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MANNO: Monsanto legislation leaves bad taste

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Manno2WEBIt’s inevitable: With new times and technologies come new reasons for science-fiction-style paranoia. I’ve heard the lot of it – cell phone signals fry brain cells, webcams are hacked for FBI infiltration (avoided with a piece of tape), social media keeping a permanent dialogue of our lives for some sort of future revenge. Maybe there’s a guy out there worried about a government takeover by an army of Segways. Who knows for sure?

I can’t say I’ve been kept from some of these myself – and if there’s one that’s gets my nerves in a knot recently, it’s the chemicals used in food production. So when I caught wind of the aptly-named “Monsanto Protection Act,” a provision attached to a continuing resolution in Congress last week which protects the producers of genetically modified food sources from any court dealings arising from their products’ health concerns, I sweat bullets.

A swipe of the president’s pen, and it’s cheeseburgers with a side of BT-corn and a large aspartame for all. I’m convinced this is where it all comes to a screeching halt. Every time I eat an acronym, it’s five minutes off my final years.

But you know, my paranoia isn’t all unwarranted. Many individual studies – such as one in 2011 by Canadian researchers, which found the insecticidal protein Cry1AB in the blood of pregnant women – point to the potential health risks of toying with Mother Nature this way.

The studies often draw harsh criticism from the likes of Monsanto and its pals. But regardless of conclusiveness, the research certainly doesn’t lean the other way far enough to warrant such legislation that can pull away the safety net of those affected by such chemicals. And while companies like Monsanto, the biotech mega-giant responsible for much of the supply of genetically modified seeds (as well as insecticides, weed killers, plastics) sit atop their newfound piles of money with a smug grin, any new discoveries in the research are for naught if you or I ever get sick from the stuff.

It’s just another sight of money reigning supreme in Congress. Lobbyists for the chemical giants fought hard to attach this nonrelated addition 78 pages deep into the budgetary measure. So what is there to do from here?

As an in-between after all this ruckus, I would hope to see a push for a 2007 Obama campaign promise to label foods containing GMOs in the supermarket. It doesn’t take the science experiments entirely out of our meals, but at least we’d know what’s going down the hatch. Maybe a public push for something like this could lure food suppliers away from their reliance on chemicals, especially if their sales were to drop in the stores. Like I said, not a solution, but a step in the right direction. I can only hope regulators like the FDA will sit up and take a good look at what’s going into the food supply before we all start growing tentacles.

Boy oh boy. Sobelman’s Eastside Grill is sounding scrumptious right about now.

Tony Manno is a junior double majoring in journalism and writing-intensive English. Email him at anthony.manno@marquette.edu.

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