U.S. intellectual property regulation dictates investigations for patent infringements. The genetic material in GMO seeds is patented and protected. Does this threaten the freedom of non-GMO farmers to retain their own seeds for next year’s crop?
Crops are genetically modified for the realization of this one basic goal: feed 6.7 billion people every day. Water shortages, soil nutrition limitations, pests, and politics, to name a few obstacles, make this goal impossible. GMOs are designed to overcome the first three impediments. They enable environmental stewardship through resource conservation, especially through no-till practices (see benefits from post “…Determined to Succeed!”). We’ll discuss the health and political implications of GMOs.
It seems everybody knows somebody with a life-threatening allergy to foods like nuts, milk, soybeans, wheat, and corn. Consumers and even scientists assume that Bt, a gene spliced into seeds that promotes the plants’ resistance to insects, provokes allergic reactions in humans. Because plants are producing their own pesticides (Bt toxins), many suppose that humans are developing allergies to foods containing the compound. While biotech companies claim the Bt protein is destroyed by our stomach acids, other reports claim that allergic reactions have closely coincided with the use of Bt pesticides. Bakshi (2003) described public allegations of allergic reactions to GMOs. Some GMOs that have caused allergic reactions in people did so because a gene from a Brazil nut (a normal allergen-containing plant) was spliced into a soybean. People that were then allergic to the soybeans were so because they had an allergy related to the Brazil nut, but unrelated to the fact that it was a GMO. The author concedes that allergens, such as those from nuts, milk, and gluten, are easily tracked and identified, so that GMOs found to contain these proteins are not released to the human food supply. Given that proteins are not ever absorbed into the body in their original form but rather digested down into peptides of short amino acid chains, it is also unlikely that animals that consume non-food grade GMOs can pass along the allergens to human consumers.
In summarizing the safety of GMOs and the rigor with which safety and allergen testing is conducted, I will not proceed to “re-invent the wheel” after Monsanto has composed explanatory websites that are both candid and clear. After being quite frankly impressed, I encourage you to visit Monsanto’s Issues and Answers page.
Small farmers who do not purchase GM seeds fear “bullying” by Monsanto for free-blowing pollen that contaminates their crops. A group of organic farmers filed a pre-emptive suit in March, 2011 against Monsanto in order for a precedent to be set against prosecution for the trespassing of pollen into non-GMO crops. Monsanto has stated that they have “not ever sued and has publically committed to not sue farmers over the inadvertent presence of biotechnology traits in their fields”.
Trade sanctions by the E.U. against U.S. grown GMOs hinder U.S. provision of food to starving peoples in Africa. American donations of foodstuffs are rejected because of restrictions imposed on GMOs. At Texas A&M, the late Dr. Norman Borlaug “genetically modified” wheat in the 1960s through extensive laboratory-based plant breeding, creating the dwarf wheat variety that keeps an estimated one billion people alive today. For more sources on cumbersome world politics and GMOs, read Pray et al., 2007 and Paarlberg, 2010 . Some E.U. officials concur with pro-GMO Americans that the current politics that reject GMO products for starving areas of the world are unsustainable (Davison, 2009) .
It seems the most underlying fear is that non-GMO participants sell products that our future world’s demands might make obsolete. In our world, I understand that the market is “always right”. What do you Think?