Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Corn, a Worm, and the GMO Debate

I found a worm.  In my corn.

Eew.

Ok, I know that corn worms are pretty common.  I can deal with that.  I also know that if you inspect your corn properly, you can avoid the things.

The problem is that I never had to worry about it.  I used to always buy frozen corn.  When I decided that it was time to get fresh corn, it was very delightful.  I bought it at the farmers market that I enjoyed in my desert home.  Never once did I run into a worm problem.

Well, ok, that's a lie.  I did find a worm once that had bored into the core of an apple via the stem, but never had I gotten a worm in the corn I bought... and I bought a lot of corn from the amazing organic farm family that sold my vegetables.

The corn that I found the worm inside of was not organic.  I knew this, yet bought it anyway.  I felt bad about not buying any corn for my husband and daughter, who love the stuff, so I gave in and bought a couple of ears.

Big mistake.


Yeah, I know.  Worst picture ever!  My excuse is a mixture of bad lighting and total freakout.  I couldn't get a non-blurry photo to save my life!  Ok, I didn't try for very long... but... Eew!  Can you really blame me?

Anyway, this was an ear of Bt corn.  Bt corn is a GMO (genetically modified organism) that has been modified to create its own pesticide in order to kill these things.  That's right.  When you bite into an ear of Bt corn, you're biting into something that's designed to kill things.

That's... perfectly safe... right?  I mean, it's not like the toxin actually stays in our bodies.  And it most certainly wouldn't pass through a pregnant woman's placenta to her unborn child... right?  There are a few pregnant women in Quebec that may disagree with that.

That link in my preceding paragraph is to the actual study.  Not an anti-GMO website, not an abstract, but the actual study.  Read it.  Regardless of which side of the GMO debate you're on, you need to be informed.  Don't just read things that agree with your own views.  Read everything you can.  It's the only way to truly understand an issue.

As you have guessed, I'm not the biggest fan of GMOs.  Ok, in actuality, I despise the whole concept.  There's just something inherently wrong with combining viruses, bacterium, or pesticides/herbicides with our food and saying that there is 'no significant difference' between the new organism and its non-engineered counterpart.

I also have a problem with a company's ability to conduct its own research on a new product without any sort of cross-studies being done by outside sources, then being able to claim it is safe for human consumption simply by giving the results to a government scientist.

Excuse me?!  Results can be doctored.  I want the data that produced those results.  Ohhhh, but that is proprietary information.  That doesn't need to be shown to anyone before we give something to the general population.

And GMOs aren't labelled, so any problems that might arise can't be traced back to the source.

Hmmm...

Maybe they are safe for human consumption.  Maybe there's no need to worry about them.

But we can't visit their labs.  We can't see what happens behind closed doors.  We don't know anything of any real value about these tests.

That's my problem.

What does this have to do with the worm I found inside my corn?  It was Bt corn resistant.  The worm I found was perfectly alive and healthy... until I used mother nature's best pest control.  I squished it.

My organic corn never had any worm problems.  The farmer and his family checked the ears that were brought to market, and ensured I never received any worm infested nastiness.  Simple.  Honest.

Bt corn is supposed to take care of this problem.  Obviously, that didn't happen here.  We're supposed to idly sit by and ingest a plant that produces its own toxin, and yet, it's not even doing the job that it claims it is.

So what job is it doing?
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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mrs Foster:
I'm afraid you have been misled.
It's true that BT core has been modified to release a toxin to kill worms, but it only releases this toxin when the core is 2-4" tall, and it is designed to kill the "corn borer" worm- which drills into the stock of these young plants. That in turn weakens the stock and it falls over, basically killing the young plant or making it unable to grow corn.
The type of worm that you found is so uncommon now-a-days because of modern day chemicals which are sprayed on the entire corn plant weeks before it's picked for human consumption. So you're good! Jimm

Rebecca Foster said...

Your facts are all correct, Jimm. Thank you!

I'd have to disagree with one point, however: "So you're good!" is where I take issue. The problem, as I see it, has to do with pesticides, both within the corn, and as you mentioned, outside of it. These pesticides have been found within human bodies, even going as far as to pass through the placental barrier to a fetus (see Quebec link above - that one deals with canola, rather than corn, but the same toxin is involved). Genetic modification does nothing to ensure these crops aren't sprayed, so risk is still high.

Indeed, even without pesticides being sprayed onto the corn, I'm hesitant to eat anything which is designed to kill... because no outside sources can review the methodology involved with GMO research. Nobody, that is, except for a poor overworked government employee who only sees the results of that research.

It may be harmless. It may be perfectly safe. But I want scientists that don't receive benefits from the company to tell me that, and thus far that hasn't happened.

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