- Tinkering With Life's Sacred Genetic Code
- by Patricia Dines
- Awakened Woman e-magazine, Aug. 1999
(c) Patricia Dines, 1999. All rights reserved.
- How many of us, amidst life's details and quandaries, stop to
consider DNA, the genetic code that makes all life possible on
- And yet it is just this code that creates all species on Earth
- their births, lives, interactions, survival, children, and
perpetuation into the future. It is this code that creates so many
of the characteristics we love and enjoy and wrestle with in
ourselves, our families, our food, and our world. And when it goes
awry - in a child or a crop - huge suffering can result.
- And it is just this code that has the full attention of whole
groups of corporate scientists right now, as fields like health,
agriculture, and food are being brought together into a new field
they call "Life Sciences."
- Dangling the dream of people and crops cured of disease, of
prosperity and overflowing food for all, they have set about to
understand and change the DNA of a startling number of life forms
on this planet. Spiders, bees, bacteria, pigs, fish, trees, corn,
soybeans, and tomatoes are just a few of the species now subject
to the genetic knife, as human beings splice a little of this
species into that one, and salivate over the huge profits they
hope will result.
- And how could anyone dare to object, as corporations "improve"
nature to make our life a paradise?
- Why should we be concerned?
- And yet, across the world, many are objecting - scientists,
health professionals, consumers, chefs, and people who love the
planet and Creation.
- And they bring up some key facts that the corporate
dreamweavers neglect to mention about Genetic Engineering (GE) or
Genetic Modification (GM). Such as:
- SCIENCE UNDERSTANDS LITTLE ABOUT WHAT THEY ARE
- Humanity understands only 1% of what DNA does, let alone how
it all precisely and magically interacts; what they don't
understand, they recklessly call "junk." Scientists deduce what
they think segments of DNA control, but know very little about
what else that segment might control; what other segments are
necessary for it to work correctly; and what happens when it's
combined with a completely different species. In addition, the
tools being used to make these genetic modifications are
shockingly imprecise, despite their optimistic term "genetic
engineering". Mothers for Natural Law says that it's like doing
heart surgery with a shovel. Others say that even that analogy is
too generous. Even from a mechanical point of view, some say it is
simply foolhardy to use crude tools to fundamentally change what
we barely understand - and yet upon which all life on this planet
GM DISREGARDS NATURE'S DESIGN.
- All life is interconnected, and any changes made to one part
of the system will ripple through all others, with enormously
unpredictable effects multiplying along the way. Corporate
scientists are operating from a reductionist model that says they
can change many single elements and not even consider the impacts
on the whole system. Yet already evidence shows that modified
genes travel and cross with wild species; harm insects like
butterflies; and can get through the gut into human beings.
One of the major design characteristics these scientists
disregard is the species barrier, which keeps each species
functioning in the overall system while protecting them from the
diseases of other species. Those rare times when diseases cross
the species barrier have been disastrous. For instance, when a pig
flu transferred into humans in 1918, more than 20 million people
were killed worldwide, impacting a generation. Contrary to the
scientists' claims, GM is not the same as traditional
cross-breeding, which requires that animals be somewhat related
and gives Nature the final say about the result. When would a fish
and a tomato actually breed? This is just one of the many
combinations that GM scientists are rapidly putting into our
bodies and ecosystems, setting the stage for a mind-boggling
number of potential disasters.
THERE'S BEEN NO LONG-TERM, REALISTIC SAFETY
- There has been no testing of vital aspects of these changes
before their release into dominance in our food supply and world.
This includes almost no testing of the impact on the human diet
and health. Yet independent testing, scientists' assessments, and
simple logic show reason for serious concern. These same
corporations have made great promises about their products before,
then left humanity with the toxic burdens of DDT, PCBs, nuclear
waste, and much more. Let's learn that prudence and testing
beforehand is much less costly than trying to clean up the mess
MANY GM CLAIMS ARE NOT BORNE OUT.
