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Indigenous Sacred Rituals and the Affects of Patented, Transgeic Maize by Multi-National Corporations

7638 words (31 pages) Essay in Environmental Studies

18/05/20 Environmental Studies Reference this

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Thesis:  The impact of large corporations using patented, transgenic maize products for human consumption and the socio-cultural, economic implications such poses to indigenous populations and their sacred rituals.

I. Three conditions described, with regard to transgenic maize products

 A. Socio-cultural implications presented to indigenous populations

  1. Indigenous sacred ways and pre-Hispanic culture                                            2. Sacredness of maize                                                                                                                3. Corporations interfering with cultural rituals

 B. Impact of large corporations, using patented, transgenic maize products

  1. What are genetically modified organisms?                                             2. What is transgenic maize?                                                                                                                3. Patenting of biological products                                                                                                  4. Corporations patenting biological products

 C. Other implications

  1. Ecological                                                 2. Economic                                                                                                                                            3. Ethical

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Indigenous Sacred Rituals and the Affects of Patented, Transgenic Maize by Multi-National Corporations

 With regard to the Senior Seminar on the Sacred, and related-fields major in Biological Sciences and Latino/a Latin American Studies, I propose the topic of indigenous sacred ways, notably the sacredness of corn to Oaxacans and the Mayas. I also propose how Monsanto, a large corporation, whose only goals are to capitalize and promote the globalization of transgenic corn products, will have a detrimental impact on the lives and rituals of such indigenous populations.

 The above topics, as they relate to my related-fields major, interest me due to the dense political, socio-cultural and economic implications they present to indigenous populations. With regard to the Biological Sciences major, the concept of transgenic organisms will be investigated further. While embarking on a journey throughout Oaxaca this past winter, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet with some descendants of indigenous civilizations and explore their culture and way of life. I was able to discover and comprehend the state of poverty these people are presented with and also their urgent need to guard their sacred indigenous rituals. As it relates to corn, for example, the indigenous people plant a variety of seeds: red, black, white, etc. If one of these seeds does not yield any crops, due to weather patterns, for instance, another variety will prevail.  The agricultural techniques employed by the indigenous people have been passed down from generation to generation. If a large corporation, such as Monsanto, obtains a patent on transgenic corn, in the state of Oaxaca via globalizing their seeds, farmers will be forced to purchase the seeds from such corporations. These seeds have

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the capability to migrate and cross-fertilize via wind or insect movement as well. There also exists corn-dumping of any excess genetically modified crops from the United States into Mexico. Corn is also imported into Mexico. Given that plants breed by dispersion, and that much of the corn in the United States is produced from transgenic sources, it is evident that they will eventually come into contact with traditional seed varieties across the border. As a result, the indigenous sacred ways of saving and planting seeds will be greatly affected, disrupted if large, multi-national corporations find a way to “get” their seeds south of the border. If such occurs and the biological varieties of corn are reduced to a few species of transgenic crops, how will these people survive? As previously mentioned, there exists great poverty and these people will greatly suffer, if they must purchase genetically modified seeds from Monsanto.

 I pose the following questions, pertaining to the research topics I propose: What are transgenic organisms and why are they being synthesized? Who is Monsanto? What authority do they have over the indigenous people’s corn? What economic impact will the indigenous people of Oaxaca face, if forced to purchase transgenic seeds and how will such affect their rituals and customs? Is there anything we can learn from the indigenous people’s way of life, as it pertains to natural resource consumption, including food? To further investigate the following questions, I will commence by reflecting back on my experiences while in Oaxaca. I will obtain reading materials, with the advice of my mentor, Dr. Martivon Galindo, and explore scientific resources regarding transgenic organisms and, after the research, I will acquire a better awareness on the aforementioned issues.

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Brook Akins

Indigenous Sacred Rituals and the Affects of Patented,

Transgenic Maize by Multi-National Corporations

 Biodiversity, from a scientific perspective, accounts for all life forms on Earth. It

 is a complex, interdependent phenomenon which is necessary for the sustainability of life. Life on our planet is comprised of many different species and, while such species share common traits, not a single genome is one hundred percent entirely identical.  The uniqueness of a species’ blueprint lies in its deoxyribonucleic acid, a complex molecule which ensures diversity of every life form on Earth.  As a result, the various species, populations, communities and ecosystems are intertwined and dependent on each other, as without them, life would cease to exist and extinction would occur. (ESA.org, 1997).

