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IN THE FIELD

genetic modification vs. genetic engineering


 

Since the dawn of sedentary living humans have manipulated plants to grow faster, heartier, and more efficiently to create easier access to nutrients while lowering the caloric output necessary to do so. In the beginning, these manipulations were gentle, cross-breeding plants naturally in a way that followed the rhythms of nature while taking into account the vitality of the soil. these gentle manipulations were, in fact, genetic modification.

Genetic Modification can be a tricky topic, popular belief is that all Genetic Modification entails the manipulation of genes in a lab to create a super plant that has no relation to it’s origins in the soil. I had always been a bit confused about the subject, with my basic understanding of farming and the tactics that had been used throughout history to produce palatable produce I knew that plants were being modified in a myriad of ways to produce specific outcomes. For example, as a child I remember walks through the apple orchards in the fall seeing trees spliced together producing either two different apples on the same tree or a new species that was the result of the combination and to me this was not going against the grain of nature rather working insides its bounds to explore the possibilities of speeding up evolutionary process.

It wasn’t until I read “The End of Food” by Paul Roberts that the picture was painted in plain terms. The term he brought to light that I had never seen expounded upon in main stream media was Genetic Engineering. All of the sudden the light switched on. As is commonplace those in control of the narrative found a way to use blanket terminology to muddy the waters hiding the truth of more detrimental practices behind those which find roots in the natural world.

Deeper research brought me to a plethora of information about real scientific theory on the subject and one article from NC State’s Ag Biotech Extension in particular made a very clear statement;


 

“Most scientists would say that almost all the food we eat has been “genetically modified” by man and that genetic modification includes not only conventional breeding, but simple selections man has made over millennia. Carrots were not orange until the 1700’s and tomatoes used to be the size of marbles. Corn used to have very small ears and kernels with hard seed coats and low digestibility.” Something that seems so laymen had been so obscured, to the point of creating a labeling system for the general public that itself was not even scientifically correct.

“Most scientists would say that almost all the food we eat has been “genetically modified” by man and that genetic modification includes not only conventional breeding, but simple selections man has made over millennia. Carrots were not orange until the 1700’s and tomatoes used to be the size of marbles. Corn used to have very small ears and kernels with hard seed coats and low digestibility.”


 

Not until very recently, if we consider the timeline of life on earth, has the decision been made that we should dictate nature’s course at rapid pitch using unnatural techniques to do so. The origins of genetic engineering sprout up in the middle of the twentieth century, in 1940 scientists find themselves capable of influencing DNA through the introduction of chemicals or radiation, the structure of DNA is discovered in 1953, and in 1973 genetic engineering is developed by inserting DNA from one organism into another. The first consumer facing product offered to market and approved by the FDA was in fact a benefit to society, insulin, but this moment also marked the start of a rapid downward spiral of boundaries being crossed creating negative feedback loops that make return to homeostasis more and more difficult with each passing year.


The development of such powerful technology is met with much responsibility, responsibility which is handed over to governmental bodies driven by profit that lack the moral compass to properly handle the power they yield. Guidelines and standards are quickly laid in place giving blanket governance to a diverse field of science leaving holes of grey area through which those intelligent enough can slip through so long as pockets are lined and the outcome is profitable. Long winded documents filled with scientific terminology become hard to digest, the truth hides behind big words hard for laymen to decipher.


There is a simple lens of 50/50 terminology to focus through and it should be the one with which you as a consumer scan the marketplace to find truth, Transgenic and Cisgenic. Although both use the same technology of gene transfer Cisgenic plants require that the genes utilized in modification come from the same sexually compatible species of plant, likening the process to traditional cross breeding in a natural habitat, this should be the only type of lab formulated modification referred to as genetic modification. Transgenic plants on the other hand introduces non sexually compatible genes often from alien sources not even in the plant kingdom (i.e. roundup) this type of lab formulated modification should always be referred to as Genetic Engineering.


Although I believe that it is possible for our species to survive for as long as our planet allows without the intervention of a laboratory I understand the task at hand if we wish to walk back the current structure to one which works in symbiosis with nature. We need a starting point, one which is easy to understand and get behind, one which panders to the current structure while challenging it to be better. A demand for doing away with Transgenics in any form of food production is a start, this can be as simple as consumer recognition of products which employ detrimental practices to amplify profits and choosing not to place your dollars in that basket. Reading labels and demanding clarity in labeling that is hard to understand can be paramount, if you don’t understand the words on a label research before you buy.


The greatest power you have as a consumer is your dollar, ensure that your effort in acquiring that dollar is rewarded with truth by being conscious and inquisitive, ensure that dollar becomes a resource for change in your community by buying locally from producers and farmers with whom you can converse and create relationships with, unlike the powers who create with profit in mind they are more than likely open to a dialogue about how mutual aid and symbiosis can provide a path to a homeostatic future.

 




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