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Understanding the basics of genetically modified organisms: Maharishi Vedic Organic Agriculture expert's lecture
by Global Good News staff writer

Global Good News    Translate This Article
29 September 2012

What is genetic modification and how does it affect our lives?

In a recent indepth lecture Dr Peter Swan, an expert in Maharishi Vedic Organic Agriculture, emphasized the importance of understanding this topic, as well as learning about other, healthier alternatives. He began by explaining what genetic modification is.

Please see Part I of this article: Expert in Maharishi Vedic Organic Agriculture describes dangers of genetically modified food, presents solutions

Dr Swan is the creator of an acclaimed course on Maharishi Vedic Organic Agriculture that he has taught in many countries: 'Maharishi Vedic Science in Agriculture and Environment: Key to Personal Enlightenment, Global Affluence, and Sustainability'.

To understand genetic modification, Dr Swan said, we must first understand what a gene is and the role it plays in a plant's life. He described inspecting a leaf with a microscope and first seeing its tiny cells. Looking inside the cell one sees the nucleus; within the nucleus one sees chromosomes.

Each chromosome is made up of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), molecules encoded with genetic instructions that are used in the development and functioning of living organisms. A gene is a section, or piece, of the DNA that codes for a protein that produces ribonucleic acid (RNA)—and becomes a particular part of our body.

From this simple analysis we can see, Dr Swan said, the important role DNA plays as basic building blocks for our body.

Genetic modification, also called genetic engineering, is the process of extracting DNA from the cell of one organism and, using a 'gene gun', firing it into the DNA of another organism. According to researchers, one of the dangers of the genetic modification process is that it is not considered to be a precise science, and often combines different species that give rise to completely new organisms that have no evolutionary history.*

Polls show that 90 per cent of Americans want GM foods to be labeled. Although they want transparency, a 'revolving door' phenomenon between the biotech industry and US governmental agencies responsible for food safety prevents this from developing. Senior people move back and forth working for the biotech industry and the federal government; former executives of Monsanto and other large chemical companies have been appointed to leadership positions in the very agencies that control the release of food safety studies and food policy.

Although Monsanto, one of the largest biotech companies in the world, has extensively tested the safety of glyphosate, the main ingredient in their product Roundup, of the 180 different studies conducted over a period of time, results from 150 were never published or subjected to peer review. Monsanto and Dow Chemical base their claims of glyphosate's safety on selected industry research and assessments by some regulators taking into account only industry studies.

Use of Monsanto's Roundup has led to the creation of over 350 'superweeds' covering millions of acres in the US, which are resistant even to very large applications of pesticides. Weeds treated with 16 times the normal concentration of Roundup could not be eliminated; yet although it has not proven useful, farmers continue to use the product.

Chemical companies, including Dow, now offer farmers a new mixture of many different herbicides, including one (2,4-D) that was an ingredient in the defoliant Agent Orange in the Vietnam war.

See recent related article from the Global Good News Positive Trends page:
US: Dow's controversial new GMO corn delayed amid protests

Global Good News will continue to feature Dr Swan's lecture, in which he went on to discuss research findings of detrimental side-effects of genetically modified organisms.

* More information on many of the issues referred to by Dr Swan in his lecture, including analysis of scientific research conducted by both industry and independent researchers, as well as regulatory aspects, may be found on the website of the British science organization

Copyright © 2013 Global Good News Service

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