Farmers have been altering the genetic makeup of plants naturally for thousands of years. Human selection usually focused on faster growth and larger seeds, but also delved into developing sweeter fruits. Interestingly, centuries later we learned that the push for sweetness often diminished the nutritional and anti-oxidant component of the plants being altered. However, not until the initiation of genetically modified organisms, GMOs, at the end of the 20th century did scientists around the world actually label the resultant plants as toxic to humans.
The process of altering the genetic makeup of plants underwent a scientific development between 1856 and 1863 by an Augustinian friar from Austria, Gregor Mendel. A plant breeder and botanist, he began a series of experiments in which he cultivated and tested over 20,000 pea plants. His studies concluded that one in four pea plants had purebred recessive alleles, two out of four plants were actually hybrid, and only one out of four was purebred dominant. This discovery led to what came to be called ‘Mendel’s Law of Inheritance’, and resulted in Mendel himself being called the founder of the new science of genetics. But, even as this new science emerged, it concentrated on implementing discovered principles of biology. Cross breeding plants was analogous to how farmers cross bred many of their animals. It was always natural.
Then, in 1980, in the case of Diamond v. Chakrabarty, for the first time in history the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the patent of a living organism. The organism concerned was a bacterium created for digesting crude oil in oil spills. But the ramifications of that decision would lead to patents on DNA altered crops, and attempted patents on other forms of life. Leading the legal surge on this development was Monsanto Company, followed by Bayer, DuPont, Dow, Syngenta, and others. When the scientists in their laboratories finished, a new species of agriculture was being created, called genetically modified organisms, GMOs.
The initial purpose of developing GMO seeds was for Monsanto to develop a crop which would resist the toxicity of its outstandingly successful herbicide Roundup. This most profitable herbicide in history was being sprayed on weeds in farms around the world. But it was inadvertently also killing crops. To maintain its astounding billions of dollars of sales levels of Roundup, Monsanto had to find a way to stop killing the crops it was using its herbicide to protect. Thus, one of the world’s leading chemical companies entered the food business.
Along the way these corporate giants realized that the new biology, using chemicals, could help them expand the sales of their other seeds. So they sent their scientists back into the laboratories to create seeds which would address other issues, including seeds which would be able to withstand drought conditions. And, as they focused on foods, they did not want to leave out the dairy farmers. So they developed bovine growth hormones (rBGH) to accelerate the production of milk.
By the end of the 20th century the leaders of these companies were celebrating how, like ‘the Green Revolution’ in the mid-20th century, they had transformed global agriculture. At the same time, research scientists and farmers around the world were condemning what they called ‘Franken-Foods’ as toxic to those who consume them, both people and animals. While the farmers who plant GMO seeds have increased their crop production, and helped feed millions of people in desperate need around the world, these farmers have also planted seeds of hostility among other farmers and among a variety of concerned citizens, including consumer activists and the medical community. Indeed, unable to compete with the success of these GMO crops, many farmers in India even committed suicide.
However, among the issues raised is ‘what happens when DNA, foreign to a plant seed, is forcibly inserted into that seed?’ Every botanist understands that when you force a foreign DNA into a seed you alter the internal dynamics of that seed. And, while ‘making room’ for your inserted element, you undoubtedly damage or destroy some existing internal component in that seed. And, as a natural reaction, the foreign DNA that you inserted will cause the other internal components to naturally resist that foreign DNA and begin an unknown internal process of ‘defending’ itself from the foreign intrusion… causing additional unpredicted internal dynamics.
So, what exactly happens? Based upon their studies, many scientists speculate. They generally conclude that ‘naturally’ something negative would probably result, since one is disturbing millions of years of evolution. As for the GMO companies themselves, they may know; but they refuse to disclose the results of their internal studies.
Some research scientists claim that various GMO crops result in what these scientists call ‘micro-nutrition,’ less nutrition than is normally absorbed by the body when digesting natural foods. Among the consequences of this is that the human body does not develop the routine resistance to disease which it would ordinarily develop. Another ramification is that the body senses its own need for more nutrition – which instills a craving to consume additional food. Satisfying this craving for more food logically of course leads to obesity, and to possible diabetes, both of which are plaguing Western society.
Another issue raised is that when chemicals are introduced into an agricultural seed, for the purpose of combating the extremely toxic glyphosate contained in Roundup, the question is ‘does the resultant food crop from that genetically modified GMO seed produce food that, once consumed, resists other outside chemicals, such as antibiotics?’ And, if this proves to be the case, are we weakening the human immune system by consuming GMO food products?
An even more sensitive issue was brought forward by studies in 2011 at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec, Canada, when it was revealed that Bt toxins 3-MPPA and Cry 1Ab, produced by genetically modified crops, have been found in the blood of women and passed into the fetal blood. The toxin 3-MPPA , a propionic acid classed as a Bad Actor Chemical, is a metabolite of the herbicide gluphosinate and was in 100% of the fetal cords. Cry1AB, found in the genetically modified Bt corn, was found in 80% of the fetal cords. Bt (Bicillus thuringiensis) is a soil-dwelling bacterium used as a biological pesticide. These toxins are apparently crossing from the placenta into the fetus, with consequences which we may not know for several years.
As noted, Monsanto has refused to disclose to anyone, including universities or governments, any of its internal studies regarding the ingredients in its products or the methods it uses to create them. In fact, Monsanto has either gone to court or threatened legal action in many jurisdictions even to avoid labelling its food products in any way. Not only does the company employ its financial and legal power to stop state governments from passing labeling laws; on the national level Monsanto even lobbies the US Congress to pass legislation banning any form of labelling on GMO products. This would make chemically-produced food products the only food items in the stores which are not required to disclose their contents!\.
In addition to the many research scientists, academicians, and consumer groups, there are other ‘experts’ who challenge the wholesomeness of these GMO foods. Some of those referenced in the book The Poison Planters include cows, raccoons, and squirrels that refuse to eat GMO corn; deer and geese that refuse to eat GMO soybeans; rats that refuse to eat GMO tomatoes.
While the use of science to expand the capabilities of agronomy is essential to feed a growing global population, it is essential to know what the ingredients in these crops are. Having chemical corporations dominate world agriculture instinctively suggests that we know what these genetically modified organisms contain, for ourselves and for the next generation. As Dr. Michael Antoniou, the molecular biologist of King’s College at the London School of Medicine, put it, “Once released into the environment…genetic mistakes cannot be contained, recalled or cleaned up, but will be passed on to all future generations indefinitely.”
Charles Sutherland is the author of numerous books, including: Clash of the God and Disciples of Destruction. His latest book is a reality novel called The Poison Planters.