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Jim Hightower
Jim Hightower
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Food for Thought

Comment

In this joyous season, friends and family come together to cook, share and savor nature's bounty. As we tuck into food and drink this year, we can be especially appreciative because — wow! — another scientific breakthrough has been made in food production.

"The benefit is something that can be identified just about by everybody," exulted Neal Carter, who helped produce this long-awaited advance for humankind. Is it a miraculous cancer-fighting food? No, bigger than that. Is it a richly decadent chocolate that helps eaters lose weight? No, bigger even than that. What we have here is — are you ready? — apple slices that don't turn brown!

Is this fabulous or what? Non-browning apple slices — another marvel from the biotechnology profiteers who love to mess with the genetic makeup of the world's food supply. And this is truly a global accomplishment. The science of non-browning was pioneered in potatoes by Australian gene-splicers, who licensed the process to Carter. He's a Canadian peddler of apple trees who hopes that American apple growers will now rip out their old-fashioned natural orchards and plant these biotech wonders of modern science, paying a nice profit to his company.

But it's going to be a hard sell. "Genetically modified," said the head of Washington state's apple commission, "that's a bad word in our industry." He's referring to the fact that consumers routinely reject foods they know to be altered. In fact, consumers are demanding more organic production, not stuff from a gene factory.

Also, Carter could not have chosen a worse product to turn into a lab rat. Apples are the very symbol of nutrition and health, a perfect snack for children. Why mess with it? Besides, mothers know that a little lemon water is all it takes to keep apple slices from browning.

This technology has no benefit for consumers, but it could fatten the bottom line of big-box retailers, allowing them to sell old, inferior apples that look fresh only because they're still white.

That's gross. But other biotech corporations love to play with our food, even though we don't like it when they do.

So what happens when ordinary folks organize to stop the Frankenstein-ification of our foods? They sometimes get defeated.

For example, in Ohio, such biotech powerhouses as Monsanto and Eli Lilly are the profiteers behind an artificial growth hormone that induces dairy cows to produce more milk. This stuff is not good for the cows, and it produces nutritionally inferior milk. It also horrifies consumers — who tend to get a bit testy at the thought of having what actually is a sex hormone added to the milk their children drink.

However, big milk marketers like the idea of squeezing out more milk per cow, for it fattens their bottom lines. The only problem is that little matter of consumer rejection. But the biotechers and marketers fixed that by getting federal regulators to declare that adulterated milk need not be labeled as such. In short, the industry, the government and even the cows know about the sex hormones, but consumers are kept in the dark.

Nonetheless, many organic and smaller dairy businesses have had the audacity to label their products as "hormone-free," and consumers have rushed to them. This spurred the hormone hucksters into a cross-country lobbying frenzy, demanding that various state governments ban hormone-free labels.

Ohio swallowed this corporate line, outlawing labels that tell consumers what's NOT in their milk. Now, however, in a case brought by the Organic Trade Association, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that such bans are not only ridiculous, but unconstitutional, violating the free speech rights of dairy producers who want to be straight with consumers.

The court's decision is a major defeat for the 15-year effort by the corporate powers to hide their perfidy from milk buyers. To learn more, contact the Organic Trade Association: www.ota.com.

To find out more about Jim Hightower, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2010 CREATORS.COM



Comments

6 Comments | Post Comment
That GM apple is being altered in my back yard. For anyone that's not aware of BC and the people that live in this province, we have one of the lowest numbers of GMO crops, trees and plants in the world. This is because we have GE Free zones within BC, and we work hard to keep it that way. This apple will not just be a hard sell: thousands have and will continue to protest and surround the buildings of the manufacturer. Should it come to fruition, the US will likely be the country to sell it under. Until then, should they plant a single GE tree in BC, it will likely be cut down. We don't take this crap lightly.
Comment: #1
Posted by: AprilR
Wed Dec 15, 2010 12:25 PM
The funniest thing about this is a browning-resistant apple already exists. It's called a cortland, and it is an heirloom cross between a McIntosh and a Ben Davis. They're not GMO, they've been around for roughly a century, and they are delicious. I have one growing in my back yard.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Lee Einer
Wed Dec 15, 2010 5:36 PM
"This technology has no benefit for consumers, but it could fatten the bottom line of big-box retailers, allowing them to sell old, inferior apples that look fresh only because they're still white."
This is not true at all. There are two stages of browning in apples, the first one happens when an enzyme is released that makes them first turn brown. This stage is not a sign that the apple has gone bad. It is when the second stage of browning occurs that the apple has gone bad. What this change does is prevent the first stage of browning from occurring. So basically, you have an apple that continues to look good until it actually goes bad. Then it wouldn't look good anymore.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Karl Haro von Mogel
Sat Dec 18, 2010 10:57 AM
There could be some benefits for consumers with this trait. For instance, school cafeterias try to offer fruits and veggies to students, but they have to pre-prepare all the food before lunchtime. Apples sliced in the morning would be brown by lunch, and would not be very appealing to kids. Even if you splash lemon juice on the apples, the flavor gets changed and not everyone will like that. There is the potential here to get more kids eating apples rather than buying skittles for lunch. The other benefit would be indirect - lowering the cost of producing packages of pre-sliced apples, for instance. We wouldn't want apple slices to get a competitive edge over potato chips, now would we?

Unfortunately, Jim Hightower has already decided what he believes with regard to genetic engineering in agriculture, and will put up any reason to criticize it because it fits into his "GMO = profiteering corporations" narrative. For everyone else, though, there is Biofortified.org, an independent group blog I co-founded, written by plant scientists and other volunteers. We also have a post up that explains how the non-browning apple works, and Neal Carter stopped by the blog to say hi. Search for "Would You Eat a Brown Apple?" (Since it appears that URLs are blocked in these comments.)
I invite people to join the conversation.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Karl Haro von Mogel
Sat Dec 18, 2010 10:59 AM
Re: Karl Haro von Mogel
You troll. Don't you have a better way of spending your time than to harass those of us who already know the truth about the pitfalls of genetic engineering? Clearly, you are not going to persuade anyone in this forum to change their minds, so why bother?
Go away. Don't you have some Third World population to exploit or something?
Comment: #5
Posted by: rural_gal
Mon Dec 20, 2010 8:51 AM
Re: Karl Haro von Mogel
You troll. Don't you have a better way of spending your time than to harass those of us who already know the truth about the pitfalls of genetic engineering? Clearly, you are not going to persuade anyone in this forum to change their minds, so why bother?
Go away. Don't you have some Third World population to exploit or something?
Comment: #6
Posted by: rural_gal
Mon Dec 20, 2010 8:51 AM
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