liveonearth (liveonearth) wrote,

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Biochemistry, GM Corn, John Mackey and Whole Foods

Last night I went to a biochem tutoring session that I had arranged the week prior. I arranged it because I didn't know if I would be able to get all the answers to my takehome quiz, but in fact I had just understood the final question when my tutoring hour began. The tutor (Josh) and I covered my relevant questions fairly quickly, and then he asked if I knew about the grocery named Whole Foods. I said I did, and in fact that I had dropped a chunk of cash into their stock lately. That was worth a high five. He started to talk about John Mackey, president of Whole Foods, who he said I would appreciate. Having just scanned a couple of links, I find that Josh was right.

In this interview ( Mackey is characterized as an "ex-leftist libertarian" (sounds interesting to me), and says that he is a fan of Ayn Rand, who is an authoress who influenced me greatly in my twenties. I look forward to having more time to read about his thinking. I certainly respect the business that he has created.

Josh also asked me what I think of corn. I said I think methanol (as fuel) is a joke, but I like popcorn. Josh talked about how corn is the most highly subsidized crop, and that is it used to make corn syrup. I responded that corn syrup is EVIL as a food can be, and that provoked another high five. Corn syrup is at least partly the reason for the outbreak of obesity and diabetes here in the States. I don't remember if Josh said that his dislike for the vegetable was influencing his behavior, but I am curious to know that.

Then this morning, being the nerd that I am, I cracked open my biochemistry text to see what today's lecture will be about. At the beginning of the metabolism section there was a blurb about corn. Many of the poorest people in the world eat lots of corn. Apparently corn is almost entirely devoid of the essential amino acids lysine and tryptophan. Both LYS and TRP are most abundant in meats and cheeses. I am buying less meat these days (trying to save $$) and eating less cheese since I figured out that I am lactose intolerant. And I do eat grits, after all. So this new tidbit of info supports my personal choice to supplement those two amino acids.

The biochemistry book blurb is about how researchers are working to genetically modify corn in order to increase its content of these two amino acids. The GM corn with the improved aa content is known as Quality Protein Maize. This genetic modification seems to me to be a benefit for our species. Many health food consumers think that anything GM is inherently evil and bad for you, or bad for the environment, but I don't see how that is true. Even if my corn has fish genes, or tomato genes, or bat genes in it, the corn can still be good.

The evil that I see in genetic modification of food is what Monsanto is doing. They are changing the crops of the world such that they cannot reproduce, as life always has. They do this in order to force farmers to buy seed from them annually. This is evil. I fear that these strains might breed with the existing strains of food crops and sterilize all of them. This is not the same as improving the nutritional content of a food.
Tags: amino acids, food, genetic engineering, monsanto

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