It is a common fact that the manipulation of nature is an ancient practice and that farmers through the ages, to this day graft their fruit trees and breed crossbreed livestock as a way of adding characteristics that is beneficial in some way. If this should be used as an argument, we could very well be asking what the fuss is all about? Is it so different from what scientists are doing in a laboratory or are we just a tad paranoid expecting some grotesque Frankenstein creations?
In a way it is comforting to know that there are many farmers choosing for agro-ecological farming methods, refusing to grow seeds with an altered genetic make, spray their crops with toxic pesticides or feed their livestock with silage riddled with GMOs, but on the other hand alarming to realize that farmers, whether they like it or not, are being exposed to this invisible enemy. Many farmers choosing to stick to friendly methods, suffer the effect of cross-pollination from nearby GMO field crops. Although all GMO activity is supposedly carried out within the boundaries of strict regulations, it will be foolish to think that it can be fully controlled, as nature runs it’s course, spreading pollen many miles through wind, bees, butterflies, birds, water and pollen sticking to farming vehicles. All over the world new specimens are popping up spontaneously, which is “natural”, but when we are faced with specimens with genes altered by human hands, we are not talking birds and bees!
A few years ago Monsanto developed a “Roundup Ready soybean” capable of withstanding glyphosate, the main ingredient, which is extremely toxic. The product Roundup Ready was casually marketed as a solution to weeds and equally casually used by all, unaware of it’s longterm effects. For a while it worked magically, but soon a epidemic of “superweeds” showed their nasty little heads, surviving the toughest of pesticides. This consequence has left all, from small scale gardeners to serious farmers with little choice other than to use formulations even more toxic than glyphosate. Companies such as Monsanto and Bayer flourish as they now have created a kick-off point from where they can develop new and more potent pesticides that will deal with the situation. And so yet a new generation of GMOs is born.
Recently Bayer developed a soybean capable of withstanding isoxaflutole (IFT). IFT, key ingredient of Balance Herbicide, is a pesticide that was developed about 15 years ago to be used on field corn. It has however been proven to be toxic, even more so than glyphosate. Animal studies, as confirmed by the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) has shown that it causes adverse effects when it comes in contact with skin, eyes or when inhaled. It is phytotoxic, induces tumors, has an effect on the liver and other organs and is classified as a probable human carcinogen, but yes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture sees it fit to be used as a pesticide, and find it perfectly acceptable for fields to be doused with IFT, ignoring the fact that soil and ground water will be contaminated. The USDA, hand in hand with Bayer has just gone ahead and approved this 2nd generation GMOs!
The World Health Organization has been going to great lengths to keep the world calm by elegantly addressing the quality, quantity and availability of food and emphasizing the benefits of genetically modified foods. Crops that can withstand ugly viruses, bacteria, mould and insects, fresh foods that will preserve better without having to use external preservatives, foods high in nutritional value are but a few of the so-called benefits. Prizes like the World Food Prize (with generous sponsors such as Monsanto) are awarded annually to persons for outstanding achievement in this field, this year’s prize going to amongst others Belgian molecular biologist, Marc Van Montagu, who developed methods for gene engineering, enabling the world to create transgenic plants. This means that the hereditary information housed in the DNA of a living organism can be manipulated with the possibility of creating a completely new plant. Top scientific breakthrough…
In the meantime the results of numerous studies are quietly shoved under the table, supported by all the above mentioned organizations that are supposed to respect and protect our basic human rights, while multinationals such as Bayer and Monsanto are slowly but surely pushing developmental boundaries. At the same time they are paving their way to more power which will lead to managing every farmer’s crop, from seed to yield, ultimately meaning that we will have no choice, literally and figuratively, than to eat what gets dished up.