused by vitamin deficiency, but she does state that simply adding vitamin-B to rice neglects to address the other biological (necessary enzymes and dietary fat) and political forces that are needed to truly deal with this deficiency.

Listen, maybe golden rice will be helpful in the future.  More tests need to be carried out to that effect and probably the scientists should inform their subjects of their role in the study and also the contents of the food they are eating.  Also, internet writers in the United States should shut up about their desire to feed “poor, nonwhite, non-American, non-British human beings” if they haven’t done even a modicum of research into the surrounding debate.  Repeating mistakes made at Tuskegee is probably not the best approach.  Also, to trick ourselves into thinking that big-Ag is doing anything positive without thinking primarily about PR campaigns and its own ever-deepening pocket is simply naive.  These companies are far-more concerned with making money than with solving world hunger.  The state of agriculture in the United States is horrific and to think that big-Ag has any intentions other than expanding into growing markets is ridiculous.  Whether or not GMOs are dangerous to human health when consumed has still not been proven, but the fact that they are incredibly dangerous to the environment at large (water usage, increased herbicide and pesticide use, monocropping, etc) has been proven time and again.  So, probably people shouldn’t be self-righteously telling those who know more than them to shut up about GMOs.

9 Responses to “Jezebel: Stick with Women, Stay Away from GMOs”

  1. Sally Falb June 5, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

    Damn, girl! Thanks so much for saying everything I’d want to say if I could write with the obvious data-based information you’ve made available to all of us non-researchers. Let’s just hope that Jezebel gets the word and makes some sort of apology to their readers. Well done!!

    • FranklyRebekah June 5, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

      What’s so funny about this is that the research I did was relatively cursory, which tells me that the woman who wrote the article I responded to is an incredibly lazy journalist, if you can even call her that! Thanks for reading!

  2. aeroplaneoversea June 5, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    I hope you write Jezebel about their lazy journalist! (P.S. Her bio says that she is an unemployed graduate, so she should have had the time…..)

    On a side note (and as someone from the South) I think it’s funny/ironic that they are naming something “golden rice” which makes me instantly think of “Carolina gold rice” which perpetuated slavery along the coast of the Carolinas, more so than cotton. But “gold rice” is only associated with the antebellum period. Anyway, just stating this weird association.

    • FranklyRebekah June 5, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

      I was thinking about either calling Jezebel or the author out on Twitter but the author is a little…aggressive and I don’t really want to introduce that ‘tude into my online sphere. But maybe I will Tweet @Jezebel.

      That is weird. I have heard of that brand of rice but I never knew about the history. Sadly, our education about the South was rather limited up in Jersey at least as far as I remember. I will have to read about it!

  3. creatingcarrie June 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    LOVE THIS! Thank you! As for the Jezebel article: after reading even one paragraph, my first question was “this girl has a law degree?” Seriously, what form of logic was she using?!

    • FranklyRebekah June 6, 2013 at 2:45 pm #

      Who the hell knows but it certainly doesn’t make me feel surprised that she is unemployed.

  4. creatingcarrie June 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

    Reblogged this on creating carrie and commented:
    Because this blog says so much better what I would want to say:

  5. girlseule August 23, 2013 at 6:27 am #

    Exellent, love this. It feels like we are moving further and further away from eating diets that contain actual food. I think this idea being pushed that we need GMOs to feed the world is misleading seeing as we already produce more than enough food for everyone but still people go hungy.

    • FranklyRebekah August 23, 2013 at 10:17 am #

      Absolutely. Part of the problem is certainly related to the increase in meat consumption worldwide and what that means for the amount of feed crops that need to be grown. Also, laziness. We have this tendency to hold for dear life onto a short-term outlook as opposed to trying to understand how things are going to play out in the long run. Whether or not GMOs are unsafe for us to eat is still up in the air and, honestly, I imagine we will find them no more unsafe than the amounts of pesticides and hormones we consume on a regular basis when we eat conventional fruits and vegetables. The problem is what GMOs mean for the water level, soil sustainability and for our ability to feed the population going forward. It makes me crazy!

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