It’s been a tough few years for the Monsanto Company in many ways: lawsuits piling up over toxic PCBs, the WHO’s declaration of glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen, and even terrible publicity over a pro-Monsanto lobbyist who infamously pledged to drink a quart of Roundup before backing down (see video here).
Monsanto is under assault from all angles as the 2016 March Against Monsanto looms on May 21, but while the world focuses its attention on glyphosate, “normal” genetic engineering and Roundup, Monsanto is preparing to unleash its latest trick on the agricultural world: and as usual it’s dangerously untested and could yield a host of unintended environmental and health-related side effects.
The Monsanto initiative is being dubbed ‘BioDirect’ according to a new article from the website TheEcologist.org, which raises red flags over the company’s controversial new ‘RNA interference’ technology to be sprayed on crops:
“Monsanto is upgrading the Borg. It’s called the ‘BioDirect’ initiative and it will eliminate costly resistance to glyphosate, eradicate vexingly resilient insects with biopesticides and even modify the genetic code of a plant by simply spritzing it with an RNA-infusedsurfactant spray.
The article continues:
“The technology is called ‘RNA interference’ (RNAi) and it heralds a brave new world of profitability for agrochemical corporations. It also opens a Pandora’s Box full of as-yet unanswered ethical questions about genetic drift, patenting plants on the fly and, most ominously, whether RNAi can, should or will be weaponized like another Monsanto product – Agent Orange.”
As noted in the article this technology “hijacks the DNA’s messenger system,” the ribonucleic acid that carries out the DNA’s instructions.
“RNAi technology hijacks DNA’s messenger system – the ribonucleic acid (RNA) that carries out DNA’s instructions. In effect, RNAi sends human-made messages that can, in turn, alter or kill its target by scrambling cellular functions, turning off organs, dropping resistance to a herbicide (glyphosate) or altering the DNA’s command system to produce an artificial gene expression” the article states.
Due to a widespread rise in glyphosate-resistant weeds (even though Monsanto promised the government in 1993 that it would not cause any such problems) Monsanto is hoping to begin using this technology on large amounts of U.S. crops.
But this could once again create unknown side effects, as noted by Antonio Regalado in an MIT Technology Review: “RNA may be natural … but introducing large amounts of targeted RNA molecules into the environment is not.”
As the article states, this sci-fi sounding scenario brings with it an incredible risk of unknown proportions:
As a result, we face the unknown consequences of introducing a tidal wave of RNA into ecosystems that are not adapted to a sudden influx of genetic messages. Just think about that for a minute…
For more on this controversial technology and the potential dangers check out the full article here.