by Christopher Arnett
Native Foods Cafe
Seems strange, right? Well, apparently they do exist. But do they have it all wrong, or do they know something the rest of us don’t? Either way, it’s good to know about. I first encountered this unique sector of the vegan community when I received a comment in response to a blog I had posted a couple of weeks ago on the destruction of a GMO wheat crop in Australia by Greenpeace activists. It turns out that at least in Chicago (coincidentally the newest home of Native Foods Café), vegans are exploring the potential benefits of GMO’s with an open mind.
In his comment, Dave of Vegan Chicago suggested that using transgenic (the gene swapping that occurs during genetic modification) methods are actually less risky because only a few genes are manipulated as opposed to the hundreds of thousands that are exchanged in traditional breeding. He went on to say that genetic engineering could not only make food more nutritious, but actually benefit the environment by requiring less agricultural inputs (chemicals, equipment, seeds, etc.). In fact, he even said that the implementation of GMO technology would ultimately help to abate animal testing, provide more alternatives to animal sources for medicines and food, and help vegans by providing plant-based sources of nutrients that vegans traditionally struggle to obtain. Wow! News to me! Well, I was intrigued and welcomed the opportunity to expand my knowledge of this issue, so I listened to the pod cast Dave graciously provided. A GMO- supporting vegan activist. Who knew? Click HERE and listen for yourself!
In the podcast, Dr. Kevin Folta, molecular biologist from the University of Florida, offers his reasons in attempt to dispel ungrounded fears and educate the public on the benefits of GMOs. He affectionately uses the term “Frankenfoods” when discussing GMO’s, but makes it clear that just because it was genetically modified does not mean it is automatically harmful. Human intervention has played a part in the genetic modification of plants since the beginning of agriculture through cross-breeding and selection (take a look at pics of teosinte corn and wild bananas), so we humans have had been genetically modifying our food from the get go. Dr. Folta goes on to say that the genetic engineering of crops is a viable science with positive benefits such as providing a tremendous yield and producing more disease and weather-resistant types. Dr. Folta made another good point when he said that most anti-GMO supporters accept the cross-breading of plant species to improve crops (which involves the transfer of tens of thousands of genes with unpredictable results), but reject genetic engineering that typically only transfers a very small number of genes in a highly controlled environment. Hmm. Something to think about, right?
This is only the tip of the iceberg, and the GMO issue is a huge one. Admittedly, I don’t know everything on the subject (like most people), but with research and informed commentary from people like Dave and his group, it’s a first step. If any readers have information they would like to share that would help shed light on this topic, please post in the comments section!