The following transcript is protected under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.
Kootenay Co-op Radio
Nelson, B.C. Canada
August 3, 2006
Title: The GMO Trilogy - Unnatural Selection
Producer/Host - Jon Steinman
Transcript - Jennie Monuik
JS: And welcome to Deconstructing Dinner, produced and recorded at Kootenay Co-op Radio in Nelson, British Columbia. My name's Jon Steinman.
Deconstructing Dinner is a syndicated weekly one-hour program available on both radio and as a downloadable podcast. Each week on Deconstructing Dinner, we take the time to better understand how our food choices impact ourselves, our communities and the planet. During a recent broadcast of Deconstructing Dinner, the first part of the GMO Trilogy was aired featuring a presentation by Jeffrey Smith, the author of Seeds of Deception. For those of you who are perhaps unaware, GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organisms. That broadcast of the trilogy can be found on the Deconstructing Dinner website by selecting the June 22nd broadcast listed among all the recent shows.
But on today's broadcast we feature the second part of this trilogy, titled Unnatural Selection - an award winning German film produced in English. The film was just recently released this year here in North America as part of the GMO trilogy produced by the Iowa-based Institute for Responsible Technology. The film has been adjusted to an audio format that will be presented to you on today's broadcast. But I must stress how this film is a must for anybody... who eats. As you will shortly hear, this film exposes the direction in which our food system is rapidly heading, but there has yet to be a wealth of visual footage on this subject that is as convincing as is found in Unnatural Selection. And as is encouraged by the producer of the trilogy, it provides an excellent resource to share among others in the form of either large or intimate film screenings. And you can find out more about the trilogy at www.seedsofdeception.com
And here is part 2 of the GMO Trilogy series featured on Deconstructing Dinner. This audio version of the film Unnatural Selection features among others, Saskatchewan farmers Martin Pratchler, Marc Loiselle, Percy Schmeiser, The Washington D.C Centre for Food Safety's Andrew Kimbrell and India's Vandana Shiva. Also featured on today's broadcast will be two songs performed by Salt-Spring Island musician Phil Vernon.
Clip from movie:
Male Voice: Most people around here, when you think of a farmer it's of the children's fable Old Macdonald had a farm and had chickens and pigs and cows. That's not the way farming is anymore. It's strictly a business and if you have to adapt and change and biotechnology is going to play a huge role into the future and in my ability to stay here and make a living.
Andrew Kimbrell: Now you've got companies that are putting foreign genes into animals and fish that are changing the crops of the world, fundamentally, at a genetic level and polluting the planet with this genetic pollution and once again only a few scientists, corporations and government regulators are making the decision. There's no democratic decision-making. These technologies are legislation. They're going to affect our lives more than any law passed by any legislature around the world.
Terje Traavic: We are concerned about what we call genetic pollution. And we are concerned about making everybody understand that genetic pollution is something totally different from the chemical pollution that we have been stupid enough to initiate over the past fifty years or so because chemicals never replicate themselves. Even a huge chemical pollution will over time will get smaller, while for DNA it may be the other way around because DNA is self-replicating in principle. So a small pollution may replicate itself to become a huge pollution.
Male Voice: So how much more canola we got here Martin that's sprouted?
Martin Pratchler: Well I haven't seen a lot.
Male Voice: Oh, there's one, I just stepped over one...
Martin Pratchler: See, there's a couple,
Male Voice: Yep, here we are here...
Martin Pratchler: But see if you could've worked it, it would have put it in the moisture.
Martin Pratchler: I'm organic, certified organic. The wife and I, we switched. We've been certified since 2000 and it's been doing very well for us. I mean the certification is probably... switching to organic farming now is probably what has saved our farm over the conventional way. If we'd a been conventional farming we wouldn't be here anymore. (outside walking in the field) This is all canola and look at it, it's just about... it's thicker than a lawn as you get to the edge of the field, eh? So it just shows the amount of seed that's been blown by the wind.
Male Voice: Here's the pure evidence of what can happen in a situation like ours. Here is a plant that blew across. The plant is all shelled out. You see there is no pods left on that plant but look at the crop that is growing here. This is a crop that was not seeded. It blew in. It blew in here in September as Martin explained and now it's germinated. It is a full-blown, healthy, GMO canola plant growing on organic land.
Martin Pratchler: We had a strong wind and the whole plant, like he had it cut into swathes and they were laying out there and when the wind comes up, it just picked the whole plant up and blew it over here into my field. And what I was trying to get them to do was confirm that it was their product and get it picked off so the seeds wouldn't be left on my property, but now that it's still here, like I say, a big chunk of the seeds are already shelled out and laying on the ground.
Male Voice: You can see when I blew on it how light they are, they just... (blowing noise). See how they move? Just like that the seeds... so the wind blows them every which way. As spring runoff comes, some of these pods, and this one here is all shelled out too, but some of these plants that still have pods on, those seeds will drift during the winter and carry and they can go a half mile, they can go a mile.
