Wildfire #1 Science Class



FREE DOWNLOAD OF ISSUE:  http://topcow.com/files/Wildfire01.pdf

Welcome to the first issue of Wildfire!  I appreciate you picking up this book and hope you liked it.  If you did and can spread the word like wildfire (heh), nothing calls attention to a book like a friendly recommendation or word of mouth.  I’d greatly appreciate it.  If you bought this hoping this was an anti-GMO propaganda piece you’re going to be a little disappointed, but I do feel it’s a balanced look at the possible dangers of GMO proliferation.  I’m also not a mouth piece for any GMO company, I’ve never received any money from anyone in this field.  I don’t think they’ll like this fictional story at all, by the way, it focuses on a real, potential risk of letting untested genetic variants into the environment which leads to a mass disaster.  Do you consume GMO food?  Yes, you probably do.  Unless you ONLY eat food that says CERTIFIED ORGANIC on it or specifically says it doesn’t contain GMO then you probably are.  Restaurants and fast food use a lot of it.  The other real issue with trying to NOT eat GMO is that organic food is way more expensive.


I’m sure you’ve heard this term before but what does it mean?

What is genetic engineering? 

Genetic engineering is the name for certain methods that scientists use to introduce new traits or characteristics to an organism. For example, plants may be genetically engineered to produce characteristics to enhance the growth or nutritional profile of food crops. While these technique are sometimes referred to as “genetic modification,” FDA considers “genetic engineering” to be the more precise term. Food and food ingredients from genetically engineered plants were introduced into our food supply in the 1990s.

That definition is from the FDA’s website which also has some interesting commentary on how they test these products and how they’re “safe.”  Note also that it says 1990’s.  Truth is, you’ve been eating GMO food for decades and you probably didn’t even know it.  Is it possible that this has contributed to the obesity problem we’re facing now?  In my personal opinion, the answer to that is both yes and no.  The biggest cause of obesity is sugar intake and food manufacturers have systematically been adding sugar to EVERYTHING over the past few decades because we as consumers like it better.  But I’m veering from the main topic.  Here’s the link for the FDA:


GMO includes animals as well.  There are genetically altered fish, chicken and beef and yes you’ve probably eaten that already as well.


The prevailing argument is to create more food to thwart growing populations and world hunger.  There’s a statistic I read that says worldwide a child dies from starvation about every 2 seconds.  That’s hard for us in the U.S. to fathom since we’re all so fat and well fed for the most part, but take a trip to India (I did) and you’ll see some starving people.  There are starving people here in the U.S. as well we just choose not to notice them.

How would they increase food yield?

  • 1) Insect resistant plants –- farmers lose a lot of their crops to insects who eat them.  Creating insect resistant GMO plants would either kill the insect if it ate it or make it unpalatable for them.  Either way, they stop eating it and the farmer’s yield goes way up without having to use more water, more land and the biggest plus being they don’t need to use as much pesticide to kill the insects.
  • 2) Herbicide tolerant plants – the idea here is you make plants that are resistant to certain kinds of weed killer.  That way you can spray your crops and only kill the weeds. This is one of the more “controversial” pro arguments.
  • 3) Disease resistant plants – Same thing really, but we lose a LOT of crops to various plant diseases like blight, browning, etc. You design plants to resist these.
  • 4) Cold tolerant – Design plants that can grow in colder climates and you vastly increase your farmable land
  • 5) Drought tolerant – Opposite of 4) but same concept that would open up areas of usable land and use less water.
  • 6) Longer shelf life plants – This means designing plants to rot or “go bad” more slowly.  This allows additional time for distribution and more time for it to be consumed.

These all sound great and are the utopian ideal of it all.  The issue isn’t just food growth as we currently grow more food than we need, but getting the food to areas that actually needs it.  In the U.S. alone, enough food is wasted to currently feed a large % of the parts of the world that need it.  This comes down to that thing my mom used to say when I was staring at food I didn’t want to eat.  “There are starving kids in Africa, you should eat that.”  My response was always, “then send it to them.”  Ah the wisdom of children!  Distribution is a huge problem.  Most countries would prefer to grow their own food than have to import it and be susceptible to the whims of the world market economy.  Many of the “ideals” of GMO would allow countries to grow more of their food.


The primary argument against GMO is that we’re releasing unregulated, un-thoroughly-tested variants into the environment without knowing what the long term effects might be.   There’s a great concern over the environmental effects and how it might affect us that consume it as well.  All good things to discuss!  Let’s look at some of the arguments:

  • 1) Direct effects on humans who consume – This includes possible tissue/organ damage, compromised immune system, increased fat and enhanced allergic reactions.  These are legion and the most immediately concerning.   The biggest issue with this is the unknown.  The “allergens” thing is interesting. I don’t recall many kids with peanut allergies back in the 70’s, but there seem to be a lot of them now.
  • 2) Cross pollination – This is a real problem as plants have seeds and these seeds tend to float on the wind to far distances.  We’ve found GMO breeds of corn in Mexico thousands of miles from where they were initially planted.  Organic farmers and some countries do not want GMO strains and having the seeds float into their crops is troublesome to say the least.
  • 3) Insect resistance – Any time you up your game, nature ups it as well.  If we create plants that are resistant to certain insects those insects will also naturally select over time to override said resistance.
  • 4) Weed resistance – Same as 3) here but for plants. The logic here is the same as why our overuse of antibiotics is a huge issue as well.  It becomes a cycle where you constantly have to evolve these things for this to keep working.
  • 5) Long term environmental effects – This is sort of broad sweeping and covers a lot of detail, but the main concern (and valid) is we really don’t know what these things will do over the long haul.
  • 6) Lack of real testing – This is another issue that is hotly debated but I tend to fall on the activist side of things here.  These things need better testing and government oversite.  European governments are WAY more concerned about this than we seem to be here in the U.S.





Not really.  We’ve not been doing it the way we’re doing it now but farmers have been cross-pollinating breeds and doing genetic enhancement on their own by taking seeds from the stronger plants and replanting those for millennia.


The big 10 are corn, soy, cottonseed, papaya, rice, canola, potatoes, tomatoes, dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt) and peas.


A free documentary film, very anti-GMO, but informative and entertaining to watch (so much of this shit is so dry).



This is not a complete list, but I was looking at a pages and pages listing and just wrote down the ones whose products I know I’ve used recently:

Blue Sky, Coca Cola, Hansen, Kraft, Nestle, Procter and Gamble, Libby’s, Ocean Spray, Kellogg, Nature Valley, Nabisco, Hershey, Lifesaver, Quaker, Pepperidge Farm, Campbells, Frity Lay, Hostess, Heinz, Crisco, Kashi, Peter Pan, Smuckers, Skippy, Hormel, Progresso, Eggo, Boca, Marie Callender, Morningstar Farms, Stouffers, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Aunt Jemima, Duncan Hines, Beech-Nut, Enfamil, Good Start, Similac, Isomil, Yoplait, Land O Lakes, Keebler and Dannon

Carpe Diem,

Matt Hawkins




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