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Our Future of Genetically Engineered Food

Updated on December 30, 2016
Early farmers
Early farmers | Source
Our diet
Our diet

The First Genetic Engineers

At the end of the last ice age, about 11,000 years ago climate changes gave advantage to annual plants which put their energy into their own survival. Instead of extensive vegetative growth these annual plants produced seeds and tubers with built in energy reserves to fuel the following generation of plants. Mankind; say hello to grains and pulses! Finally, an improved climate and different plants gave us a way to harvest and store our food supply. The first cooperatives; bands of people started building villages and the old hunter gatherer way of life was in decline. Unlike today’s city dweller, early man lived in an uneasy symbiosis with nature; seasons, climate and weather were in charge and we learned how to adapt. As we settled down, we developed agriculture, domesticating the first plants and animals. These early farmers didn’t even have a written language but they could observe the way things grow and reproduce. In short order they were choosing the biggest ram to mate with the healthiest ewe, and saving seeds from the largest and healthiest plants to grow the next generation, this is selective breeding and these were the first genetic engineers. The first crops to be domesticated were edible seeds, wheat, barley, peas, lentils, chickpeas, bitter vetch and flax. The big advantage was that these seeds could all be dried and stored. There was food to eat long after the harvest was over and we no longer had to move to follow the food supply. Farmers were already cross breeding plants to develop better varieties and taking advantage of the natural diversity when their crops cross bred with wild plants. Famines, plagues and natural disasters were all still prevalent, but we had a toehold and survival became just a little less difficult.

We spent the next 10,000 years hanging on to this toehold and developing what we could. After long strides forward in the western world under the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, society collapsed and we entered the dark ages. Much of the knowledge developed was lost to the average man although much was saved in monasteries. Enter the Renaissance, the age of Enlightenment and the age of exploration. As Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic, he was soon followed by many others. This became known as the Columbian Exchange, Europe was discovering startling new foods, chilies, corn, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, squashes and potatoes to name a few. Genetic diversity took a big leap forward in the old world as they slowly embraced the new foods. By growing more varieties of plants we had other options in case of a crop failure but grains were still king.

Dr Oz on GMO Foods

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New World Food for the Old World

 Dumont Portrait of Antoine Parmentier examining New World Plants
Dumont Portrait of Antoine Parmentier examining New World Plants | Source
Potato famine was political
Potato famine was political | Source

Politics and Food

The potato was a New World crop that saved huge numbers of people from starvation; it is nutritious and could be grown in large amounts on small plots of land. Politics of the British Empire prevented the Irish from inheriting their land, the Irish were forced to survive on what could be grown on tiny plots of land. The potato was the plant that fit the circumstances and people survived. When the potato blight destroyed the crop, the Irish starved. The Irish potato famine was caused by British politics and is a glaring example of what can happen when politicians make laws that benefit only the ruling class. Land use, property rights and food were part of destructive government policies. A look across the ocean at Peru, the home of the potato, showed that although the blight was present, it did not devastate the population. In Peru, government didn’t force people onto tiny plots of land and there were over 5000 varieties of potato in this land. Today, worldwide, we grow a total of 4 varieties of potatoes, yes, there are niches of different varieties of potatoes being raised, but all of the Yukon Gold or Peruvian Purple potatoes amount to a drop in the sea of the vast amounts of potatoes grown and eaten in the world. This is not an issue restricted to potatoes, 96 percent of the vegetables grown at the beginning of the last century are now either extinct or preserved in seed banks. All of the potatoes being grown now depend on petroleum based fungicides. What happens when the fungi develop resistance to fungicide? Worldwide production of potatoes was 315 million tons in 2008 and potatoes are becoming increasingly important in poor countries as a source of calories.

Who is in charge in Washington?

Revolving doors between government and business ensure tat we do not get to choose
Revolving doors between government and business ensure tat we do not get to choose | Source

