Today there is a universal uproar, and rightly so, over the increasing presence of “Genetically Modified Organisms” – or “GMO”. Increasingly, the food which reaches our table has been altered in some way, not to increase its nutritional value, but to increase its yield, and therefore its monetary profits to the merchants.

We must first understand that it is possible to affect the growth of food positively, as well as negatively. To begin with, vegetable farming does not consist of going into the forests and jungles each harvest season and finding the crops needed for our survival. We methodically prepare the ground, dispense with the weeds, plant the seeds and usually add fertilizer, to insure production of the exact crop which we are seeking. We do many other things to control the quality and variety of our produce. Some are positive, some are negative, and some have little or no effect upon the nutritional value of the food in question.

I first became aware of this as a young Minister when I received some documented information from a Brother attending the Mosque that some common vegetable which we were eating was being subjected to controls which we identified as “grafting”. At the earliest opportunity, I consulted The Honorable Elijah Muhammad. He reassured me that if we totally avoided grafted food, we would have very little left in our diet. He informed me that the white and yellow corn which we eat is not in its original stage. Corn growing naturally, he pointed out, resembled what we referred to as “Indian corn” – with different colored kernels all over it. Some grafting, he noted, did reduce the nutritional value in foods, such as utilizing only the part of wheat which would produce white flour, which has no nutrition at all, while discarding all of the nutritious parts of the wheat.

To emphasize the value of some grafted foods, he chose one that he knew I loved. He said that my eyes, my nose and my mouth would bear witness that we grafted the watermelon from the cucumber.

Like anything carried too far, however, the public is now paying an increasingly horrible price for the ever-escalating practice of “genetic modification” of various foods. Our sisters were always encouraged by The Messenger to nurse their babies as long as possible. While it was merely an intelligent option then, it has become almost a life-preserving necessity now. Some doctors are tracing a wide range of ailments, from acne to childhood diseases, to the consumption of cow’s milk. Besides not providing enough calcium, the milk on today’s market shelves are blamed for providing hormones which contribute to early puberty in our children, causing children to be resistant to antibiotics prescribed by doctors for childhood diseases because of the antibiotics given to cows, as well as making children susceptible to juvenile diabetes.

Recently (June 3rd), the NEW YORK TIMES pointed out two examples of half-hearted attempts to combat the problem. McDONALD’S, the paper said, asked suppliers to stop shipping genetically modified potatoes, but still cooks their french fries in vegetable oil made from genetically modified corn and soybeans. Meanwhile, says the TIMES, PEPSICO announced discontinuance of the use of genetically modified corn in the chips produced by its FRITO-LAY division, but continues to use corn syrup made from the modified corn in the production of its flagship soft drink, Pepsi Cola.

In early November,1999, The WASHINGTON POST News Service accused “scientists and drug companies” of concealing six deaths resulting from gene therapy from the National Institutes of Health, and from the public. I guess “What you don’t know won’t hurt you” – it will just kill you!