Bees, GMOs, and the Fight Over Choice

When you boil them down, fights over what we eat -- whether it's the antibiotics in livestock, or taxes on soda -- are fights over choice. Avoid all of the antibiotics you want, but that's not going to save you from the superbugs. Stay away from every ounce of sugar in your beverages, but that won't keep you from having to spend money fighting the obesity epidemic. In both cases, the lack of choice by those not consuming the products is what's being fought over. And that's the same way with the GMO fight.

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If you're in the pro-GMO contingent, it's easy to simply say, "Well, if you don't like it, why not just buy items without GMOs?" The problem with that, as we're seeing more and more clearly, is that it's nearly impossible to do so.

This fact was illustrated once again in a recent case from Mexico. At stake was whether or not the Mexican state of Yucatan should allow Monsanto to plant their Roundup-ready soybeans there. (The GMO company was previously given the go-ahead from Mexico's agriculture ministry to plant 625,000 acres throughout seven different states in the country.) The argument for withdrawing the approval was that such planting would negatively impact the state's honey industry.

See, Yucatan has over 25,000 families within its borders whose livelihood relies on the production of honey. And a big part of that livelihood is being able to sell said honey to European countries. The problem is a lot of European countries have a strict stance against purchasing items with GMOs inside. But how do GMO soybeans affect the bee population? Well, according to the presiding judge, "co-existence between honey production and GM soybeans is not possible."

If GMO crops are allowed to be planted, bees will begin pollinating those crops, and GMOs will thusly find their way into the honey. It's impossible to keep the two separate. Once GMOs are introduced, you can't stop their advancement.

In his ruling the judge cited a series of scientific tests, including one from the nearby state of Campeche, which looked at bee pollen that was produced after 25,000 acres of the GM soybeans had been planted. The samples they collected showed enough evidence of GM pollen that Campeche also ruled to give Monsanto the boot. (A third case is also pending in the state of Chiapas, with all signs pointing they'll follow the same logic.)

Now, a decision this big doesn't end with the ruling of a district judge.

The main point of legal contention at stake here is the section of the Mexican constitution that guarantees a right to the indigenous people to choose what grows on their land. This choice -- as are the choices detailed above -- is circumnavigated when GM soybeans are planted. Now, if we've learned anything over the years, it's that the rights of indigenous people are "highly flexible" in the eyes of the law, meaning this case is going to work its way up the ladder to a higher court. As long as Monsanto has money to burn -- and, spoiler, they do -- this will drag out.

The fact is, GMO crops are not something that can be contained. Until there's a way for GMO producers to guarantee their crops will not end up spreading their genetic modifications to other realms -- which is something they can't guarantee, and the fact at the heart of most anti-GMO sentiment -- their production puts us all at risk.

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