Martin Pratchler: This is my life here on the line right now. Switching to organic saved me. Now I'm back in the commercial market again, unless something... and it's my lifeline that's on the line.
Narrator: In the early '90s, the chemical multi Monsanto began developing genetic technology for plants. It made useful plants, such as canola and soya resistant to the company's own pesticide, Roundup. Roundup kills every plant, without exception. Only the organically modified canola survives. In this way, Monsanto sells the farmers not only the patented seeds, but also the chemicals to match. Roundup spray is the most frequently sold pesticide in the world. However, there are also farmers who have had dealings with Monsanto against their own will. Probably the most famous one is Percy Schmeiser from Canada.
Percy Schmeiser: There was one other reason too, that we stood up to Monsanto was the fact that they had destroyed what my wife and I had developed over fifty years of research and development - canola seeds that were resistant to various diseases we had on the prairies. They destroyed what we developed and I'm sure that if I would do that to Monsanto I would be thrown in jail. But they can come out to a farmer or pollute or contaminate a farmer's field and destroy what he has worked on and get a lawsuit on top of it.
Narrator: Percy Schmeiser operates a 650 hectare farm which his grandparents, immigrants from Bavaria and Austria cultivated 100 years ago. In 1996, Monsanto introduced it's genetically modified canola in Canada. A heavy storm during harvest time blew it onto Percy Schmeiser's fields. In August 1998, he was sued for illegally cultivating patented seeds from Monsanto. Two courts sentenced him to pay damages to Monsanto of roughly $100,000, but refusing to be intimidated by the chemical giant he took the case as far as the Canadian Supreme Court. The court made a distinction. On the one hand, as the court made expressly clear, Schmeiser has infringed Monsanto's patent because he has actively cultivated Roundup-ready canola and was thus, no longer an impartial onlooker. On the other hand, the court decided that Schmeiser did not have to pay damages to Monsanto because he had not enriched himself by means of the genetic canola in his grain. Percy Schmeiser is now contemplating a countersuit against the global group on the grounds of environmental contamination, destruction of seeds and defamation of character. International environmental organizations are competing to gain Percy Schmeiser as a speaker to warn farmers in the U.S., Europe and also, the so-called third world about chemical multi-nationals. In the last two years alone, he has visited over 40 countries.
Percy Schmeiser: In 1996, when GMO canola was introduced we didn't have anybody to come and tell us what could happen or may happen, but now people from around the world do know from our experiences what has happened. Contamination, loss of biodiversity, loss of our pure seed and choice taken away. So we now know what can happen because of our experience with soybeans and with GMO canola. And we know what would happen also with GMO wheat and that's why other people from around the world can benefit from our experience. We don't have no choice left. Our choice is gone, but the people in many parts of the world still have a choice.
Narrator: Globalization has enabled the multi-nationals to gain control over seeds in the so-called third world. The Asian market is to be developed with genetically-modified cotton. However, the chemical corporations are meeting with unexpected resistance.
Vandana Shiva: The second way in which biodiversity of our seeds, our medicinal plants, our other useful species is taking place is through genetic engineering. And genetic engineering is a false promise whose high price has already been paid by the farmers of this country. Multi-nationals have grabbed the seed economy which used to be a farmer's economy - it used to be a women's economy - and now are bringing unreliable, untested seeds to the market pushing our farmers to suicide. We happen to be sitting in the middle of all the seed industry shops right here. Monsanto this side, Syngenta shops that side, the next lane is all selling seeds of suicide.
Narrator: Vandana Shiva, with a Ph.D in Physics and winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize has dedicated herself to small Indian farmers and the preservation of biodiversity for almost 20 years. In the mean time, she has become a formidable and loathed opponent of internationally operating agro-chemical groups, such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Conagra, Cargill, Bayer, and others. (people chanting) Cotton farmers from central India are demonstrating angrily in front of the branch offices of multi-national agro-chemical groups. Many of them are on the verge of ruin due to BT cotton, genetically modified cotton from Monsanto first approved in 2002, which rendered them a disastrous crop. Just as with the introduction of chemicals in farming they now fear they will run into debt, the only escape from which is suicide. In the last few years, thousands of farmers have committed suicide. Others try desperately to pay off their debts by selling a kidney.
The U.S. corporation Monsanto, that had acquired the old established Indian seed company Mahyco, promised that he new genetically-modified cotton plants would produce higher yields and ensure better quality. Thanks to gene manipulation, the use of pesticides could be reduced as the plants produced their own insecticide. Expecting higher crop yields the farmers were persuaded to purchase Monsanto seeds at quadruple the price. They took out loans with banks and seed dealers at enormously high interest rates, yet the anticipated bumper crop failed to materialize. Diseases and insect-ridden plants forced the farmers to use more of the expensive chemicals. Their expenditures rose driving their bank debts higher at the same time. This had not been mentioned by the video cassettes distributed freely all over India promoting Monsanto's genetically-modified cotton, the Bollgard cotton. They only promised the farmer's happiness and prosperity.
