Imagine yourself walking underneath the scorching sun in the middle of the Gobi desert and you got no more water in your jug. You are so thirsty that you can’t even feel your feet touching the hot sand and just when you are about to faint, you see an oasis nearby; you almost leap for joy just by the mere sight of it. So, you plunged into the water like there is no more tomorrow, gulp every bit of water your tummy can take without even minding the camels’ poop floating just in front of you. And the worst case is you don’t mind at all. Why? It’s not like you have a choice. How about this one? When you see a sweet looking cake topped with mouth-watering shiny chocolates will you be willing to dig your teeth in without even knowing first what it is made of? Or even ask yourself — Is it even edible? Even the sweetest chocolate expires. When you smell something good while heading your way to the office wouldn’t you want to stop for a while and find out where the smell is coming from--why it smells so tasty? Hunger has always been associated with food. The same thing goes with thirst and water. But before digging in and filling that hunger, isn't it more fit to delve in first into its origins before putting a big chunk of food inside your mouth?
Take this for example: “Greenpeace called for greater scrutiny of the country’s GMO approval system as it welcomed the Supreme Court decision to grant a Writ of Kalikasan in favor of the petition to stop field trials of the genetically-modified organism (GMO) BT eggplant in the Philippines”. Alright! Greenpeace did it again! Of course, this wouldn’t be hard for you to comprehend if you are an environment activist-- but what if you’re not? Wouldn’t you want to ask yourself first--what is it about? Well, it doesn’t hurt to know. I bet you would ignore it if you happen to see it flashing on your newsfeeds just by the time you open your Facebook account. I mean, no offense meant but a typical teen cares nothing but to care about his interests and how to make his life a little less boring. People who are in their twenties, mid twenties or late twenties, care more on establishing and stabilizing their careers. People who are in their thirties and forties are family centric. The fifties and sixties well, I don’t know exactly. The youth comprises almost half of the world’s population but sad to say, only 1 out of 1,000 is environmentally active. So, if you’ll sum the entire population, only 1 out of 500,000 is environmentally active. But it’s not like we don’t have a choice. We can turn the tides in favor to the environment. Raising awareness is one of the many things that you can do. And since we are living in the twenty-first century where social media plays a vital role, we should learn how to use it in favor to our cause and that is to have a healthier future for all.
But of course, before dwelling in to the main course, I think it is proper to educate ourselves first because it is safe not to assume that everybody knows about GMO. Have heard of it perhaps, but is not fully understood yet. Some might ask, “What is a GMO? Why is there a need to stop it?” and all the possible questions the mind can come up to.
Genetic Engineering is a process whereby genes from one organism are moved into the genome of another organism. In the case of genetically engineered foods, genes from bacteria or other plants or organisms are moved into foods such as soybeans, corn, potatoes, and rice to provide herbicide-tolerance and/or insect resistance to the plants. For example, genes from a fish have been inserted into strawberries and tomatoes to increase tolerance to cold. Salmons have been engineered to grow larger and mature faster and cattle have been enhanced to exhibit resistance to mad cow disease. Yes, GMO does produce good crops but are you willing to take the risk? Let’s put the salmon for example, more than 80 percent of the world’s fish stocks have been overharvested that’s why genetically engineered fishes such as salmons that grows 30 times faster and bigger was “invented” to counteract the damages associated with the public’s rising demand for seafood. Well, intentioned as that may sound but once it is released to the wild—wild salmons will prefer mating those (GE salmons) because they’re bigger—slowly killing the wild ones. Since they're 30 times bigger, releasing them to the wild will outrun the wild salmons of food, even other fishes--causing imbalance to the ecosystem. What’s so wrong about that? Studies also show that genetically engineered fishes are found deficient in certain vitamins and contain lower levels of omega-3. It’s like sticking a knife to your throat. Why settle for less when in fact you deserve more? Imagine a world full of imitations—still, nothing compares to the original.
In the Philippines, several non-government organizations headed by Greenpeace have scrutinized the production of genetically modified crops because of its viral impact to humans and the environment. The cultivation of genetically modified eggplants is perceived to be dangerous for human consumption and there are serious uncertainties regarding the safety and long-term impacts of GMOs. Many independent scientific studies provide clear evidence that GMOs such as Bt eggplant, as well as Bt corn, can negatively impact the liver, kidneys or blood when ingested. These man-made organisms, when planted in open fields, have also been found to crossbreed with natural species, endangering biodiversity. That’s why, Greenpeace, along with petitioners, filed a petition asking the Supreme Court for a writ of kalikasan and writ of continuing mandamus against GMO filed trials. The petition seeks to immediately stop the field trials of BT eggplant. It also puts into question the flawed government regulatory process for approving GMOs, and highlights the need for a genuine and comprehensive process of informing and consulting the public, as well as ensuring the safety of GMOs first on health and environmental grounds before they are released into the open.
Although technologies for genetically modifying foods offer dramatic promise for meeting some of the 21st century’s greatest challenge, it doesn’t hurt to know what you are eating or how it’s done. Like all new technologies, they also pose some risk, both known and unknown. But the question is-- are you willing to take the risk? It’s your call.
Sarah Jane Wales is an intern of Greenpeace Philippines' new media team from the University of Immaculate Concepcion in Davao City.