Thursday, September 7, 2017

Hybrid or GMO?

After my last post, I started to think about all of the people that I have talked to about GMO's.  It seems that there is nearly always a statement of "we have been doing this to plants/animals for years."  This statement is both true and false.  Let me explain.

As humans, we have in fact been manipulating plants and animals to better suit our purposes since the beginning of time.  Let's pretend that you are an apple farmer.  You have 100's of varieties of apple trees growing in your orchard.  Over the years, you notice that some trees produce more apples, some trees produce bigger apples and some trees produce better apples.  As a grower, it is only logical that you would want to produce the biggest, best and most apples possible, right?  In order to make the not-so-good trees produce a better quality & quantity of apples, you might cross-pollinate those trees, which would result in a hybrid of the two trees.  Hopefully, the offspring (in this case, the apples) would show some of the genetic traits of each tree and the apples produced would be a better product.  Hybrid, by definition is an offspring of two animals or plants of different races, breeds, varieties, species, or genera."  Farmers have been using hybrid technology for years, choosing "parent" plants that exhibit traits that are more profitable to their operation, such as disease resistance, increased yield and drought tolerance.  The plants are bred with the hope that the offspring will exhibit the desirable traits of each of the parent plants.  This procedure is used in animal breeding as well.  Cattle farmers breed certain bulls with certain cows in order to produce a desirable calf, horses are bred with other horses, pigs with other pigs, etc.  As a matter of fact, every.single.person on this planet could be considered a hybrid.  Creating a hybrid is a natural form of plant/animal breeding.  When two plants or two animals have sex, the genomes from BOTH parents contribute tons of genes to the babies.  These genes are sorted and expressed naturally and more often than not, the offspring will exhibit characteristics of both parents.

Genetic engineering, or genetic modification, whatever you choose to call it, is defined in a completely different manner.  There is no similarity to natural breeding, whatsoever.  By definition, genetic engineering means the group of applied techniques of genetics and biotechnology used to cut up and join together genetic material and especially DNA from one or more species of organism and to introduce the result into an organism in order to change one or more of its characteristics.  There are a couple of words within this definition that also need to be defined.  Biotechnology is the manipulation of living organisms or their components to produce useful, usually commercial products.   The term "species" also needs defining, meaning a category of biological classification ranking immediately below the genus or subgenus, comprising related organisms or populations potentially capable of interbreeding....   In genetic engineering, scientists identify the specific gene that they want to use from an organism and analyze it to find its sequence.  If the source gene happens to be from a bacteria, they produce certain amino acids that use a different code than plants use, so some of the codes have to be changed.  After undergoing a number of "procedures", the gene is multiplied by the millions.  These genes are then inserted into the plant DNA by using bacterial infection or by gene insertion.  

In the bacteria method, a bacteria (Agrobacterium tumefaciens) under normal (natural) conditions, infects the plant by inserting part of its own DNA into the plant DNA.  Once the bacteria is functioning, the genetic sequence from the bacteria causes the plant to grow tumors.  Genetic engineers replace the tumor-creating section of the bacterium's DNA with one or more genes.  This new, altered bacteria "infects" the plant with the foreign genes instead. 

The gene insertion method involves using a gene gun, or particle insertion method.  Scientists use millions of particles of tungsten or gold coated with gene cassettes (combination of gene sequenced) and then they shoot these particles into millions of plant cells.  Only a few cells out of the millions incorporate the foreign gene.  

In order to select the cells that have integrated the new genes, scientists rely on marker genes.  Say that a gene has antibiotic resistance markers.  When the specific antibiotic that they are supposed to be resistant to is applied to the cells after gene insertion, those that survive will have the marker gene. Most of the cells die.

The cells that do survive, are then grown using tissue culture.  The changed nutrient medium allows them to develop into plants.  Once developed, scientists can multiply the desired outcome by planting seeds or by making clones of the plants' cells.

In essence, genetic engineering takes man made combinations of genes that have never existed together and forces them into random locations in the hosts genetic code and then clones the
result. (1)  How in the world can anyone say that this process is the same as natural breeding?

I am not a scientist, nor am I a doctor.  What I do know is genetic engineering IS NOT something that could or would occur in the natural breeding process.  There would NEVER be a case when a jellyfish bred with a pig to produce a pig that glowed in the dark and a tomato plant would never breed with a winter flounder just so that it wouldn't freeze to death in cold temperatures.  These examples may seem far fetched but guess what?  THEY ACTUALLY HAPPENED.  How is this OK and how can anyone think that this is the same as breeding a tomato with a tomato or a pig with a pig?

Please.  Start educating yourself about what is actually happening to our food supply.  The only way to change things is to start changing YOURSELF first.


(1) Genetic Roulette, the Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods.  Jeffrey Smith, 2007

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The human experiment...

Odd title, isn't it.  Not so much.

Do you realize that the entire population of this country is undergoing one Big.Huge.Human.Experiment.  Think I'm crazy?  Think again.....