JS: And you're tuned in to Deconstructing Dinner - produced and recorded at Kootenay Co-op Radio in Nelson, British Columbia. Today's broadcast is the second part of the GMO Trilogy - entitled Unnatural Selection. Again, this is an audio version of an excellent film, which can be purchased at www.seedsofdeception.com and more information can also be found at www.cjly.net/deconstructingdinner.
Samba Shiva: This is the bollworm. Bollworm in the Bollgard cotton. That's the BT cotton. (men talking in foreign language with translator) Since he owes money to the bank, they'll not give him any in the future, he is left with two options. One is to sell away a part of his property and clear the debts or consume or take poison and commit suicide. He has two alternatives, either commit suicide or repay by selling away and disposing the property.
Vandana Shiva: The saddest thing for me is that every failure from the perspective of a poor peasant and a small farmer in this country is not a failure from the perspective of these companies. I, in fact, traveled with one of them about two decades ago and they said, 'To us it doesn't matter if the crops don't do well. It's alright. They'll come back for more of our seeds.' The farmer gets wiped out. The land gets wiped out. The company's markets grow and that, I think, is the real tragedy of genetic engineering - that the failure of agriculture is a market success for the corporations.
Narrator: An interview with Mahyco-Monsanto India on the topic of crop yields did not take place. The speaker from Monsanto Europe mailed the following statement: "We emphatically repudiate any current allegation to the effect that, in particular, genetically modified cotton grains have caused bad harvests, assessing this to be a failure of technology in India." Any further interviews with Monsanto Europe and America were refused by headquarters.
Marc Loiselle: Farming is kind of like an art form as well. I feel like I'm an artist when I'm out in my field and you do things creatively, you innovate. It's not just growing food, it's enjoying the type of occupation. It's understanding the soil, understanding the wildlife, understanding the importance of everything that you do. That's why we adopted as a motto for our farm: 'Holistic Stewardship for an Abundant Life.' The stewardship aspect is that you respect the rights of your fellow man and how best to do that, but provide your fellow man with some healthy food, not contaminated food, not something that is questionable.
Our lawsuit by Saskatchewan Organic Farmers, of which we are approximately 1000, predominantly the lawsuit is about compensation because of the contamination with GM canola. We have people in our group that have had crops contaminated, canola crops in 1999 to 2000, for example, and were not able to sell their crop because the laboratories detected GM genes, Roundup-ready genes or LibertyLink genes from the company Aventis at that time, present in the organic farmer's canola crop. We can no longer grow organic canola because there is an important enough quantity of GM canola maybe 55-60% of all canola in Saskatchewan is genetically modified canola.
What we have here is a plant of Roundup-ready canola. This is one of Monsanto's GM canola plants. It was grown by my neighbour in the field on the other side of this road and because we are certified organic we need a buffer zone between our neighbours and ourselves. This road and the grass area serves as a legitimate buffer zone, but with the wind at harvest time, plants like this have blown over the road and I have to demonstrate to my certification agency that I am taking all measures possible to make sure that all plants and seeds are removed from the field. And that's why I'm collecting this. I'm documenting it. I'm taking pictures of it. I'm taking video of it and I let our lawyer know because this is going to be used as part of our lawsuit against Monsanto to demonstrate that we have had contamination since 1996 when they introduced Roundup-ready canola in Saskatchewan. When it comes to the question of liability, who is responsible for having this contamination by GM canola? It is undoubtedly Monsanto. And one of the points that we will make with our lawsuit that is very important is that we are accusing Monsanto and Aventis, which is now Bayer, of being negligent. Very negligent because they did not tell farmers like my neighbour that if they use this patented GM canola that there is a risk that it will contaminate neighbouring fields. And it's very interesting to note that in countries like England, large insurance companies are refusing to insure if GM crops are grown. And I think that is wonderful.
Percy Schmeiser: The whole issue now of any more introduction of GMOs should be stopped immediately. And if you look back at Monsanto's history, to me it's been a history of deceit and of not telling the truth. When Monsanto and other companies said PCBs were safe, DDTs were safe, Agent Orange was safe, Aspartame was safe and after a few years everybody found out the dangers of PCBs and DDT and now we have the same company telling us that GMOs are safe.
Narrator: For years, Vandana Shiva has observed the threat to biological diversity stemming from the policies of multinational seed and chemical giants. This gave her the impetus to purchase, with private funds, a piece of land at the foot of the Himalayas in Northern India and to found Navdanya, an experimental farm. Without using any chemicals, only with organic, sustainable farming, she collects, breeds and preserves old seeds which have been displaced from the fields since the introduction of the monotone chemical agriculture of the '50s and '60s.
