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The unknown consequences of GMOs threaten the very future of food and humanity

Food security

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(NaturalNews) The rapid advances in agriculture involving the use of genetically modified foods and seeds has progressed largely without a great deal of scrutiny, leaving millions of Americans wondering about their effects on humans and the environment. While GMO pushers and the government agencies that shield them insist nothing is amiss, science is finally beginning to catch up to the technology, and the consequences of the "head in the sand" policy that has protected the bio-ag industry are finally becoming known.

Melody Meyer, the vice president of policy and industry relations at United Natural Foods, writes in The Huffington Post that agricultural economist and scientist Chuck Benbrook has spent a great deal of his career studying agriculture and its effects, particularly GMO crops.

In 2012, he released a study, "Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. – the first sixteen years," in which he reported that the use of herbicides increased dramatically since the introduction of herbicide-tolerant varieties of corn and soy.

Taking away "food security"

"This technology has led to a 527 million pound increase in herbicide use in the United States between 1996 and 2011," Meyer writes, citing Benbrook's findings. "The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) findings are similar. They indicate an increase from 20 million pounds in 1992 to more than 280 million pounds in 2012."

GMO technology has also impacted seeds in its destruction of "seed sovereignty," Meyer noted. Without the ability to save, breed and replant seeds, Americans lack real food security.

The very basis of our food is the seed. Now, when genetically modified seeds are created, they are summarily patented by the seed-maker - Monsanto comes immediately to mind. Those companies now own that specific form of life as it becomes illegal to save, cross-breed, replant or research those patented seeds and crops, Meyer notes. Moreover, she says that consolidation in the seed and chemical industry has only intensified.

The ETC Group's "Putting the Cartel Before the Horse" news release noted that "...six multinational firms (Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow, and BASF) control 75% of all private sector plant breeding research, 60% of the commercial seed market (100% of the transgenic seed market) and 76% of global agrochemical sales."

Traditional genetic modification, Meyer writes, "involves inserting the DNA of one species into another." Now, however, biotech and agri-giants are trying novel and mostly untested methods that intentionally turn off the "undesirable" traits of an entity by changing its RNA. This means that GMO scientists no longer have to introduce foreign DNA into an organism; instead, they are manipulating the RNA to literally turn genes off.

Rewriting genomes of entire wild populations

"This technology is what makes the newly deregulated Arctic Apple stay pearly white for 15-18 days after it's been sliced," Meyer writes. "Scientists used RNA and turned off the genes that naturally make the apple brown. The same technology was used to create Simplot's non-browning potato."

Another controversial genetic technology being utilized is "genome-editing," a technique known as CRISPR. This method allows researchers to change genetic sequences flexibly and quickly at will.

One proposed use of the CRISPR method is to create so-called "gene drives," where researchers create genetic changes in an organism with the aim of more rapidly and deliberately spreading them through an entire population.

"In a few generations, much like a nuclear chain reaction, it is intended that the entire population of the species changes or can be wiped out entirely," Meyer writes. "The mutation is irreversible, and wild genes just can't compete."

An article in the International Business Times says that "natural selection would be turned on its head and decisions made by some researchers could end up permanently rewriting the genomes of entire wild populations."

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