Back in the early 1900's, a man by the name of John Francis Queeney founded a little company called Monsanto.  The company was originally created to begin producing saccharin (an artificial sweetener).  By 1915, Monsanto's sales had surpassed $1 million.  During the 1920's, the company expanded it's operation to producing chemicals and drugs.  In the 1930's, Monsanto created it's first hybrid seed corn.  By 1945, Monsanto had begun to produce agricultural chemicals such as 2,4-D, which was later used to make Agent Orange & DDT.  Who could have known that those two chemicals would wreak havoc with the bodies of Vietnam Veterans and that to this day, Monsanto would still be paying damages to Vets.

During the 1970's, Monsanto received EPA approval to begin manufacturing Glyphosate which is the main component of its best known synthetic herbicide.  It should be noted that they received this EPA approval based on the company's own research as the EPA "didn't have the funds at the time" to conduct their own studies.  Roundup, Monsanto's most widely used chemical to date, was introduced in 1974.  By the 1980's,  Monsanto had received approval to sell Roundup direct to consumers.  

In 1994, Monsanto introduced its very first genetically modified seeds, Roundup Ready soybeans and Bt (insect resistant) cotton.   More genetically modified seeds followed in 2011 with the approval of Roundup Ready alfalfa, sugar beets and corn. By 2014, Monsanto was reporting revenue of nearly $16 billion per year.

Monsanto's influence on our food supply has continued to grow.  A Recent Trends in GE Adoption article published by the USDA on July 12, 2017,  shows a pretty dramatic increase in the number of acres planted to GM crops since they were introduced.  Some of the patents on these crops have expired, so there are actually more companies producing the genetically modified seeds.

As you can see in the chart above,  soybeans, corn and cotton are very close to being 100% genetically modified.  Farmers are planting either Bt (insect resistant) or Ht (herbicide resistant).  The super alarming thing to me is shown in the next chart.  Seed companies are now creating what are known as "stacked" seeds.  These seeds are both Bt and Ht, meaning that they can be sprayed with herbicide and they contain an insect killing bacteria.  Does that sound as bad to you as it does to me?  Not only can our food be doused with chemicals to kill weeds, it has a BACTERIA inside that enables it to kill bugs?

This is my question to you--take a little bit of time to think about the timeline that I have listed above.  Also keep in mind that there has never been any long term independent testing on the effects of Roundup or Genetically Modified seeds and their impact on humans.  Also keep in mind that your food is being doused REPEATEDLY with chemicals and to top it all off, it contains a bacteria that kills bugs if they eat it.

What do you suppose this is doing to us?  To our children?  To our soil?  To our water?
Something to ponder.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

There comes a time

I believe that there is a time in every persons' life when they begin to rethink their choices.  Not daily choices, necessarily, but LIFE choices.  I am referring to those moments when you think of the "coulda, shoulda, woulda" things.  Maybe I am the only one that does that.  Good possibility.

21 years ago I was given a job opportunity by a man that I whole-heartedly admire to this day.  At the time that I began working for him, he had owned the business for 40 years and still had some of the original customers on the books!   He had/has an amazing work ethic.  He took a job that was not necessarily always fun and made it into a lifelong profession for making friends.  He had more friends than anybody that I have ever met and treated everyone with respect.  He knew a lot about how to do business and kept it in a pretty simplistic form, choosing to deal personally with each and every single individual.  He didn't use a computer, he didn't have a smart phone and there was definitely no Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat.  If somebody needed something he showed up at their door and helped them fix their problem.  Simple as that.

Where am I going with this?  I'm not at all sure, really.  What I do know for sure is that the profession that I am currently in(same one that I started 21 years ago) is no longer satisfying to me .  I get no joy out of it and most days I don't even believe in it anymore.  I provide a service for people who are doing something that I can't condone and I feel more and more guilty about that everyday.

I am at a time and place in my life where I feel like I need to make a few choices.  I have never felt that my full potential was being realized in my current occupation and I have always known that I needed to be doing (or feel like I was doing) something to help people.  When I began to evaluate taking a different path, I had to seriously consider what I am actually interested in and even more important, what am I passionate about?  When I thought about these two things, there is really only one answer.

I hope that over time it becomes clear to anyone reading this blog just exactly what my passions are.  There is no time like the present to jump in with both feet and I am looking forward to pursuing something that truly gives me pleasure.

As I mentioned before, I am not trying to sell anything but simply to provide information and options to those that may not have it readily available.  I will never endorse or recommend ANY product that I haven't tried myself.  If I recommend it, I have used it and have found it to be a good, safe product for myself and my family.  Obviously, at times I may include links to products that could generate a bit of income for me and for this blog.  Please feel free to send me an email message if there is any topic that you would like more information about.  I don't need negativity and any rude, hateful or otherwise inappropriate content will be deleted.  It is my hope that you use this blog as a place to gather knowledge and to educate yourself on topics that you may not already know about.  Please tell your friends, because together, we can INITIATE THE CHANGE!