Interview at WBCSD:

Analysis by Amandine Dupont, Stéphanie Favre, Nina Probst, 2CA

" We become what we eat, by eating genetically modified organismes will we become genetic products ? "

On the 27th January, we interviewed an international society called WBCSD (World Business Council for Soustainable Development ). This association helps firms to improve their ecological image by doing consulting work. The members we could ask questions do not all agree on GMO (Genetically Modified Organismes) but feel in general rather positive about it. The opinions differ completely when it comes to the statement mentioned above.

In fact David, 30 years old, thinks that our way of life does not allow us enough time to investigate on our food and its origins. He argues that " when eating one does not really care about what one eats. " We totally agree on that. It is true that with the stress of modern life in our society we do not have the time to make inquiries about the products we buy. In addition to that there are many singles and people working full-time who look for food that are easy and quick to prepare and they do not care where these products come from. On the other side a mother who cares about the health of her children will be far more critical about food and she will look for natural and healthy products.

Another member of the society coming from an anglophone background thinks that " in many cases it does not matter what one eats because all the possible deficiencies can be made up by vitamins. "

This statement did quite shock us. It is certainly due to the fact that this person comes from America, that her culture is different from ours, ahead of us and therefore she judges eating habits differently. We still think it is a terrible vision that soon we shall all be fed by vitamins.

The last person we interviewed comes from Canada and she considers that nothing is really bad unless you overdo it. For instance scientists have found out that one glass of wine can be very beneficial for your health but on the other hand an excessive alcohol consumption becomes dangerous.

Concerning the question of information and labelling there is agreement among the members of the WBCSD. " All the information can be found easily, for instance via internet but the information meant for the public are highly commercial. It is true that when you take the time to go into all the commercial internet sites you will find a variety of information from laboratories and specialised firms and if you compare the two kinds of information you will see that they are selected and dealt with in different ways.

In fact " scientists will never tell everything for economical reasons. " We think that it is really frightening that our world is so much concentrated on money and economic growth that consumers will not be warned or informed of possible dangers. The media, too, have something to do with it. They will never tell us the whole truth and they will show us the positive aspects of GMO : " Badly channelled information. "

When it comes to labelling this can also be tricky because " whatever is not obvious is not labelled. " If, for instance we take strawberry yogurt the information on the label will not tell us where the colouring matters come from and the latter could be genetically modified.

In our view we have an advantage in Switzerland because our law compels producers to indicate the composition of the product on the label. This, for instance, is not the case in France. We do think that it would be most important to know the ingredients used in our food and that other countries should adopt the same law we have. On the other hand we are well aware of the fact that the composition of the product will never be complete.

All the members we interviewed think that the risks of GMO are not neglectable especially in the long run. Each of the members gave us a different example to emphasize their point of view.

Christine told us " it makes me think of all the horror films. " For her " leaving the natural standards leads to horrible things such as cloning. In addition to that the more our food is modified the more it loses its taste and man will gradually lose the pleasure food can give. "

We totally agree on that because if you compare a plate of soja coming from your garden with a plate of soja genetically modified we would certainely choose the first plate even if the look is less perfect and attractive than the second one. Our choice would be based on our conviction that the natural soja is healthier.

The Canadian lady thinks that the risks are not well known yet.She mentions a gelatin product that was highly recommended for babies in Canada. A few years later the same product was found to be dangerous for the baby's system.

It is true that the GMO is a recent phenomenon and that we do not have enough information yet to know all the risks in the long run.

The American lady thinks that this " evolution goes against all the laws of nature and that the biotechnology will destroy our biodiversity. " Man chooses the creatures he wants to take advantage of and he will forget about the remaing ones &endash; thus making them die out. Once a species has disappeared it is impossible to make it come back again. It is lost forever. According to my point of view this influences directly our life circle and the repercussions cannot be foreseen. "

We were then discussing the risks. Christine thinks that even if we discovered high risks about GMO research we could not stop it because " there are other applications than the ones in biotechnololgy. " She points out the crazy scientists " who would continue with their research work despite the dangers ". It is true that we have no guarantee that all scientists would follow the rules and indications. These problems, however, are well known to our modern world. If we take the human cloning we will never know for sure that human mankind will not play around with this new science and even if this is strictly forbidden by law we will never be l00 % sure.

Christine also thinks that " there could be some consequences for the soil. If all of a sudden we decided to stop all GMO on maize the modified genes would already be part of other plants without our knowing it. " It is evident that we will never be able to control nature completely and that in any case nature would take far too long to go back to its roots and become entirely " natural ".

Apart from that the whole biodiversity is in danger.Let us take the example of maize. Via GMO it has become resistant against la " Pyrale " and this is certainly highly appreciated by the farmer for economical reasons. He wants to produce more maize in less time using the smallest possible space. If you look at this from a global or ecological standpoint you will have to answer the question of what the Pyrate is going to eat. The latter becomes, so to speak, an endangered species. Many other specimens have died out because of other manipulations man did to nature.

Christine points out that " it is not due to biotechnology that the diversity of nature and fauna diminishes , it happened before and it will go on. " She adds that the pesticides are also responsible to this evolution but the GMO is certainly aggravating the problem.

We think that biotechnology cannot be held responsible for this extinction and that the pesticides in the soil have done a lot of damages. On the other hand we are convinced that the new technology is far more dangerous and that the consequences are very grave.

When we talk about GMO we think about the future. We are convinced that this is a problem of tomorrow and that today GMO products are not on the market yet or in very small quantities. Thinking about it more deeply one realises that the proportions are higher than one expected and that these genes, as Christine told us, " are to be found in the colouring matters, the preservatives, and so on. " We must say that Christine's answer somewhat astonished us. We were not aware of the fact that GMO were to be found in our every day's life. This shows clearly, that our information on this subject is poor and that this process has gone on for already quite a long time.

When it comes to talk about the futur of the GMO David he thinks that what is going on now is just the logical continuation of a process that has started in ancient times. " According to him we first adopted the wheat, then we cultivated it, we mixed it with other ingredients to make bread, and so on. " To some extent we agree on that, life has always been a kind of evolution, it never stays the same and changes all the time. On the other hand where are the limits to these changes ? Is it not too easy to try and to manipulate everything by saying " This is going to be okay, that is how life has to be and how human mankind will evolve. " Life is full of risks and without risks there are no discoveries and there is no evolution. The question to answer is where are our limits and where do we have to stop to interfere with natural laws.

Christine sees the future in a completely different way. She is convinced that there will be a strong movement against GMO and that the great dicoveries and developments will be in the medical field. " In any case the human race will need a lot of time to accept these new technologies and it will take about one or even two generations until they are fully tolerated. "

This shows that GMO does upset us. All the discussions, the movements for or against it reveal its problematic nature.

In the medical field GMO could stand for progress, for new drugs to cure terrible illnesses but we have to keep the risks in mind which could be even more terrible than the illnesses we want to cure.It is difficult, indeed, to have a clear and categorical point of view. If already the present situation is full of inconsistencies what will the future look like ?

One thing is for sure that this whole evolution will bring about a lot of uproars and discussions. On the other hand can we really stop progress ?

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