GMO From A Layman Viewpoint

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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Our planet and environment are very fragile. That can be demonstrated by looking at the four stages in the life cycle of the monarch butterfly. This insect is a real miracle in each stage and one which is often overlooked as we go about our busy daily schedule. We may see one or two flying about but we take their presence for granted most of the time. The N. American monarch butterfly can migrate up to 2,500 miles. No other insect migrates that I have heard about. Not all monarch butterflies migrate. Only the fourth generation actually migrate. The first three generations only live a few weeks; however the fourth generation live up to 6-8 months.  The monarch butterfly in the caterpillar stage feeds on milk weed. The chemicals in milk weed provide the insect with a poisonous defense system thereby making them toxic to other predators. The biggest miracle occurs in the cocoon where a total biological transformation not found in any other species occurs. Metamorphosis means to change from one form to a totally different form. In the cocoon the caterpillar releases enzymes that reduce the caterpillar into a  liquid state where small cells commence growing rapidly. One tiny set of cells will be the wings, others will be legs, and still other cells internal organs and some antennae etc. So the caterpillar goes from a liquid state with random tiny clusters of cells to a delicate monarch butterfly. That seems to me a real miracle.

I read and hear about genetically modifying organisms (GMO) in Mother Earth News and other publications but unless it is in terms I can understand I fail to grasp much of what is said just like I can‘t grasp the metamorphosis of the monarch butterfly. I am not one to be for or against something based upon someone else’s opinion unless I can grasp the issue myself on my terms. Since this is such a prevalent topic I decided to do a little research myself to decide if the excitement over GMO is fact or fiction. If I have trouble grasping the magnitude perhaps others have the same problem and maybe what I discovered will help others define the issue and whether it is good or bad.

It should be pretty common knowledge that chemical companies are more concerned over profits than protecting the environment and life itself. They develop sophisticated commercials that convince us we actually need their products or our lives will be less fulfilling and we will be over run with weeds and harmful insects. The monarch butterfly, bat and hummingbird are miracles created by nature and it seems to me when man tries to improve on nature it is tampering with something that should be left alone. I read about a study that demonstrated GM corn pollen can be airborne from its source to neighboring fields. The study indicated that the pollen crossed over to a field with milkweed. When the monarch butterfly caterpillars ate the milkweed they died. That seems to be a hazard where cross over can be harmful and could eventually destroy the monarch butterfly not to mention it could work its way into the food chain which has already been indicated. When I was involved in limiting the spread of carcinogen laden herbicides in our community I discovered that every time an independent study came out revealing the danger it posed the chemical companies would counter with a study of their own with conflicting results. That seemed to confuse those within the EPA who then took no action or had the chemical companies perform additional studies which extended the time of exposure and hence independent studies were neutralized. I see the same acrimonious approach here involving GMO technology.   

Moving on to other remarkable acts of nature – a young person can barely detect 20,000 vibrations per second. A bat can make use of sounds having a frequency of 50,000 to 200,000 vibrations per second. A bat can also send them in all directions 20-30 times per second and it enables the bat to understand an object in its path, its size and the direction it is flying. It does this in total darkness without the use of eyesight which I find remarkable.

Or consider a hummingbird, a tiny bird that weighs 0.7 oz. but possesses a brain that has remarkable memory capacity. Hummingbirds can remember every flower in their territory, when they last visited it and how long it will take to produce more nectar. They can remember migration routes and every feeding station along the way. Their memory is so good that they can return to a specific location where they fed months ago after traveling hundreds or thousands of miles. All this from a tiny bird that only weighs 0.7 oz.

Therefore considering natural miracles I often get confused  as to why chemical companies believe that they can take seeds, animals and even humans and try to improve on what is already perfectly designed and engineered by nature. I believe it would be far more profitable to better understand the metamorphosis of the monarch butterfly, the superb sonar ability of the bat and the memory of the hummingbird to benefit mankind and make enormous profits. Could sight challenged people benefit from bat sonar, or could those with insufficient memory benefit from the memory of a bird with a brain the size of a pearl of tapioca? Could metamorphosis from the butterfly benefit mankind as we plan to travel to distant planets?  

Instead it seems that chemical companies attempt to re-engineer seeds. animals, trees, and those items which don’t need to be tampered with claiming they are improved. In part two I will address GMOs and herbicides/pesticides in a way that I can understand and maybe it will help others who question  if these redesigned organisms are good substitutes for what already works.

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