Separate facts from fantasies in GMO debate

Hank Keeton

I believe it serves the best interests of our agricultural industry to present as many facts as possible, so readers can make informed choices about their farming practices. If we allow the discussion of genetically engineered, or genetically modified organisms, to be dominated by the agri-chem companies, we can be assured our own, our industry’s and our country’s interests will not be best served.

The history of GE-GMO is thoroughly explored in the 2007 work by investigative reporter F. William Engdahl, “Seeds of Destruction.” There was nothing accidental about this development. It was driven by the availability of cheap oil, and the desire to accumulate profits as fast as possible. The desire to control the food supply was also a major factor. Henry Kissinger infamously proclaimed in the ’70s that “Control oil and you control nations. Control food, and you control the people.”

After World War II, chemical companies (like Monsanto, Dow, DuPont and Syngenta) learned the fastest way to make money was to convert cheap oil into chemicals. During the 1960s the chemical of choice was the poison Agent Orange (dioxins), which destroyed the land and the people of Southeast Asia, as well as destroying the lives of our soldiers.

During the 1990s, as food became a focus in the globalizing economy, these same chemical companies decided the way to sell more chemicals was to develop patentable seeds, which required use of their proprietary chemicals to poison other plants and insects. Selling chemicals was inextricably tied to the development of patentable seeds.

The seeds and chemicals ensured that farmers and then consumers paid these agri-chem firms twice for the same crop. To mask the deception, the agri-chem companies claimed that the seeds were super-seeds, and would feed the hungry world. Facts show the only feeding these seeds and chemicals do is to increase the profits of the agri-chem companies.

On 29 May 1992, at the behest of Monsanto through President George H. W. Bush, the Food and Drug Administration issued a policy statement with no scientific review or background. It was a purely political maneuver to assert “equivalence” between GE-GMO and natural seeds. This political policy set the stage for the next 20 years of worldwide proliferation of, and resistance to, the GE-GMO movement. The logical contradictions of this political policy have been the focus of major controversies. On the one hand, the agri-chem companies assert “equivalence” to natural seeds, yet on the other hand they assert patent rights for the “unique differences” from natural seeds.

GE-GMO techniques are distinctly different from natural plant breeding. GE-GMO forces changes to the genetic structure of plants, while natural plant breeding allows the plants to determine which genetic crosses survive. The GE-GMO process is artificially forced upon nature through complex laboratory procedures, while natural plant breeding works with nature to establish the viability of new plants. Differences between the processes are the source of controversy. Long-term tests produced by independent labs around the world clearly show that GE-GMO changes also bio-accumulate, and result in radical disruptions of plant, animal and eco-biological processes downstream from the initial introduction. Agri-chem companies have tried to discredit these tests, but the public is gradually becoming aware that the impacts are real and growing. It is imperative for all of us in agriculture to separate facts from fantasies, for the betterment of our industry and the world.

Hank Keeton farms 10 acres east of Silverton, Ore., manages three small businesses and is a partner in an ISO-certified testing laboratory for agricultural products.


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