 Human beings belong to the species, Homo sapiens, and have inhabited the earth for quite some time. While many theories exist amongst the various cultures, religions and science with regard to the origination of life, it is important to note that the spirituality of indigenous cultures has always remained in close contact with “Mother Earth.” Prior to the Spanish Conquest, approximately in 1521 AD, indigenous populations inhabited the Americas and followed their own set of rituals which encompassed their indigenous sacred ways, bestowed upon them via their ancestors. 

 For instance, the Mayas, whose civilization peaked around 900 AD, and according to the Popol Vuh, A Sacred Book of the Maya, suggest that the world was

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created by “the will of the Heart of Heaven and the Heart of Earth.” Such names were given by the Maya “K’iche’” to God. Furthermore, as per the Popol Vuh, the Mayas did not see creation as the “Big Bang Theory,” nor was anything comparable to Darwin’s, “Theory of Evolution,” discussed. Rather, the earth was created with the assistance of Tepew and Q’uk’umatz, the helpers of the Heart of Heaven, who to the Mayas, was God.

“Let it be like this! Let the empty sky fill up! Let the waters recede and let the earth arise! Let the dawn begin, and let the light cover the sky and the earth!” (Montejo, 7-14).

  Please allow us to further explore more of the Popol Vuh, as it relates to the sacredness of corn. It is indeed a sacred book which represents pre-Hispanic culture, not withholding that  The Sacred is the theme of our ISAC experience: “Our creation will not be complete until human beings can walk the earth,” said Tepew and Q’uk’umatz. Hence, when they called “Earth,” the earth appeared. Creation was compared to magic, and arose from a misty dust, while mountains appeared from the waters. Plants and trees took form, as did the valleys and hills. However, something was lacking: The Creators remarked stillness as silence dissipated beneath the trees and throughout the valleys. They reasoned further and said, “Will there only be silence and stillness beneath the tree branches and vines? It would be good if there were creatures in the trees and forests.” Animals of all sizes were, moreover, created. Deer, birds, jaguars, pumas, and serpents, whose duty was to guard the vines, all were brought to life. Since the animals could not speak, and, thus, were unable to respect and sing praise to their Creators, they were not satisfied and explained to them that their flesh would be consumed and eaten; this was their fate. As the sun was about to rise, they created “The Clay People,” out of hope that they would be

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respectful and sing praise unto them. The clay man’s body was “mushy” and could not walk, he also began to fall apart, so the Creators attempted again. Their second creation of humans was “The Wooden People.” They called upon their ancestors, their first grandfather and grandmother, Ixpiyakok and Ixmukane, respectively, for assistance. Ixpiyakok was the grandfather of day and Ixmukane was the grandmother of sunrise. They asked their ancestors to “use the powers of the corn kernels and tz’ite’ seeds to decide the substance for the body of man.” Once their ancestors used their divine powers, they called upon the corn kernels and the tz’ite’ seeds and received a reply from them suggesting it would be wise to make man out of wood, and he was created out of such. He could speak and multiply, however, he had no “soul” nor did he possess “the gift of reason.” The “Wooden People” were unable to recall their Creators and had no direction. They were hard and firm, lacking both flesh and blood. As a consequence, the Creators were still not satisfied and a flood was sent by the will of the Heart of Heaven, which destroyed them. The body of the first man was made of tz’ite’ wood and the body of the first woman was created from “espadana reeds.” After condemned to destruction, since they were unable to communicate with their Creators, and after the boiling rain which flooded them, Xek’otk’owach, a turkey buzzard descended and pecked their eyes out. Kamalotz, a vampire bat, descended as well and removed their heads. Lastly, Kotz’b’alam, the jaguar arrived and consumed them. This was their form of punishment for not remembering their Creator, the Heart of Heaven, who is also known as Juraqan. Everyone was upset with the wooden people, as they showed neither care nor concern. They were cruel to the animals and only thought about themselves. The wooden

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people were selfish. According to the Sacred Book of the Maya, the Popol Vuh, the monkeys of the trees are the offspring of the wooden people, and survived, hence, this is why they resemble people. (Montejo, 14-19).

