In a few hundred thousand years, after all weather effects of 21st
century climate change have disappeared from the earth’s surface, after
our quietly smoldering nuclear waste has been extinguished, two
destructive impacts traceable to George Bush’s policies will yet remain.
The first is extinctions.
Species that have died out, including the subset resulting from Bush’s
environmental policies, will forever deprive our evolving biosphere of
The second is genetically
modified organisms (GMOs)—animals, plants, bacteria, and viruses, who’s
DNA have been mixed and mangled by insertions from foreign species.
Once released into the ecosystem, by intention or accident, the genetic
pollution self-propagates. No recall by the Obama administration can
clean up Mexico’s indigenous corn varieties, now contaminated by our
genetically modified (GM) corn. No executive order can remove or even
identify the wild mustard plants now carrying altered genes bestowed on
it by the pollen from its cousin, GM canola.
We all know stories that illustrate the exponential effects of invasive species. Here’s my favorite, recalled in my book
On Christmas Day 1859, the
Victorian Acclimatization Society released 24 rabbits into the
Australian countryside so that settlers could hunt them for sport and
feel more “at home.” The rabbits multiplied to well over 200 million,
spreading out over 4 million square kilometers. That Christmas present
now costs Australian agriculture about $600 million per year.
Will GMOs of today show up as
the “Australian rabbits” of the future? While their impact on our
ecosystem and diet is largely unstudied, that has not stopped the
current and past administrations from presiding over the release of
millions of acres of GM crops. Not only does each plant carry a gene
from bacteria or viruses, its DNA has hundreds or thousands of
mutations resulting from the disruptive
process of genetic engineering. Reports suggest that the side effects of
GMOs are quite dangerous.
Bush policies institutionalize GMO contamination
If we were to ban GMOs today,
as is more than justified, some contamination from commercialized GM
food crops will nonetheless carry forward in the gene pool of those
(and related) species. This includes contaminants from our largest
farmed GM crops, including soybeans, yellow corn, cotton, and canola,
as well as the smaller crops: Hawaiian papaya, zucchini, and crookneck
squash. Newly added—in this year’s harvest—are GM sugar beets and white
corn. There are also GM tomatoes and potatoes no longer on the market,
but whose genes and seeds, to some degree, continue to persist “out
there.” But the dirty laundry list actually includes over 100 different
experimental GM crops, field trialed at more than 50,000 sites in the
US since 1986.
Although the government is
supposed to make sure that these trials won’t contaminate the
surrounding environment, a 2005 report by the USDA Office of Inspector
General harshly condemned the USDA’s abominable oversight. “Current
regulations, policies, and procedures,” said the report, “do not go far
enough to ensure the safe introduction of agricultural biotechnology.”
The agency’s weaknesses “increase the risk that regulated genetically
engineered organisms will inadvertently persist in the environment.”
But George Bush’s pro-biotech response was to
further weaken the agency’s GMO oversight—and he’s trying to do it quickly, before Obama steps in. The
makes gene escape more likely, even from GM crops designed to produce pharmaceutical drugs and industrial chemicals.
Monsanto admits more contamination
Bush’s rushed proposal, Monsanto just admitted that an acre of its
field trialed, not-yet-approved GM cottonseeds, was inadvertently
harvested and mixed with approved cotton. It then entered our food
chain as animal feed and cottonseed oil. Oops.
But the FDA, EPA, and USDA employed another of the Bush administration’s institutionalized
abdications of GMO oversight.
the cottonseed contamination safe, in spite of insufficient data to support their claim.
If Bush gets his new USDA rule into effect, let’s hope Obama heeds the advice of the
Union of Concerned Scientists,
which “recommends that the new administration make revocation, revision and strengthening a top priority.”
No that won’t fully clean up
our altered gene pool. But it will start to contain the runaway
long-term genetic pollution that is now out of control.
© copyright Institute For Responsible Technology 2008
Jeffrey M. Smith is the author of publication
Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, which presents 65 risks in easy-to-read two-page spreads. His first book,
Seeds of Deception,
is the top rated and #1 selling book on GM foods in the world. He is
the Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology.
, which is spearheading the Campaign for Healthier Eating in America. Go to
to learn more about how to avoid GM foods.