Take Care With Farming’s Future
Farmers by nature should be conservative, particularly in the sense of being careful. Katie Heger’s article “What Do We Need to Know about GMO’s” (WAR September 1, 2016) was full of biotechnology industry propaganda but not careful with the facts or careful with the future of farming. The biggest big industry whopper was: “Decades of research and approval processes – by USDA, the Food & Drug Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency – all affirm the safety of GMOs.”
These government agencies may have affirmed the safety of GMO’s but they did not actually test them. I hope that the GMO foods on the market today are safe, but we do not know for sure because researchers in the regulatory agencies and universities did not and cannot independently test GMOs. The reason is that the genes inserted into these crops are proprietary and patented. No one can study them, or even grow them, without the permission of the owner.
Can we really expect that the four monopoly corporations, which have invested billions in developing these seeds and have business plans on how to extract billions more from farmers and consumers, actually allow independent study that may show something questionable? That is not in the nature of monopoly trans-national corporations.
Rather than worrying about whether consumers are ingesting sufficient GMO foods, what should be worrying Ms. Heger is monopoly control of the seed and chemical industry. The business plans of the monopoly seed/chemical corporations (Monsanto, DuPont/Pioneer, Syngenta and Dow AgroSciences) Is to shift the responsibility for adverse effects onto the farmers, consumers, and the environment. Already GMO Canola has gone feral, infesting crop lands with Roundup resistant hard to control canola plants, making the raising of non- GMO canola impossible. Is that responsible or careful husbandry or the way neighbors should treat neighbors? And because those feral canola plants legally belong to the company that developed them, farmers have been prosecuted for having proprietary canola plants in their otherwise non-GMO canola.
In a recent drive through Minnesota and Wisconsin I saw volunteer stalks of Roundup resistant corn scattered across soybean fiends. Roundup Ready beans and corn have been a convenience for the farmers who chose to use that technology but the usefulness of those particular traits are coming to an end as volunteer plants and weeds resistant to Roundup proliferate. Farmers will be finding themselves on a biotechnology merry-go-round, buying more expensive seeds and herbicides to counteract the problems created by adopting the GMO’s in the first place. And there will be only one source – one alternative. It looks to me to be the beginning of the chickenization of farming as once independent farmers, because of their planting choices, are self-converting to – “serfs on their own land”.
The new GMO traits designed to counteract the adverse effects of the first round of GMO’s will in turn not be independently tested. Consumers will have more reason to question the safety of their food supply and the integrity of farmers will continue to be undermined. To top it all off, we have the whole issue of how “not cleared to be marketed” GMO corn and wheat have contaminated shipments headed to countries that don’t want them. Farmers absorbed the resulting market disruption while the monopoly biotechnology companies deny responsibility.
I understand why farmers plant GMO crops but I don’t understand why any farmer would volunteer to defend the safety of those crops or suggest that the ludicrous electronic GMO information labels recently mandated by Congress should satisfy consumers’ desire to know what they are eating. Biotechnology is revolutionary in its scope with incredible potential for both good and evil. The recently developed CRISPR technology has made the manipulation of lifeforms even easier. The ethics of all of this is complex and troubling. Rather than bury our heads in the sand or blindly parrot company propaganda, farmers should be demanding that all new laboratory modified life forms be thoroughly tested by truly independent researchers. The risks are just too great to do any less.
Grass Range, Montana