Vandana Shiva: In January of 2002, the new scientists announced a new miracle for India. Scientists in India, along with companies of course, had worked on the potato and they wanted to solve the protein problem by putting genes from this plant, the amaranth, which is very, very rich in protein. The grain amaranth has about 11 mg/100 g and take the genes for protein from this plant and put it into the potato. And the potato that will be genetically engineered from genes with amaranth is actually going to leave you with nutritional scarcity because you'll have got rid of the calcium producing content of amaranth. You'll have got rid of the fibre of amaranth. You'll have got rid of the iron in amaranth. You'll have got rid of the taste of amaranth. You'll have got rid of the amaranth. You are writing in the creation of a genetically engineered potato with amaranth gene. You are writing an extinction sentence for God's own grain. The second thing they're forcing... so one is, the first is the very unethical imposition of patents on life which is to treat life as an invention of man. Life as an invention of man. W. L. Grace case of Neem, a company called Rice Tec, basmati and the list is very, very long. I mean anyone can say, 'I have invented'. Second story is, on the one hand, American manufacturing industry has already got a manufacturing... (voice fades into background)
Narrator: The big treaty nations, Europe and America, are trying to assign their patent thinking towards the third world. That means that naturally growing plants like the neem tree or economic plants cultivated for years, such as basmati rice, are suddenly the property of patent holders. Thanks to Vandana Shiva some of these patents are being revoked after long and bitter lawsuits.
Vandana Shiva: For me, this engagement with genetic engineering and the corporations that are pushing genetic engineering without letting democratic safety systems evolve by extinguishing everything. My passion for fighting really comes from the love for biodiversity. To me there is nothing more beautiful than seeing hundreds of rice varieties. Bean varieties of different colours. Those gifts of nature. From the fact that the Indian peasant for me has been the embodiment of resilience, of strength, of hope and that is the soul of India and that is what is being assaulted by these corporations. The heart and soul of India is under assault. And the struggle for the seed, for the freedom of our seed, for the freedom of our farmers is to me, the same as Ghandi's struggle, his Satyagraha, the fight for truth.
In this field my colleague Preity, whose name literally means "the earth," is harvesting a rich, rich crop of turmeric - haldi, which is critical to our food. Haldi or turmeric is an extremely strong natural anti-biotic. A few years ago the anti-biotic use of haldi was patented and the patent said, 'Buy haldi in your kitchen store but it will belong to our patent. You'll have to pay us.' The reason they patented it was because anti-biotics are failing. Haldi is not failing us. We use it when we have infection. We use it in our cooking so that everyday it is protecting our health. It is a beautiful, beautiful ayurvedic medicine; also a food. In Indian diet there is no division between food and medicine. It's all one beautiful continuum. And we have other root crops here, the arbi, which we use for a wonderful, wonderful vegetables. We have ginger. We have three varieties of the sacred basil, the tulsi. This too has been patented. We worship the tulsi in our backyard. Every home in India will have a tulsi pot. And when we worship we say, 'In you I will assume the cosmos resides and I will pay you reverence, to pay reverence to this amazing creation.' We use the leaves in winter for coughs and colds. This tea from this mint tea, wonderful. This too has been patented. In fact, every third crop in our field, there's a patent sitting in U.S. patent offices. But for us, this is a freedom zone. We will keep these crops free for future generations.
JS: And you're tuned in to Deconstructing Dinner - produced and recorded at Kootenay Co-op Radio in Nelson British Columbia. Today's broadcast is the second part of the GMO Trilogy - entitled Unnatural Selection. The film version of this recording can be purchased at www.seedsofdeception.com or you can dial toll free 888-329-7000. It is also encouraged by the producer Jeffrey Smith to share the Trilogy with friends and co-workers as this is a subject not widely exposed throughout the mainstream media.
A musician who has been heard on Deconstructing Dinner during previous broadcasts is Salt Spring Island's Phil Vernon. He recently performed at the Organic Islands Festival held in Victoria and Deconstructing Dinner's correspondent Andrea Langlois was on hand to record the following performance titled The Bioengineers' Picnic.
