I think every farmer and even more anyone and anything that eats food.
This is really scary.
What is Nigerian policy pertaining to GMOs? Does the appropriate agencies check/confirm foods and seeds that get into the country?
Hybrid Seeds Vs GMOs
In both open-pollinated and hybrid seeds, we have always been breeding crops that were genetically able to reproduce, like two types of stone fruit, or two varieties of squash, or two breeds of dog.
But today, with sophisticated and expensive lab techniques (like retroviruses and gene guns), we can now manipulate and combine the DNA of species that could never, ever breed in nature—like fish and tomatoes, Brazil nuts and soybeans, or bacteria and corn.
We can even genetically engineer cows to produce human breast milk!
Combining or splicing together genes from different organisms in the lab (without actually sexually breeding them) is known as recombinant DNA technology, and the resulting organism is said to be “genetically modified (GM or GMO),” “genetically engineered (GE),” or “transgenic.”
GMO corn developed by Monsanto, for example, includes genetic material from the bacterium Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), which kills European corn borers by punching holes in their gut lining. This means that every single cell of the GMO corn plant contains the DNA of a bacteria that damages the digestive tract of whatever eats it. And because it is engineered into every cell of the corn plant, it doesn’t wash off.
Though biotech companies swore that Bt always breaks down during digestion, Bt has been found in the gut lining and bloodstream of humans.
RoundUp-Ready crops are plants that have had their DNA manipulated with bacterial genes to withstand heavy, repeated applications of the herbicide RoundUp, also called glyphosate.
While Monsanto swore that glyphosate (Round-up) was safe to eat and couldn’t get into ground water supplies, it is now listed as a probable carcinogen, and found in the waterways and groundwater in every country where it is sprayed, often at levels higher than allowed in drinking water.
Glyphosate can also be found in the urine and blood of people worldwide, and is implicated in the epidemic of birth defects in Argentina.
While, like all technologies, there is potential for recombinant DNA technology to do good (GMO papaya or GMO insulin, for example), the vast majority of GMO crops have been created solely to prop up corporate-controlled, industrial agriculture, force farmers to buy patented seed year after year, and promote dependence upon toxic chemicals like glyphosate (RoundUp).
Whatever you believe, don’t believe for one second that transgenic GM crops are anything like other forms of seed breeding. Genetically modified foods have no precedent in nature. Only GMO crops cross the species barrier, making them the biggest ecological experiment ever conducted on the planet.
A Brief History of GMOs
seed-company-ownershipClick to enlarge
Between 1997 and 1999, genetically-modified (GM) ingredients suddenly appeared in about two-thirds of all U.S. processed foods. This change to our food supply was fueled by a single Supreme Court ruling. It allowed, for the first time, the patenting of life forms for commercial profit. Since then, thousands of applications for experimental GM organisms have been filed with the U.S. Patent Office alone, and many more abroad.
The first commercially grown genetically modified whole food crop was the Flavr Savr tomato, which was made more resistant to rotting by Californian company Calgene (later bought by Monsanto). The tomatoes were released into the market in 1994 without any special labeling.
Later GM crops included insect resistant Bt cotton and herbicide-tolerant Roundup Ready soybeans, both of which were commercially available in 1996.
Between 1995 and 2005, the total surface area of land cultivated with GMOs had increased by a factor of 50, from 17,000 km² (4.2 million acres) to 900,000 km² (222 million acres), of which 55 percent were planted in Brazil, mostly on land that had been tropical rainforest.
By 2006, 89% of all U.S. soybeans, 83% of cotton, and 61% of corn were genetically modified varieties. Today in 2013, U.S. farmers can barely even find non-GMO corn, soy or cotton seed anymore, unless they buy certified organic seed.
For crops like corn, canola and alfalfa, wind can easily carry the pollen from GMO varieties quite far to contaminate non-GMO and even organically grown varieties on neighboring farms. And there is no mandatory labeling of GM content in seed.
It is estimated that over 85% of all the food on supermarket shelves contains GMO ingredients.
Monsanto’s Dirty Little Secret
In 2005, Monsanto grabbed 40% of the U.S. seed market and 20% of the global seed market when it bought out Seminis, making them the largest seed company in the world. This purchase gave them control over the genetics for 55% of the lettuce on U.S. supermarket shelves, 75% of the tomatoes, and 85% of the peppers, with strong holdings in beans, cucumbers, squash, melons, broccoli, cabbage, spinach and peas!
One of the main reasons that Monsanto and other biotech companies have bought up so many seed companies is to use the germplasm (DNA) of those non-GMO varieties in their future GMO products.
