The GM crop game: Which would you approve?
Crop A: Ventria Rice
This rice, developed by Ventria Biosciences, has genes from human livers spliced into its DNA so that it’ll start producing proteins that can be used to make pharmaceutical drugs.
Points of contention
- It was originally only tested in lab settings; when Ventria wanted to plant it outdoors in Missouri, Anheuser-Busch (a consumer of Missouri-grown rice) threatened to boycott all the rice in the state if it was planted. So, they moved to Kansas, the land where capitalism prevails.
- The FDA, in some vague recognition of the risks posed by this rice, rejected it from approval in 2003. Unfortunately, the USDA isn’t remotely committed to our health, because they approved it for use in 2006.
- Despite the fact that this rice is self-pollinating (and theoretically less likely to infiltrate the food system, preventing infiltration is impossible. Animals (like birds) can carry it miles and miles, and spread the seed across great distances. Not everyone wants drugs in their food supply.
Crop B: Dow Agrosciences Corn
This corn, named Enlist, has been modified to have a gene resistant to a very specific ingredient (2,4-D) in a very widely used herbicide (termed Agent Orange).
Points of contention
- 2,4-D damages plants, so farmers resist spraying their crops frequently. So, becoming resistant to the chemical, farmers can spray whenever, wherever, and as frequently they want without damaging crops.
- The plant is now resistant to the 2,4-D, but humans aren’t. It (and the herbicide) are potentially very dangerous! Obviously agribusiness doesn’t acknowledge it but scientists have conclusively shown (in dozens of studies) that it causes birth defects in laboratory animals and in humans is clearly associated with cancer, nerve damage, Parkinson’s disease, birth defects and hormone disruption.
- Not only are scientists concerned, farmers are too – about pollution and contamination of the air and water which could spread the crop far and wide.
- 35 prominent medical and health professionals have written a letter to the USDA to deregulate the crop (as it is not yet approved).
*I cannot say how true or untrue these images are, but a quick google image search of ‘agent orange’ brings up some horrifyingly terrible images. Don’t google it if you’ve got a weak stomach.
Lesson I learned: It’s sad that I’m not phased by some of these GM crops anymore and we’ll see what happens but one thing I learned: I’m becoming a bigger fan of Anheuser-Busch by the moment. I applaud them for using their prominence and power in Missouri to force the crop elsewhere.