Nature vs Man
May 19, 2015
GMOs and biotechnology are among the most asked about topics on watchusgrow.org. Recently, a group of IFF City Moms, who have toured Illinois farms and wanted to ask additional questions about Monsanto, were given the opportunity to visit their Biotechnology Research Center. The tour was provided by IFF, with additional support from the Illinois Corn Marketing Board.
This may seem like a strange comparison, Nature vs.Man, but that is how I tend to think of many decisions. What does that mean? Simply that my default setting about decisions that affect human health is to fall on the side of those found in nature (i.e. real whole foods, herbs, essential oils) instead of items that have been created by man to satisfy a need (processed foods, pharmaceuticals, chemicals). This was the perspective I took with me last Saturday when entering Monsanto Research and Development headquarters in St. Louis,MO. My premise was that I was aware of the dangers of GMO seeds and that corporate greed was endangering many people's health unbeknownst to them. It was an easy conclusion to arrive upon when my fear lead me to believe that a group of board of directors was driven by material desire for maximizing profits and GMOs were the result of that effort. It seems like an effortless conclusion to assume that plants as found in nature are in fact providing a benevolent service to people in the way they nourishes our bodies. Nature vs. Man....divinity vs. materialism...that's a win for nature. What I found out after spending the day touring the facility, meeting with employees and engaging in a lively panel discussion with Monsanto's top toxicologist, biochemist and PR representatives was quite surprising.
While touring with other women as part of the Illinois Farm Families City Mom's group we learned that a substantial portion of Monsanto's business model is devoted to cross breeding of different plant species. For example, corn seeds found in India have evolved with different traits than those found in Indiana. The seeds in India have drought resistance qualities because of the environment with which its survival of the fittest model adopted (nature) and seeds in Indiana may in fact have a superior size and taste preference. Monsanto has been able to track the DNA structure of these seeds to identify where beneficial components are found and then cross breed literally thousands of seed variations each year.These seeds are studied and designed to maximize yields in hundreds of different locations. New technology of cross breeding (man) allows farmers to determine based on the soil mineral content, temperature, expected moisture accumulation and such which seed will yield the most effective crop fortheir land. Speaking of maximizing crop yield, in addition to staying profitable as many multi-generational farm families strive to do, the increased demand for corn and soybeans in particular riseevery year as world population expands. At Monsanto we learned that the percentage of land devoted to agriculture on our planet is about 37% with 11% being used for crops. This is a small portion considering world population is expected to reach 9 billion before 2050. Nature vs. Man...seems like a little synergy provides a win/win, no artificial technologies and expedited the process of evolution...I'll call this one a tie.
Another aspect of the tour at Monsanto was very fulfilling for me to experience in person. This was the passion and authenticity of each employee that we met. It was obvious to me that these people feel strongly about their role in offering creative solutions to meet the increasing demand for our world'sfood supply. Also, the authenticity that someone who has spent over 30 years in the medical and toxicological fields of study is in fact completely comfortable eating GMO foods herself and for her family speak volumes. Interacting with Monsanto employees provided a tremendous shift from my assumptions of corporate greed to one of compassionate motivation for a cause. These people had passion about their contributions to agriculture. It was amazing to experience how my feelings of fear had lead me to conclude negative intentions on the part of Monsanto and that once I applied conscious and reflective intention to educate myself, that fear was diminished. The next phase of our tour focused on the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) technology that is so widely debated. First, I'll give a little background on GMOs and my particular concern about how it potentially impacts human health. A GMO seed is one that has been genetically modified to include an additional Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt) protein in the DNA structure of the seed. There are only a handful of seed in which genetic modification takes place currently and the two most predominant types are corn and soybean. This is a natural insecticide that is produced by the bacterium Bt and has been used as a way to control insects. Let me repeat that, Bt originates from a natural bacterium (nature). This bacterium literally explodes the digestive track of insects that consume it because the insects do nothave adequate digestive enzymes to break the amino acid structure apart. My concern about the insertion of Bt protein into the seeds that humans consume (man) is that as this bacterium has been proven to destroy tiny organisms like insects, it seems reasonable that Bt would also have the capability to destroy tiny microorganisms in our gut, many of which are essential for healthy balance of our human microbiome and strong immune function. Science now proves strong immune function is the key to combating virtually all chronic health concerns. Luckily, I was able to highlight this specific concern to the Monsanto panel. I was pleasantly surprised to learn from Dr. Donna Farmer that the area of amino acid protein structure has been tested for over 12 years. In addition as new medical scientific evidence emerges Monsanto is required by federal regulation to continuously test for safety every few years. Next year in fact there is an extensive immunological study that will be completed pertaining the effects on the human microbiome. These studies show that mammals have a digestive enzyme that enables the Bt protein amino acid structure to be broken down and therefor threat of killing our good gut flora is removed. Where does this leave the nature vs. man count? At face value this seems like another win/win....natural Bt insecticide (nature) combined as a biotechnical mechanism promoting crop efficiency (man). More on this later.
After the tour was complete I have been reflecting on the information learned and how it assimilates to me. One aspect of the