Genetic engineering in agriculture
The genetic engineering of plants and animals looms as one of the most difficult food safety, environmental and health challenges of the 21st century. The promotion and use of genetically engineered crops has also resulted in unprecedented corporate ownership of agriculture, with seeds increasingly controlled by multinational corporations and lost from the hands of farmers and indigenous people, who have saved and improved seeds for food for millennia.
Genetic engineering (GE) or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) describe plants or animals that are created when DNA is taken from one organism and permanently inserted into the genetic code of another. The resulting organisms would never have been found in nature, yet are being released across the countryside and in our food supply. In the U.S., more than 80% of corn, more than 90% of soybeans and more than 80% of cotton grown are genetically engineered. The U.S. has yet to create policy to specifically deal with the specific biological, health, economic and food safety threats posed by GMOs.
While GE crops are promoted by the corporations that sell them as tools for farmers to reduce pesticide use and feed the world, these claims have proven false. Scientific research reveals risks to the environment and health, despite their approval by government. Research shows increased, rather than decreased, pesticide use with GE crops, as well as a significant increase in “superweeds” and “superbugs” during the past five years. Finally, studies consistently reveal that the main benefactors of GMOs are the multinational seed corporations that hold their patents. These corporations regularly sue farmers in attempts to ensure control of seeds.
Resources for more information:
- Scientific findings from a study of rats fed GE corn, with and without RoundUp (an herbicide with the active ingredient glyphosate), as well as a description of the backlash facing scientists who study GMOs. Two of the most recent GE health studies have been led by researchers Seralini (liver and kidney toxicity, tumors in rats) and Carman (inflammation of stomachs of pigs fed a GMO diet).
- The Bad Seeds: The Broken Promises of Agricultural Biotechnology, a report on how farmers face higher seed costs with GMOs, on weed resistance and increased pesticide use due to GMO use.
- Seed Giants versus U.S. Farmers, a report that records the relationship between U.S. farmers and the world’s largest agrichemical companies, who together form a seed oligarchy.
- Monsanto’s Superweeds and Superbugs, a description of the increasing epidemic of resistance to pesticides.
- GE Food: The Labeling Debate, a fact sheet on the labeling of GE food.
Genetically engineered trees
In addition to agricultural crops and animals, GE trees are fast becoming the new resource front for a handful of biotechnology corporations. GE trees pose unique environmental and socio–economic concerns unconsidered in government policy, especially due to their long life and significant potential to cross–contaminate non–GE trees due to the long distances across which trees reproduce, as they disperse their seed via wind, wildlife and water. Currently, three GE trees are approved for unrestricted planting in the world, and many additional field trials are occurring on acreages across the U.S.
Resources for more information:
- Resources on GE trees, including a description of what’s at stake, detailed profile of GE eucalyptus, a fact sheet and policy options.
- Groups urge U.S. to halt approval of GE trees, a news article about recent activities to stop the advance of GE trees.
The Ceres Trust supports organizations working to end GMO use and to prevent GMO contamination. Some of the organizations across the country providing leadership on these issues include: