Biotechnology

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Biotechnology is technology based on biology, especially when used in agriculture, food science and medicine. According to the United Nations' (UN) "Convention on Biological Diversity":

"Biotechnology is any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use." [1]

Agriculture

Global GMO & herbicide market

The top biotechnology companies are Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and Bayer. (Syngenta is a subsidiary of parent companies AstraZeneca and Novartis. Aventis' agribusiness division was bought out by Bayer.) They account for almost 100% of the genetically engineered seed and 60% of the global pesticide market. Thanks to recent acquisitions, they also own 23% of the commercial seed market. In 1999, almost 80% of total global transgenic acreage was planted in GMO (genetically modefied organism) soy, corn, cotton and canola. Until then, farmers could spray herbicides before planting, but not after, as herbicides would kill the intended crop. The other 20% of genetically modified acreage is planted with crops that produce pesticides. Monsanto’s "New Leaf" potato kills potato beetles, but is itself registered as a pesticide with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The five largest biotech companies in the world are also the five largest herbicide companies. GMOs ensure a continuous and ever-expanding market for their agrochemicals. [2]

GMO soy beans are altered to enable plants to withstand weedkillers, particularly Monsanto's Roundup. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tripled the allowable limit for residues of Roundup's active ingredients on harvested crops. Many scientists protested allowing increased residues to support the biotechnology industry. Even after Monsanto's own research raised safety concerns for Roundup Ready soybeans, the FDA did not call for further testing. Half the soybeans grown in the U.S. are Roundup Ready. According to Monsanto, they contain 29% less of the brain nutrient choline and 27% more trypsin inhibitor, a potential allergen. Soy is often prescribed and consumed for its phytoestrogen content; however, GMO soy beans have lower levels of phenylalanine, an essential amino acid that affects levels of phytoestrogens. Lectin levels, the usual culprit in soy allergies, are nearly double in GMO soybeans. [3]

Under current policy, the government provides large subsidies to farmers to produce grains, in particularly corn and soybeans. Livestock producers use corn and soy as a base for animal feed as they are protein rich and fatten up the animals. They are also cheap (due to government subsidies.) Livestock consumes 47% of the soy and 60% of the corn produced in the US. [4]

Biotechnology & farm animals

See also animals raised & hunted for food.

Transgenic animal "models":

The creation of transgenic animals, like the JAX® Mice, is responsible for an explosion in numbers of animals used in U.S. laboratories. Genes are inserted into the mice in an attempt to make them more like humans.

Inefficacy & criticism of animal "models"

Transgenic mice have in fact been remarkably ineffective as models for human diseases. Mice do not normally contract many of the diseases that they are used as models for. They also respond differently to diseases and treatments. More relevant non-animal methods include genome-wide analysis, which uses human DNA. [5] See also The Jackson Laboratory.

Articles & sources

SourceWatch articles

References

  1. What is Biotechnology?, ArtWoo Article Network, accessed December 2009
  2. John Robbins Genetic Engineering, Part I, The Food Revolution, accessed December 2009
  3. John Robbins What About Soy: Frankenfood Soy?, The Food Revolution, accessed December 2009
  4. The Issues: Corn and Soy, Sustainable Table, accessed December 2009
  5. PETA Names the 10 Worst CEOs for Animals in Laboratories, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, accessed December 2009

External articles

External resources

  • GM Watch, accessed January 2010
  • About Us, Corporate Watch, accessed January 2010