Saturday, May 2, 2009

Article One of the Constitution covers the right to copyright and patent with regards to writers and inventors. For 200 years Congress would not allow the patent of living organisms. This was deliberately excluded from the Constitution on moral grounds.

In the 1930's plant breeders were given the right to patent their work, however, this did not include future generations of seeds. In 1978, the first living organism was taken to the U.S. Patent Office. Dr. A. Chakrabarty, a genetic engineer working for General Electric, developed an oil eating microbe. He tries to patent it and it was turned down. To make a long story short, this goes all the way to the U.S.Supreme Court. The court decides that he can patent this and their decision states in part,"A live, human-made micro-organism is patentable subject matter under [Title 35 U.S.C.] 101. Respondent's micro-organism constitutes a "manufacture" or "composition of matter" within that statute."

This paves the way for companies like GE, to start getting patents on numerous living things. From microbes to genes, to seeds. During the Regan administration patents on animals, human gens and body parts were obtained by large corporations. So if they own the gene used in a particular type of research and you use it, they own your research. This has never been voted on by Congress or the people of the United States.

Since we are talking food, Monsanto owns the patent on 11,000 seeds. What are known as "heirloom" seeds are becoming a thing of the past. Because of this type of practice, farmers are being sued and states are passing laws forbidding anyone but family owned farms to be in their states.

We have government agencies in place that are designed to be responsible for the safety of genetically modified foods.

Department of Agriculture - They are responsible for assessing the environmental impact of GMO crops and regulating GMO field testing. In a study of over 8000 GMO field applicants, the USDA did not regulate a single environmental assessment.

FDA - The FDA determines the safety of foods and food ingredients. Although the FDA consults with food developers about their data on the safety and nutrition of GMOs, submission of such data to the FDA is voluntary. A GMO judged to be "substantially equivalent" to the existing crop, except for its transgene, does not require rigorous safety testing.

EPA - This agency is supposed to regulate insecticides. Monsanto's "BT Corn" has a natural insecticide engineered into every GMO ear of corn grown with their seeds.

I realize this is a pretty technical post. I feel it is important to know who is to protect the American people and what they are really doing. Food and medicine are things we cannot live without. We need to know how GMOs are affecting our medical circles and what we can do to protect ourselves and our children.


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