The debate over genetically modified organisms, usually in reference to food almost always centers around whether or not GMO foods are healthy, will cause environmental collapse or become the answer to the world's hunger problems.
But the debate almost always overlooks 3 key topics that must be addressed before we really begin pushing GMO foods:
- Are GMO's patentable?
- If GMO's are patentable how patentable and who can enforce the patents?
- Can GMO's become an agricultural monopoly, and if so is it a good thing?
It is taken for granted in the Western world that property is privatizeable. If I can fence it in I can own it. If I can invent it, document it and get to the patent office first... I can own it. If I can describe it (without inventing it) and be the first one to the patent office... I can own even the idea of it
Unfortunately under US law, the same applies not only to inventions and intellectual property like software, poetry, and etc... but now also to living organisms, DNA and otherwise genetic material. If you can describe the genetic code, you can own it (except for humans, for now). Several companies are rushing to patent every possible living organism, including giraffes, birds and trees.
But perhaps the most frightening aspect is that in addition to patenting any organism, one can patent relatives of the organism as well. Since the patents cover genetic code and genetic code transfers when the organism reproduces, then if I can show that the offspring of my patented organism contains enough of the original genetic code I can retain rights to the offspring as well.
In practice it is already becoming an issue. Companies like Monsanto who are determined to own all of creation are enforcing property rights with small farmers who may be unwittingly using their genetic material. In this case, a Canadian canola farmer claims that a neighbor's GMO crops cross polinated with his strain of canola. The non-GMO crops set seed, were collected and then reused the next year. Companies like Monsanto don't hesitate for a moment to collect their due from these little guys who go around 'stealing' their intellectual property.
It's not hard to see that if left unchecked, GMO genetic material could make it's way into every crop, every plant and eventually into every living animal. By law then, they could demand 'rights' to every bit of agriculture in the US, and perhaps the world.
And that's why I say no to GMO. It's simply too tempting for a company like Monsanto to try and gain a monopoly on agriculture. If they succeed it truly could be disastrous for the country and the world's food supply.
- likely they aren't much different than food grown from gamma rayed seeds or cross bred plants [↩]
- it is somewhat likely that a super weed could pop up and destroy crops worldwide [↩]
- as rich farmland decreases more and more marginal soils have to be used they might help [↩]
- just ask Research in Motion how they feel about that. [↩]