Vandana Shiva: The Future of Food

 Monsanto  corn seed factory
Monsanto corn seed factory

The Green Revolution

Scientists have developed fertilizers and insecticides based on petroleum products that were developed and first used in WWI. The advances in chemical engineering of two world wars led to development of commercial uses for many petroleum based products. The same companies that made explosives for war were able to turn bombs into fertilizers. After WWII, what is now commonly called the “Green Revolution” was on and America was leading the way to a food abundant future. Farmers around the world began using petroleum based fertilizers, insecticides and fungicides and crop yields actually increased faster than population growth. The post war period was the American period; we dominated agriculture, the sciences and business. Made in America was a sign of quality. Gradually and almost imperceptibly business was taking charge in the U.S. Big American businesses were growing ever larger, we were feeding the world and making lots of money, what could be wrong with that? Growing food in this era became ever more mechanized, farms were being consolidated into larger and larger farms with corporate absentee owners and crops were being grown according to government subsidies rather than market demands. In America, subsidies follow crops while in Canada and Europe subsidies follow the farmers. We taxpayers underwrite the cost of the corn which is being turned into High Fructose Corn Syrup that sweetens our sodas. Meanwhile small family farmers have to grow subsidized crops or go broke while giant corporate farms rake in millions of tax dollars for growing the approved crops. Why do we pay agricultural subsidies?

"(Reuters) - U.S. farmers are using more hazardous pesticides to fight weeds and insects due largely to heavy adoption of genetically modified crop technologies that are sparking a rise of "superweeds" and hard-to-kill insects, according to a newly released study.

Genetically engineered crops have led to an increase in overall pesticide use, by 404 million pounds from the time they were introduced in 1996 through 2011, according to the report by Charles Benbrook, a research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University" By Carey Gillam

Roundup blister
Roundup blister

Monsanto and Roundup ®,

Monsanto is one of the big agribusiness companies and it holds a stranglehold on some portions of food production. In the 1970s Monsanto developed Roundup ®, an all purpose herbicide. The active ingredient of Roundup ® is glyphosate; this is what kills the weeds. Roundup® also contains the surfactant POEA (polyethoxylated tallow amine), which is known for its toxicity in wildlife. Surfactants are chemicals which lower the surface tension of a liquid, thus allowing it to penetrate another surface, simply put; the surfactant in Roundup helps it enter your bloodstream more easily. Super weeds have developed Roundup resistance largely because of repeated exposure. There is a body of evidence which states that Roundup ® is not toxic to humans. Of course this evidence was produced by researchers being paid by Monsanto. There is also a body of evidence which states that the ingredients in Roundup® are toxic. Research and make your own decision and if you believe Monsanto’s position, would you enjoy a nice cocktail of Roundup® on the rocks? Caveat Emptor!

Roundup® was and is a huge success, but what else could they sell? Farmer Joe can’t very well just go around spraying everything with an herbicide now, can he? All he could grow would be a bunch of super weeds. Monsanto to the rescue! Monsanto has developed Roundup® resistant crops genetically engineered to be tolerant to glyphosate. This is done by finding a bacterium resistant to glyphosate and cloning the gene responsible for the resistance. Next they insert the gene into the plant and develop it as a crop seed. This process didn’t happen in nature, there was no cross breeding to develop hardier varieties of plants.

Young boy stacking plates in Bangalore. India
Young boy stacking plates in Bangalore. India | Source

Monsanto and Child Labor

"According to the International Labor Rights Fund, child labor is used by Monsanto. In India alone over 12,000 children are employed on cotton plantations owned by Monsanto and other transnational agro-corporations. Many children have died or suffered serious illness from exposure to pesticides".

Genetically Modified Food, series

Your corn flakes already contain GM corn
Your corn flakes already contain GM corn
Do you have a choice?
Do you have a choice?
Roundup resistant weeds, need more powerful chemicals
Roundup resistant weeds, need more powerful chemicals

Patenting food, companies can “Own” living organisms

For the first 200 years of American history the patent office refused to issue a patent for any living thing, because it was a part of nature. Patents were first issued in the 1930s for certain seeds, but at this time the patent only applied to the first generation of seeds, subsequent generation of seeds were no longer patented property. In 1980 a case brought before the Supreme Court was decided in favor of Ananda Mohan Chakrabarty, working for General Electric, GE and Chakrabarty were then the proud owners of a bacterium derived from the Pseudomonas genus. This was the first case in the US where business was allowed to own a living organism and it opened a floodgate of patents for genes and even plant seeds which were not developed at all with genetic engineering. Any seed, which has not been previously patented, may now be owned by any company that wants to buy a patent for it. I wonder just who owns our food now? There are now 3,000–5,000 U.S. patents on human genes and 47,000 on inventions involving genetic material. When a patented gene is inserted into a plant or an animal, the patent owner owns that plant or animal. So far, this doesn’t apply to people, we can’t be owned. . . yet!

