Monday, November 4, 2013

GMO and GE Products are Science Commercialized Too Quickly...

or: Profit Now!!!  Responsibility?  When Ever!

I dabble in science and scientific methodology, not a scientist by trade and training, but still have found peer reviewed research about genetically modified organisms (GMO) and genetically engineered (GE) crops comes up well short of sufficient. 

Industrial (read: unsustainable without enormous assistance from chemical and mechanical agents) agriculture has led to many a problem (e.g., desertification and dust bowls on multiple continents, red tides and other algae blooms in the world’s oceans, etc…)  and we’ve mentioned naught of the problems associated with Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO).  Now there is problematic GE that has led to GMOs that are untested in the lab and yet are already being grown down on the farm.  I greet these new, and insufficiently tested, additions to industrial agriculture (that is GE created GMOs) with great skepticism.

One of the earliest of the GMOs is golden rice; potentially increasing the rice's vitamin A content.  The extra genetic material was added, via GE, to a variety of rice that is not grown in the regions where vitamin A deficiency is most prominent.  Bt, Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria, corn is genetically modified to be herbicide resistant and is probably hastening the evolution of herbicide tolerance, negating the effectiveness of said chemicals, in the targeted weeds.  Herbicide resistant pollen has been wind borne to places where it was not supposed to go and is cross pollinating with plant species that aren’t corn.  The herbicide resistance leaves fields of corn and weeds  resistant to multiple types of patented agricultural herbicide formulas.  This is leaving crops unable to be treated with generic versions of said chemistry when patents expire (increased cost for farmers) and interferes with the most sustainable form of agriculture known as, “no-till farming.”

The research I’ve read, over the decades, suggest that genetics are more analog than digital in character: put this gene here, to do that there, but who knows if it will do as predicted, or whether it will stay only where it was placed.  What other reactions are changed hundreds, thousands, millions or even billions of genes down the double helix?  Only long term testing, in isolated biospheres, can even begin to tell if the intended consequences are happening as predicted, or are beginning to display the signs of unintended consequences that always occur when changes are made to incredibly complex systems.

Until such long term, isolated and peer reviewed testing is done and published I, at a very minimum, want GMO products clearly labeled: clearly specified in produce (fruits and vegetables), protein (meat and fish) and when used in processed food.  That way those modified products can be avoided when I go grocery shopping.