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GMO’s and Australian Rabbits

Humankind has a consistent penchant for producing unintended consequences when it comes to tinkering with the complex natural systems of our planet.

Rabbits in Australia are a prime example. Europeans introduced them down-under in 1788. The idea was to breed them as food animals.

Innocent enough? The intention, yes. The consequence, no.

The mild Australian winter and vast areas of cultivated lowland created ideal conditions for an intense rabbit population explosion. By the mid-19th century, the population of rabbits was so dense in Australia that over 2 million of these pests were killed annually, with no noticeable effect on population levels. It is the fastest spread ever recorded of any mammal anywhere in the world. Rabbits are still proliferating wildly in Australia and wreaking havoc on native ecosystems. The rabbit is out of the bag.

Cut to 2012 where a debate is raging over the consumption of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s), food whose genetic code has been altered to produce a desired effect. It’s an alluring concept that promises, among other things, a panacea for ending world hunger.

But before you jump on the bandwagon, remember the rabbits of Australia.

All 2 Degrees products are GMO-free because we believe in a world without GMO’s.

Here’s why:

Though there has been much hype, genetic modification nearly always fails to live up to industry claims. GMO super rice, along with its promise to revolutionize malnutrition prevention in Asia, remains in the laboratory. A GM carrot, hailed as a revolutionary way to provide calcium, requires that you eat over 3 pounds to meet your daily recommended calcium requirements. The GM sweet potatoes marketed as resistant to the feathery mottle virus, failed miserably in Kenya and actually produced lower crop yields. In fact, the US Department of Agriculture has stated that there is hardly any conclusive evidence that GMO’s augment crop yield at all.

In cases where GM crops produce a higher yield, it is generally due to genetic modifications that make the crop either produce insecticides internally or become resistant to the pesticides the farmer puts on the crops. In the latter case, the insecticides are still present internally when you eat the crop; in the former, farmers use much more pesticide. Good for crop yield, but what about the consumer who eats this pesticide-laden food?

A GMO is the intellectual property of the company that develops it. American seed giant Monsanto is the patent-holder for many of the genetically modified seed in the world. While Monsanto champions GM crops as potential game changers for world hunger, they are banking billions from the sale of their genetically modified seed. And little has changed with respect to world hunger. What has changed is the aggregate price of GM seed, which has skyrocketed in the past decade, diminishing average farmer income and inflating big agro profits.

Starvation and malnutrition are among the biggest challenges facing humanity today. But we believe the greater answer is not tinkering with the genetic makeup of our crops to augment yield or nutritional value. According to the United Nations Food Programme there is enough food in the world to feed everyone; the problem is one of access due to poverty or isolation.

Modifying the genetic makeup of our food seriously threatens biodiversity and genetic robustness, both of which are essential for a healthy abundance of future food.

Finally, there is the question: is it safe for me to eat GMO’s? If you live in America, the FDA has taken a hands-off approach. Unless someone proves that a GMO is harmful, it is legal to sell with a GMO label.

Can you imagine any other consumer market regulated in this fashion? What if the FAA scrapped its aircraft safety requirements, and simply permitted any plane to fly as long as a crash hadn’t proved it unsafe? That doesn’t sound like a proactive, consumer-minded federal agency. The GMO stance of the FDA isn’t either.

One need only walk in the woods to see that the flora and fauna of our planet is naturally robust. Indeed, it’s the result of billions of years of genetic trial and error. While GMO’s could prove useful in a limited scope, the mass production and consumption of anthropogenic DNA could have unintended consequences. Just like the rabbits of Australia.

At 2 Degrees we believe that health-minded consumers want products produced by nature, not laboratories. Our products are GMO-free because we also believe the eradication of global hunger will flow from concerted action rather than magic-bullet crops. Buy a bar; give a meal. That’s a real and immediate impact.

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