Terminator genes and BT Corn

Terminator genes ensure that farmers can't save seeds, the seeds are sterile so farmers have to buy more from Monsanto
Terminator genes ensure that farmers can't save seeds, the seeds are sterile so farmers have to buy more from Monsanto
BT corn being introduced to Africa, will Terminator genes cause famines? The poorest farmers now need Monsanto
BT corn being introduced to Africa, will Terminator genes cause famines? The poorest farmers now need Monsanto

Terminator genes and BTCorn

Some of the more famous Monsanto products which you may be familiar with are: Agent Orange and DDT, Aspartame (NutraSweet) and PCBs. The business end of Monsanto is always busy looking for new opportunities. Both Monsanto and Syngenta have developed "Terminator" genes that create plants that sterilize their own seeds, forcing farmers to buy seeds from the companies every year. What happens when these genes escape into the wild? Are we developing plants that can no longer reproduce? For thousands of years, farmers have been saving seeds from one crop to start the next generation, now if “terminator” genes get into the normal gene pool we can all depend on Monsanto to keep us fed.

At least they are devising new methods to protect crops from pests; maybe that will be their saving grace. Monsanto has inserted a gene from an insect-killing bacterium called BT (Bacillus thuringiensis)into corn so that every cell of the plant has activated BT toxin in it. BT corn is actually registered as an insecticide. There was a time when we could wash our fruits and vegetable to rid them of harmful chemicals, now we design the food to have chemicals built in.

Monsanto also has a reputation for suing farmers when Monsanto genes show up in a farmer’s crop. If you are a farmer and your crop becomes contaminated with Monsanto’s genetically manipulated seeds, you owe Monsanto money because you are growing their property. If you want to grow a crop which has not been genetically modified, you might have to move to Europe. Here in the US, businesses own various forms of life and if they show up on your farm, for any reason, you have to pay. There is no law and no regulation which is designed to protect a farmer or a consumer from genetically modified foods.

GM Food Labeling and Patents

Fortunately, some parts of the world have taken a more rational approach to genetic modification of foods; the United States and Canada do not require labeling of genetically modified foods. However the European Union, Japan, Malaysia and Australia, have required labeling so consumers can exercise choice between foods that have genetically modified, conventional or organic origins. Monsanto and other businesses are trying to gain advantage through international patent laws, if they can get the world to observe our patents, all countries will be forced into paying for genetically modified foods. Right across the border; Mexico has a total ban on GM corn, yet because we subsidize our corn crop, our seed corn is cheaper to buy in Mexico. Poor farmers buy the most economical seeds they can find so the result is that some of the heritage corns of Mexico are already contaminated with our GM corn. If our patent laws become internationally recognized, Monsanto will be able to start suing Mexican farmers for patent infringement.

Some of the current projects of genetic modification are moth genes being fused into potatoes, arctic char genes are being fused with strawberries to improve frost resistance, flounder genes are being fused with tomatoes, firefly genes are being fused with corn,

A few places still ban GM food

Guinea Pigs and Test Subjects

As far as you and I are concerned, we get to be guinea pigs.More than 60% of the packaged food items in US grocery stores contain genetically altered ingredients. These crops have been in your diet for the last 15 years and there is no regulation which states that genetically modified foods must be labeled as such. How long does it take for cancer to develop in a population exposed to carcinogens? How much time does it take for illnesses to show up in a population when they are exposed to harmful substances? The answers are coming and the answers will come because you donated your children to the trust you put in big business and the agency heads provided by big business.

In the New York Times, dated October 25, 1998, Phil Angell, Director of Corporate Communications for Monsanto Corporation said “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of Biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job”

In the video above with Dr Oz, Monsanto responded to his request for participation with this statement: "It is impossible to design a long term
safety test in humans"

Birth Defects, Cancer and Argentina

Argentina may paint the future for all of us. During the 1970s, Argentine farmers embraced the then new GMO crops. The love affair has continued and accelerated to the point where almost their entire crop of soy is GMO and exported to the world market. Exporting the soy doesn't protect the local population from negative health effects from all the pesticide use.
From Mother Jones:

"A recent article by Associated Press reporters Michael Warren and Natacha Pisarenko paints a grim picture of life in the farm belt in the age of industrial corn and soy:

In Santa Fe, cancer rates are two times to four times higher than the national average. In Chaco, birth defects quadrupled in the decade after biotechnology dramatically expanded farming in Argentina."

Monsanto denies any responsibility and rightly points out that they do not condone the improper use of their chemicals nor can they control when their chemicals are misused.


