Friday, January 14, 2011

Genetically Modified Organisms for Dummies

by scottyc

What are GMO’s?

Genetics are the software that determine how living things grow. It is the blueprint for our existence and, as such, it is almost as complicated as we are.

We have two strands of DNA. These strands come together in the middle like rungs of a ladder to create a sequence of what are called base pairs. There are about 3 billion base pairs in the human body. A group of these base pairs is a gene – some contain a few dozen base pairs, some a few hundred. There are about 60,000 genes in the human body – some are turned on and some off and nobody has the faintest idea what most of them actually do.

We do know that each gene within a living organism has a specific function. So, when a scientist discovers which gene in a glow worm is responsible for making it glow, they can then “splice” (or merge) this gene into that of a goldfish. The result – a goldfish that glows in the dark. If you think I’m joking, feel free to buy one right now at

So, what’s the problem?

Genes (like everything in life) are interconnected. As soon as you manipulate one gene, research has shown that other genes around it start to switch themselves on or off in attempt to compensate. Nobody knows what effect this new combination will have and, as far as Monsanto and other GM food companies go, they don’t seem to care. I’ll go into this in more detail later, but a documentary called The World According to Monsanto aired on French TV and very quickly gave the country’s citizens a wake up call. You can watch it here:

Genetic modification is a bit like putting blinkers on a horse that’s spent its whole life with his eyes wide open. Suddenly the blinkers go on and the horse goes nuts as it tries to come to terms with what’s going on. It may run faster on the track from time to time, but the animal is never the same again.

Now, if you eat a horse with blinkers on, it’s not that different to eating one without blinkers. However, if you eat foods that have been genetically modified, research indicates that the abnormalities within those genes start becoming part of YOUR genetic makeup. In other words, if you eat GM wheat spliced with a gene that creates a natural pesticide, your own stomach could start producing that pesticide because it’s now part of your genetic blueprint. GM foods given to rats also showed a sudden change in behaviour which greatly reduced their social interaction with other rats. The fact that GM foods can affect the brain like this shows just how connected and susceptible we really are to slight changes in our DNA.

Based on my research, there is so much negative research on GMO that only a corporation with a most vicious of agenda could be responsible for unleashing it on the human public. To me, it’s pretty logical – we are all connected at a quantum level so a small change to our starting point (ie. our genetic blueprint) MUST result in a significant change to us as human beings somewhere down the line, even if this change takes years to manifest. However, my evidence is not conclusive and ironically that’s exactly the whole argument against GM foods. There is simply no way this kind of food should be let loose on the world without proper, independent testing. We cannot rely on the research conducted by the very companies that supply the stuff! Have we learned nothing from the tobacco industry who lied to us all those years ago to tell us that smoking was safe? Or thousands of other products for that matter?

Why would we let this happen?

For one, few people know about them. Also, GM foods have been dubbed the solution to world poverty. They grow better, their yields are higher and they are more resistant to disease than any other kind of farming methods, except proper organic farming. When applied correctly there is no higher yielding, higher nutrient content, healthier or stronger plant in the world than home grown organic food. This is why I am so passionate about this cause.

However, we are not growing our own food. Therefore, there is pressure on our centralised decision making powers to alleviate world poverty by using GM foods that grow well using conventional farming methods. Actually, growing our own food is the solution to world poverty, but there is not much money in it.

There are a couple of commercial reasons for GM foods to be used. Firstly, Monsanto (one of the main GM players) produces the most widely sold pesticide in the world called “Round Up”. It just so happens that they also produce special GM seeds which ONLY ROUND UP WILL WORK ON! In fact, Round Up will kill just about every living thing that comes into contact with it EXCEPT for the specific plant that has been genetically engineered to resist it. Monsanto therefore controls both the seed and the pesticide which only that seed is immune to. Now that’s marketing baby!


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