 Tepew and Q’uk’umatz, the Creators,attempted once again to create humans and this third creation was known as “The Corn People.” They said, “The time for the first dawn has arrived, and we must complete our creation. Let man and all of humanity

appear on the earth’s surface. Humankind will give us our sustenance.” They gathered in the dark to contemplate and reflect and were able to decide on the correct material to employ in order to create man. They found the corn, which was used to create the first man, in Paxil and K’ayala’. Joj, the crow, Utiw, the coyote, K’el, the parrot and Yak, the wildcat, all discovered this food and enlightened their Creators and brought it back from Paxil. It was in Paxil and K’ayala’ that an abundance of white and yellow corn was discovered. Other fruits and seeds, such as beans, wild plums, anona, zapote, cacao and honey were discovered there as well. The story continues:

 The first mother and father were created and their flesh was composed of yellow and white corn. The first four men’s arms and legs were created with corn meal. The ears of both the white and yellow corn were ground by Grandmother Ixmukane and provided muscle, strength and power to the newly created men. These men were able to speak, see, hear and were tenacious. They were highly intelligent and their visual acuity spanned miles; they could see distant, way up into the sky. They were highly respectful of their Creators and thanked them gratefully. They said to their Creators, “We are truly grateful

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to you, many times over, O Creator and Maker. We’ve been created with a mouth and a face. We can speak, hear, think and walk. We can grasp objects and recognize those

things both near and far from us. We can also see the big and little things in the sky and the four corners of the earth. We give you our thanks, O Creator and Maker, for the life you have given us.” Their vision was clouded somewhat as not to possess the same powers as their Creators. Later that evening, the four men were blessed with four beautiful wives and they multiplied, giving rise to tribes of the K’iche’ nation. Many

nations were created in the East and there existed both dark and white-skinned people of all classes, who spoke different languages. They were the people of the corn. (Montejo, 61-64).

  It is important to note that during the Spanish Conquest many Mayan codices were burned and their people were brutally attacked. The Popol Vuh is a sacred book and is considered the Bible of the Maya, for which it is representative of indigenous sacred ways and is a crucial component of Mayan culture. The stories span over several thousand years and trace the lineage of Mayan lords up until their torture and imprisonment by the Spanish conquistadors. (Montejo, 7).

  Berger laments that, “religion is the human enterprise by which a sacred cosmos is established (34). Put differently, religion is cosmization in a sacred mode. By sacred is meant here a quality of mysterious and awesome power, other than man and yet related to him, which is believed to reside in certain objects of experience. (35).”  (Berger, 25).

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  Such mysterious and awesome power is depicted in the Popol Vuh and, as one explores the writings, one is able to comprehend the sacredness of corn to this indigenous civilization.

 While corn has been sacred for millennia to the Maya Civilization throughout Latin America and Mexico, it is also sacred to other indigenous populations in Mexico. For many Mexicans, it comprises the bulk of their diet. Native knowledge has been

passed down from generation to generation for centuries and small farmers have guarded thousands of traditional corn seed varieties. As a result, biodiversity of corn exists greatly in the country of Mexico. According to the Organic Consumers Association, Mexican officials, on September 4, 2001, stated that many genetically modified corn crops were found growing nearby traditional corn crops in the state of Oaxaca. They stipulate further

that “gene pollution” of the nations 20,000 corn varieties could be contaminated and irreversible damage may occur, if such is crossed with the genetically modified versions of seed marketed by Monsanto. (Organic Consumers Association, 2010).

 These statements pose important questions:  1.What is genetically modified corn? 2. What are genetically modified organisms and 3. Who is Monsanto? Genetically modified corn is also known as transgenic maize. It is a product of biotechnology and is genetically engineered. In order to obtain the final product, a scientific process of transfection is utilized. Transfection, therefore, is a process by which one introduces, artificially, foreign genes into an organism and, thus, such organism is said to be “genetically modified,” or, further, “transgenic.” Such genes may be inserted via recombinant DNA techniques, into the genetic material of animals, microbes and plants.

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Talaro considers these transgenic forms to be “designer organisms.” Since these “unique” organisms do not exist naturally in our habitat, hence, “designed,” they are allowed, politically speaking to be patented. (Talaro, 303).

