I saw an amusing article that a seed company has created a hybrid food, a crossbreed between kale and brussel sprouts they’re calling Kalettes. Now even though kale and brussel sprouts are already hybrids derived from a common ancestral plant through the entirely artificial process of human creature of hybrids, this hybrid (sorta reverse hybrid) is being touted as some wonderful new superfood which will solve all your nutritional problems.
My question is simple: these Kalettes are obviously “artificial” and man-made, and by a seed company, no less, that will probably get some sort of patents and control access to the seed (just as much as Monsanto does), so why instead of the usual outrage thrown at GMO foods is this food, instead being viewed as some wonderful new innovation.
News flash: Almost nothing we eat is “natural”, meaning it just occurred via natural evolution in the environment and we just go harvest it. Almost all food is “artificial”, meaning that humans, for thousands of years have been selectively altering naturally occurring plants to maximize some trait we consider desirable. No one seemed to even know this or be the least bit concerned about it.
This old-fashioned cross breeding technology is very hit and miss and imprecise so in fact the breeders don’t know exactly which genes (traits) have been mixed up in the new hybrid. Yet somehow this imprecision is viewed as a perfectly fine way to create new foods (personally Kalettes seem awful and you won’t find me trying them). I guess it’s just romantic to think of people in white coats collecting pollen and spreading it around in completely artificial ways.
So not long ago we got some science. We really learned what genes are. We can read the complete sequence of DNA of most any organism. We learned what genes do what and can thus make the decision to modify plants (and in rare cases animals) in a completely engineered way. Putting a new gene into a plant with GMO technology is actually quite complex and requires a lot more understanding of transcription, its regulation, and translation than the old-fashioned breeders did. In other words, in GMO plants we actually know what it was we did to modify the plant, not the guesswork on old-fashioned breeding.
But somehow the public has been terrorized into believing that GMO is some bizarre and obviously terrifying and wrong thing to do. I suspect much of this, as with many things, is pure ignorance of science. Perhaps many people have some intuitive notion of pollen and pollination, but few have any clue about genomics, regulators, promoters, exons and introns, spliceosome, etc. It’s makes their head spin. It’s far easier just to declare advanced and controlled lab techniques as some frankenstein process by mad scientists and greedy seed companies and then throw outrage at the spread of such foods. Now one might ask, if the foods are so bad and so expensive, why do farmers embrace them? But now, we give this issue our 15 second attention span and our biases (often created by deliberate PR campaigns) and just declare GMO is awful and should be stopped.
But of course “natural” breeding is going to create superfoods!
Come on, people. You are free, IMHO, to eat whatever you want, but don’t try to turn your personal preferences and scientific ignorance into a political campaign to deny me what I want. You’re just flat out wrong about GMO and furthermore you’re a sucker for some vested interests that are feeding your propaganda.
Now I saw about this new superfood in the fact-free and wrong-information-filled section of HuffingtonPost. I admit a weakness, I sometimes do like to read that rag. But since I’ve become more aware of my own nutritional issues and thus sought real and accurate science-based information I have also become aware of how stupid the vast majority of the articles are in HuffPo’s healthy living section. There is some much stupidity and ignorance there I’ve developed rant-fatigue, I simply don’t have the time or energy to denounce all the stupidity I find there. But this article, touted as wonderful, just proves the point. This new hybrid is just as much a frankenfood as anything out of Monsanto’s labs, yet the trendy crowd at HuffPo don’t get that. And of course neither do their readers.
I really wish that public discourse and debate could be based on facts and reason, instead of bias, emotion and trendiness, but I guess we don’t live in that world – too bad. So hopefully any folks who read this can get a little nugget of truth – understand food before you either denounce it or proclaim it.