GMO vs Biodiversity

08.11.2015 - Tony Henderson

GMO vs Biodiversity
Tayug in the Philippines - small scale forming (Image by Tony Henderson)

Bio diversity is crucial for any species to survive, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) as plants destroy bio diversity with their perfect copies waiting for a specialized disease or parasite to ravish the clones. Swati Srivastava (Avatar name on social media) gives some “simple facts” about GMOs:

1) There is not a single independent long term study that deals with the impacts of GMO food on humans and animals,

2) There have been several small reports of lab animals getting tumors and other diseases when on GMO feed yet those reports are covered up and not discussed,

3) The FDA and USDA accept the research by Monsanto and its allies as valid research (this is akin to letting the fox guard the hen house),

4) It is well known that farmers unabashedly use more Glyophosate on Glyphosate resistant GMO crops which WHO has declared a carcinogen, so we are all eating more cancer causing food.

5) 70% of world is fed by small farmers not by mono-culture GMO farms and the world food production has been outpacing the population increase by 1.2 -1.5 times in the past 4-5 decades. We are not running out of food, the world is not going to starve without GMOs, its the democracy of food distribution that needs to be addressed.

6) There is not a single GMO crop which is designed to increase yield, but the most successful ones are designed to tolerate the herbicides and chemicals produced by the same seed companies in an astonishing win for vertical integration in a world that needs diversity if we are to protect ourselves from a global case of GM corn blight.

7) Lastly, the two great myths of our time are:

a) Human activity doesn’t contribute to climate change (Exxon Mobil & its allies), based on their “scientific research”. – We know how “scientific” that claim is now, but we are 30 years too late and no matter what we do, the world is going to suffer terrible consequences, especially the weakest and poorest of us.

b) Humans have Genetically modified plants since time immemorial (Monsanto & its allies). Humans have never been able to cross two different species such as a fish gene with a tomato gene, or a virus gene with a corn gene. Cross-breeding and Genetic Modification are two entirely different things. Cross-breeding requires nature’s participation and propagation – mate a donkey and horse & it might make a mule, but the mule is sterile, as nature puts its own barrier to such a variant.

(Farmers and gardeners have been cultivating new plant varieties for thousands of years through selective breeding. They did this by cross-pollinating two different, BUT RELATED plants over 6 to 10 plant generations, eventually creating a new plant variety.Mendel discovered a method of controlled crossing that can create these desired traits within just one generation. This method produces what’s known as F1 hybrid seeds (hybrid species are never true and the traits dont survive beyond one generation like a mule is very often sterile). But still Mendel’s hybrid were within a species, never cross-species.)

But, GMO organisms, are created in lab without anywhere near complete understanding of how genes interact with each other, what proteins are expressed or suppressed & what mutations are caused by the gene gun when it blasts gene from one species to another species – all entirely unknown. This is not true science in action, this is being able to tinker a little bit in the lab and rushing ahead to patent & profit without any real understanding of the long-term consequences. And then not allowing public the choice to decide on their own by spending millions of dollars in anti-labelling-anti-democracy campaigns.

The reasons to oppose GMOs are way too numerous

The GM companies are the same ones who sold us DDT and Agent Orange and told us it was good for us.
These are the same companies who ensure USDA doesn’t do independent testing because their seeds are “substantially equivalent” to regular seeds – “its so similar, its entirely the same, so why test”, whereas on the other hand they fill their coffers with money from patenting the same seeds – “they are so novel that nothing like this existed before”. Can you see the contradiction?

They are also the companies who use the same lawyers to make their PR as the tobacco industry. That should ring a bell, loud and clear.

GMOs are not created using natural, low-tech methods and involve interbreeding between totally different species, which just doesn’t and can’t happen with traditional selective breeding techniques. Seedless watermelon is an example of selective breeding within the same species. Nature has barriers against cross breeding between species. I think you would be against mating a human with a donkey, wont you? Envision what that offspring would look like. I make this extreme example, just so we can all wrap our head around the GM experiment we are part of. Just because a plant doesn’t have eyes, face and ears, doens’t make it a less complex organism. And when we create new species in labs, from two or three or four different species mixed together, we create new organisms that neither human nor animal body has evolved to digest and no one knows what long terms effects this new type of food will have on us or our ecosystem.

Further, I recently read that Genetic Modification maybe able to treat cancer! Right, being able to work at the gene level, is an absolute marvel of science, a great accomplishment.

The problem with GMO foods which are created by crossing the species barrier in a lab, is that we are now creating entirely new species that were not part of nature’s evolution design. So, how do we know what effect eating these new “species” will have on us?

Regarding, “millions are now eating GMO corn without any demonstrable ill effects” – the key word is “demonstrable”.
The way things are demonstrated in the scientific/ medical world is by conducting long term studies, with control groups and experimental groups. So, the way to demonstrate that GMOs have no “demonstrable ill effects” would be to have a 30 year long INDEPENDENT study where a statistically significant group of people are restricted to an all GMO diet, and the control group is not allowed any GMOs in their food whatsoever. At the end of those 30 years, we would likely have a good “demonstrable” answer. Until then, and without the absence of such a study, we have demonstrated nothing and we have no clear answer. People are certainly getting very sick and unhealthy around the world – obesity, autism, diabetes and cancer are on the rise, but how do we know what’s causing these without a proper controlled study. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

As a Humanist, film-maker and activist, I encourage other humanists to go below this “surface science”. This is not a debate about pro-science-anti-science and people who are against GMOs are not all Luddites. We need TRULY INDEPENDENT LONG TERM studies, before we eliminate native crops around the world, destroy small farmers, have unimaginable health consequences and become sitting ducks for a blight that could devastate half of the world crops, because they are all GM Corn NO. 7861.

 

Thanks goes to Swati Srivastava

The above is extracted from comments on an article that can be found here:  http://thehumanist.com/news/international/filtering-fact-from-fiction-a-humanist-response-to-gmos

Categories: Asia, Ecology and Environment, Science and Technology
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