As I was researching this topic -- genetic engineering
-- I thought... truth really is stranger than fiction… and then I thought…wow… this would make a great
movie plot… So, I have to warn you, this is not your traditional prepared speech. But hey…what’s traditional
about bio-engineered food?
The setting - hometown America, 1980...little white house…
picket fence…Volkswagen bug in the driveway... mom and dad working in the yard…
You get the picture?
The opening scene has maybe...Harrison Ford fertilizing
Harrison: (muttering) "Why is my grass brown but the darn dandelions are growing beautifully?"
Then we pan over to Jodie Foster working in her garden
Jodie: "Why are my weeds doing so well but my tomatoes
The third scene is in a bio tech lab. The husband and
wife team, both brilliantly smart scientists in their white lab coats working on solving their problems...
Jodie: "If we give the tomato just a little of the dandelions
strength ... what have you got?
Harrison: "A miracle seed... A bio-miracle!"
The cameraman gets a close-up of their gorgeous round
tomato...so close that you can almost smell it ...but in the background the camera focuses on a poster of Gregor Mendel, Father
of Genetics, he’s the pea pod guy, with his laws listed
1. that the inheritance of each trait is determined by
"units" or "factors" that are passed on to descendents unchanged
2. that an individual inherits one such unit from each
parent for each trait
3. that a trait may not show up in an individual but can
still be passed on to the next generation.
That third section is the one the camera focuses on...
The one about recessive traits not showing up right away.
Back to reality…
Recently bioengineered foods have been very prominent
in the media across the world. Maybe the biggest piece of news was that Europe was banning them from their shores. The World
Trade Organization has condemned Europe for holding out against genetically modified foods and crops with a decision that
will most likely change the future of farming. It also ruled that Germany, Italy, Austria, Luxembourg, Greece and France broke
the rules by making their own bans on genetically modified foods. The United States, Canada and Argentina attacked these countries
saying that these bans hurt their sales and weren’t based on science. These countries must have a reason for applying
this moratorium,. It’s interesting that Europeans have resisted these goods so fiercely and the Americans have so leisurely
accepted them? If the European Union is willing to pay these huge fines to keep it off their continent shouldn’t we
be more concerned?
The products aren’t labeled differently so the consumer
has no idea what they are consuming. Shouldn’t we at least have the right to choose whether to ingest these man made
substances? In fact, a July 2003 ABC News Survey found that 92% of Americans felt that the Federal Government should require
labels on food that say weather or not it has been genetically modified (1). Only 6% believe that the government should not
require labeling. I think we all have to remember, we are what we eat so if we don’t know what we’re eating, what
A major piece as to why the market of bioengineered foods
is growing so rapidly is the input of the agricultural giants that control the production of these goods. These companies
are in control of the research and development, the labeling, shipping and marketing of these new products. At this point
in time the FDA has ruled that there is been no scientific proof that these foods are at any health risk to the general public.
This may be true now but who knows what these genetically engineered foods can evolve into in years to come. For example,
if a plant is genetically altered to resist pests, will that pest become more tolerant, and therefore stronger? What’s
the solution when it gets to that point? Do we increase to potency of the plant until the toxin is strong enough to affect
Back to the movie…
A little girl and her dad in their garden...
Girl: "I don't understand... I planted a tomato seed.
That really expensive one.
Dad: "It looks like tomato... And smells like tomato...
...the cameraman pulls back to show one small plot of
land morphing into fields and fields of a very strong, very invasive dandelion weeds...
Here we can have the camera focus on that Mendel poster
again… the one that talks about recessive traits popping up in future generations.
Jodi and Harrison are boarding Air Force One which whisks
them to the little girls garden … as the plane descends they are looking horrified out their windows…to see the
thousands of acres in America's breadbasket have been invaded by the very resistant, mutant strain of dandelioned tomato.
This where Jodi Foster and Harrison Ford start to realize
the extent of the damage...
Can they save America's breadbasket?
Can they save the other countries from the same fate?
Those ships carrying millions of tons of the seed...
If it's already in warehouses, could they even identify
If it’s been distributed could they even recall
None of the seed is labeled as being different from its
How will they keep this knowledge for terrorist organizations?
But the real question is this:
What are the other implications they haven’t even
thought of yet....
Now, I understand the importance of bioengineered foods.
I understand the benefits for farmers and I understand the potential benefits for consumers. I also support its growth, but
I believe that we have to take it slow and cooperate with all the other nations around the world so that something like this
doesn’t occur. Believe it or not, I think my future will probably be in the biotech field, and hopefully I’ll
help to answer some of these questions.