- Corporations make many claims about GM that do not bear up
under scrutiny. For instance, they claim that GM will reduce
pesticide use; but the purpose of about half the current GM plants
in the U.S. is to allow farmers to use more herbicides, closer to
the plant - and the corporations have asked that the amount of
herbicides allowed in our food be increased. Corporations also
claim that GM is necessary to feed the hungry; but even a simple
analysis shows that: (a) distribution and elite control of food
are the main causes of hunger; (b) GM will increase, not decrease,
this problem by further centralizing control of food, food
production, and wealth; and (c) worldwide monocropping of GM seeds
can easily lead to mass hunger. And then there are the claims to
the farmers, who are finding out the hard way that GM crops have
failed them (misformed cotton bolls, etc.), leading to crop
disasters and million-dollar. And we're just at the beginning of
GE CHANGES ARE IRREVERSIBLE CHANGES.
- Even pesticides and nuclear waste eventually decay, though the
latter can take more than 100,000 years. But when we change the
DNA basis of all life and interactions on this planet, this is an
experiment that cannot be recalled. Corporate scientists are
developing the power to change the direction of all life on this
planet - but not the humility or community responsibility to see
the limits of their own knowledge, and the horrifying damage that
will likely result. Therefore, it is up to citizens to understand
and take action for a world direction that truly respects all
people and all life on this planet.
What are the consequences?
- What are some of the very likely outcomes if we let
corporations continue to put so much of our shared resources and
energy in this direction?
- * HARM TO HUMAN HEALTH. Modifying the DNA of food can:
Increase pesticide use, and the harm that it does to humans
and our ecosystems.
Create unexpected toxics. In 1989, toxics in the GM'd
food supplement tryptophan killed 37 people, permanently disabled
1500, and made 5000 others very ill. ( New England Journal of
Medicine, August 9, 1990).
Cause unforeseen and unknown allergens in foods.
"Without clear and precise labeling, millions of Americans who
suffer from food allergies will have no way of identifying or
protecting themselves from offending foods." (Mothers for Natural
Law. Food and Drug Administration 57 Federal Register 22987)
Decrease food's nutritional value. GM foods may mislead
consumers with counterfeit freshness.
Increase antibiotic resistance and thus increase failure
of antibiotics for human disease. (This is because most GM foods
use an antiobiotic resistant gene marker.)
Increase disease by crossing the protective species
barrier. * Create untraceable disease, because GM foods in the
U.S. are not labelled.
* HARM TO FARMING AND FOOD SUPPLY, INCREASING HUNGER.
- Already, erroneous GM seeds have gone into production;
farmers' seeds have failed miserably; and GM seeds are supplanting
varieties that have demonstrated their local viability. A high
percentage of soy and corn in this country are GMd without
labelling, impacting more than 10,000 products, and many other
crops are being planted and in the pipeline. What happens to our
food supply if even one of these brave new crops, planted across
the world, has a human-introduced genetic error, or becomes the
favorite food of a particular pest? The Irish potato famine was
caused by just this situation - one pest attacking a major
monocropping - and it devastated the lives of millions, leading to
mass migration and a fundamental change in that country's history.
Could our future disasters make this look like, er, small
* HARM TO OTHER SPECIES AND THE ECOSYSTEMS THAT SUPPORT ALL
- Although there is a shocking lack of pre-testing, the testing
that has been done demonstrates that this harm does occur - as one
would expect from having people make this scale of change with so
little knowledge and putting personal profit above all.
* INCREASED GLOBAL CORPORATE POWER AT THE EXPENSE OF LOCAL AND
- As part of their plans, corporations are changing a lifeform's
DNA, then patenting the result - as if they'd invented the whole
thing - removing from the public domain the seeds and lifeforms
that our communities and farmers have selected and saved for
thousands of years. Are these lifeforms really their invention?
Could they invent them from scratch? Activists are challenging the
right to patent the lifeforms that were given to us all by the
Source of all Creation.
