A Global Experiment With The World’s Food Supply

October 21, 2011Sectorby David Smith

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Is Monsanto Using Us As “Human Guinea Pigs”?
Is Monsanto Using Us As “Human Guinea Pigs”?

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The attacks can also come from scientists whose opinions may not be entirely objective. An article in the prestigious journal Nature, in September, 2009, describes this tactic.

“A large block of scientists who denigrate research by other legitimate scientists in a knee-jerk, partisan, emotional way that is not helpful in advancing knowledge and is outside the ideals of scientific inquiry, Nature said. “These strikes are launched from within the scientific community” and are sometimes “emotional and personal,” and can even “accuse scientists of misconduct”.  

A further problem in the industry is conflict of interest. Many individuals have switched between jobs with responsibility for regulating the biotech industry, and working for Monsanto. Here are a few examples:

Dr Michael A. Friedman, formerly the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deputy commissioner for operations, joined Monsanto in 1999 as a senior vice president. When Linda J. Fisher left her role as an assistant administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), she became a vice president of Monsanto, from 1995 to 2000, only to return to the EPA as deputy administrator the next year. William D. Ruckelshaus, former EPA administrator, and Mickey Kantor, former US trade representative, each served on Monsanto’s board after leaving government. Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas was an attorney in Monsanto’s corporate-law department in the 1970s. He wrote the Supreme Court opinion in a crucial G.M-seed patent-rights case in 2001 that benefited Monsanto and other seed companies. 

“These sorts of conflicts of interest are a reality. We don’t like it but I’m not sure we can do anything about it,” said Professor Shields.

For all the reasons cited above, Professor Traavik says that 15 years after the first GM foods came on the market, most scientifically based hypotheses about the unintended effects of GM foods have not yet been tested in “robust experiments by independent researchers”. Some scientists consider the globalization of GM food “a global experiment with the world’s food supply”, he said.

Professor Traavik said he, and like-minded scientists, were not against GM foods per se, but felt more independent research was required before they went on the market.

“But we are doubtful whether the GM organisms created by present transgenic technology can ever meet the general precautionary principle (PP) safety requirements, which means they are as safe as non-GM foods. However, we can see on the horizon less invasive genetic modification techniques that may well bring real benefits without unpredictable hazards. The same applies for some of the approaches now termed Synthetic Biology,” he said.

Professor Taarvik said the regulatory organisations will face a flood of applications for the next generations of GE plants (multi-transgenic, nutritionally enhanced, plastic-producing, enhanced for farm fish favourable oils, vaccine-producing, etc). Furthermore, techniques from nanobiotechnology and synthetic biology will converge with recombinant DNA methods into new technologies.

“Ironically speaking, they promise to solve virtually all the environmental and health problems we can ever dream of. But they may potentially also create bio-safety problems we have never dreamt of!”