In a follow up to another article done on genetic editing and CRISPR technology in modifying food products, Monsanto made an investment on Wednesday that made headlines.
The agricultural products giant, Monsanto, released a statement that it has made a $125 million investment in Pairwise Plants, a startup company specializing in genetic editing. Monsanto is banking on the technology, especially the method known as CRISPR, to produce fruit that lasts longer on store shelves and tastes sweeter.
The initial testing, according to published reports, in this Monsanto – Pairwise Plants venture will be on the strawberry. The process of genetic editing of food is different than that of genetically modifying (GMO) because it acts as one scientist explained, like a pair of “molecular scissors” which will cut out certain parts of the DNA strand to enhance other attributes.
The method allows for manipulation of the DNA of apples or strawberries, or soybeans to make them either taste better or stay fresh for a longer duration of time. The ethical implications are significant with many questioning whether science should be changing something that God created.
Furthermore, the boundaries of the gene-editing process are also in question in the context of what they could look to use the CRISPR method with in the future. The questions surrounding the use of the method on livestock to prolong or change the shelf life of meat or fish is a huge potential dilemma.
Some fine journalists have compiled some excellent content on the topic of gene-editing. I am more concerned with the implications this presents from the perspective of man playing God with our food supply.
The research shows that GMO is a dirty word, associated with all sorts of problems and issues. I have written several pieces on the GMO debate and the negative impact that genetic modification has had relative to certain health problems and disease states.
The process of genetic editing is one that Monsanto and the other agriculture products manufacturers are pinning their hopes on being more acceptable to the general public. They have pinned those hopes to the messaging around the process of genetic editing being more of a subtle procedure than the GMO scenario.
They also hope to confuse the customer with the science involved and talk about how the process is “more natural” than the GMO process. The whole situation is one of twisted logic. The core of the process still involves altering the way the fruit or vegetable is currently constituted.
The farmers and grocery industry will be whole heartedly behind this new process because it will yield them better profits. However, our society has to ask itself: at what expense?
This is also not the first strategic business move that Monsanto has made with regard to genetic editing, about a week ago they entered into an agreement with a firm called TargetGene to explore what are known as multiple gene edits. They also plan to use this partnership to expand the gene editing process into more potential product categories.
The fact that this activity has gone mostly unnoticed by the public and mostly unchecked by the federal government is also an issue which compelled me to put this piece out. The process changes the genomes of certain crops in our food supply. The results of which have potentially serious consequences.
The proponents will point to the assumption that genetic editing will reduce the amount of GMO seeds being produced (see my previous post to this one) especially in the case of certain crops. The detractors will bring up that the seeds and the process of CRISPR will not happen overnight and may not have that widespread impact on the GMO seed issue.
In a world where autoimmune disease rates are increasingly on the rise as are rates of autism and Parkinson’s disease all being linked to the food we eat, we do not need any more altered food products.
The potential for Monsanto to merge with Bayer to become an even larger entity could provide even further potential investment into genetic editing. The potential for use of genome editing in animals and in humans also hangs in the balance.
The question remains: should scientists have the ability to play God? Should this process be used in human embryos to alter what God created?
My answer to both of those questions is a resounding: No.
It is my hope and prayer that your answer is the same.