The topic of GMO’s ( Genetically Modified Organism ) has been highly debated for years and is extremely divisive and usually one sided depending on the source of information. Example: I recently read an article in the mainstream publication “Scientific American” , a magazine of which I have often questioned the integrity. The article was so one sided and in favor of GMO’s that at one point I looked to see if it was actually a paid advertisement by Monsanto, the leader in GMO technology.
The Monsanto Corporation was founded in 1901 in St. Louis Missouri and originally was known as a chemical company. Monsanto produced and marketed a variety of products including some highly controversial ones such as DDT, Agent Orange, PCB’s, and most recently rBHG( Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone) which is used to increase milk production in dairy cows. In the 1970’s the company began producing its widely successful “Roundup” a glyphosate-based herbicide that is used by both gardeners and farmers to kill weeds and competing vegetation.
Although many companies such as DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow and BASF produce genetically modified seed for agriculture, Monsanto dominates them all and thus has become the lightning rod for the Non-GMO movement.
The doors were opened for companies to own and control life when GE first applied for a US patent for a bacterium that could break down crude oil and was to be used in the cleanup of oil spills. The application was summarily rejected because under Section 101 of Title 35 U.S.C. It was generally understood that living things were not patentable subject matter. GE appealed to the Board of Patent Appeals which again turned down the application. Ultimately the matter rose through the courts all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States where on June 16, 1980 in a split decision of 5 to 4 it was decided in GE’s favor. On March 31, 1981 the Patent was granted by the USPTO.
What followed was none other than a race to patent life and much of that life is in the form of seeds and agricultural crops. Starting in the mid 1990’s after FDA approval, Monsanto and other companies began producing and marketing seeds such as “BT” corn and cotton and “Roundup Ready” corn and soy. In both cases through the process of genetic engineering and modification these seeds and plants had DNA from bacterium added to their own DNA. The Bt seeds are now capable of producing a plant that manufactures pesticide in every cell including the seed that is ultimately destined for the food supply. Roundup Ready seed is engineered to produce a plant that can withstand the harsh application of Roundup.
As impossible as it is to believe that our government allowed for any company to patent and own life, it is additionally concerning that the Food and Drug Administration has approved these foods. The FDA uses the principal of “Substantially Equivalent” as the backbone of its approval process. The reasoning here is that the foods produced by these crops are substantially equivalent to there conventional counterparts and therefore “generally recognized as safe” and pose no health risks and are fit for Human consumption.
On a personal note, I spent a generous amount of time researching and contemplating this topic in preparation to write these articles. I had a dozen or so articles on the subject that I had saved over the years, I did countless web searches, viewed numerous websites and videos documentaries. All the while I couldn’t help but arrive at two fundamental questions that no matter where I looked, no one was asking and arguing these questions.
First: Through their websites, mission statements, and propaganda, Monsanto and similar companies claim to be good stuarts of the environment and operating in the best interest and health of the populous by using genetic engineering to keep food costs down and environmental impact at a minimum. If this is the case, why do they not produce seeds and plants that make all of their own pesticides and herbicides and therefore eliminating the need for the application of chemicals. Could it be that if they did just that they would no longer be able to charge the farmer twice–once for the seed and then again for the chemicals. Or is it possible that they have already done this, and based on their initial in-house testing the results would be far too harmful to Human health and public outcry would be a public relations disaster.
Secondly: The FDA uses the principal of “Substantially Equivalent” to approve such foods therefore implying that the food is the same as its conventional counterpart and additionally implying that the plant must be same as well. If this is the case, commonsense would suggest that a patent could not be granted to such a plant and the food it produces based on its’ unique and different characteristics. Conversely, if the plant is in fact uniquely different then the food it produces must then be a variant of its conventional counterpart and cannot be substantially equivalent. Logic dictates that you cannot have both.
October 2013 Written by DMK of Seven Grains. Post comment at blog.sevengrains.com/foodforthought