Dr Ho Swee Teck
Perhaps you have been wondering about the tumultuous news being reported lately from chemical industry. Here is my personal and private opinion [for what it’s worth]:
In the first half of this century the gov’ts of the West put many of their scientists to work developing chemical warfare agents. The chemicals were then called ‘poison gas’, ‘nerve gas’, ‘defoliant’, ‘tear gas’, ‘cyanide’, etc. and there were many such ‘handy’ chemicals. Some of the major gov’ts wanted chemicals that would efficiently kill people, and they also wanted to have ‘synthetic’ chemicals so as not to have to buy natural materials from other parts of the world, particularly from nations with which they might someday be at war.
Synthetic fertilizers were big, usually ranking among the top commercial chemicals each year. Unfortunately, those synthetic fertilizers weaken the soil by killing or displacing the innumerable subtle qualities of the soil, such as bacteria, humus, pH buffers, minerals, trace elements and colloidal structures. Damage to the soil weakened the plants, lowered or destroyed their natural immunities to insects, and took away their ability to compete with various non-edible plants [the ‘weeds’].
During the second half of this century, corporate growers forced out the family farms in the US, Canada, and in many other parts of the world. ‘ORGANIC’ farming practices continue to be followed by less than 1% of the growers; as a result, uncontaminated, nourishing food is extremely scarce at present.
Then, ‘adding insult to injury’, the agriculture industry began using numerous warfare agents [‘pesticides’] to attack the insects and weeds. However, after a few years [roughly twenty years ago] the insects and weeds had developed so much resistance to ‘pesticides’ that the pesticide dosages became lethal to the food crops and to the people and animals eating the food crops. For example, one of my brothers, who was managing acreage for a corporation at that time, said to me one day, “I am responsible for 1500 square miles of croplands and orchards, and I never see anything out there that I would want to eat.”
Could it be worse? Yes, indeed! Let’s summarize what has happened since then: The big chemical companies then began buying the SEED companies for the purpose of producing seed varieties that were more resistant to pesticides. These corporations have already spent tens of billions of dollars on seed companies and BIOTECHNOLOGY companies. That’s right, the biggest chemical companies in the world are selling off their chemical manufacturing businesses to acquire agricultural technologies and markets: Monsanto; ICI; duPont; Ciba-Geigy; Sandoz; Rhone Poulenc; Hoechst; Dow; and many others, including the biggest former chemical companies worldwide. Recently, these corporate giants heard about the technique of ‘gene splicing’ plant characteristics, genetic ‘traits’ into the seeds to make the plants inherently toxic to ‘pests’! They went right ahead with this strategy for the most important crops, including corn, soybeans, wheat, and rapeseed [the source of ‘canola oil’], tomatoes, papayas, and altogether more than 40 types of food crops, plus COTTON.
Of course, what happened next is that the pollen from these ‘Frankenstein’ foods mixed with other crops in surrounding fields so that the toxic genes are now invading all of Nature. Nearly half of all food crops now contain transplanted genes. Recently, scientists and farmers began to notice that Frankenstein foods [also known as genetically engineered, ‘GE’, or genetically manipulated, ‘GM’, crops] are toxic to humans, insects and nature in general. The pollen kills beneficial insects such as butterflies. Fed to animals, the GE plants cause digestive problems; miscarriages; premature births; sterility; cancerous tumours, and other horrible problems. Data for humans are still scarce, but the animal studies are an indication of things to come.
There are already numerous reports of rashes, allergies, and illnesses of various other kinds in humans.
One of the ‘traits’ that has been introduced into major GE crops is sterility of the second-generation seeds. In other words, the farmer grows the crop from seeds bought from some supplier; he saves some corn kernels for planting the next crop; the kernels, however, do not germinate; the farmer must go back to the supplier to buy expensive new seed for each crop. This is already having disastrous consequences in low-income areas of the world where the farmers’ economy is already especially precarious. Currently, some or all of the suppliers require the farmer to sign a contract to buy chemicals along with the seed, and to use only their brand of chemicals with that crop.
The long-range implications of GE/GM practices for human health and the health of the planet cannot be fully predicted in advance, but the initial signs are certainly not encouraging. The ‘bottom line’ is that we are now being exploited, at best, and poisoned, at worst. I wish that I could end this account on a positive note and still be truthful. There are some citizen groups, and some gov’t agencies opposing the marketing of GE crops, and they might turn the tide, or it might be ‘too little too late’.
“While millions of human beings go hungry, millions more in the industrialised countries suffer and die from diseases caused by consuming an excess of animal foods which have a high content of protein, fat and cholesterol and absence of fibre.” ~ “Many All Be Fed” John Robbins