Genetically modified organisms are presented as a scientific advancement the world will immensely profit from. In reality, someone else realizes the profits, while the world bears the consequences.
In my article on genetically modified food, I explained that GMO food contains significantly more allergens and toxins than non-GMO food, and that genetic engineering presents risks not just for human health, but also for the whole ecosystem.
Logically, this raises a question: Why are GMOs pushed so much? What is the driving force behind this push? For what are we putting the people’s health and the ecosystem at risk?
Try to answer this question on your own first. Any idea?
Chances are you’ve come up with one of the officially presented “benefits” of GMOs, and I don’t blame you. These explanations are all over the mainstream media. I address them in a separate article but first, let me give you the answer to my question.
It’s just one word: Patents. More bluntly, the profits that the patents secure for their holders.
And yes, the patents are also behind the omnipresent push for pharmaceutical treatment in Western Medicine, while almost completely disregarding the root causes of illness and health.
Let’s dive a bit deeper.
A Short Intro to Patents
There’s one thing that I didn’t mention in the About myself section, because it would look like I’m bragging about all my achievements, despite them not being relevant to the focus of this website.
But it’s relevant to this article, so I’ll mention it here. Apart from the medical and legal background that you already know about, I also have an LL.M. (Master of Laws) degree from the NYU School of Law.
One of the courses that I took there was Patent Law. So let’s say I know a little bit more about patents than an average lawyer or doctor, although obviously way less than specialized patent lawyers.
Patent Law is a very complex discipline, but the core principles are relatively simple:
If you come up with something new and non-obvious, you can apply for a patent. If the patent is issued, the patent holder is effectively granted a 20-year monopoly on the patented invention. That means that others can manufacture, use or sell the invention only with the patent holder’s consent, and typically for a fee.
Originally, patents were only issued for inventions such as machines (engines for example), products (think lightbulbs, telephones etc.), processes (such as manufacturing methods) and compositions of matter (pharmaceuticals or herbicides are a typical example here).
Sadly, since the 1980s, patent protection was gradually extended also to living organisms, such as bacteria, plants, fungi and animals, as well as their gene sequences, so long as the novelty and non-obviousness requirements were satisfied.
This approach allowed not only for patenting e.g. plant varieties obtained through various breeding techniques (such as hybridization), but also for issuance of patents related to genetically modified organisms.
How GMO Patents Work
In the case of GMOs, applicants usually seek patent protection for the gene sequence (cDNA) that was artificially created through genetic engineering techniques, or for the process to engineer such gene sequence, or both.
Later, they also seek patents for “improvements” of their existing patents, effectively ensuring there’s always something in their GMOs covered by the patent protection, regardless of the 20-year limit for the original patent.
The main point is to control access to seeds and plants. If you sell standard (heritage) seeds or plants, you often sell them only once because next time, the farmers can use the seeds (or bulbs, grafts etc.) from the plants they grow on their fields.
But if you hold a GMO patent, you effectively own the plant, including its seeds, and the farmers have to pay you again (and again) for using the seeds for replanting the crops. It’s a never-ending source of revenue.
Everyone needs to eat, so if you gradually patent all plants (and animals) used for food, you’re going to cash in big time on a regular basis.
The underlying principle is always the same: Why use something natural and free when big corporations can hugely profit from something artificial?
Why use natural seeds for free when biotech corporations can profit from GMO seeds? Why promote natural immunity when pharmaceutical companies can profit from vaccine-induced immunity?
And as always, with big profits comes big power. You gain almost unlimited access to mainstream media; you can design studies to show what you need to prove (and discard those that don’t reach the “right” result); you can lobby politicians, capture regulatory agencies, downplay any risks or side effects, sponsor “fact-checkers” and silence anyone who stands in the way of your profits.
As a result, most people will feel persuaded about the claimed benefits and safety of virtually any product you push. Lobbied politicians will promote your products because they have been “backed by science.” Don’t we all want to be better off?
