Unnatural Selection

Elaine Ingham is a soil scientist that has experience with botany, microbiology, and plant pathology. She is the founder of an organization called Soil Foodweb. At Oregon State University in the 90s, Elaine was studying if engineered organisms have any impact to the “real world.” Her analysis first looked at fourteen species that were incapable of surviving outside of the lab, in real world situations. These fourteen organisms had no effect on the outside world. At this point in time, the USDA was determining policy on GMOs and “set a course that essentially said that a genetically engineered organism posed no greater risk to the environment than the parent organism does.”

After the testing of these first fourteen organisms, a fifteenth organism was studied that did not fall to the same conclusion. Klebsiella planticola was the parent organism that exists in most soils, growing in the root systems of plants. A gene from another bacterium was taken and combined with the DNA of Klebsiella planticola, allowing it to produce alcohol. Genetic engineers assumed that this would be beneficial, allowing the alcohol to be extracted and used commercially in some countries. The problem with this idea was that the bacteria could get into the roots of the plants, causing alcohol production. Plants are sensitive to alcohol levels at one part per million, and the organism produced around seventeen parts per million. In a nutshell, it would kill the plants.


Elaine Ingham then became an advocate against GMOs, after seeing that two organisms considered relatively harmless, when combined, could possibly wipe out all terrestrial plant life. She goes on to say, “I have attended some of the United Nations biosafety protocol meetings. At the 1995 meeting in Madrid, the U.S. delegation was the strongest in saying, in essence, ‘Don’t worry, be happy. Trust us. We don’t need a biosafety protocol. Why would biotech companies ever do anything to harm people?’’

Living in a world where scientists and publicists can spin the truth and sell it to the highest bidder makes me wonder if anyone really does care about the condition of the world. It is very important for people to push their governments into making the right policies, and not “messing” with nature.

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