 Recombinant DNA technology peaked in the 1970’s and scientists utilized genetic engineering in the area of biomedical research.  It has also been applied to medicine, biotechnology and agriculture and entails manipulating an organism’s genome via the

usage of recombinant DNA, and such DNA can be added or removed from an organism’s genetic blueprint. Given this technology, scientists are able to create new varieties of animals, plants and other organisms which contain specific genetic traits; it also enables one to create more effective therapeutic products at a lower cost. These manipulated organisms have, hence, been coined the term “Genetically modified organisms,” or

GMO’s.  It is a lucrative business and is rapidly growing, encompassing approximately 5000 companies in 54 countries. Currently, there are more than 350 bioengineered products on the market. To provide an idea of just how lucrative the biotechnology industry is, according to their own analysts in 2009, they have generated commercialized products valued over $45 billion dollars in the United States alone. Although the usage of recombinant DNA in biotechnology is quite modern, the science itself dates back to ancient times.  Scientists, in retrospect, were able to create breads, cheeses, alcoholic beverages and vinegar with the employment of microbes. It is suggested that the concepts of biotechnology and genetic engineering are able to resolve problems on a global scale, albeit via unnatural processes. As a result, such raises many social, economic and ethical concerns unknown to the human experience. (Klug et al., 634).

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 While it is important to further investigate the social, economic and ethical implications of bioengineered products, please allow us to focus on it at a later point in this paper; however, prior to such, it is important to understand how the processes involved within the realm of recombinant DNA in biotechnology work with respect to transgenic crops. As one is already likely aware, scientists are now able to identify, isolate and clone genes which confer specific traits. They have identified methods to

insert these genes into organisms and have developed ones that confer resistance to insects and herbicides. Others have been designed to “enhance” the nutritional value of foods via their insertion into farm plants and animals. The biological concept is simple to grasp. In order to create a cloned vector, one commences with a single cell, which may be of human, plant or mammalian in nature.  The DNA of interest is isolated and, moreover,

inserted into a vector. The vector is, furthermore, inserted into the cloning host and such becomes a recombinant cell due to the “recombining” of two different organisms’ DNA. The cell is further multiplied and the gene is amplified. The newly created cell and amplified gene is ready for application. In the case of transgenic plants, it would now be ready for insertion into the plant cell and would have to cross the plant’s cell wall. A gene gun, also referred to small “shotguns” is one process that biotechnology firms utilize for gene insertion into the embryos of plants with the usage of tiny gold bullets. We will explore other methods of vector insertion into plant cell walls shortly. The desired, newly-created genes may confer resistance to pesticides or herbicides, for example. Others may contain an increased amount of beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A production, and be inserted into a golden rice plant, on the other hand. (Talaro, 298).

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 A notable species of bacteria belonging to the genus Agrobacterium, Agrobacterium tumefaciens, is of pathogenic nature and may invade injured plant tissues. It contains a large plasmid and has the capacity to induce tumors; hence it has been given the name “Ti,” indicative of “tumor-inducing.” This particular plasmid is capable of inserting itself into the genomes of infected plant cells and can transform them. Even when the bacteria inside the tumor are dead, Ti genes remain in the nucleus of the cell and the tumor continues to proliferate. It is in essence a remarkable vector utilized for the insertion of foreign genes into plant genomes. Recalling how biotechnology uses recombinant DNA as described above, the Ti plasmid is removed, and a specific, previously-isolated gene, such as one which confers herbicide resistance, is inserted into the plasmid, and it reverts back to Agrobacterium. The bioengineered plant is then “infected” with the recombinant bacteria and such transfers the plasmid containing the foreign gene into the cells of the plant. Using a bacterium of this nature as a medium of vector transport does not require the usage of a “gene gun.” As a result, it is the most employed method in the bioengineering process of plants. Once the genetically engineered Agrobacterium is inoculated into the target plant cell, it “infects” it and fuses with the cell wall, allowing it to empty its altered genetic material, containing the herbicide-resistant gene. The herbicide-resistant gene is integrated into the plant chromosome and becomes part of its genome. When the plant multiplies, the newly-created genetic material will be transmitted to its offspring. The new offspring contain the “designed” genetic material, or transgenes, and are considered transgenic, in other words, genetically modified organisms. Another species belonging to the same genus

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utilized in the process of plant bioengineering is Agrobacterium rhizogenes, also a pathogenic soil inhabitant, which attacks the plant’s roots and causes them to grow abnormally. (Talaro, 303-305).

 An additional important species of bacteria used in the bioengineering process of transgenic plants is the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). It is also one of the most controversial. This particular bacterium, when ingested by insects and larvae, produces a

protein and crystallizes in their respective gut lining, leading to their demise. It is useful for warding off pests such as the corn-borer larvae, which contribute to millions of dollars in crop damage globally. The applications of Bt onto crops were initially sprayed. However, with the advent of recombinant DNA technologies, scientists designed Bt transgenic crops, that contain “built-in insecticide protection.” The particular cry gene which encodes for the Bt crystalline protein have effectively been inserted into a variety of crops, including, but not limited to cotton, corn, tobacco and tomatoes. Controversy sparked with regard to Bt transgenic crops when populations of Monarch butterflies, who do not feed directly on the corn itself, decreased due to the possibility of inadvertent pollen ingestion. (Klug et al., 640).

