Recently, I was browsing through my school’s library when I came across a biology textbook. It was printed in 1998 and appeared to be a typical textbook used in high school biology courses around the world. Along with the usual chapters on cellular metabolism and the categorization of organisms, the book had a chapter on a subject which has been addressed many times on this blog: genetic engineering. I should not have been so surprised to find that Monsanto has inserted its tentacles deeply into the education system. They certainly have the money, the power, and the political influence to do so. Still, I was shocked to observe how cleverly and seamlessly the GMO industry has been able to weave their propaganda into schools and universities.
The chapter on GMOs was almost exactly in the middle of the book which is a clever move when you think about it. The naive student reading the text will infer that GMOs and genetic engineering have been an acceptable part of the biology curriculum for a long time. Logically, such a chapter should be at the very end of the book, to say, ‘this is where biology is possibly heading…’
The chapter begins with the story of two biochemists, Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer who, we are told, constructed a creature in 1973 which was part frog and part bacterium. Instead of pausing and questioning the obvious Frankenstein overtones of such experimenting, the authors simply ask ‘How did they do it’ ? and then proceed phlegmatically to give a dry explanation of the process.
From here, the next few pages give a more detailed explanation of the process of genetic engineering. Again, it’s all stated quite matter-of-factly and the blatant, if not exactly explicit, message is this: playing god with genetics and doing bizarre cross species transgenetics is good for humans and the planet.
Following the introduction into the nuts and bolts of genetic engineering, the corporatist scientists really drive the point home with sections on GMO drugs and ‘the new agriculture.’ Just in case you might have some qualms about all this, rest assured! The new class of drugs we can produce from this process can, we are promised, cure genetic disorders. We are shown two photos of cute, smiling children who were given ‘gene therapy.’ The text informs us, “Three years after their treatment, they both appear to be thriving.” Ya don’t say…
Seriously, the entire chapter was no doubt written in a Monsanto PR firm. They then sent it to the publishing company as a ‘gift.’ They probably sent it with a note like, ‘A thoughtful, comprehensive, objective overview of genetic engineering, written by qualified scientists.’
The next section on agriculture is nothing more than an undisguised advertisement for GMO crops and Roundup weed killer. The textbook authors tell us that a recent ‘improvement’ in agriculture is the development of crops which are resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, a ‘biodegradable’ weedkiller. This is pure Bullshit. Glyphosate is most certainly NOT biodegradable and there is no shortage of non-biased research on this. In fact, in 2009 a French court found Monsanto guilty of lying and false advertising by stating that glyphosate (roundup) was ‘biodegradable’ , ‘environmentally friendly’ and ‘left the soil clean.’ A recent peer-reviewed study linked glyphosate to the following: autism, obesity, allergies, cardiovascular disease, infertility, Parkinson’s , Alzheimer’s and many more. By using terms like ‘herbicide’ and ‘weedkiller’, Monsanto hides the fact that this is a POISON. And a very deadly one at that. Food crops and poison do not go well together.
The next page in the text states that ‘herbicide-resistant crops (i.e. Monsanto’s terminator seeds) are beneficial to the environment’ because fields don’t need to be weeded. Wow, I never knew weeding did so much damage to mother earth! Let’s get rid of that back breaking work once and for all! Now, all we have to do is drag a rope soaked with poison across the fields and voila! All the pesky weeds are gone and we are left with just the hardy GMO plant.
We the readers are reminded yet again that glyphosate is ‘quickly broken down’ in the environment. Then we are told that if we plant more GMOs, soil erosion will be greatly reduced as well since all that cultivation we do to remove weeds is so damaging to the topsoil. Gee, I never knew..
What else can these wonderful new GMO crops do? Give us world peace? Make everyone happy? Cure racism?
Note that this text is 16 years old. I can only imagine what today’s texts look like. If you are a parent and you have not taken a look at your child’s biology textbook in a while, perhaps you should. If you are a student and you are unaware that your texts are being written by giant corporations who have no interest in impartial and objective science and are lying through their teeth, then you need to wake up. Quickly. The number of blatant falsehoods I found in this one chapter makes me question what the rest of the text is filled with. Furthermore, it makes one pause to consider how ‘scientific truths’ are first promulgated, become mainstream and then get passed along to subsequent generations. Whatever controversy accompanied the original theory is forgotten over time as opinion, speculation and theory become ‘fact.’