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Holy crop! Millenials get involved in GMO debate

By Andrea VegaColumnist

Many Hofstra students are well aware of our school’s solid commitment toward sustainability – the means of living that will leave as little environmental impact as possible so that future generations may not be harmed.

Hofstra University purchases food from local farmers, has two edible gardens located on campus and offers B.A., B.S. and M.A. programs in sustainability studies. The required reading for incoming students this fall was “The Good Food Revolution” by author and activist Will Allen.

Chances are, if you’ve eaten produce from the Student Center, some of it was actually grown on campus. Even so, genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, still make their way into the food here.

Hofstra opened up the floor for a Pride and Purpose debate on Dec. 5 to discuss whether the United States should enact stronger regulations against GMOs.

The University chose to present the widespread controversial topic directly to the minds of students, the next leading generation of our society, to assert the notion that once we graduate, it will be one of the significant issues facing our era.

Arguing for the enactment of stronger regulations against GMOs were Michael Hansen, a senior staff scientist of the Consumers Union, and Bhavani Jaroff, an organic food chef, educator and food activist.

The team against stronger regulations consisted of Kevin Folta, associate professor in horticultural sciences at the University of Florida, and Gregg Dolan, associate professor of law at the University of Baltimore.

Hansen and Jaroff strongly believed that GMOs are not as safe as many people are led to believe and that the U.S. should, at the very least, label foods that are GMOs so that consumers can have clear options when grocery shopping.

Folta and Dolan defended the idea that the fight against GMOs is fueled entirely by fear and not by science, and sterner regulations would hinder not only scientific growth, but also the mass production of food that could help millions of starving people.

Folta claimed that GMO corporations are not out to poison people and the technology and procedures used to modify fruits and vegetables are totally safe and cause no more risk than regular plant breeding.

However, the long-term ramifications of tampering with food genes have not yet been extensively researched or properly publicized. Hansen made an interesting point that despite the mass production of food, there are millions of people still starving all over the world and that this is not entirely by reason of malnutrition but by misdistribution, instead. The people who really need it are not getting it.

Pesticides leak into the soil in which food is grown, contaminating the land and hindering its fertility as well as eventually seeping into streams and rivers. According to Jaroff, 65 countries require labels on GMOs and 26 have banned them altogether. She says the real fear is not from people, but from the bioengineers and corporations that produce GMOs.

In relation with chemicals that bring up environmental and health concerns, the ravenous, almost predatory, appetite of GMO corporation giant, Monsanto, has brought up concerns of turning agriculture too much into a business solely for profit. Even Dolan and Folta admitted that Monsanto was a corporation that in the end is out to make money.

Buying out a huge number of companies we regularly eat food from and forcing farmers to re-buy seed each year instead of replant seed produced from the crops they yield has caused the exploitation of both farmers and consumers.

Although the production of new technology is essential for the growth of intellect and advancement of civilization, our generation needs to understand that relying on other sources for our standard of living only hinders the typical person’s ability to distinguish between assistance and control.

We may harm not only ourselves but also the environment if stricter regulations and safety assessments are not made throughout the entire process of GMO product development.

 

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