 Recalling that Monarch butterflies may have inadvertently been exposed to Bt via ingesting the pollen from corn, a number of huge multi-national corporations come to mind: companies such as Dow, Du Pont, Syngenta and Monsanto have since commercialized agrobiotechnology. These companies all share something in common, moreover: they have all been involved in the chemical business! Genetically modified

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foods fall under the category of the FDA; however, they lack government regulation. These genetically modified foods are categorized as “GRAS,” which is an acronym for

“generally regarded as safe.” The public, on the other hand, has no idea if such transgenic products are safe and food labels in the supermarkets do not specify if the item is genetically modified or not. (Cummings, 1-11).

 Furthermore, Phil-Dahl Bredine, a highly intelligent individual, whom we had the pleasure to meet and learn from in Oaxaca, and Stephen Hicken suggest that, in the United States, approximatey forty-five percent of all corn is derived from genetically modified crops. This phenomenon creates problems for the farmers of the United States due to natural pollen drift. The genes contained in the genetically modified crops are patented, notably by the U.S. biotech giant Monsanto. Such patented genes, due to natural pollen drift (i.e. from wind or insect movement not only threaten the biodiversity of natural pure corn varieties, but pose a further risk for farmers: they are at risk of being sued as a result of saving and planting corn seeds containing patented genes from Monsanto, through no fault of their own. These patented genes have also been found south of the border, which corroborates the Organic Consumer Association’s claim, into Mexico and the “campesinos” that pass native knowledge from generation to generation are at great risk of such genes inadvertently crossing into their traditional seed varieties. (Dahl-Bredine et al., 13-20).

 Recalling that for millennia, corn has been sacred and continues to be for the indigenous people throughout Latin America, the Mayas and other Mesoamerican populations. These people consider themselves “people of corn.” With corn comprising

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the bulk of their diet, and vis-à-vis the creation of man as depicted in the Popol-Vuh, one can clearly visualize that corn is a sacred component of their culture. Unlike the United States, where monocropping has shaped “modern” agriculture, indigenous farmers

employ farming techniques that have been handed down from their ancestors; such “native knowledge” is passed from one generation to the next. In the Mexican state of Oaxaca, the Mixteca Alta region is inhabited by the descendants of the ancient indigenous Mixteca culture. Families in this village guard the various seed varieties that were saved by their ancestors, creating a diverse bank of seeds dating back, in retrospect,

to pre-Hispanic times. Each family plants their own varieties of diverse seeds, although they are distinctly related. A traditional indigenous farmer uses a hand-carved oak plow attached to cow oxen instead of heavy machinery. They plant a mixture of crops such as squash, black beans, amaranth and corn in a small field and create a milpa, in which the crops are planted in a complementary fashion, indicative of traditional indigenous farming. In addition, they plant several different corn kernel varieties, such as red, black and white seeds consecutively. This procedure is employed to account for all possible weather patterns. If it is dry, for example, the white corn may not survive. The other two varieties, the red and black, on the other hand, will prevail in parched conditions. This method of agricultural farming protects the environment by ensuring that the seeds remain genetically diverse and provides an advantage over a homogeneous family of plants, as the genetically diverse seeds retain the possibility of breeding in resistance to any new mutations that may threaten them. The homogeneous family, on the contrary, is at risk to a threatening mutation and is susceptible to destruction, as they have been

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biologically reduced to just a few species. Their farming methods also provide for food sustainability and strengthen local economies, as any surplus of crop is sold locally. Furthermore, their cultural heritage and “native knowledge” are preserved as a result of

the practice of saving seeds, which will be replanted and eventually passed on to future generations. (Dahl-Bredine et al., 13-17).

 In the 1970’s, the United States government began allowing corporations to patent living organisms, albeit, prior to patent approval, they must be genetically modified. While it is illegal to patent one’s own genes, this phenomenon allowed multi-national corporations, such as Monsanto to synthesize genetically modified crops and to patent them. With regard to the safety of genetically modified organisms, one’s eyebrows may rise, as Edwards points out the following: “…and believe that Monsanto is ethical enough to keep these foods safe, you’ve got to take pause when Monsanto prohibits genetically modified foods from being served to its executives.” (Edwards, 2009).