There is no panacea here, as consumers we need to do 2 things. Buy food labeled Organic and express our outrage to our political leaders. Business is toying with our health for a goal of greater profits and our leaders have made this possible. The  revolving door between business and Federal Agency leadership should come to a halt and the agencies should be lead by scientists and academics. Democrats and Republicans are beholden to big contributors and the Tea Part wants to abolish the agencies which are charged with protecting the people. As long as the current situation continues we are volunteering our children to be experimented on by big business.

Want to Get Involved to Eliminate GMO Foods?

Melis Ann offers links to various organizations fighting GMO foods

8 Steps to Take Action Against Genetically Modified Organisms in Food: No More GMOs


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    • chefsref profile imageAUTHOR

      Lee Raynor 

      7 years ago from Citra Florida

      Thanx Mperrottet

      Yes, our generation has avoided taking responsibility for the government and what is happening to our food supply. (Among many other issues)

      I think it is a shame what we are imposing on our kids

    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 

      7 years ago from San Antonio, FL

      Eye opening article. As you said, the only way to stop this nonsense is to get big business out of the agencies that are supposed to be protecting us. Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • chefsref profile imageAUTHOR

      Lee Raynor 

      8 years ago from Citra Florida

      Thanx G

      Yes, the only answer seems to be to grow your own, tough to do if you live in the city and you still have to avoid hybrid seeds.

      Together we can spread the word and maybe some will liosten

    • GNelson profile image


      8 years ago from Florida

      This is not the way I want to eat. The more I learn about the food we eat the less hungry I get.

    • chefsref profile imageAUTHOR

      Lee Raynor 

      8 years ago from Citra Florida

      I agree, I don't understand why farmers can't sue Monsanto for damages but it's Monsanto that sues farmers. Makes no sense

    • RunAbstract profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      This is GREAT information, and very well said!

      I wish some small farmer would jump out there and sue Monsanto for contaminating HIS crop! Why can't they keep their monster food under control in the first place? (Yeah... right!)

      This is all the biggest bunch of horsesh*t that has EVER happened to food.

      Monsanto is a criminal organization in my opinion!

    • chefsref profile imageAUTHOR

      Lee Raynor 

      8 years ago from Citra Florida

      Thanx D. I couldn't agree more. For seeds you may want to try JL Hudson (in the links capsule) When I was gardening I used him as a good source for un-modified seeds and he stocks a lot of unusual stuff too

    • d.william profile image


      8 years ago from Somewhere in the south

      Excellent article. Very thorough. I bitch about GM foods all the time, but you sure know how to put it into a perspective that even i can understand. Good job.

      I will link this article to those of mine that i write about GM foods. It really is scary that we, as consumers, have absolutely NO control over the foods we eat anymore. I am starting to grow some of my own foods, but the biggest problem with that is that the seeds we buy to grow our own foods have already been modified. So what's the point?

    • chefsref profile imageAUTHOR

      Lee Raynor 

      8 years ago from Citra Florida

      Thanx John

      My favorite fact about Florida is that we have given Constitutional right to pigs. I bet not many states have pigs in the constitution, oh and we elected a criminal to be governor, uncharged but he bilked Medicare for a bundle. So, yes, the weather and the beaches are nice

    • johnwindbell profile image


      8 years ago from - the land of beards and buggies

      Ah yes, I remember Florida. I was a photographer for bands and chorus and ROTC for about 10ish years. Loved the beach and the weather, but that's about it. I was amazed to find kids are still eating the same kaka that I grew up with. And most the schools reminded me of prisons. Well, the food is like prison food, what's to expect. That's right, keep doing the same things over and over again, but expect change ....I n s a n i t y !

    • chefsref profile imageAUTHOR

      Lee Raynor 

      8 years ago from Citra Florida

      Thanx John

      I've actually been using your advice from pisser, trouble is, the soil in Florida is awful, all I have is sand so I have to add a lot of compost, then I get good results without buying petro-chemicals

    • johnwindbell profile image


      8 years ago from - the land of beards and buggies

      Yes again and again - government will fock-up a free lunch.

      Super hub chefsref. Ever since I've been using pisser - there hasn't been any weeds or pests, just super thriving plants. Really, we as a human don't need to go out and buy much of anything. We've just been brainwashed by business with that idea.

    • chefsref profile imageAUTHOR

      Lee Raynor 

      8 years ago from Citra Florida

      Thanx Faye, Yep, gardening sounds like a good idea

    • profile image

      Fay Paxton 

      8 years ago

      Chef, this is scary. I already refuse to take most prescription drugs, now it looks as if I'm going to have to find something else to eat. Maybe it's time to hone my gardening skills.

      up/useful and awesome


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