Clip from the performance:
Phil Vernon: If you go out in the field today you're in for big surprise. If you go out in the field today you better go in disguise. For every crop that ever there was, is modified for certain because today the bioengineers have their picnic. Every engineer who'll be bought is sure of a job today. There's marvelous salaries to be got and wonderful games to play. Behind the scenes where nobody sees, insert some genes wherever they please. That's the way bioengineers have their picnic. Picnic time for bioengineers, genetic engineers are having a lovely time today. Watch them, catch them unawares, while their scruples are on holiday. Gaily mixing genes about, they love to slice and dice. They never have any cares. And at 6 o'clock their corporate daddies will take them home to bed because they're tired bioengineers. If you go out in the field today, you better not go alone. It's lovely down in the fields today, but safer to stay at home. For every crop that ever there was, is modified for certain because today the bioengineers have their picnic. Picnic time for bioengineers, genetic engineers are having a lovely time today. Watch them, catch them unawares, while their scruples are on holiday. Gaily mixing genes about, they love to slice and dice. They never have any cares. And at 6 o'clock their corporate daddies will take them home to bed because they're tired bioengineers. Yes, at 6 o'clock their corporate daddies will take them home to bed because they're tired bioengineers.
JS: And that was the Bioengineers' Picnic performed by Salt Spring Island's Phil Vernon and recorded at the Organic Islands Festival held recently in Victoria. You can take a listen to that recording on the Deconstructing Dinner website - www.cjly.net/deconstructingdinner. And a reminder that Deconstructing Dinner is sponsored by the Kootenay Co-op Natural Food Store. And continuing on with today's broadcast, here is Unnatural Selection.
Clip from movie:
Andrew Kimbrell: And now with genetic engineering when you see that without much democratic decision making at all, a few scientists and companies are trying to change the genetic makeup, the permanent genetic makeup of all living things, all those things that we love so dearly, and change them in a way we can never get back. It seems to me the only thing that you can do is to fight this and to say these plants, these animals, deserve this genetic integrity. They are things of great beauty. They are things that were made either through divine intervention or millennia and millions of years of evolution. We have no right for profit, or for research to change them fundamentally. They deserve to be loved and protected and that's why I do what I do.
Narrator: As a lawyer and author, Andrew Kimbrell battles his way through all the issues raised by the new genetic technology. Kimbrell heads the Centre for Food Safety in Washington, D.C. and endeavors especially to educate and provide information to consumers.
Andrew Kimbrell: Yeah, these slides are very interesting here. This is an interesting slide. What you have here, in 1982, Dr. Ralph Brinster of the University of Pennsylvania said, 'What if I can take the gene responsible for growth in human beings and put it into a mouse?' And he did just that. He actually was successful. As you can see though the very large mouse here is the one that has successfully been engineered with human growth genes to make it huge and you see the sibling next to it. And this made a huge fury, was on the front page of these magazines, New York Times and then a few months later people said, 'Well this is interesting, but what are you gonna really do with a really huge mouse? I mean, you can scare people. You know, there's a few things you can do with it, but it's not a very practical thing to have a really huge mouse.' So then what happened is the United States Department of Agriculture said, 'Well what happens if we were to use the same experiment but to use it with pigs?' So I went out to the USDA and this is what they did. They took the human growth gene, Dr. Vern Pursel with taxpayer dollars and I don't think many taxpayers knew this, actually took taxpayer dollars and took human growth genes and put them into this pig. As you can see, there's a problem. Instead of like the mouse with human genes it grew so big the genes worked differently. Human genes worked differently in this pig. It was cross-eyed, bow-legged, impotent, the musculature had overwhelmed it, and I could only photograph it against a plywood board here because it's the only way it could stand up. You can imagine the suffering and how terrible this was for this particular animal. And this is another experiment. What would happen... they were interested in taking the skin of a cow and seeing if they could genetically have a pig produce that skin. Apparently, it would be more beneficial for slaughtering and so this is literally a pig that has a cow's skin. Researchers were very proud of that.
The most important thing is to understand about genetic engineering is that it is really an attempt to say, 'Listen, no matter how unsustainable our technologies, we're not gonna change the technology to fit the natural living systems. We're going to change living systems so they fit the technology.' We all know how horrible factory farming is and one of the problems they have with egg-laying chickens, with hens is they have a mothering instinct. They wanna brood. And here you see one of the brain experiments genetically engineering chickens to take out the mothering instinct from these brooding chickens so they won't brood anymore. They won't have the mothering instinct anymore so they'll fit the factory farm system. This is one of the Chimera birds they're working with. They take away the mothering instinct. So we don't change our factory farm system, we actually take the mothering instinct out of animals so that they will fit the technology.
Narrator: Only research on fish made progress. Here scientists could put their knowledge into practice more quickly, as the animals have shorter generation times and the hundreds of thousands of eggs develop by themselves outside the mother. A Canadian company by the name of Aqua Bounty is about to receive approval to market it's genetically modified giant salmon. It has developed a salmon that is six times longer than the same species living in the wild, yet needs only half the time to grow.
