Tag Archives: genetically modified

The Rising Danger of Genetically Modified Trees

“Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him and the doors of the nations which are closed against him must be battered down, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. No useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused.” ~ Woodrow Wilson

GM TreesAn outrageous notion, perhaps, but one which Monsanto certainly abides by as it works tirelessly to batter down the doors not only of new markets, but of new products which they know will do further damage to the environment and encounter increasing opposition from citizens around the world.

There are genetically engineered trees that have been designed for two purposes – fruit trees for food and trees for the paper industry. There are currently test fields, around the globe, of genetically modified trees. Most of the test plots in the US are in the southeast, and the areas around them have already seen adverse effects from being contaminated by the pollen from GE trees whose ‘terminator gene’ wasn’t effective.

These trees are engineered, like all the other GMO crops, so that they kill insects by producing the BT toxin, and to be Round-up ready, as well as being supposedly sterile. The trees being designed for the paper industry are also engineered to be low in lignin because it’s difficult and expensive for the industry to remove. There are so many dangers, huge issues, about which we need to engage in public discussion. More people need to be aware of these threats, and more people need to join in the fight against this mad science experiment. Here’s why:

GM trees

Sterility

We’re looking at massive disruption of our vital forest ecosystems through contamination. The inventors of the terminator gene have explicitly stated that it will not be effective 100% of the time. So, Monsanto and others who are creating these GMOs know full well that anytime GMOs are grown, there will almost certainly be contamination of nearby organisms. The threat of this is greatly increased with trees, as they have the ability to spread their pollen over huge areas, up to hundreds of miles. They don’t care because they only stand to gain by it. Monsanto has been given the right to claim ownership of contaminated crops. If they contaminate forests on public lands, we have to ask what the result of that will be. Monsanto has not shown itself to be capable of any kind of self-restraint whatsoever and it’s completely rational to believe that they will have no qualms about cutting everything down. Even if the sterility gene isn’t effective in a particular plant, it can still pass that gene on. So, if our forests become contaminated, it’s also likely that a larger number of trees in native forests will be sterile.

BT toxin

desert-1196987_640We’ve already begun to see the drastic effects that the BT toxin, produced by GE plants to kill insects, has on the surrounding environment. It kills good insects as well as bad, insects that we depend on to pollinate our natural crops and make them viable. Also, if you kill all the insects that other animals, like birds, depend on for food, one thing leads to another and you’ve soon destroyed the entire ecosystem.

Another problem with the BT toxin is that it isn’t limited to the plant itself. It’s also produced in the root of the plant, which means it gets into the ground. This leads to two very damaging environmental effects. First, the toxin leaches into the groundwater, contaminating nearby streams and rivers – sources of drinking water for humans and animals alike. Second, the soil is full of insects which are a necessary part of the ability of natural soil to renew itself. They add nutrients that plants need to grow, through both life and decomposition after death. GE crops also grow faster, requiring more water and nutrients, so while they take more out, they simultaneously make it impossible for the soil to renew itself. Follow this to its natural conclusion and we find that, every few years, more native forests would have to be cleared to make way for the GE trees because the previous plot is now an arid wasteland that can’t support life. Seems like a bad plan, right?

Round-up

Monsanto’s herbicide Round-up has sundry severely damaging effects on human beings, and it’s been found in blood and urine samples, at high levels, of huge numbers of people across the globe. It’s being banned in city after city and country after country as more information continues to come to light about the damage that it does. Read this article about the 10 most important things to know about glyphosate, the active ingredient in Round-up. It’s in our drinking water for the same reason BT toxin is, and it gets absorbed by crops during their growth because they constantly doused with the stuff, so it’s also in a lot of the food that we eat in trace amounts – and that’s all it takes. Weeds become resistant to it over time, so more and more is used, and a new round of GMOs are being designed to withstand 2,4-D, one of the chemicals in Agent Orange that was responsible for making it so dangerous.

Make it stop.

“What the hell is the rush to apply these ideas?…The rush to apply these ideas is absolutely dangerous because we don’t have a clue what the long-term impact of our manipulations is going to be.” ~ Dr. David Suzuki, geneticist

If you’re not fighting Monsanto, with your knowledge, your time, and your wallet, now is the time to start! Buy from small farmers who use sustainable practices, buy organic, have conversations with people who don’t know the truth.

