For the sixth installment of Kitchen Table Talks on Oct. 27, about 60 people gathered at the SUB-Mission Gallery in the Mission District of San Francisco to join renowned U.C. Berkeley Microbial Ecologist Ignacio Chapela and Center for Food Safety attorney Zelig Golden for a lively conversation about the past, present and future of genetically engineered food.
For more than a decade, one of the largest genetic experiments in history has been taking place and all of us have been unwitting, or at least non-consenting, participants. According to the Center for Food Safety, up to 85 percent of U.S. corn, 91 percent of soybeans, and 88 percent of cotton (cottonseed oil is often used in food products), is genetically engineered, which means an estimated 70 percent or more of all processed foods on supermarket shelves–from soda to soup, crackers to condiments–contain genetically engineered ingredients.
Whether it’s referred to as GMO, genetic engineering, transgenic manipulation, or recombinant DNA, the process is the same — DNA molecules from different sources are combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes. As he provided a brief historical overview, Ignacio Chapela explained that when transgenic manipulation began in the 1970s, it was the most radical change to ever occur in the domestication of food. “We’re not talking about beer or yogurt making here. When you alter life in this way [using genetic engineering], it has a universal effect on things that are far beyond what the human eye can see or the human mind can imagine.” Read more