Agricultural Biotech is an unnecessary Evil

9 June 2012

And so say all of us.

I began my degree in biology the same year my university first offered a stream in biotechnology. I had never heard the word before, and from the descriptions, didn’t quite understand how it was different from biochemistry. A couple of decades later, and I know all too well what it has come to mean. I’m talking about agricultural biotechnology, not medical biotech, which is a gene of a different colour. Plus I know a lot less about it.

My stance is to ban it outright, remove all the biotech seeds and plants from our biosphere, and put the whole sordid experiment into our past as a bad idea gone bad. Several Countries have successfully banned GMOs, desite massive opposition. It is an issue that effects the very foundations of our food system, which in term is the foundation of our individual and public health.

Recenlty there have been articles about an engineered apple awaiting approval. The apple has been altered so that a gene has been turned off such that it doesn’t turn brown when cut. Which is completely ridiculous. Has this been such a soul-wrenching problem that we have been forced to go down to the molecular level to repair it? A very sharp knife will slice so few cells that the enzyme that causes the browning won’t be released in enough quantity to cause the “problem.” Also, acid (like lemon juice) neutralizes the enzyme. These have been solutions to the “problem” (I’ve eaten a number of apples gone brown without any adverse effects – don’t get me started on pesticide residue, however…).

Most likely, it is being developed for commercial/industrial scale use. so that a fast-“food”[tm] restaurant can include apple slices in their “salads”[tm] and not have to worry about unsightly browning.

The largest biotech companies were agri-chemical companies before. Any wonder their “plants”[tm] are being developed to tolerate company pesticides – which is where the real money is. There is a fierce protection of the patent on the seeds, so that farmers who sign on pay for the right to use the seeds, and then buy pesticides (herbicides, fungicides, etc…) out the wazoo.

A lot of false claims have gone along with selling us on biotech. And a lot of misinformation. Not to mention aggressive lobbying to prevent its labelling. Most processed foods contain some engineered ingredients, especially soy, corn, canola.

Here are some links – I can’t say how reliable the material is, as I haven’t combed through all of it – there are emotional, ill-informed articles against biotech that have their hearts in the right place, however, I prefer to seek out something with reputable, peer-reviewed sources. Biotech Companies have been known to publish their own research in their own journals made to appear peer-reviewed. If their product is so wonderful as to stand up on its own merits, why all the shenanigans?

Doctors of Chiropractic Outraged by Monsanto, GMO issue

At first glance, it seemed like an unusual topic for chiropractors to be discussing all over Facebook. No mention of subluxations, rehab, adjustments or even back pain. Yet, seldom has a subject galvanized DCs into such unity of opinion. The topic: Monsanto and its effect on the food, water, air and, ultimately, the health of every person on the planet.

Toxin from GM crops found in human blood

Fresh doubts have arisen about the safety of genetically modified crops, with a new study reporting presence of Bt toxin, used widely in GM crops, in human blood for the first time.

Animals won’t Eat GMOs
Cows, pigs, elk, deer, raccoons, squirrels, rats, and mice all share the same aversion to GMO’s, says Smith.
Failure to Yield – evaulation the performance of Genetically Engineered crops
An Open Letter from an Alberta Grain Farmer

Because the CWB [Canadian Wheat Board, which the Canadian Government has done away with illegally]  is customer oriented it listened to farmers and other people and was instrumental in blocking the introduction of Monsanto’s genetically modified, Roundup Ready wheat.  Monsanto is now preparing another attempt at introduction of genetically modified glyphosate resistant wheat.

This will lead to the selection of super weeds that are also resistant of glyphosate and require even higher applications of more toxic chemicals and combinations of chemicals to control the super weeds.

Studies have been done in some U.S. states and every sample of water from every stream tested positive for traces of glyphosate.  Air samples also showed traces of glyphosate.

What is the long term effects on the environment and human health of this chemical?  Genetically modified wheat would also contaminate and destroy organic production of wheat just as has happened with canola.

