Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Consumer Minefield

During the Christmas gift opening that I participated in, I was reminded of the most recent article in a series on Celias. The Food Revolution, Genetic Engineering, Part III examines the prevalence of genetically modified foods in current agribusiness. What does gift giving have to do with GM foods? Because it extends to non-food items as well.

The item that caught my attention was a set of soy candles. I know someone who has decided to switch from standard wax candles because they are derived from oil and switch to the slightly more expensive soy candles. The theory being to reduce the oil distillates needed to support their lifestyle. Beeswax was also considered and is used, but as an everyday candle, rejected due to the expense.

This is yet another case where even a mindful consumer trying to make a difference might be having unintended consequences. (my current favorite though is diesel vs gasoline vs hybrid). For GM soybeans, while the consumer isn't eating the end product, there are still impacts as pointed out in the Celsias post. Cross polination with non-GM versions, gene sharing with weeds, improvement of insect species to resist, increased pesticide use, intensive nitrogen fertilizer use. And again, since nothing that is GM is required to be labeled, a consumer can't be aware that their new soy candles aren't contributing to another problem.

I haven't avoided and haven't concerned about eating GM food products (and certainly have, given their prevalence) for the most part, though I do integrate organic foods when available. I'll continue to look for organic when available, and I think I'll definitely be making a switch to eat less meat and eat more organic certified meats or wild caught fish.

The piece reads on the alarmist side, but does educate quite while on the massive scale that GM crops and their attendant chemicals are being used, and unintentionally spreading. Parts I and II are also available.