As an ordinary soul, I can’t quote scientific research about GMO foods, but I don’t think I should discount my objections to GMOs just because I’m not a scientist.
First, I can’t find a decent tomato or peach in Hoboken; the available produce has been “engineered” (not GMO-like engineering, but the regular kind) to exclude the properties which make tomatoes luscious. Having only inferior products available has redefined words like “tomato.” Inability to find a decent one doesn’t stop me from buying tomatoes – preferred recipes often call for them. I remember tomatoes from a couple of decades ago and ones that I bought last year out in the country, tomatoes from Vermont and in Europe, but others have come to believe that this pallid, one-dimensional red thing is what a tomato is. My Hoboken solution has been “heritage tomatoes,” which defy idea that people want bright red, firm, round tomatoes. Heritage tomatoes are popular, more expensive, and come in many colors, shapes, and sizes.
Second, I don’t need a scientific study to know that wild and/or organic foods, locally produced, taste better. Not only is shelf life of less importance when food is produced locally, but the way the food is grown is known to the local community, and there are local traditions which add enjoyment to dining, based on seasonal or historical celebrations or tastes.
Third, the farming industry is in itself a threat to our health and future. It doesn’t take a genius to know that a million acres planted in corn and soybeans to the exclusion of any other crop (think Iowa) is an invitation to pestilence, drought, and disaster. They need increasingly powerful insecticides to sustain this method of farming, and are draining the Ogalala Aquifer (among other water sources). GMO seeds are often sterile (I don’t know if some of them are not), and drift into other farmers’ fields, changing the ecosystem for other creatures such as insects and birds. Using sterile seeds is expensive, because new seeds need to be bought every year. This may not be a big problem for Middle Western corn and soybean farmers, but it is a problem to farmers who now use their own crops to provide next year’s seeds. “Sterile seeds” cannot be a consistently good thing, except in limited contexts.
Fourth, widespread ingestion of genetically modified foods has not been practiced for long enough to know what its effects will be. Grafting a branch of a certain kind of apple tree onto another apple tree is not analogous to putting a fruit fly gene into a peach (I have no idea what kind of animal genes are used, but there is interspecies mixing). Natural “engineering,” or individual experiments mixing different variations of the same species is a slow process, allowing each introduced variety to find its way, or not. This is not similar to the industrial engineering of today which introduces bully species.
Fifth, there is no satisfactory explanation for the obesity epidemic on full view all around America. I grew up in a time when bacon and butter were staples, milk was full fat, cream was a regular treat, and pie crusts were [home]made with lard. There was a certain percentage of obese people, but nothing like today. Our food supply somehow invites obesity.
Sixth: This brings me to the final objection of an ordinary human. The qualities valued in engineered foods are bad for us; increased sweetness in vegetables and fruits, the sacrifice of taste for crispness, in apples, lessened fiber content to achieve higher sweetness and a smooth consistency, in grains. Biologically, we are guided by taste and smell, and stripping foods of their taste and smell leaves us unsatisfied and we eat more.
When it comes to GMOs, I ‘m already deeply disappointed in our food companies’ efforts to craft foods for us, and given the extra risk that GMO foods will present, I will avoid them, carefully study labels, and query food purveyors. I do not trust the “studies” which brought us everything from thalydimide to Volkswagens; they prove one side of the equation without paying any attention to context — for example, the studies so far have declared that GMO foods will not harm our bodies, but have not addressed how they might harm the agricultural system. I do not trust the government agencies which are often run by recycled Monsanto executives, and I am even suspicious of the health authorities who are recommending GMOS. The congress is deeply indebted to Big Ag. I do trust my senses of taste and smell, and my abilities to follow a logical trail from sterile seeds to trouble.