Joe McGonigle: Aqua Bounty Farms is a small research and development stage company. We don't have a product on the market yet, but we're researching a variety of different applications of biotechnology to fish farming. We're pretty much the only company in the field to date. This is a picture of three related fish, brothers and sisters, that we developed, but this is a fish that inherited the transgene and these are it's siblings that did not. This fish is about a year old and these fish are as well. As you can see, there is an incredible acceleration in the early life stages. These fish are just barely ready to go into salt water. This fish is almost ready to harvest after a year. (voices of workers weighing fish in the background)
Andrew Kimbrell: It's a technology that cannot exist with nature. It's a technology that invades, pollutes, contaminates and ultimately destroys the natural species. And this is fundamental, whether be crops or fish or animals. That's the fundamental nature of biological pollution. It cannot co-exist. It invades and destroys. We need to understand that as we debate this issue.
Joe McGonigle: But the real key here is not the salmon. The salmon is just the first product. What we're really interested in and what we're working on now back in the lab is a tilapia and a carp which are really important fish in the third world in China, in Africa for food security. We're gonna have difficulties supplying aquatic protein to people worldwide and not just the high-end kind of products like trout and salmon, but the really important products for food security, like tilapia and carp. And those are what we're working on. We should have those on the market by the end of the decade.
Narrator: That is the real point of the whole matter. The focus is on conquering the huge market in Southeastern Asia. Aqua Bounty Farms is getting ready to breed and sell eggs, manipulated with growth genes, in huge amounts. The company conducts the scanty tests required for approval itself and no other independent scientists or consumers have insight into the approval process. It is confidential. Occasional reports that the modified fish are more aggressive, suffer from internal, as well as, external deformities, and die earlier - the same results reached in earlier experiments on pigs, cows and sheep - give due cause for skepticism. At Purdue University in Indiana, Bill Muir and Rick Howard are performing tests and doing pioneer research work to determine what actually happens when genetically-modified fish, like those soon to be introduced to the market enter the food chain and mingle with wild fish. For this purpose, Rick Howard and Bill Muir developed a computer model in which they created a population of 60,000 wild fish into which sixty transgenic fish penetrate. The more aggressive feeding and mating behaviour of the larger transgenic males led, in the most extreme case, to the extinction of the entire fish population after around forty generations, that is, within a few years. They are now doing research in their experimental aquariums to find out if these scenarios can be confirmed in reality.
Rick Howard: The research that we're doing here, in looking at the transgenic mating advantage and so forth, is very unique because we know of no other lab in the world that is looking at the success of transgenic individuals and wild type individuals. And actually, transgenic organisms like fish can get into the environment in the first place, would most likely be an accidental occurrence.
Andrew Kimbrell: This fish if let loose through biological pollution in actual water will destroy the native fish. It's very important that once there's biological contamination it's very different than chemical contamination. If you have an oil spill, it will dilute over time. Even a chemical spill will dilute over time. This is not chemical pollution. This is a living pollution, biological pollution. Once these fish are released into a bay or a river you can't recall them. No scientists can say, 'Come back, please.' You can't put a net and get them. It's over. It's over. And in the United States we have yet to have our first law. We don't have a single law which regulates this kind of biological pollution. It is completely unregulated even though it's effects will be catastrophic and you will not be able to remedy those and you will not be able to recall this.
Joe McGonigle: There are certainly environmental hazards associated with transgenic animals and particularly with fish because they can escape and they're free-ranging after that. It's real hard to find one after they get out as the salmon farming industry has discovered on it's own. In order to protect against the fish either colonizing new habitat or inter-breeding with wild fish, what we're doing is developing a fish that are production line fish that will be sold sterile so that it can't reproduce and they will be all female. And the reason why they're all female is because sterile female salmon tend not to come back from the ocean. They have no reason to come back to the rivers to spawn because they never mature.
Andrew Kimbrell: One of the things I find so curious about the argument of the biotechnology companies that often call themselves "life sciences" is that when you talk to them about the environmental threats, about all the other threats, they say, 'Don't worry, we are making genetically-engineered fish sterile. We're gonna make sure they're sterile.' By the way, who checks on this? Millions of fish being sterile is a ridiculous enforcement idea. 'Don't worry, biological technology in plants. We're gonna put a terminator in these plants so they'll commit suicide after one growing season.' I find it very strange that a company that calls itself "life sciences" is telling us that their technology only will work if we make all life on Earth sterile. What a terrifying concept.
Narrator: The so-called terminator technology makes the farmers almost completely dependant on the corporations. The plants are modified in such a way that they are able to germinate only once. Sewing the harvest seeds is pointless. The harvest is dead.
JS: And you're tuned in to Deconstructing Dinner - produced and recorded at Kootenay Co-op Radio in Nelson, British Columbia. Today's broadcast is the second part of the GMO Trilogy - entitled Unnatural Selection. The film version of this recording can be purchased at www.seedsofdeception.com or you can dial toll free 888-329-7000. It is also encouraged by the producer Jeffrey Smith to share the Trilogy with friends and coworkers as this is a subject not widely exposed throughout the mainstream media. As was most recently discussed during this Deconstructing Dinner audio broadcast of the film Unnatural Selection, a seed technology has been developed to render sterile seeds at harvest. This topic was featured during the February 9th broadcast of Deconstructing Dinner, which can be found on the program's website. But this topic was also inspiration for yet another song by Salt Spring Island's Phil Vernon. And this one is called Something's In the Garden.
