God, Hope & Helping Others
in Dangerous Chemicals September 23, 2015
(NaturalHealth365) Just as the true ecological impact of its earlier products is coming to light, Monsantohas announced plans to bring yet another biotechnology experiment to the farm field. This time, the chemical giant’s focus is on a new biotechnology – RNA interference.
Yet, interference is exactly what Monsanto is hoping to avoid, when it comes to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The problem is, Monsanto can’t guarantee that their new product won’t also wipe out other living things, including helpful insects, earthworms and the occasional woodland creature. The company is even employing expert spokespersons to brush aside concerns under the cloak of science.
GMOs have attracted more controversy than the company likely antici.... Meanwhile, the company’s older flagship products are losing effectiveness thanks to evolving resistance by weeds and insects. It comes as no surprise, then, that Monsanto is hoping to launch an entirely different product line – one it can set apart from its conventional GMO line because these products don’t change a plant’s genes, it controls them.
The discovery of RNA interference earned two academics a Nobel Prize back in 2006, setting off a flurry of activity to use the technology to create drugs that block disease-causing genes. But that same biotechnology is now being used by Monsanto to roll out its new product for farmers.
The Monsanto product works by getting harmful bugs to consume plant leaves containing the special RNA, which then kills them by turning off critical genes. Once it has fine-tuned this first application of the biotechnology, the company is expected to develop similar products in spray form that are able to penetrate plant cells and bring about desirable traits.
RNA may be natural, but introducing enormous amounts of targeted RNA molecules into the environment is not. Monsanto has already left its giant footprint on the environment with the evolution of resistant pests and weeds, thanks to the company’s past bioengineered pesticides. Very little is known about the effects of pests consuming plants treated with the gene-manipulating RNA interference product.
Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asked a panel of experts to help it decide how to regulate RNA insecticides, including sprays as well as those incorporated into a plant’s genes. No doubt hoping to avoid another controversy like the one brewing over its GMO products, Monsanto reacted by sending an 81-page letter of reassurance to the agency.
In it, the chemical giant lobbied against development of any special rules for the development and sale of RNA interference products. Instead, it made the case for sparing RNA interference products from safety tests.
Calling such precautions irrelevant, Monsanto sought to eliminate investigations designed to determine whether its products caused allergies or were toxic to rodents. It also sought to avoid an evaluation of what happens to the molecules once they have been introduced into the environment.
Yet, while Monsanto was working to downplay any dangers, groups like the National Honey Bee Advisory Board advised the EPA that using RNA interference products at this point would put natural systems at “the epitome of risk,” a move it said could be as regrettable as the earlier embrace of DDT. Beekeepers are concerned for the welfare of pollinating bees, which they believe will be harmed by unintended effects of the RNA interference products.
They pointed out that the genomes of many insects aren’t even known, making it impossible to predict whether an unintended insect could be targeted. They also noted the void of scientific understanding over the sustainability and predictable use of the biotechnology under field conditions.