You see, the dirty little secret of the GMO industry is that most of the traits that they brag about trying to create (like drought tolerance, greater nutrition, etc.) are actually the product of traditional breeding.
By buying up all the seed companies, Monsanto can literally steal the work done by thousands of gardeners and farmers over generations to produce quality hybrid varieties with beneficial growing traits. Then they can slip a “Round-Up Ready” or other proprietary gene into it and call it their “own”, and sell it with patent restrictions.
This is not a company any gardener would want to support.
Why GMOs Are Unsustainable
Most seeds are created through guided natural reproduction, while GMOs are the product of species-crossing methods used to create untested organisms that would never occur in nature.
Like open pollinated seeds, many GM seed varieties can be saved and expected to produce uniform offspring the following season. But GM seed cannot be saved because all GMO seeds are patented. It is actually illegal to save GMO seed.
You see, GMOs are so expensive to produce (thousands of times more expensive than hybrids or other publicly bred seeds), without patents, biotech companies couldn’t make their money back, much less hold the world hostage to their product monopoly.
Subsistence farmers in developing countries, just like during the Green Revolution, are even worse off—now more dependent than ever on having to purchase seeds year after year—and the chemicals that go with them. That is, if the effort hasn’t already impoverished them off their land in the process.
Biotech companies are so rabid about protecting their patents that many U.S. farmers have been sued by Monsanto when GMO crops were found illegally planted on their fields.
Unfortunately, many of these farmers did not intentionally plant the patented seed; rather, the GMO pollen drifted onto their property via wind or insects, and contaminated their non-GMO crops. This didn’t stop Monsanto from winning their cases against them though, and shutting those farmers down.
Pollen contamination has also affected U.S. wheat and alfalfa exports, and crops that farmers did not know were contaminated have been turned away by countries that do not allow GMOs in their food. This has cost farmers a pretty penny, for sure!
Lastly, and perhaps most gravely of all, because of pollen drift and genetic contamination, we are starting to permanently lose food biodiversity. Control over seeds and the very ability to produce food at all continues to concentrate even further into the hands of just a few multinational corporations.
Notice a theme here?
Every time big chemical companies get involved in agriculture, none of their efforts are to grow food in a healthy, natural or sustainable way. Everything they create is meant to destroy regional food systems and local self-reliance, and foster dependence on expensive technologies, purchased seeds, and more use of chemicals and drugs.
With GM techniques, we can grow rice that contains pharmaceutical drugs in every cell of the plant, we can grow soy and corn that can survive gallons of toxic chemicals dumped on it, and we can force cows to produce twice as much milk as they were ever meant to, requiring widespread use of antibiotics to deal with udder infections.
Sadly, as if we learned nothing from history at all, Bill Gates wants to export patented GMO seeds to Africa as the next big Green Revolution—this time to supposedly lift African subsistence farmers out of poverty.
Why We Are All Guinea Pigs for GMOs
So far, mostly commodity crops with GM traits—such as Canola, corn, soy, cotton, alfalfa and sugar beets—have been approved by the USDA for use, primarily in processed foods and animal feeds. The exceptions are rBGH-treated milk, and GMO papaya, zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, some sweet corn, and one variety of apple, which are available—without labels—at your grocery store.
It is estimated that over 85% of all the food on supermarket shelves contains GMO ingredients.
The trouble is that nobody knows how these unnatural, new organisms will behave over the long run. The seed companies that develop these varieties claim intellectual property rights so that only they can create and sell the variety. In most cases, biotech companies refuse to allow independent scientists to obtain and study their GM seeds.
And the USDA doesn’t test them either before approval; they rely solely on the self-testing done by the biotech companies themselves.
Nevertheless, many independent scientists worldwide are studying GMO crops, and the mounting evidence against many GMO crops (especially the ones requiring the use of glyphosate) is looking grim.
From the development of allergies, tumors and reproductive disorders in lab animals, livestock and possibly humans, to the destruction of beneficial soil organisms and good soil structure that make it possible to grow food; from the creation of Superweeds and Superpests, to the dozens of peer-reviewed studies proving the toxic effects of RoundUp (glyphosate) on human health, most GMO crops are looking far worse for ecological and human health than we ever imagined.
So, if anyone ever tries to convince you that hybrid seeds and GMOs are the same thing, or that genetic modification technology is “just another” form of seed breeding, you will know the truth: Most seeds are created through guided natural reproduction, while GMOs are the product of high-tech, species-crossing methods used to create untested organisms that would never occur in nature.
While it is possible to use genetic engineering technology in the public interest (with the precautionary principle applied), the majority of GMO crops available today were created by chemical and pharmaceutical companies to create profit and dependency at the expense of people and planet.