 As per Monsanto’s website, www.Monsanto.com, they claim to synthesize the genetically modified crops for the following reasons: “Monsanto is an agricultural company. We apply innovation and technology to help farmers around the world produce more while conserving more. We help farmers grow yield sustainability so they can be successful, produce healthier foods, better animal feeds and more fiber, while also reducing agriculture’s impact on our environment.”  Monsanto currently has many different varieties of genetically modified products which it has patented and markets. One important stipulation, on the other hand, is a required signature on the consumer’s

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agreement stating that the purchaser will not save any of the seeds they obtain from Monsanto and replant them the following year. (Monsanto, 2010).

 After exploring Monsanto’s website, the discovery is clearly evident: if the indigenous farmers in Oaxaca were forced to purchase seeds directly from Monsanto, on

an annual basis, this would greatly affect their indigenous sacred ways, notably their sacred ritual of planting and saving seeds. It would pose great economic implications, as much poverty exists in Mexico and such people may be unable to afford to purchase seeds directly from Monsanto annually. From an ecological perspective, it would also destroy the biodiversity of their seed varieties and as Phil Dahl-Bredine and Stephen Hicken state: “If indeed Monsanto succeeds in reducing the existing varieties of corn in the world to the few genetically modified varieties it markets, then it is possible that one single mutant disease could threaten the very existence of corn on the planet. And if at some point teocintle and the richly diverse corns of southern Mexico are eliminated, it is possible we will have nowhere to turn for genetic material that can serve as protection for our future corn sources.” (Dahl-Bredine, et al., 17).

  Given the required consumer agreements Monsanto requires, Mexican farmers would be at risk for the many different legal implications their genetically modified seeds may create for them. After this research it appears that Monsanto’s quest remains the same, however: to continue globalization of its genetically modified seeds and products. One may also recall that Indian farmers committed suicide via drinking one of Monsanto’s pesticide, they were forced to purchase, for some of Monsanto’s genetically

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engineered crops, perhaps symbolic to the detriment the company’s products posed them economically?

 With regard to safety, please note the following scientific study on Monsanto’s genetically modified corn: A study released by the International Journal of Biological Sciences, with regard to the effects of genetically modified foods in animals, revealed Monsanto’s genetically modified corn products are linked to organ damage in rats. Researchers wrote: “Effects were mostly concentrated in kidney and liver function, the two major diet detoxification organs, but in detail differed with each GM type. In addition, some effects on heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells were also frequently noted. As there normally exists sex differences in liver and kidney metabolism, the highly statistically significant disturbances in the function of these organs, seen between male and female rats, cannot be dismissed as biologically insignificant as has been proposed by others. We therefore conclude that our data strongly suggests that these genetically modified maize varieties induce a state of hepatorenal toxicity…These substances have never before been an integral part of the human or animal diet and therefore their health consequences for those who consume them, especially over long periods of time are currently unknown.” Monsanto immediately conducted a 90-day study of their GM corn and concluded it was safe for human consumption. Perhaps, a bit pre-mature, as chronic illnesses may take longer than 90 days to appear. (Emami, G., 2010).

 From an ethical perspective and to conclude:  While some genetically modified organisms may prove beneficial, it is important to note, that, with regard to transgenic plants, some ecologists and plant geneticists remain concerned: the sharing of transgenic

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genes with natural plants may lead to what are considered “superweeds,” and such may proliferate without any means of destroying them. Talaro elaborates: “Ethical choices can only be properly made from a standpoint of intellectual awareness, and in this era of advertising, polling and focus groups, people with a stake in genetic technology know that the most effective way to drum up support (both for or against) is not by carefully educating the public as to the uses and limits of our newfound powers but rather by publicizing exaggerated claims of frightening scenarios. Society has never before had the ability to do even a fraction of the things we can do today, and at some point we must decide where we should stop, or if we need to stop at all. Where do we as individuals and as a society draw the line? We live in serious times and these are serious choices requiring serious thought. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.” 

Take great care!

 

 

 

 

 

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Annotated Bibliography 1

 

Cummings C. 2008. Uncertain peril. Boston: Beacon Press. p 1-11.

Companies such as Dow, Monsanto, Du Pont, and Syngenta have commercialized agrobiotechnology; these companies all share something in common: they have all been involved in the chemical business. Genetically modified foods fall under the category of the FDA, but lack government regulation, as they are “generally regarded as safe.” The public, however, has no idea if such transgenic products are safe, and food in supermarkets does not specify if it is genetically modified or not.