How Corporations Like Monsanto have Hijacked Higher Education
Academic research is often dictated by corporations that endow professorships, give money to universities, and put their executives on education boards.
Lab and clinical research shows that toxins from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are absorbed by humans. Pregnant women and their fetuses had detectable levels of the toxins in their blood. Lab research shows toxic effects on human kidney cells.
Human Genes Engineered into Experimental GMO Rice being Grown in Kansas
Unless the rice you buy is certified organic, or comes specifically from a farm that tests its rice crops for genetically modified (GM) traits, you could be eating rice tainted with actual human genes. The only known GMO with inbred human traits in cultivation today, a GM rice product made by biotechnology company Ventria Bioscienceis currently being grown on 3,200 acres in Junction City, Kansas — and possibly elsewhere — and most people have no idea about it.
Genetically Modified Crops’ Results Raise Concerns
Biotechnology’s promise to feed the world did not anticipate “Trojan corn,” “super weeds” and the disappearance of monarch butterflies.But in the Midwest and South – blanketed by more than 170 million acres of genetically engineered corn, soybeans and cotton – an experiment begun in 1996 with approval of the first commercial genetically modified organisms is producing questionable results.

Controversy Remains over Genetically Modified Food

“The United States Department of Agriculture reports 52 percent of all corn crops, 79 percent of all cotton crops, and 87 percent of all soybean crops grown in the U.S. are genetically modified,” says Ortega.

Harvard Scientist Proves Pesticide causes CCD [bee Colony Collapse]

 “Commonly used pesticides may be a primary driver of the collapsing bee populations, finds two new studies in Science. The studies, one focused on honeybees and the other on bumblebees, found that even small doses of these pesticides, which target insect’s central nervous system, impact bee behavior and, ultimately, their survival. The studies may have far-reaching repercussions for the regulation of agricultural chemicals, known as neonicotinoid insecticides, that have been in use since the 1990s.” — Jeremy Hance

A plant pathologist experienced in protecting against biological warfare recently warned the USDA of a new, self-replicating, micro-fungal virus-sized organism which may be causing spontaneous abortions in livestock, sudden death syndrome in Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soy, and wilt in Monsanto’s RR corn.

Booted Out of Germany – the Ignorance that Could Destroy Your Health

BASF withdrawing their biotech division from Germany is a perfect illustration of the power of public opinion, and why we must insist on labeling of genetically engineered foods in the US in order to regain control over our food supply. As long as millions of people are in the dark about what they’re eating, the biotech industry can continue to destroy the food supply of the US

GMO Corn Leading to Pesticide Resistant Bugs

Monsanto Co. corn that is genetically engineered to kill insects may be losing effectiveness against rootworms in four states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said.

Rootworms in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Nebraska are suspected of developing tolerance of the plants’ insecticide, based on documented cases of severe crop damage and reports from entomologists, the EPA said in a document dated Nov. 22 and posted yesterday on the government website. Monsanto’s program for monitoring suspected cases of resistance is “inadequate,” the EPA said.

Food Fraud – How your food has been hardwired for chemicals

 It is a brilliant use of technology by the chemical industry that has enabled them to sell more of their revenue-generating products, like weedkillers, but it appears to be coming at a cost to farmers, families and our future.

As crops are hardwired to withstand increasing doses of these chemicals and toxic weedkillers, it appears that the weeds have become resistant (not unlike a child might develop an antibiotic resistant should an overuse occur).  And with this weed-resistance, our farmers now confront new problems, never before seen on their farms, problems not encountered by their grandfathers or great grandfathers, called “superweeds”.

Roundup Diluted by 99.8% still destroys human DNA

Monsanto’s New Agent Orange – You are Eating, Breathing, Drinking it

Peru Passes Monumental 10-Year Ban on Genetically Engineered Foods

In a massive blow to multinational agribiz corporations such as  Monsanto, Bayer, and Dow, Peru has officially passed a law banning genetically modified ingredients anywhere within the country for a full decade before coming up for another review.  Peru’s Plenary Session of the Congress made the decision 3 years after the decree was written despite previous governmental pushes for GM legalization due largely to the pressure from farmers that together form the Parque de la Papa in Cusco, a farming community of 6,000 people that represent six communities. They worry the introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will compromise the native species of Peru, such as the giant white corn, purple corn and, of course, the famous species of Peruvian potatoes. Anibal Huerta, President of Peru’s Agrarian Commission, said the ban was needed to prevent the ”danger that can arise from the use of biotechnology.”

