Thursday, February 16, 2012

I recently read two items and became aware of an event that highlighted some of the issues with genetically modified organisms. In the January 2012 issue of Scientific American there were two interesting columns on this subject:
"Tweaking Photosynthesis",  (

"Pond Scum to the Rescue", David Biello interviewing J. Craig Venter, January 2012

And an event :
Late last month in downtown Manhattan, Judge Federal Court Judge Naomi Buchwald heard the first arguments in OSGATA et al. versus Monsanto, a groundbreaking lawsuit brought by The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) on behalf of 83 farmer plaintiffs, who are “seeking court protection under the Declaratory Judgment Act, from Monsanto-initiated patent infringement law.

Most of Tweaking Photosynthesis is about improving the efficiency of photosynthesis, or altering it's nature in some way to make greener fuel.....and using genetic manipulation as the method to achieve this. Or to replace photosynthesis altogether with other processes. Pond Scum to the Rescue was about using genetic tools to rewrite the genetic code and "get cells to do what we want them to do". It's about engineering algae cells to produce liquid fuel in quantities 10 to 100 times normal cells.
These articles are a very small sample of the type of products genetic manipulation can potentially produce and give a backdrop to the Manhatten lawsuit against Monsanto. All of these GMO organisms have the potential to genetically mix, in natural ways, with wild and/or domestic counterparts and passing on those GM characteristics causing a significant loss of revenue to the designing companies. Monsanto is claiming that their patent rights give them ownership of any plant displaying any GM characteristics designed by them no matter what the method of genetic mixing was. That is a potentially devastating blow to any farm.  The implications of this lawsuit, while highly significant in ownership of our food supply, has major significance in human healthcare both in ownership of processes and the result of those processes. If thru patent rights Monsanto can own the product of your labors independent of anything else what does that mean for healthcare companies who own the patent design on GM's that affect you ?