August 18th, 2010


GMO Foods: Friend or Foe?

GMO Foods: Friend or Foe?

The Basics

GMO Foods have been around since the beginning of basic agriculture. As soon as it was figured out you could actually selectively breed crops (and animals and even people) for desirable traits (whatever those may be), farmers, ranchers, and those involved in eugenics programs have taken the basic idea (mating pairs based on bringing out or strengthening desirable traits while weeding out not-so-desirable ones) and ran with it. What's going on is nothing new, in it's most basic form. What current GMO foods have on previous generations, though, is the fact that they are being manipulated on the DNA level. That double-helix we share with every form of life on the planet (hey, when God creates an awesome design, He runs with it, deal). There is only so much you can do with selective breeding (even with plants, despite their ability to incorporate even what our bodies would consider foreign (non-native) DNA) though. For example, you couldn't, through selective breeding, get the firefly glow gene into tobaccoo (Time, 1986) via selective breeding. That requires some real gene-hacking wizardry.

What's the problem?

The problem lies in plant patents, specifically the patents on the genes. Since we are talking about plants, and they generally reproduce by pollination (either self- or cross-pollination depending on species), when a GMO plant gets pollinated by a bee, the bee doesn't go, "Oh, this is so-and-so's plants, I can only continue visiting flowers in this field." No, the bee goes, "bzzzzzzzzzzzz bzzzzzzzzzzz bzzzzzzzzzzz" and flies around randomly pollinating flowers in its search for nectar. Also, the wind does a good job of helping pollination and it won't stop blowing the pollen from a field of crops that is GMO so it doesn't cross-pollinate (illegally, remember, these GMO plants are patented) in that farmer's field who doesn't happen to have a license from Monsanto (with Monsanto and the USDA being co-owners of several plant patents, don't expect this to change soon).

So far all the Monsanto cases have looked at one thing:

  • Did the farmer know that Monsanto's patent-protected plants cross-pollinated with their plants

    • If yes, sue into oblivion

    • If no, sue into oblivion anyway, obviously the farmer should have known it was going to happen

  • Did the farmer try to profit off their new-found windfall of "ill-gotten" gains?

    • If yes or no, see above.

Invalid Patent?

Neither the courts, nor the defense lawyers (they have to be idiots, I swear) seem to have looked at this. Can the farmers or Monsanto stop the cross-pollination? If no, than Monsanto's patent should be invalidated because there is no reasonable means of protecting the patent from unauthorized reproduction (yes, I know it's Infowars, find me another source that contradicts anything in this article and I'll be happy to post a new entry with that link). With no reasonable means of preventing unauthorized use of said patent in it's typical application (farming), why was the patent even granted? Is Monsanto that far in bed with the USDA? Are the courts not supposed to be a checks-and-balance anyway?

Should Monsanto be rewarded for it's contribution to agriculture? Maybe. GMO foods, specifically those Monsanto have been producing, have not been shown to not cause disease in the organisms feeding on those products. Coupled along with the issue of preventing unauthorized cross-pollination (and upon detection, a farmer would have to destroy every plant that is "contaminated" with the patented genes; can you say good-bye to your livelihood that easily?), this presents a significant difficulty in getting not only farmers to grow the junk, but people to eat it (well, perhaps not that difficult, products containing GMO foods aren't required to be labled as containing such) as well.

Go, buy your fresh produce, but don't be surprised if it contains built-in herbicides/fungicides/pesticides (you know, the stuff you could wash off on non-GMO foods). And don't think you can grow your own food, either. At least, not without the government's permission.