GM: Doesn’t just stand for General Motors

And by that I mean that GM also stands for Genetically Modified. Genetically Modified foods or GMO’s have become extremely popular in recent years and have been making a big splash with the media, but what are they?

I turned Food and Water Watch, a watchdog organization, to help me explain the complex web of issues associated with Genetically Modified Organisms. The practice of modifying foods began in the early 1990’s. The intended purpose of this practice is to design crops to better suit their consumers (us) by making them taller, bigger, tastier and with specialized traits to be bug, weed, cold and disease resistant. For example, too many weeds bothering your crops? Add a gene to repel weeds! This is exactly what the producers of Roundup, a popular herbicide, did with their line of seeds that are weed resistant. The range of altered foods has expanded in recent years with no sign of slowing. The most commonly modified crops include tomatoes, corn, wheat, potatoes, and soybeans. The Obama Administration and the USDA have approved a unprecedented wave of GMO crops which now has expanded to include the modification of animals. The point of me telling you this is because genetically modified foods appear in our everyday foods without our knowledge. We consume these experimental foods on a daily basis and honestly it scares me. It makes me feel like I am part of a science experiment and I do not appreciate it.

The most recent media attention has been given to the issue of genetically modified salmon. These genetically modified salmon are engineered to grow twice as fast as normal salmon so they can be sold and consumed faster. There is a lot of surrounding uncertainty as to the safety of eating these fish. The FDA has been accused of not adequately testing the effects of eating GM animals on the human body. The FDA has apparently has also declined to do its own safety testing, largely relying on the studies of companies producing these products… a little suspicious… It is unclear how eating massive amounts of genetically altered foods will affect the human body in the long run. Also, there is the question of what will happen if these genetically modified organisms escape into the wild. With regard to GM salmon, if they were to escape from the fish farms where they are bred and mix with their natural counterparts, the consequences are unknown.

Genetically Modified foods have their pros and cons as with any issue. The pro that cannot be ignored is the potential that GM crops have to feed people here in America and around the world. These GM varieties have already been introduced into developing countries or countries with difficult growing conditions and have managed to feed the hungry. The possibilities are endless. Here is my problem: I would like to have the CHOICE to eat or not eat genetically modified foods. But there is currently no regulation forcing GM companies to label their products as modified… because no one would buy them if they knew. I personally have a problem with eating foods that have been altered, especially animal products. These products are already pumped full of hormones and other unknowns and enough is enough. It really freaks me out that I am eating something that may not be safe and I would never even know it.

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Are Earthquakes Becoming More Frequent?

I have been thinking about the answer to this question a lot lately.  Ever since the earthquake that occurred up and down the east coast during summer 2011 I was starting to get worried.  “Earthquakes don’t occur in Maryland…” is what I kept telling myself.  I am sure that the rest of you Marylanders, who are not used to the feeling of the Earth shaking from under you, were just as alarmed as I was.  Californians are ashamed of us all… but I and I’m sure you all remember specifically where you were when the quake occurred.  While the quake was small and relatively harmless, despite it destroying a closet in my house and shaking around some pictures, it was still startling because of its apparent randomness.  But random it was not.  While quakes do not regularly occur in Maryland, there are fault lines all over the United States, even ancient fault lines that can become active again.

Sorry to disappoint but the world will not end in 2012 and earthquakes are not occurring any more frequently than they have in the past.  There are literally hundreds of earthquakes every single day around the world.  If you log on to the U.S. Geological Survey website, there have been 731 earthquakes in the UNITED STATES alone in the last seven days.  Earthquakes are a natural process by which the pressure built up between the tectonic plates is released.  They are a good thing and it proves that our planet is alive and ever-changing.

