Agribusiness is in a mad rush to take over the earth, and seems willing to stop at nothing. Coming soon is cabbage with scorpion poison engineered in every cell. Of course, they claim it’s safe and will result in less pesticide use, but history and logic say otherwise. Who will wake from the insane mating between Agribiz and GMOs?
by Heidi Stevenson
Get ready for genetically engineered cabbages that come complete with their own scorpion poison, just for you to eat. It’s touted as requiring less pesticide use and being, of course, completely safe. Close investigation, though, indicates that neither claim is likely true.
A pesticide made with scorpion poison genetically engineered into a virus was first tested back in 1994. Interestingly, the scientists who sprayed the test field wore full body suits to protect them from this “harmless” poison. One must wonder at just how safe it could be when the developers themselves don’t trust it more than that! Of course, the head of the trial, Professor David Bishop, insisted that the trial was safe—though he himself opted to take a vacation, rather than be there for it.
In the newer incarnation of scorpion poison genetic engineering, genes from the scorpion, Androctonus australus hector, for production of poison are being genetically engineered into cabbages. The goal is to produce them for public consumption. With the FDA’s history of rubberstamp approvals for genetically modified crops, it seems unlikely that anything will interfere with their production and entry into a supermarket near you.
Let’s examine the justifications given for this never-to-be-found-in-nature cabbage-scorpion chimera:
1. It will result in the use of less pesticide.
At first blush, this seems to make sense. But it’s specious reasoning. The reality is that, instead of spraying pesticides onto the plants, the plants will contain them in every single cell. The result is that the pesticide will end up in the bodies of people who eat the cabbage. Thus, human beings will become the unofficial pesticide sinks, instead of the environment. I suppose there’s a plus in that, but I do not personally intend to be one of those pesticide sinks. Do you?
2. It’s completely safe.
Where have we heard that before? In this instance it stems from two things:
- The scorpion venom has been modified so that it won’t hurt humans: This isn’t quite true. What they’ve done is select a section of the genome that codes for a toxin, called AAiT, which is known to be poisonous to insects.
- A study that purports to show that it does no harm to humans: Well … not exactly. The human testing was not performed on live people, nor was it performed on normal healthy cells. It was tested on MCF-7 breast cancer cells—not exactly normal human cells. Do you find that comforting? I certainly don’t.
Will Frankencabbages Be Effective At Stopping Pests?
This is, of course, the real issue, because it’s why
farmers Agribusiness would want it. That could prove to be a problem. According to the study on AAiT’s toxicity against insect cells, the toxicity is greatly limited by ingestion. The authors wrote:
[L]ow toxicity with an LC50 of 18.4 μM was recorded in artificial diet incorporation assay in which the toxin was consumed by the testing insect through feeding. We suggested that this might be a result of toxin degradation by digestion.
The LD50—the point at which 50% of the insects die—was recorded at only 0.13 μM when AAiT was applied directly. They found a difference of “2 orders of magnitude” when the toxin was directly applied instead of ingested. That’s a huge difference—and would tend to suggest that the scorpion toxin won’t be all that effective in the plants, since it must be ingested by insects. So, in all likelihood, sprays will still be used.
Will this matter to the buyers of Frankencabbage seeds? It’s hard to say, but the history of these products would tend to indicate a remarkable gullibility. Consider that production has never been much better in genetically engineered seeds, and when it has, it’s tended to deteriorate over time. The legacy of Roundup Ready, glyphosate-resistant, crops has been superweeds that not only are resistant to glyphosate, but grow much bigger and faster than the original weeds.
Keep in mind, also, that the use of genetically modified seeds tends to come with codicils that lock the buyer, and even subsequent users of the land, into buying nothing else.
Perhaps, ultimately, it will be the Frankenseeds themselves that destroy Agribusiness! They’re locked into a system that is proving not to work. The real question, then, is whether they’ll destroy the earth—and us—before they’ve destroyed themselves.
The concern posited by the image at the top of the page is serious: Once Agribusiness got into bed with recombinant DNA produce, they made a bargain with the devil. Ultimately, it seems unlikely that even Agribusiness will wake up from their attempt to take over the earth.
- Scorpion pesticide test goes ahead: Scientists undeterred by fresh evidence about potency of virus
- Recombinant scorpion insectotoxin AaIT kills specifically insect cells but not human cells
- Sustainability and innovation in staple crop production in the US Midwest
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