Clip from the performance:
Phil Vernon: The wind howls before the dawn. Something's in the garden. Look out and see what's going on. Oh, the winds they blow. In a shroud of secrecy, something's in the garden. This suicide technology, oh, it's got to go. The corporate biotech machine, something's in the garden. Unveils the terminator gene, oh, the winds they blow. Inserting a genetic crime, something's in the garden. Sterile seed at harvest time, oh, it's got to go. The winds, they blow across the fields of every nation. Our seed we've been sowing for a hundred generations 'til they find in every land, we'll fight the terminator. Oh no, it's got to go. The desperate poor locked in their sights, something's in the garden. With it's old mighty appetite, oh the winds they blow. Wearing a Boy Scout disguise, something's in the garden. They hijack the global food supply, oh it's got to go. The winds, they blow across the fields of every nation. Our seed we've been sowing for a hundred generations 'til they find in every land, we'll fight the terminator. Oh no, it's got to go.
JS: And that was Salt Spring Island's Phil Vernon and his song Something's In the Garden. You can find a link to that song on the Ban Terminator website - which is www.banterminator.org. Ban Terminator is a Canadian-based International campaign calling for a ban on the terminator seed technology that Phil Vernon was just singing about. And here is the final segment of the second part of the GMO Trilogy featured here on Deconstructing Dinner titled Unnatural Selection.
Clip from movie:
Andrew Kimbrell: Genetic engineering to some extent is about a 400 year old mistake. It was a mistake that began with the Cartesian revolution and this idea that basically animals - the betmachines - that animals are basically machines. And the Cartesians would vivisect cats and dogs and when they would hear the screams they would say, 'Aha! This is like the gears shifting in the machine. That's where this noise is coming from.' This was a totally mechanistic vision and if you trace the last four hundred years you can see there's been a certain part of the scientific community, by no means all, that has continued this mechanistic myth, very dangerous myth. So now that they see the entire living world as simply machines and genes as the software that's why they believe in genetic engineering. They're engineering life as if they were engineering machines. They are reductionist, efficiency, exactly the same principles that they use in a machine, they are trying to reduce life to. That's the fundamental mistake of genetic engineering.
Narrator: In Tromso, 400 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, Terje Traavik, one of the few scientists worldwide who is not on the industry payroll is doing research on the effects of genetically modified food on the health of humans and animals.
Terje Traavic: When an organism like fish is eating genetically modified feed then we don't know what happens when the next consumer comes in. The fish is eating the modified food. You will eat the fish. Now to which extent the genetically modified food has changed the fish, to which extent there is still genetically modified DNA present in the fish, to which extent you will be exposed to this in the next instance, there is no experimental data to indicate what happens in a case like that.
We are now going into the experimental animal department where we are doing feeding studies in rats with genetically modified ingredients, fruit and DNA corn extracts. So we are now opening a room where the rats are living. They are very well fed. They have a good life here. This is a very unique experiment in the sense that it's the first experiment we know of where you have the signs that so you can detect any difference between these rats groups and then you can go backwards and find out what this difference means in terms of health, for instance, or in terms of malfunctions of the organs or whatever. The background for this is that many places in the world people and domestic animals are already eating genetically modified food or feed or re-enacting in genetically modified plants. In addition to that, the intended use in humans and domestic animals, of course as you will know, on it's way from the soil and through the table, a lot of different species and animals will be in and consume all the genetically modified plants and we don't know anything about what effects this will have on any organism. Well in some experiments in a German group with mice, this German group which is led by Dr. Walter Doerfler in Cologne, were demonstrating that some types of foreign DNA were not cleared from the organisms, from the mice organism. It went to the internal organs and were even inserted into the DNA of the mice. If that is the case, if that happens, then it may be the start of a highly unwarranted process with regard to health.
Narrator: It seems like a wide-scale experiment on humans, in view of the fact that genetically modified food has been on the market for eight years and has already been eaten by millions of Americans. However, it is an experiment that is being conducted without control groups. No knowledge can be gained as to whether and in what form our health is affected if one group eats genetically modified foods, but a control group is lacking. The entire population is simply subjected to the same, potentially harmful, substances. A few scientists suspect that there might be a connection to the increase in chronic illnesses and the weakening of the immune system.
