Eliminating Genetically Modified Food at PLU
What comes to mind when reading the words genetic modification or Bacillus thurigiensis (abbreviated Bt)? I envision laboratories and science experiments, when in reality these words are related to the food we eat every day. What most Americans do not know is the threat that genetically modified food presents to our communities. PLU should do everything in its power to ensure that its students and faculty members are not exposed to genetically modified foods and crops that have been “protected” through the usage of Bt that has been artificially incorporated into crops, at least while eating on campus. We also need to educate those individuals about the truths of genetic modification and how it can potentially harm the lives of our generation and those to come. After all, PLU’s slogan is “educating for lives of thoughtful inquiry, service, leadership and care – for other people for their communities and for the earth.” If we can raise awareness of genetic modification on campus, we can help spread the importance of eliminating it to the rest of our community. Researchers have recently found that genetically modified foods have more baggage than advertised, baggage such as the risk of formation of allergies, exposure to toxins in herbicides, and a significant reduction in nutritional value.
The genetic modification of crops began in the 1980s and has been growing in popularity ever since. In 1994, researchers successfully genetically modified tomatoes for human consumption. The genetic modification involved deleting a gene which produced the enzyme polygalacturonase which helps in fruit softening. This meant that the tomatoes could ripen on the vine but not spoil by the time they reached the store (“Tomatoes”). Tomatoes are no longer genetically modified, but are instead made to postpone ripening when the green tomato is picked; they are then taken to a processing plant and “artificially gassed with ethylene until they are the rosy-red skin tones of a ripe tomato” (Estabrook p. x). Seeing the words gassed and ethylene in the same context as human consumption seems concerning. Unfortunately, many Americans are unaware of how their food has been treated when they are consuming it. Some produce is “too good to be true” because they seem perfect, without a blemish or bruise, not to mention free from flavor. But, I now know that this is due to gasses that act as a sort of make-up. The tomatoes in PLU’s commons are unsatisfactory in taste, but impeccable in terms of looks. This leads me to think that PLU is purchasing out of season, gassed tomatoes that are bred to be green, as opposed to better quality organically grown produce. This brings nutritional value into question. In a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “100 grams of fresh tomato today has 30 percent less vitamin C, 30 percent less thiamin, 19 percent less niacin, and 62 percent less calcium than it did in the 1960s,” not to mention fourteen times as much sodium (Estabrook p. x). Who would have thought that an individual’s sky rocketing levels of sodium was not only from McDonalds french fries, but also from what they thought of as a healthy alternative, a tomato bought from the grocery store. Parents are unknowingly buying these tomatoes with the intention of feeding their children something healthy, but in reality they are being undermined by the U.S. Agricultural System.
What really is genetic modification? It can be defined as: “organisms that have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques” (Genetically Modified). According to Assistant Professor Romey Haberle, these types of “genetic engineering techniques” include the usage of either a gene gun or a natural vector, which sounds just as bad as the ethylene gas previously stated. A gene gun is just that, a gun. Its purpose is to inject...