195 Days to Dec 21st 2012


Life continues to define itself well past our extremest expectations

22 May 2012

Bacteria has been living on minimal oxygen all along.

While there are efforts to introduce a bill into Canadian Parliament to define the beginning of life, there appears to be new information that begs us to reconsider what we consider life in general to be. If we don’t know what life is, then how can we hope to define when it begins?

Despite this heavy-handed political approach to revisit the abortion laws in Canada, scientific study continues to turn up life in the most unexpected places (maybe they’ll discover some in Ottawa, if they look hard enough). Most recently, bacteria were found living in the 86 Million year old red clay at the bottom of the Pacific. It reminds us just how versatile our ancestors are, and how many of them are still with us.

the Articles

from Nature.comSlo-mo microbes extend the frontiers of life

Using so little oxygen that they barely qualify as life, the microbes, discovered by Hans Røy and his colleagues of the Centre for Geomicrobiology at Aarhus University in Denmark, have exceptionally low metabolic rates. And biomass turnover — the replacement of the building blocks essential to life — occurs only once every few hundred or even every few thousand years.

the abstract from Nature Magazine: Aerobic Microbial Respiration in 86-Million-Year-Old Deep-Sea Red Clay

Microbial communities can subsist at depth in marine sediments without fresh supply of organic matter for millions of years. At threshold sedimentation rates of 1 millimeter per 1000 years, the low rates of microbial community metabolism in the North Pacific Gyre allow sediments to remain oxygenated tens of meters below the sea floor. We found that the oxygen respiration rates dropped from 10 micromoles of O2 liter−1 year−1near the sediment-water interface to 0.001 micromoles of O2 liter−1 year−1 at 30-meter depth within 86 million-year-old sediment. The cell-specific respiration rate decreased with depth but stabilized at around 10−3 femtomoles of O2 cell−1 day−1 10 meters below the seafloor. This result indicated that the community size is controlled by the rate of carbon oxidation and thereby by the low available energy flux.

article in Nature Magazine: Barely Breathing Microbes Still Living in 86-Million-Year-Old Clay

Scientists have discovered that deep-sea microbial communities, buried for 86 million years, are still consuming oxygen, albeit at extraordinarily low rates. These microorganisms eking out an existence in slow motion reveal just how little it takes to sustain life on our own planet, and potentially on others.

The scientists discovered that microbes can subsist on scraps of long-buried organic material because they consume it together with oxygen extremely slowly. Those living below 20 meters in the sediments of the North Pacific Gyre are consuming oxygen at a rate of 0.001 micromoles of oxygen per liter of sediment per year, the team reports online today in Science. At this rate, the microbes in 1 cubic meter of sediment would take about 10 years to consume the amount of oxygen the average person uses in one breath, says Tori Hoehler, a biogeochemist at the NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field in California who was not involved in the research.

Hoehler says that the research could inform the search for life on other planets. After determining whether an environment has enough water to support living organisms, he says, “these sorts of studies really address the next important question: Is there enough food for them to live?” Understanding life’s requirements for energy is key to determining the potential for life beyond Earth, Hoehler says. “They’ve taken a significant step in showing us, based on our own environments, what those requirements are.”

The findings also give Røy an appreciation for life here on Earth: “I find it so fascinating that you can take a cubic meter of mud and then store it for 86 million years, and somebody’s still living in it.”

Extreme Living

So-called “extremophiles” have been found in such inhospitable environments as those that are highly acidic or alkaline, extremely hot or cold temperatures, pressure, salinity, sugar concentration, under immense pressure, with little nutrients, and in the teeniest, tiniest of spaces. It’s quite incredible. Although most are microbes, there are a few that are multicellular, such as

213 Days to Dec 21st 2012