Terje Traavic: I was maybe one of the most vocalized proponents of genetic engineering, in Norway at least, until the late 1980s. And what happened then was that we were using the transgenic techniques a lot and you were so enthusiastic because you were thinking about all the potential benefits of genetic engineering and you thought there's a revolution going on which will give a lot of advantages to mankind and I'm part of that revolution and you felt very special and very bright. But then in my own experiments with transgenic techniques I realized that if some of the things I observe here, which I consider very interesting for scientific reasons, if these observations were made in the real ecosystems or in the real organisms that might really make great problems and sometimes ecological catastrophes or sometimes very alarming disease. But then as time when on I had to accept that this is being intended to be used as transgenic plants, for instance in the real ecosystems, and it's going to be used as food and feed for real animals and real humans. And then I had to start to use my knowledge to try to look whether the potential, theoretical risks were real or not.
Narrator: Unlike in Europe, genetically modified grains such as canola, maize and soya, still land on the dinner table in the USA, without being recognized as such nor labeled. The consumers have no opportunity while shopping or eating out to identify these foods.
Larry Bain: Chefs and restaurant owners are gatekeepers. Their responsibility is to find out what's going on in the food world. It's very complicated, especially in the United States, where there are virtually no labeling laws, particularly around fish and consumers don't have a lot of time. They are in a rush when they go to the grocery store. They come to a restaurant, they don't want to read a long document and so it's our responsibility as chefs and restaurateurs to do the work, to find out everything we can about the food, how it was raised, what's in it, what isn't in it, whether it's healthy, whether it's good to the environment. And then after we've screened all that, after we've thought about that we select what will go on the menu and, very importantly, what won't go on the menu. Transgenic fish are bred to grow faster, be stronger and they have a tremendous advantage over the wild fish population. We don't know what this might do to us or our children or our children's children and the government needs to become more active and at the very least label it so we know what we're eating. It's just so unfair for people to work in ignorance even though they care, even though they want to know if the government doesn't co-operate we're all victims of big food.
Vandana Shiva: This is our seed store, the big amount of seed that we need for large distribution are in these. The walls are made of card and plaster and the painting has been done by a tribal farmer who visited us and at night he used to just get up and paint our walls with this beautiful imagery of biodiversity and sustainability. And the different conservation seeds are protected in this seed bank. Navdanya is very fortunate to have a Bija, whose name means "the seed." Seed means "the bija" and this is Bija and Prithvi, whose name means "the earth." We have the seed and the earth in our team and, of course, we have Dharvan and others. Dharvan means "the protector" and he is the protector of seed, but Dharvan and Bija can now show us the seed conservation. We don't take shoes into our seed bank so we don't bring any diseases.
The seed bank, community seed bank - where we conserve seed diversity at the level of farmers. We don't want a hi-tech, high-cost system so farmers enter and say they can do it but we can't. We want to inspire every farmer to be able to be a seed keeper and a seed farmer. Right here we have among our 265 rice varieties that grow on this farm, a rice that is used as the first weaning food for infants. It is used as a rice for women who have problems in pregnancy and it is used for very, very old people who cannot eat an ordinary food. This rice is a healing rice. More black rices, red rices, brown rices, golden rices, long grain rices, short grain rices. We used to have 200,000 rice varieties in this country and the green revolution tried to breed one variety at a time and each of them kept failing. Because the green revolution was not successful in wiping it all out, we have been able to work with farmers, with Bija, with Dharvan, to be able to bring this issue back.
At the consumer level it is now quite clearly recognized that there is not a single consumer in the world who would willingly ask for food in ignorance about what it contains. Everywhere people are asking for labeling. Everywhere people are asking for the right to choose and the right to information. And most places, people with that information are saying, 'We don't want this stuff. Our food is better off without genetic engineering.'
Andrew Kimbrell: Every time you walk into a fast food place, you know every time that you buy conventional vegetables, you and I am responsible for the pesticides being used and the incredible cruelty to these animals, the destruction of our forests and wildlife. Seventy percent of our endangered species are created through farming and ranching in the United States. We're complicit in those moral crimes, whether we know it or not. So it's not just environmental crisis. It's a moral crisis and we're never gonna solve that by being mere consumers. We have to say no. We are creating either the solution or the problem.
Terje Traavic: One of the main risk issues of genetic engineering is that 95% of all competent scientists in this field are working for the producer's side and only 5% are really, genuinely independent. They never discuss that and that makes me suggest that maybe the situation is even worse because I have no data for this. It's my own invention. The reason I mention it is, of course, that the percentages are 100 working for the industry and 0% that are really independent then we have both a very serious scientific problem in this society, but we also have a very, very serious democratic problem as you may imagine and realize.
JS: And that was this week's edition of Deconstructing Dinner, produced and recorded in the studios of Nelson, British Columbia's Kootenay Co-op radio. I've been your host Jon Steinman. I thank my technical assistant, Diane Matenko.
Should you have any comments about today's show or want to learn more about topics covered, you can visit the website for Deconstructing Dinner at www.cjly.net/deconstructingdinner.
Till next week.