Dahl-Bredine P, Hicken S. 2008.  The other game lessons from how life is played in

 mexican villages.  New York:  Orbis Books. p 13-20.

In the United States, approximately forty-five percent of all corn is derived from genetically modified crops. This phenomenon creates problems for U.S. farmers due to natural pollen drift. The genes contained in the genetically modified crops are patented, notably by the U.S. biotech giant Monsanto. Such patented genes, due to natural pollen drift,(i.e. from wind or insect movement), not only threaten the biodiversity of natural, pure corn varieties, but pose a further risk for farmers: they are at risk of being sued as a result of saving and planting corn seeds containing patented genes from Monsanto, through no fault of their own. These patented genes have also been found south of the border into Mexico and the “campesinos,” who pass native knowledge from generation to generation are at great risk from of such genes inadvertently crossing into their traditional seed varieties.

Emami, G. “Monsanto’s GMO Corn Linked to Organ Failure, Study Reveals.”

 Huffington Post 14 Jan 10: Web.

A study released by the International Journal of Biological Sciences, with regard to the effects of genetically modified foods in animals, revealed Monsanto’s genetically modified corn products are linked to organ damage in rats. Researchers wrote: “Effects were mostly concentrated in kidney and liver function, the two major diet detoxification organs, but in detail differed with each GM type. In addition, some effects on heart, adrenal, spleen and blood cells were also frequently noted.  As there normally exists sex differences in liver and kidney metabolism, the highly statistically significant disturbances in the function of these organs, seen between male and female rats, cannot be dismissed as biologically insignificant as has been proposed by others. We therefore conclude that our data strongly suggests that these GM maize varieties induce a state of hepatorenal toxicity…These substances have never before been an integral part of the human or animal diet and therefore their health consequences for those who consume them, especially over long periods of time are currently unknown.” Monsanto immediately conducted a 90-day study of their GM corn and concluded it was safe for

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human consumption. Perhaps, a bit pre-mature, as chronic illnesses may take longer than 90 days to appear.

Organic Consumers Association.  2010. Organic consumers association web page.

 http://www.organnicconsumers.org/corn/background.cfm. Accessed 2010 Feb 10.

For the Mayas and other indigenous people of Mexico, corn has and continues to be sacred. For many Mexicans, it comprises the bulk of their diet. Native knowledge has been passed from generation to generation for centuries and small farmers have guarded thousands of traditional corn seed varieties. As a result, biodiversity of corn exists greatly in the country of Mexico. As per the article, Mexican officials, on September 4, 2001, stated that many genetically modified corn crops were found growing nearby traditional corn crops in the state of Oaxaca.  It further stipulates, that “gene pollution” of the nations 20,000 corn varieties could be contaminated and irreversible damage may occur, if such is crossed with the genetically modified versions marketed by Monsanto.

Talaro K. 2005. Foundations in microbiology fifth edition.

 New York:  McGraw-Hill. P 298-305.

Transfection is a process by which one introduces, artificially, foreign genes into an organism and, thus, such organism is said to be “transgenic,” or, further, “genetically modified.” Such genes may be inserted, via recombinant DNA techniques, into the genetic material of animals, microbes and plants. Talaro considers these transgenic forms to be “designer organisms.” Since these “unique” organisms do not exist naturally in our habitat, hence, “designed,” they are allowed, politically speaking, to be patented. While some genetically modified organisms may prove beneficial, it is important to note, that, with regard to transgenic plants, some ecologists and plant geneticists remain concerned: the sharing of transgenic genes with natural plants may lead to what are considered “superweeds,” and such may proliferate without any means of destroying them. From an ethical perspective, Talaro states: “Ethical choices can only be properly made from a standpoint of intellectual awareness, and in this era of advertising, polling and focus groups, people with a stake in genetic technology know that the most effective way to drum up support (both for or against) is not by carefully educating the public as to the uses and limits of our newfound powers but rather by publicizing exaggerated claims of frightening scenarios.” She continues: “Society has never before had the ability to do even a fraction of the things we can do today, and at some point we must decide where we should stop, or if we need to stop at all. Where do we as individuals and as a society draw the line? We live in serious times and these are serious choices requiring serious thought. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.”  These quotes simply ask us to stop and think about what it is that we are really doing as a society and the implications GMO’s may present to future generations.

          Akins 23

Annotated Bibliography 2

 

Berger P. 1990. The sacred canopy. New York:  Anchor Books. p 25.