The groups and scientists with opposing views obviously don’t have the money available to big corporations. They don’t have access to mainstream media; politicians mostly ignore them. They’re being silenced, cut off funding or ridiculed as those “opposing the science.”
Except that current science tends to agree almost entirely with those funding the research – particularly when they’re big corporations promising to spend even more money on future R&D projects.
It’s called “science for hire”. You pay a hefty amount, and “the science” will deliver the results you want. And even if some results are not to your liking, you can cherry-pick the ones that support your claims and present them to regulatory agencies.
Individual scientists, however ingenious and honest, can either be part of this system or be sidelined, ignored or even discredited for the rest of their careers. Naturally, the second option doesn’t look very enticing to them.
So it’s not the people but the environment created by those promoting their business agenda that is responsible for this state of affairs.
The best personal defense is being fully aware of such an environment. It helps you make better choices, such as having an open mind, thinking critically, questioning authorities, and learning from history, both distant and recent.
Who Owns GMO Patents
It’s a logical question to ask why farmers are buying GMO seeds, for which they have to pay over and over again, as opposed to purchasing standard seeds they would pay for only once.
Just as pharmaceutical companies persuaded doctors that the future of medicine lies in continuous pharmaceutical treatment, not in addressing root causes of illness and health, chemical companies managed to convince farmers that the future of agriculture includes regular use of chemicals such as herbicides and insecticides, as opposed to more sustainable approaches like regenerative agriculture for example.
The leading chemical companies involved in this push were Monsanto, Dow Chemicals and DuPont. Remember those names. What was their main interest? The well-being of farmers? Healthier crops? Balanced ecosystem? Your health?
Of course not – quite understandably, their primary interest was selling more of their patented chemicals to farmers. It’s not the business of corporations to care for the whole world. They’re only responsible to their shareholders, who want returns on their investments.
One of the issues of using herbicides and insecticides in agriculture is that it’s a vicious circle: the weeds, insects and other pests gradually become resistant to the toxicity of chemicals, which necessitates the use of more chemicals.
Another issue is that the chemical toxins kill not only the target weeds and pests, but also the “protected” plants (not talking about destroying the soil ecosystem, which is essential for the plants’ health and resilience).
So the chemical companies had to come up with a “solution” – genetically engineer plants to withstand the toxicity of their patented chemicals. A classic example is Monsanto, the manufacturer of Roundup, a notorious glyphosate-based herbicide.
In 1996, Monsanto introduced genetically modified “Roundup Ready” soybeans. Other crops able to withstand the toxicity of Roundup followed suit, such as genetically modified corn, canola, sugar beets, cotton and alfalfa.
Since farmers became reliant on Roundup, they had to buy “Roundup Ready” crop seeds. This gradually led to spraying more Roundup on their fields, increased weed resistance to Roundup, and more Roundup-related health issues.
Due to its increasing profits and market share, in 2018 Monsanto was acquired by Bayer, another chemical company.
Either way, it shouldn’t surprise you that currently, chemical companies such as Bayer/Monsanto, or chemical companies’ spin-offs are the major holders of GMO patents.
An example of a spin-off is Corteva, a former agricultural unit of DowDuPont that became a separate public-traded company in 2019, with its initial shares being distributed to DowDuPont’s shareholders.
DowDuPont is, of course, a result of a merger between Dow Chemicals and DuPont, the chemical companies I mentioned above.
Manufacturers of toxic chemicals maximizing their profits by controlling access to crops that we eat? That doesn’t sound good! Therefore, a “public benefit” narrative had to be created instead, such as feeding the world, reduction of pesticide use, helping agricultural communities, etc.
As I already mentioned, I address these claims in a separate article. In short, though, they’re mere cover-ups for a strictly profit-oriented business whose proceeds go to the GMO patent holders, while the public at large bears all the negative consequences.
No real public benefits here, unsurprisingly. But the corporate profits are real. And so are the harms caused by GMOs and genetically modified food.