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Thursday, June 24, 2004 09:51 pm

Prairie Notes 6-24-04

"You can't do just one thing." So goes the old ecology adage, meaning, of course, that each change that occurs in the natural world precipitates a series of other -- often unknown and unexpected -- changes. You may know it as the ripple effect.

Much of the concern about genetically modified (GM) crops has to do with the unknowns, the unpredictable effects of tinkering with nature that might take years to show up. When DDT hit the market in the 1950s, it did one thing well -- killed bugs. But, as we all know, DDT had unexpected side effects. Even after Rachel Carson pointed these out in Silent Spring, we were slow to react and grasp the implications.

Today we have millions of acres of GM crops growing out there and finding their way into the food supply. What all the implications of this may be no one knows, but some concerns are evident.

Cross-contamination, especially with corn, could eventually lead to the modification of all corn, including what is now being grown organically.

Because GM seed is considered the intellectual property of a few large corporations, these corporations own the "right to plant," prohibit farmers from saving seed from their harvests for next year's use, and charge a "tech fee" each time seed is purchased. What's next, a fee for the right to eat this stuff?

What some savvy terrorist might do with this technology some day is a really scary thought.

And then there's the question of how badly we really need this technology to increase the production of something that is already perpetually overproduced. Fifty years of that has already damaged or destroyed most of our rural communities and family farms.

Most of the world doesn't want this stuff anyway. At the very least we should insist on proper labeling so that consumers can make an informed choice. What are your thoughts on the issue?

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