GM-food? No!
The 1st article in the series "Miscellaneous"

This article was published in the Australian tm-MAG, the "Travers-Murison Ezine".

What do you know about Agent Orange besides the fact that in Vietnam handicapped children are still being born?
What do you know about glyphosate besides the fact that this weedkiller is sprayed over the forests of Colombia, destroys the crops in the fields and hurting many children?
What do you know about Roundup Ready crops besides the fact that Roundup diminishes the sperm production in rabbits by 50 percent? See for more facts http://www.organicgardening.com/watchdog/pesticides_roundup.html 

Do you know what these three chemical products have in common?
Monsanto makes all of them sometimes by using GM-techniques.

Did the leaders of Monsanto know that Agent Orange killed and maimed people?
Did the leaders of Monsanto know that Agent Orange was harmful for humans?
Did the leaders of Monsanto wonder if Agent Orange could hurt people?

Does the answer matter? Or they knew it or they put people at risk because they did not do sufficient research to find out if their product was safe or they just produced something because they wanted to earn money.
Can you trust such people to make safe food?

For people including myself, who do not know much about GM, I refer to http://www.cat.org.au/~predator/mol.html . It is a long article but worth reading.
I am not unconditionally against the use of Genetic Engineering. Many medicines are made in the laboratory, sometimes by using GM-techniques, and the results are often quite good. I am against the situation in which people who are morally flawed decide about the use of genetic techniques. The leaders of the pharmaceutical industry are in the first place driven by money. When a new drug is found they want to sell it as fast as possible even when they know the product is not extensively tested. And they put excessive pressure on controllers to approve the new medicine.
There is still some control in the pharmaceutical industry but leaders of the big food-producing firms seem to be completely free to produce GM-food that is not tested. They are only driven by money. When I see that these people make chemicals that destroy forests in Vietnam and Colombia that also hurt people who live there I can not trust that the food they make will be safe.

Agent Orange was used in the Vietnamese War to destroy forests. Twenty-five years later I have seen the result and it must have been very successful. Anyhow these chemical weapons did not help the Americans to remain in Vietnam. But the human cost has been tremendous. Over a million people were damaged who could not defend themselves against high-flying planes that dropped Agent Orange. Many children are still being born with deformed bodies.
Glyphosate is like Agent Orange. Monsanto calls it Roundup, which is widely used to kill weeds in crop fields or private gardens. When it is used in a far off field or in small doses in a garden the effect will be limited (but still not negligible). But when it is sprayed over the forests of Colombia, people, animals and birds are also sprayed. Children have begun to vomit, their lungs are swelling, they develop pneumonia, they become mentally confused and their tissue is damaged. The American Government says it is the only way to destroy the drugs that grow in Colombia. But that argument is refuted by commandante Simon Trinidad of the guerrilla movement FARC. "The US is only attacking the Colombian peasant who makes nothing from drugs trade, whilst the huge profits are made by gringo (American) drug dealers and stashed in gringo banks." And in 1999 the Economist wrote that the whole operation Roundup was senseless, that the herbicides were losing the fight against the market forces. See http://www.colombiasupport.net/199804/agentorange.html which states that the area with coca-plants has increased vastly since the spraying started in 1994. Moreover the price of drugs in the US did not change significantly what proves that the impact of the spraying on the production of coke is not very important.

There are many similarities between chemical weapons and GM-food. Initially the impact of the product looks quite good but the end result is disappointing. And the side effects are unpredictable and often harmful for humans. Both products are hardly tested on their consequences for humans and for the eco-system.
Monsanto has genetically changed soybeans, which are now resistant against Roundup. Harmful weeds can be removed while the soybean can grow on. But there are already reports that the yield is not as promising as is promised by Monsanto.
But it is worse, fields with transgenic tolerant soybeans require two to five times more Roundup than not genetic engineered soybeans. The residues of the herbicides penetrate in the ecological system and in water. In the end they will enter the human system. There are reports that glyphosate, world's most widely used herbicide, is linked to cancer. See http://www.biotech-info.net/index.html under the heading health risks. When you want to know still more, search the Net with the words glyphosate and Monsanto. Via Altavista I found 3329 pages. Interesting is also http://www.netlink.de/gen/home.html When you search with the words Monsanto and India, you find articles about the resistance of Indian peasants against GM-crops. You can draw your own conclusions.