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Free Trade Agreements & GMOs

Globally, nobody really wants GMOs. American lobbyists and politicians call it a “technical barrier for trade.” Another way to say that might be ‘the will of the people getting in the way of corporate imperialism.’

There’s a new trade agreement in the works between the US and the EU, called TTIP – Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. It will be the largest trade agreement in the world. Trade between the EU and the US is already at some $2 billion per day, but regulations in the EU prevent some imports from the US and operations of certain US companies because they don’t abide by the relatively strict non-GMO and other food safety standards that the EU has adopted because of overwhelming public opinion, and because they prefer the ‘better safe than sorry’ approach when it comes to public health. I think most of us have figured out by now that most of the actions taken by our federal government at this point in time are designed to benefit corporations, not people, so it’s important to take a look at things like TTIP through that lens.

One of the tasks TTIP seeks to accomplish is a convergence of the differences in technical regulations, standards and certifications. It would be nice to assume that this convergence would take place at the highest standards, but I’m afraid we can’t make that assumption. I’ve read articles about this changing of standards being scary for Americans because, if this convergence follows the lowest common denominator, as it’s supposed that it will, we won’t be able to trust imported food. Very funny! It’s the rest of the world that’s scared, because allowing GMOs and a list of some 3000 additives in our food supply makes our products the ones that can’t be trusted in terms of safety. Look at how unhealthy we are as a nation. Other people are not exactly clamoring to have what we’re having.

The truly concerning part of this is, in fact, already an aspect of other trade agreements, like NAFTA, and would be a matter of course for TTIP – that is the ability of corporations to sue governments if they judge that the policies, regulations, or actions of that government result in a loss of their “right” to profit. An interesting concept, that – right to profit.

For example, three US-based companies – Corn Products International, ADM/Tate & Lyle, and Cargill – sued the Mexican government for refusing to import high-fructose corn syrup under NAFTA. They won the lawsuit and Mexico had to pay the three companies a total of over $169 million. Monsanto has already shown that it’s more than adept at getting what it wants via the legal system. If they can use this tactic in Europe, it will force open a back door to GMOs in the EU. That’s only one concern; there’s a long list of food additives that are approved in the US, but banned in Europe and elsewhere because of serious doubts about their safety, even in limited quantities. Artificial colors are on that list because they’re made from some of the same chemicals you find in gasoline, tar and asphalt.

Guess who gets a seat at the negotiating table. Corporations. It’s expected that they’ll give themselves the ability (as they already have done in the TPP – Trans-Pacific Partnership) to challenge countries’ laws, regulations, even court decisions. This would effectively elevate corporations above the level of nation-states in terms of power and should never be allowed. It probably wouldn’t be if the public in any member country had a say, which is why the talks for both the TPP and TTIP are being kept largely secret. The information we do have is from leaked papers, and it bodes ill for the futures of the people who will be affected by the general lowering of standards. By taking away the ability of a country to regulate its own food supply, these agreements will be taking away any level of food sovereignty from individuals as well, because it erases their ability to effect any kind of change even by voting.

Which brings us back to this idea of the “right” of corporations to profit. A truly screwy concept. Corporations do not have some fundamental right to profit. They have the goal of offering products and services that people want. That is how they profit. If they offer something no one wants they should fail. That’s really the basic ideal of capitalism, albeit very simply put, and there’s really nothing wrong with that, but what we’re working with now isn’t this basic capitalism; it’s crony capitalism and corporate imperialism at their ugliest. That’s really what’s responsible for companies like Monsanto, which are permitted to steamroll everything that stands in the way of any potential profit, regardless of the cost to human and environmental health and safety. This is really the importance of government regulations – if you’re permissive enough in the beginning, pretty soon you’ve created a monster that you have no control over.

And now a quote from Noam Chomsky circa 2003:

“The most powerful state in world history has proclaimed, loud and clear, that it intends to rule the world by force…The empire has also declared, explicitly and precisely, that it will tolerate no competitors, now or in the future. Its leaders believe that the means of violence in their hands are so extraordinary that they can dismiss with contempt anyone that stands in their way.” ~ Noam Chomsky

Learn more about these issues:

Corporate Europe Observatory

Eco-Watch

Noam Chomsky’s talk at the World Social Forum in Brasil.

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