From the February 2000 Idaho Observer:
Food is Power -- Part 2
Food is power. We use it to change behavior. Some may call that bribery. We do not apologize. ~Catherine Bertini, Executive Director of the World Food Program, Sept 1995.
by Jan Blum
[Note: Part One of of this article appeared in the December, 1999 edition of the Idaho Observer.]
Genetic engineering or biotechnology will change our society as fundamentally as did the Industrial Revolution. Genetic engineering bridges natural boundaries. In nature, pollen can only be transferred within specific botanical limitations.
Tomato pollen, for instance, has no effect upon a carrot flower. Genes from a rat would not naturally be received by plants. But with genetic engineering, single genes are moved scientifically wherever the scientist desires (a virus is often used to do the actual gene transfer). Animal genes, for example, have been inserted into plants.
This is very exciting and powerful for scientists but their all new frontiers involve tangling with the unknown. In the case of genetic engineering, nearly all the research energy has been invested in moving the technology forward rather than in understanding the results of introducing these altered organisms into human systems.
The generation of genetically engineered plants and animals involves the random integration of artificial combinations of genetic material from unrelated species into the DNA of the host organism. This procedure results in disruption of the genetic blueprint of the organism with totally unpredictable consequences. The unexpected production of toxic substances has now been observed in genetically engineered bacteria, yeast, plants, and animals with the problem remaining undetected until a major health hazard has arisen. Moreover, genetically engineered food or enzymatic food processing agents may produce an immediate effect or it could take years for full toxicity to come to light, explained Dr. Michael Antoniou (senior lecturer in Molecular Pathology, London, UK).
In addition to changing the natural composition of the food we consume, genetic engineering is changing the power structure of our world's food supply at an accelerated pace. The control of our food supply has been changing hands and consolidating. Genetic engineering is a major tool in this changing of the guard as seed companies introduce varieties that prevent traditional seed saving and force dependence upon the company for new seeds each year.
A major concern about genetic engineering is the lack of or suppression of studies about the results to human health. One scientist whose research found that rats fed a diet of genetically altered potatoes experienced a depressed immune response, a change in the prostate, and weight changes in many organs was suspended and had a gag order imposed.
This scientist, Dr. Pusztai of Britain, has now been joined by 21 other scientists (including genetic engineers, medical experts and toxicologists) from 13 different countries who validate his methods and results. Dr. Arpad Pusztai is one of the best known international experts on lectin (bt, which is now in the New Leaf Potato on sale in supermarkets in the USA, is a lectin); he has published 270 scientific papers, is 68 years old, and has spent 35 years researching lectin.
Perhaps the boldest comment on record regarding the food issue was made by an authority on the use of food as a weapon. Food is power. We use it to change behavior. Some may call that bribery. We do not apologize, said Catherine Bertini, Executive Director of the World Food Program, Sept 1995.
In the wake of the Gulf War, in dealing with Saddam Hussein and his millions of starving people, the humanitarian UN Security Council's coined the catch phrase that was picked up by the international press corps, oil for food -- an indication that one is more valuable than the other. One cannot eat oil.
A curious relationship has coalesced between chemical companies, seed companies and pharmaceutical companies. Oil and energy firms are buying seed companies because many already have existing ag chemical divisions..Seed is a logical extension of an existing product base in ag chemicals, said George Kidd, senior consultant to L. William Teweles & Co., an international seed and plant science consulting firm.
Multi-national companies saw that the seed business was profitable. Seed is a key in the food chain.
Pharmaceutical executives see benefits coming when ag scientists rub shoulders with researchers of human medicines. Such creative mixing could lead to new products or new uses of existing products.
"The Upjohn Co., owner of Asgrow Seed Co., has such a program in place along with research in genetic engineering. Chemical companies are working with seed firms in the area of herbicide resistance. Crops with such resistance could extend or expand markets for the weedkillers (Seeking a Fertile Future in Seed, Progressive Farmer, May, 1986).
The U.S. Patent Office issued a patent (U.S. patent #5,723,765) on March 3, 1998 to Delta and Pine Land Co (the largest cotton seed company in the world, subsequently acquired by Monsanto) and the USDA jointly for the first Control of Plant Gene Expression, called by the seed companies technology protection but more commonly known as Terminator Technology or the Terminator Gene.
This technology patent is applicable to all food crops. By early 1999, dozens of other patents for genetic sterilization of plants and seeds, and even animals, have been applied for by other seed companies.
The whole reason for the Terminator technology is to sterilize seed. Seed saved from crops that have the terminator gene in them can be made to not germinate, thus causing dependence upon the seed company for new seed every year.
Half the world's farmers are too poor to buy commercial seed every year. These farmers feed 20 percent of the world's population. That includes 100 million people located in Latin America, 300 million in Africa, and 1 billion in Asia. This amounts to 1.4 billion people who are directly fed by farmers who save their own seed -- which raises the question about what will be terminated with the Terminator Gene.
The Terminator Gene can be spread through pollen and contaminate nearby gardens and fields as well as wild plants.
With headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri, Monsanto has 32,000 employees, a market capitalization of $28 billion and 1998 revenues of $9 billion.
Monsanto was originally primarily an oil company. It is transforming itself into a dominant player in the Life Industry. In recent years, Monsanto has invested over $8.5 billion in acquiring seed companies around the world.
In 1998, Monsanto took over Delta and Pine Land Co (cotton seed co) and Dekalb (the second largest corn company in the U.S.). In 1997, Monsanto took over Holden's Foundation Seeds (25-35 percent of the U.S. corn market).
In the summer of 1998, Monsanto was bought by American Home Products which is one of the world's largest research-based pharmaceutical and health care products companies, being a global leader in vaccines, biotechnology, agricultural products and animal health care. Before buying Monsanto, AHP was the third largest in the U.S. agrichemical marketplace.
With the acquisition of Monsanto, this company is the largest agrichemical/life industries company in the world. The company is reportedly in merger discussions with DuPont.
Jan Blum is co-owner of Seeds Blum, a very small seed company in Idaho. Jan started Seeds Blum as a personal answer to her concerns about worldwide genetic erosion.
To learn more about Seeds Blum and how you can become involved with your food supply, visit their website at www.seedsblum.com
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