Monday, May 27, 2013

So What Have I Been Reading?

Before I start to tell you (about what I have been reading) —I want to talk about GMO's (Genetical Modified Organisms)

There are 3 MAJOR kinds of GMO's. Horizontal(good) and Vertical (Less good), and Chimera GMO's (horrid!)

Horizontal GMO's have been around for centuries. They are common even, in both plants and animals.
Start with seeds, plant them. When you harvest them, save the best—with characteristic A
Plant the best. Save the best again –only now select for characteristic A and B.
Repeat, and repeat, time and time again.

Look for better yields, or stronger (shorter) stalks, faster growing time (less likely to be lost to frost or late season rains.) Over time, these efforts will result in a GMO. Every time you grow and select, you are selection for a GMO of the original crop. Over a thousand (or more years) you can create new organisms.

As time moved on, farmers learned how to IMPROVE by intentionally (controlled) cross pollinating one kind of plant (be it peas, or wheat or what ever) with other plants (short peas with tall peas, or plump peas with drought resistant peas, or any sort of pea, with another sort).
INTENTIONALLY cross pollinated seeds are technically GMO's!
We have a name for these horizontal GMO's—HYBRIDS. They, too, have been around for centuries.

In animals, IN-LINE breeding is another sort of GMO—since naturally, animals avoid mating with siblings (or parents)But In-Line breeding is still Horizontal.

Vertical cross breeding has been going on for a while, too. They are  not uncommon at all. It most often occurs between somewhat related animals. Crosses between horses and donkeys (similar animals) result in MULES.

Mules are called mules because one meaning of the word mule is “STERILE”, and Vertical cross breeding MOST often results in sterile animals (and plants!) Mules are simple vertical GMO's.--But each cross breeding is the end of the line. 

There ARE other vertical cross breeds (dogs with wolfs, or dogs with coyotes ) Some times these cross breeds are viable (that is, they aren't sterile!) They can mate successfully with other like themselves, or with dogs, or with wolves)--but this is Uncommon.

Plants have been vertically crossed with other (related plants) too.
Farmers in the fields have made 2 different kinds of plants cross breed—there is a new grain-TRICICAL—which is a cross between wheat and rye.. (Wheat and rye are both grain/grasses, but are as different as a donkey from a horse.)--and at first, most of this new grain was sterile (the seeds would not germinate.) But over time, a viable version emerged.

There have been other vertical crosses - Some occur naturally, some helped out by controlled pollination) citrus fruits, are one common example. Crosses between oranges and grapefruits, or oranges and tangerines, exist (and are popular) Most often the results are sterile,(the seeds, if any are produced, are sterile) The plants can only be propagated by grafting.

SO—GMO's –whether Horizontal or Vertical are not new, and not entirely evil.

But things have changed. NOW Vertical cross breeding is not done with real live animals, or in the field, or by nature, or with farmers hand pollinated plants to create crosses. It's done in a lab, by intentionally mixing genes from totally different organisms.

Now, companies (READ MONSANTO, for one) are making vertical Chimera GMO's They are crossing plants with animals. Potatoes with BT (a bacteria) or Corn with another bacteria. Goats with spiders. Mice with humans (to produce human insulin)

These GMO's are not natural—( it is possible, that over the course of many thousand of years, some of the chimera type crosses could occur naturally. (but it would be extremely rare)--And it's likely the natural chimeras would be sterile. There are certain viruses that can create Chimeras—but these rarely infect humans.

Modern VERTICAL chimera GMO's are, as the name chimera suggests, MONSTERS. They are not natural, and if in a rare circumstance, they did occur, the result would be a sterile mule.

The food we are eating (these chimeraGMO's ) have been designed to be viable.

BUT—worse than being viable, —the process that make chimera GMO's possible,--is a process that makes the chimera plant DNA (or other DNA) less resistant to 'infection” by other (foreign DNA) These new Chimera GMO's have a tendency to share DNA—all on there own. The tendency (rare in nature) to create chimera GMO's has been bred into the plant.

The chimera GMO DNA is designed to be less resistant (even one could say EAGER) to swap its DNA with others—be they other plants, or insects, bacteria, or for all we know, animals (like our selves!)

Every time you eat a Chimera GMO, you risk YOUR DNA.

Since the Chimera GMO “wants” to swap its DNA with yours--That is-- the chimera wants to add HUMAN DNA to itself, and it can also transfer it's DNA into yours. Maybe not frequently—but if you eat food ever day, (3 times a day), every year, you are taking over 1000 chances--Every year. Over the course of a lifetime, MILLIONS of chances. Chimera GMO's are everywhere! Every meal is full of them. Even if the chance of Chimera GMO infection you is small with each exposure, you are subjecting yourself to thousand and thousands of exposures.

Take Corn.
90% of US crop is Chimers GMO corn. (and corn? You might not eat visible corn (on the cob, or as corn flakes) but on average, 40% of caloric intake is corn. In corn syrup, in HFCS, in corn starch or modified corn starch, in vegetable protein, and hundreds of other food “Products”.

Soy? Even worse! 99% of US crop of soy is Chimera GMO. And again, soy is hidden in many food—as an emulsifier (soy lecithin,) or 'vegetable oil” or vegetable protein, --Soy is every where. You can skip the soy sauce, and still eat lots of soy every day.

The US potato crop is an other Chimera GMO. Every french fry, every potato chip is a gamble.

These are just the big 3. Chimera GMO foods are the foods we eat, every meal, every day.

And because of the Chimera GMO tendency to swap genes, Chickens that eat Chimera GMO corn, become Chimera GMO Chickens. Same too, for cattle, or for pigs. Slowly but surely, Chimera GMO is working its way into every organism. We are becoming less ourselves, and more and more monsters.
And no one knows what kind of monsters we will become. There is some evidence that Chimera GMO's will turn us all into MULES(sterile). Perhaps not in one generation, or two. (Perhaps never.) But right now, no one knows for sure.

Non-GMO (OK, hybrid) foods crops are becoming Chimera GMO –YOU can plant non GMO corn, but if your neighbor plants Chimera GMO corn, it's likely a percent of your crop will become INFECTED with Chimera GMO DNA via natural cross pollination. . No crop is save.

We all know the expression, YOU ARE What YOU EAT—Every day, in every way, as we eat, we are becoming less of our selves, and more of a Chimera. A scary thought.

Tomorrow I will review a book about a scientist who's life work is creating GMO's—the good old fashioned kind—Hybrids. There is the occasional Vertical GMO (simple cross breeding of similar organism—as has occurred with citrus fruit) involved, too, At the same time, he works very hard to save the simple plants that created the hybrids. Saving pure DNA examples of plants is almost as much as his mission as is creating hybrids.

It is a fascinating book—but understand what he does, why he does it, and how it does it, is essential.
Other wise, you just might think him to be a GMO monster maker, too.


zippiknits...sometimes said...

Wow! That was so fabulous! DH read it, too.

I'm linking back to this post in my side bar under the tomato plant button. Thank you for sharing this.

And, Welcome back. I've missed you!

Rebecca Clayton said...

I'm as horrified as anyone by Monsanto--maybe more horrified, because I worked in the molecular genetics field, motivated by a desire to help agriculture control pests through biological control rather than toxic pesticides.

However, chimeric genetic modification exists in nature, and need not be the train wreck agribusiness has made. Bacterial species are constantly swapping genes between species via plasmids. They are able to adapt to changes in their environment by getting new metabolic processes through gene exchange.

Like selective breeding and hybridization, it's a natural process. Its moral value depends on how it's used. (And I think we agree on not liking the way Monsanto is using it.)