We’ve all heard of Food, Inc., the 2008 American documentary film directed by Robert Kenner that paints Monsanto, the world’s leading producer of Genetically Modified seeds and the herbicide glyphosate, as the devil. It concludes that it produces unhealthy, environmentally unfriendly, farmer abusive services and products. Monsanto has come under the public microscope since then and demonized for their actions. Specifically their genetic modification of seeds to contain a common pesticide, Bacillus thuringiensis (BT).
BT is a soil-dwelling bacterium that naturally occurs in the gut of many caterpillars, animal feces, aquatic environments, leaf surfaces, insect rich environments, and grain storage facilities. It is also one of the main ingredients in the common pesticide Roundup. While BT is an extremely effective pesticide in controlling insect pests by destroying the stomach lining of insect that ingest it , it also bears the potential threat of wreaking havoc on human health. There is also fear of the creation of a new generation of super insect larvae that have become Bt resistant due to the over use of the pesticide on crops or in the seeds planted. This is leaving environmentalists and consumers alike in a state of unknowing fear.
It is a difficult field to maneuver because there is so much unknown. In talking with a Monsanto employee that was at Davidson this past week, I myself found it difficult to know where my beliefs stood. He refuted all the research I presented regarding the issues with Bt and genetically modified seeds, claiming the studies had not used the correct parameters or biological markers, were using extra agents to enhance the effects of Bt and bias the results, and so on and so forth. He was adamant in saying that it is the “dose that makes the poison” not the product itself because Bt is a naturally occurring substance that you will find trace amounts of in everything. It is still difficult to decide which side to fall on since adequate research has not been conducted to determine the health effects, but I wonder if in a few decades we will look back on this and wonder why we hadn’t instituted the precautionary principle and acted to protect our society.