Earthquakes, while some do cause deadly consequences, are for the most part harmless.  The vast majority of the daily quakes that occur are below a magnitude to cause any sort of damage, or in some cases to even be felt.  The most dangerous types occur often around what is called “The Ring of Fire.”  The Ring of Fire appears where the Pacific Ocean’s oceanic crust meets the surrounding continental crust.  This region is extremely active and includes the West Coast of the U.S. and South America, Australia, Asia, and the very tip of Russia.  Today, along the cost of Japan and Asia, there have been 42 earthquakes… proving my point.

So even though it may seem like earthquakes are occurring more frequently, they are not.  Earthquakes occur every day and they are a part of our life here on Earth.  As the world becomes more and more global we may simply just be hearing about these quakes more so than the past.  Our technology and world-wide access to the internet allow people to be connected 24/7 making it SEEM like there are move devastating earthquakes occurring, when in reality massive quakes have been occurring at this rate throughout history.  Rest assured that the world is not ending.

What the Frack?

What the frack is fracking?  The concept of fracking has been making big headlines recently so I think it is important to dedicate some time to understanding just what it really means and what its implications are.  Fracking, more officially termed “hydraulic fracturing” is a process by which rocks from the Earth are broken apart by high pressured water.  I would define it as “new aged mining” that eliminates much of the human element.  Below the surface of the Earth lay large quantities of a rock called Shale, which once broken apart releases natural gas.  Natural gas, which may be heating your home as you read this, is useful for generating energy and heat for our cosy lifestyles.  To get the natural gas out of the rock, water (up to 8 million gallons), laden with sand and chemicals (up to 300 tons!), is catapulted at the underground shale.  This usually takes place around 8,000 ft below the surface.  If you’re thinking that this could be problematic, you’re correct..

Fracking has been considered by some to be a break through in American energy production.  If the U.S. were to  become more energy self-reliant, then perhaps we could avoid messy and turbulent relations with the Middle East.  While the U.S. does  have an ample supply of Shale rock under its surface, mass scale fracking may not be the answer to our energy woes.  There are serious repercussions to consider with fracking.  The chemicals used in fracking have been reported to pollute the wells of citizens living in close proximity.  As you can imagine, people were pretty upset when their families and children could actually light their drinking water on fire because it was so polluted.  Many argue that while Shale fracking may be useful for U.S. energy production, it is just too dangerous for the public.

I would have to agree.  Fracking is not the answer, only a temporary solution.  I will 99.9% of the time argue that renewables are the answer and now is no exception.  Renewable energy provides much more energy independence than fracking and also provides for future security and well-being.  Fracking is a band-aid on the energy crisis that Americans and the world will face when oil, natural gas, and coal become more and more scarce.  The only permanent solution is to switch to solar, wind, geothermal, and other sustainable, renewable methods of energy production.  I hope you enjoyed my blog and that you learned a little bit more about fracking 🙂

My First Attempt

So I am completly new to this whole blogging thing.  I was inspired by my brother and his mad blogging skills and thought I would give it a try too.  He told me that a blog should be focused on whatever you are most passionate about, so I though what better than the environment.  Not many people in my household agree with me in my political views, especially my father, but oh well, it’s time for me to share them anyway!  Today I was checking out the daily news, feeling a little guilty for being so out of touch with the latest 2012 election buzz, when I became inspired.

I know that Obama has been harshly criticized by the Republican Party for various resons including the economy and his recent business in Iraq, but I am very tempted to re-vote for Obama mearly he may  be the lesser of two evils.  Despite being up against a Repub majority in Congress, Obama managed to make some progress in the environmental field.  America has much to do before we can claim to be “green” but baby steps are being made, including the incease in fuel economy standards.  While it may turn out that the environmental progress in the near future will rest in the hands of the States (props to Martin O’Malley), I would much rather accept Obama over a Republican wild card who will support small government and limit the reach of environmental administrations like the EPA.

Until I get the hang of this whole blogging thing my posts may be me rambling about what ever pops into my head, but I will get the hang of it and I think it will also help me to form my opinions as well!  So yea! This concludes my first ever blog and I am exicted to start writing 🙂

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