For years I have watched the debate over genetically modified organisms (GMO), predominantly food items, with interest but not been sure where the problem was. Recent news articles have given me some new thoughts on the matter and a real cause for concern, however. Current genetic modifications, predominantly created and promoted by Monsanto, make food crops resistant to weed-killing chemicals so that more of those chemicals can be used without harming the crops. The higher yield of those crops is offered as reason enough to use these genetically modified seeds. The GM crops are generally tougher to kill and that, while it has benefits, presents the real problems.
The farmer in Oregon who discovered the (banned in the US) genetically modified wheat growing on his farm recently wouldn’t have known what it was except that it sprang up in a field where wheat had been planted the previous year, but which was destined for a different crop this year. In preparation to plant the farmer tried to kill off the “volunteer” wheat that sprang up this year, only to find that his regular weed killer would not kill it. The extreme toughness of the wheat led him to take some to the state agriculture people, who were able to identify it as the banned GM wheat Monsanto had tested in small fields at 16 different places around the country over a number of years. Some call it “Frankenwheat” because of its ability to live on and on in the face of certain popular weed killers, and it seems it may turn from a boon to farmers (I believe it is used in some other countries) to a scourge, hard to eradicate and capable of crowding out other crops or genetically contaminating them through pollination.
Beyond those problems, it has been suggested that genetic material from the GM wheat might find its way into other, less useful plants, resulting in increasing numbers of weeds, nuisance plants, and invasive species that are unreasonably difficult to kill. That makes me wonder if we couldn’t wind up with GM plants with little or less food value crowding out needed crops, and a never-ending arms race to come up with chemicals and competing varieties of plant that can help control or eradicate the bad plants so the plants we need for food can grow unhindered. I can foresee a future in which biodiversity becomes less and less a priority, risk of widespread crop failure increases significantly due to more of the monoculture farming we already have, and Monsanto and its ilk become as big and powerful as Exxon (they’re not that far away now), manipulating government even more than they do now with big money lobbyists and the help of media networks like Fox that are owned by other greedy corporations and billionaires.
As it is, Monsanto employees have left to take jobs in the FDA and other government agencies for many years as part of their scheme to make us pay more for our food, some of which money would naturally go to them. Their strategy has paid off, too, as only great efforts by environmentally concerned organizations and citizens have even slowed their progress at taking over the seed markets and forcing farmers to grow their GM crops. It may be too late to stop the trend, especially considering the size and economic power of a corporation like Monsanto, but we need to try. Please help stop the spread of GM crops no matter how productive they may be, lest we find ourselves experiencing repeated famines well before the mid and late 21st century. I will write about the growing seed shortage resulting from the successful move by Monsanto and others to control seed markets at another time, but that also is worrisome.
I am a bit cynical, and will not be surprised if this item is censored somehow, lost by WordPress, or I am otherwise silenced, unfortunately. The US has been driven far down from our pinnacle in the early 60’s when all but the very poorest families could survive comfortably on the earnings of one breadwinner, and that won’t change any time soon as long as soulless corporations are running government and the media. The wealthy (including corporations) have become almost pathologically short-sighted and greedy in the last few decades, and I don’t expect that to change, and sadly the conservative political forces in the US are almost completely in their hands. Still, we have to try, so I do what I can to keep our children and grandchildren safe. I hope you will, too, and hope you will seek to better understand the dangers of genetically modified organisms.
Thanks for reading, and I welcome your comments — Tim