Nobody seems to learn anything from the past. Monsanto continues to produce dangerous chemicals. The multinational is also linked to PCB's. Maybe you remember the harmful effects of PCB's that accumulated in the milk of cows - and drank by humans. Firms as Monsanto do not care, they only want to make money.
PCB's are now banned. And Roundup will also be replaced. It is not good enough (therefore they have to spray so much in Colombia). But another chemical weapon will enter our living sphere, tebuthiuron. This product will not be safer because Monsanto is not the manufacturer. Dow Chemical makes it and Dow was also one of the producers of Agent Orange. Tebuthiuron will not substitute Roundup because it is safer for humans but because it kills the weeds better. Maybe it also hurts people more. But the discussion about which chemical is best is the wrong discussion. Not the chemicals are the greatest menace but the people who research, make, sell and distribute uncontrolled chemical products.

Biological and chemical weapons should never be used, but they are used in Colombia and elsewhere. You can wonder about the mentality of scientists who make these weapons. The same scientists make GM-food. The same leaders of big chemical multinationals pay them.
GM-food is not made because they give a better yield. They are in the first place made because otherwise chemical weapons as Roundup that destroys the weeds will also destroy the crops. Scientists think scientifically, they do not think about humans. There are weeds and they have to be removed. So you kill the weeds with a weedkiller. But then you kill also the crops so you have to change the crops so that they are not killed by the weedkiller. When the crops develop some strange characteristics, you change again the crops a little to combat the new difficulty, but then a new difficulty can arise, etceteras. In the end nobody will know if the GM-food, which will be the only food people can buy, will be safe. And when you do not believe that GM-crops will be changed again and again with GM-techniques, think of the medical world. Or do you not know a human who is ill and starts with one pill and then takes another and another to combat all kinds of side effects, till he ends up by eating twenty or more pills a day.

Let's stop with Genetic Engineering, the food problem in the world can be solved in a different manner. Install for example in West-Bengal and Orissa a drainage system as we have in Holland and the Indian people can produce enough food. See for example http://www.btinternet.com/~nlpwessex/Documents/geneticsmyth.htm But the political leaders of the West prefer to let the quacks that are leading firms as Monsanto continue their policies. Why? Because of the money. Not the well being of humans is important but the money that can be earned. And than only the money that fills the pockets of Western tycoons.
I cannot repeat it enough. People are responsible, not multinationals. So direct your arrows at people who decide, at directors of Monsanto or at leading politicians who approve of seeds that may be dangerous for humans. May be because nobody has done any research. And do not forget the scientists. Stop thinking that you can convince leaders by only using arguments. People have to develop such an autonomous power that they will force leaders to think of people in stead of ever more money. This people's power has to penetrate in the mind leaders and change their minds. Now leaders manipulate people, let people in the near future start to clean the minds of leaders. Some more ideas about this kind of actions you can find elsewhere on this site.

The American government is in favour of GM-foods but the governments in Europe appear to be opposed. Do look a little further because it is not the whole story. The European GM-research is just going on. And so the way is being paved to introduce GM-foods in a few years also in Europe. Action groups are active against GM-trials but Dutch activists still prefer to attack trial fields in stead of people who research, produce and sell the seeds. On the 13th of July the Dutch action group MEB (Mobile Unity in favour of Biosafety) removed about 900 potato plants which were genetically manipulated to be more resistant against a potato illness that is caused by infection by the fungus Phytopthera infestans. Three weeks earlier the action group Razende Hazen (Raving Hares) destroyed sugar-beet plants that were genetically engineered against the weedkiller Roundup from Monsanto.
On the 14th of July six protesters were arrested in Wales when they entered a field with GM-experimental fodder maize after a fruitless discussion with the farmer and a pro-GM scientist. It seems that these activists have not understood that it is not possible to carry out any action against GM-foods when you are in prison.

See also Letter 14, GM Food.

Joost van Steenis (July 17 2001)


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