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Saturday, August 20, 2022


University owes it to students to tell them what’s in their food

Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

Simply putting a label indicating whether food like basa has been affected by harmful steroids made by companies like Monsanto could do wonders to assuage concerns about what’s in our food. | Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

If you visited the CampusDish website this Sunday, you probably saw basa on the menu. They’re a little like catfish, but uglier — the ugliest fish you’ve ever seen. The only thing uglier than the fish is its likely methods of distribution in Vietnam, where food additive regulations are basically nonexistent.

Bred in the Mekong River, basa lies among the nation’s cheapest investments. In a dissertation on the subject, Margaux Grosman of Griffith University cites the low cost as high returns for affluent entities. But from Trader Joe’s and Adli to Whole Foods and Marsh Supermarkets, grocery chains are tentative to join the equation.

One of this equation’s biggest benefactors is Monsanto. Its website proclaims it as a “sustainable agriculture company” focused on “empowering farmers large and small to produce more from their land.” This is a polite way of saying “we sell steroids at reasonable rates.”

Last week, business was good. Thomson Reuters reported Monsanto appeals from more than 73 American farmers, seed companies and public advocacy groups challenging their authority in Supreme Court. These American heroes intend to “challenge Monsanto’s aggressive claims on genetically engineered seed patents and to halt the company’s aggressive lawsuits against anyone whose fields are contaminated” by genetically modified organisms.

They’re losers — RT News logged more than 100 successful lawsuits by Monsanto for patent infringement — but they’re persevering nonetheless, fighting the good fight.

But companies are fighting about the wrong thing. Monsanto is worried farmers are accidentally stealing steroids; farmers are worried Monsanto will sue them for the accident. No one is worried about the steroids themselves, or the fact that these steroids accidentally end up on farms, or that these accidental incidents accidentally land on dinner tables around the world.

From Auckland, New Zealand, to the viewing rooms in Moody Towers, it’s hard to gain immunity. It’s even harder to stay immune because size matters, and Monsanto is aware of this.

The only variable more significant than the quantity of its produce is the cost — a variable largely contingent upon the weight of the haul.

In an investigation on similarly “improved” salmon, Time Magazine said the extra genes “keep a vital growth hormone activated rather than shutting it down after a point.” It’s like when you’ve gone to get your shots from the doctor; only here, it’s the threat that’s being injected. The side effects just so happen to make the fish fatter.

And there are repercussions. You don’t just eat poison like a Pop-Tart. In 2005, nine years after the genes’ 1996 introduction, Johns Hopkins University’s Kathryn Ann Paez noted the number of Americans with chronic illnesses had doubled. Food allergies skyrocketed. Autism, reproductive disorders and digestive problems multiplied.

The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t require a single safe study. Most genetically modified crops inherit herbicide-tolerant traits and once a farmer’s introduced GMOs to his till, they will likely outlive his children’s children. Self-propagating GMO pollution outlasts global warming and nuclear contamination.

Nor is it a secret. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit saw a case in June regarding the “incidental” spreading of Monsanto’s genetic traits. If the government’s word isn’t good enough, Dr. Oz defamed the merits of genetically inordinate produce on daytime television.

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine defamed the merits of genetically inordinate produce to all medical personnel. There are petitions, online and physical, requesting permission to know what it is that we’re eating in America. Houston Real Food Nutrition amassed statistics for a film, and Montrose instigated a “March Against Monsanto” last month.

In light of all this open negative publicity of Monsanto, UH could do a better job of putting the information out there.

It’s as simple as labeling which meals have been subjected to GMOs. You can even tell us the ones that haven’t. We’re already halfway there: Our dining halls have nutrition cards detailing caloric quantity, fat and cholesterol.

There’s a surplus of information detailing how the food’s been made. We just need to know what it is that we’re eating. We can slip them right beneath the labels in small print. We can slip them under the campus dish nutrition tab in italics. We just need it there.

And there’s plenty of time after Sunday’s blackened basa at the bistro; we’ll be grilling the fish on sliders two days afterward — not that it’ll be a problem. We won’t run out.

Senior staff columnist Bryan Washington is an English junior and may be reached at [email protected]


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