Posted by: Green Knight | May 4, 2011

OMG, GMO!!! (of tribbles & triffids)

We have been breeding plants and animals for millennia; genetic modification is just faster in the lab.  Look at a picture of a wolf, then look at a picture of a Shih tzu.  Then read some Lao tzu.  I don’t think even the Weekly World News would sell many copies with a headline about how we’re all gonna die from mutant wolf drool.  (Sounds like the name of a punk band; I expect a backstage pass.)  Also, the lab is a protected environment; nature is harsher on newbies.

Just as most mutations aren’t beneficial to the organism and tend to die out of a population, any engineered plant that requires company products throughout its life-cycle to survive isn’t likely to be hardy enough to go out there and take over on its own.  That’s why I don’t say “Franken-” this or that. What concerns ME is that engineered plants (or fish, salmon fans) don’t have natural predators but will easily invite opportunistic pests to say “wow, YUM!” and potentially wipe out entire food supplies foisted on the 3rd world by the World Bank and the Gates Foundation.  I HATE MONOCULTURE FARMING.  It’s less resistant to environmental changes.  If Sir Walter Raleigh had brought back more than one of the 7 varieties of potato from the New World, Ireland would be a different country today.  Phytophthora infestans (a water mold, not a true fungus) doesn’t cause blight on all strains.  Or, as previously discussed, something innocuous like the chytrid fungi all of a sudden mutating or speciating into Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, and causing staggering declines in populations of frogs and other amphibians worldwide; again, that wasn’t happening prior to about 1980.

I’m concerned about white-nose syndrome in bats, as mentioned in a previous post, because it’s spreading so damned rapidly and because we don’t know what the true cause is.  I like bats.  I like caves.  Speleology was a favorite college course, and I’ve been venturing underground for many years.  The late Dr. George W. Moore was a mentor, and got me into geology when I was already majoring in archaeology.  There’s a debate about whether caves on public land should have restricted access  so we don’t spread the infection, whatever it is.  I’m undecided, knowing what idiots these mortals be.  Bats are not only really interesting and cool, but they eat lots of mosquitoes that would otherwise be feasting on ol’ BC; I just taste unusually good to the skeeters.  People should hire me to stand around at backyard barbecues so nobody else gets West Nile.  Bats are also extremely genetically modified by nature to fill very unique niches, which makes them pretty vulnerable, and many species were already endangered before this mystery plague appeared.

Similarly, an introduced pest might suddenly have a “field day” (pun intended) with these new GMO crops and cause widespread famine.  Think of the European/Mediterranean wine industry almost going belly-up in the mid-to-late 1800s, hit by a double-whammy of Phylloxera aphids and Plasmopara viticola, another water mold which causes grapevine downy mildew; both came over on American rootstocks that French vintners were experimenting with, and ran rampant through vineyards from France to Greece (only Crete was spared).  I like bats.  I like caves.  I like wine too.

So that’s my spin on the whole GMO crop thing, not that they’re gonna be some sort of robust phyto-zombies, but rather that they’ll be unpredictably vulnerable and that whole regions could experience mass starvation after investing their futures on what’s being peddled by the greedy seedy types.  And one of my colleagues at Greenpeace raised an interesting scenario during a recent meeting: if a truckload of genetically-modified, PATENTED quadrotriticale rolled by your organic quadrotriticale farm and some pollen blew onto your fields and fertilized some of your crop, would Mongenta now own your operation?  Part of it?  What percentage?  I hear cash-registers going “ka-ching” at testing labs and law offices.  Why can’t lawyers go to the beach?  (Because cats would bury them in the sand.)

Author’s Note: quadrotriticale is from the inventive gray matter of David Gerrold in a classic Star Trek episode.  Mongenta is not a real company, but if you fire one up with that name I get royalties.  The late Dr. Moore wrote Speleology, the Study of Caves, which I’ve had since I was 11, and was working on a book dealing with the influence of geology on soils in wine-growing regions which I’m waiting for a colleague of his to complete.  The Hot Sheet had 100 hits yesterday, which is rare; thanks, dog-lovers!  June the stolen Yorkie puppy has been spotted; wish us luck in getting her back.  WordPress doesn’t tell me who my 12 subscribers are, but it’s easy enough to join, and get e-mail updates.  If I had $5 from each of yesterday’s readers in the ChipIn account, I could do some serious TNR and rescue work for those two feral cat colonies mentioned before.  Keep your genes clean!



  1. Well, THIS is odd. I had 12 subscribers for quite a while, and I’m having my busiest week ever, but now I have only 11 subscribers. Somebody dumped me!

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