“Religion is the human enterprise by which a sacred cosmos is established (34). Put differently, religion is cosmization in a sacred mode. By sacred is meant here a quality of mysterious and awesome power, other than man and yet related to him, which is believed to reside in certain objects of experience. (35).”

Ecological Society of America.  2010. Ecological society of america web page.

 http://www.esa.org/education_diversity/pdfDocs/biodiversity.pdf. Accessed 2010

 Aug 5.

Biodiversity, from a scientific perspective, accounts for all life forms on Earth. It is a complex, interdependent phenomenon which is necessary for the sustainability of life. Life on our planet is comprised of many different species. Various species, populations, communities and ecosystems are intertwined and dependent on each other.

Edwards S. 2009. The straight dope: monsanto: not my favorite corporation. Steve

 Edwards blogspot web page

 http://steve-edwards.blogspot.com/2009/12/monsanto-not-my-favorite- corporation.html. Accessed 2010 Feb 5.

In the 1970’s, the United States government began allowing corporations to patent living organisms, albeit, prior to patent approval, they must be genetically modified. While it is illegal to patent one’s own genes, this phenomenon allowed multi-national corporations, such as Monsanto to synthesize genetically modified crops and to patent them. With regard to the safety of genetically modified organisms, one’s eyebrows may rise, as Edwards points out the following: “…and believe that Monsanto is ethical enough to keep foods safe, you’ve got to pause when Monsanto prohibits genetically modified foods from being served to its executives.”

Klug W et al. 2009. Concepts of genetics. California:  Pearson Benjamin Cummings.                             p 634-40.

Recombinant DNA technology peaked in the 1970’s and scientists utilized genetic engineering in the area of biomedical research. It has also been applied to medicine, biotechnology and agriculture and entails manipulating an organism’s genome via usage of recombinant DNA, and such DNA can be added or removed from an organism’s genetic blueprint. Given this technology, scientists are able to create new varieties of animals, plants and other organisms which contain specific genetic traits; it also enables one to create more effective therapeutic products at a lower cost.  These manipulated organisms have, hence, been coined the term “Genetically modified organisms,” or GMO’s. It is a lucrative business and is rapidly growing, encompassing approximately

          Akins 24

5000 companies in 54 countries. Currently, there are more than 350 bioengineered products on the market. To provide an idea of just how lucrative the biotechnology industry is, according to their own analysts in 2009, they have generated commercialized products valued over $45 billion dollars in the United States. Although the usage of recombinant DNA in biotechnology is quite modern, the science itself dates back to ancient times. Scientists, in retrospect, were able to create breads, cheeses, alcoholic beverages and vinegar with the employment of microbes. It is suggested that the concepts of biotechnology and genetic engineering are able to resolve problems on a global scale, albeit via unnatural processes. As a result, such raises many social, economic and ethical concerns unknown to the human experience.

Monsanto. 2010. Monsanto corporation web page.

 http://www.monsanto.com. Accessed 2010 Aug 18.

As per Monsanto’s website, they claim to synthesize genetically modified crops for the following reasons: “Monsanto is an agricultural company. We apply innovation and technology to help farmers around the world produce more while conserving more. We help farmers grow yield sustainability so they can be successful, produce healthier foods, better animal feeds and more fiber, while also reducing agriculture’s impact on our environment.” Monsanto currently has many different varieties of genetically modified products on its website which it has patented and markets.

Montejo V. 1999. Popol vuh a sacred book of the maya. Berkeley: Groundwood Books.

 p 7-64.

According to the Popol Vuh, the world was created by “the will of the Heart of Heaven and the Heart of Earth.” Such names were given by the Maya K’iche’ to God. Furthermore, the earth was created with the assistance of Tepew and Q’uk’umatz, the helpers of the Heart of Heaven, who to the Mayas, was God. “Let it be like this” Let the empty sky fill up” Let the waters recede and let the earth arise! Let the dawn begin, and let the light cover the sky and the earth! Our creation will not be complete until human beings can walk the earth,” said Tepew and Q’uk’umatz. Hence, when they called “earth,” the earth appeared. Creation was compared to magic, arose from a misty dust, while mountains appeared from the waters. Plants and trees took form, as did the valleys and the hills. However, something was lacking: The Creators remarked stillness as silence dissipated beneath the trees and throughout the valleys. They reasoned further and said, “Will there only be silence and stillness beneath the tree branches and vines? It would be good if there were creatures in the trees and forests.”

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