- To enforce these patents, corporations have developed
technologies that render their seeds sterile (for example,
Terminator Technology). This ensures that farmers have to go
back and pay for seeds each year - introducing death into the
cycle of life for corporate profit; increasing farmer costs
dramatically; and ending the thousand year cycle of farmers
saving seeds that work best in their areas. Even on a practical
level, it's expected that millions of subsistence farmers
worldwide could be pushed over the edge by this major system
change. The corporate solution? Give the poor the first year's
seeds free or cheaply. Is that really a gift, when it loosens
them from the subsistence system that currently feeds them and
hooks them instead into the GM seed/pesticide treadmill that
has put so many other farmers in dire straits?
- And these are real and likely, not theoretical, risks - as
demonstrated by the fact that insurance companies are refusing
to insure GM! Who will pay for the harm that will predictably
result? You and me and this planet will pay, as corporations
and selected elites add huge sums to their bank accounts,
funding their private escape from the mayhem they will have
- Then what's the solution?
- We are at a pivotal time where very different futures will
emerge depending on who decides what about our future. Does the
corporate vision really reflect yours'? All across the world,
citizens are standing up and "just saying no" to genetic
modification - and having an impact. Some of the ways you can also
choose a better future for us all include:
- INSIST ON THE RIGHT TO KNOW. Insist on labelling of
food, so consumers can choose if they want to participate in this
mass, uncontrolled experiment with our lives. (Note: This is a
vital step, but not enough, because all life is connected.)
- REJECT THE PATENTING OF LIFE. Keep Nature's lifeforms
in the public domain and available to all, as was the original
design. Patents are for original creations; corporations are only
modifying what was created by a much greater wisdom than our
- SUPPORT LOCAL, SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE in your food
purchases and in our political priorities. There is another way!
Buy non-GM food, especially organic. Insist that the USDA
prioritizes organic research funding. Support your health, the
sacred planet, and the farmers who've taken a stand against so
many toxic and harmful paths, including GM and toxic pesticides
- EDUCATE YOURSELF AND TAKE POLITICAL ACTION. Get to know
what the real issues are and find ways you can help to create the
future that inspires you, and avoid one you feel would be harmful.
The resources below are fabulous starting points for information
and action on these topics.
- EDUCATE OTHERS AND SUPPORT POLITICAL ACTION. Through
articles, forwarded information, etc., show others what's really
at stake right now, and ways they can make a difference.
- SUPPORT THE HEROES. With money, energy, and resources,
support the groups and people who are on the front line on this
issue - keeping track of the details, making them understandable
to others, and supporting us all in taking constructive action.
They cannot do their work without our support!
- Patricia Dines has been a professional writer and trainer
for 16 years. She is founder of Community Action Publications
(CAP), a community-based organization that creates and distributes
information on a variety of health and environmental topics. For
more information on CAP, see http://www.healthyworld.org.
- (c) Patricia Dines, 1999. All rights reserved.
Resources for Information and Action [Note: These have
not been updated since the articles publication.]
- For more information and action opportunities, see the
complete resources list on our website at
- Some of the most informative sites:
- Mothers for Natural Law at www.safe-food.org/ Great GM
information. Includes a description of GM; what scientists say;
and the wide range of foods that are now potentially GMd
<www.safe-food.org/-consumer/foods.html>. Sign their "right
to know" petition for labelling GE food. (877) REAL-FOOD (515)
- Campaign for Food Safety at <www.purefood.org>
Information and email list covering GM, factory farming, citizen
action, etc. <firstname.lastname@example.org>. (218) 226-4164. (Minn.)
- Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy at
<www.iatp.org>. Good centralized source of avariety of
biotech information and resources.
- Dr. Ron Epstein webpage
<http://online.sfsu.edu/~rone/gedanger.htm>. Compilation of
a wide range powerful essays and information on "Genetic
Engineering and Its Dangers."
This entire website is (c)
Patricia Dines, 1998-2007. All rights reserved.
Page last updated 05/16/07