GMOs and other science marvels: are we turning ourselves into industrial experiments?


Our entire society functions on technology that works. Right down to the little things, which became abundantly clear this afternoon when one of my windshield wipers flew off as I drove through the mud-and-salt road-spray. I needed that wiper.

The day before, I had a conversation with my brother-in-law about the same sort of thing. We were watching a NASCAR race. He’s a trucker, and during commercials we talked about how much we depend on trucks for survival. If the trucks stopped in the middle of winter, he said, every store would be out of food within a week, and we’d all be starving the week after.

We’ve placed a high level of trust in our technology. Maybe that’s why we’re so willing to accept any technological innovation that adds to our immediate quality of life.

But back to the NASCAR race. Years ago televised races were pretty boring, but now the cameras inside all the cars take you right inside the action. The cameras also pick up another important detail. I noticed a prominent Coca-Cola decal parked right beside a driver’s elbow. After the race we watched as he reached for a bottle of Coke.

Coca-Cola is a product of the machine age. A quick scan of the internet turned up a list of 51 other uses for Coca-Cola, from removing rust to cleaning burnt pans to neutralizing a jellyfish sting to cleaning toilets to stripping paint from metal to removing gum from hair.

Within minutes of drinking a can of Coke your blood sugar spikes and your liver goes into overdrive, converting that sugar into fat. Then the caffeine kicks in. Your pupils dilate, your blood pressure shoots up and your liver dumps even more sugar into your blood. After that your dopamine levels bump up giving you a high—like a mini-dose of heroine, a few other chemical interactions happen, binding calcium, magnesium and zinc in your lower intestine, before the diuretic effect kicks in and you need to pee like a racehorse. And after an hour the rush wears off and you crash.

That’s industrial strength pleasure. But industry always moves from pleasure to profits. Industrial agriculture runs on short term results: fewer pests equal higher yields. Roundup to the rescue. Monsanto has built an empire around redesigning plant DNA to resist massive doses of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. This is good for industrial farmers who want to get rid of weeds that eat into their crop yields. And it’s very good for Monsanto because their genetically modified (GMO) seeds are patented and only available from, you guessed it.

In Canada we now herbicide and insecticide tolerant GMO soy, corn, canola, sugar beets and alfalfa growing in our fields. Two disturbing things are now happened here and around the world. Herbicide use has skyrocketed—and the plant gene pool has become polluted by GMOs. Permanently. Genetic pollution, we’re told, will outlast global warming and even radioactive contamination.

While industry would like us to believe GMO food is safe, it isn’t that clear. Check out this warning: “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with genetically modified food (AAEM 2009), including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.” Another academic paper begins with, “The results of most studies with GM foods indicate that they may cause some common toxic effects such as hepatic, pancreatic, renal, or reproductive effects and may alter the hematological, biochemical, and immunologic parameters.”

But it’s not just GMOs. Most manufactured products pose serious health risks. The flame retardants, mould inhibitors and pesticides in drapery, carpets and furniture cause toxic reactions and infertility. Exposure to household cleaning products actually reduces lung capacity in women—but strangely not in men. And now complex, ultra-processed foods, like mass-produced bread, are seen to be a long term health risk. A recent French study showed that a 10 percent increase in eating ultra-processed foods was linked to a 12 percent increase in cancer. The researchers couldn’t identify the particular ingredients causing the problem, but it could be what they call the “cocktail effect” of all ingredients.

Personally, I’d take that even further. The entire industrial cocktail, from high-frequency microwaves to GMO crops to manufactured food, to industrial and consumer waste is poisoning us—and every other living thing on the planet. That much is clear. But I’ll still need to replace that wiper blade in the morning.

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