I saw a picture of orange petunias the other day. Very pretty. However, after I read the accompanying article, I was horrified. Apparently, petunias just don't come in orange, the genes aren't there. Or rather, they weren't until recently.
Apparently, a Finnish researcher discovered that these plants are genetically modified, and may have been available for sale for several years, but never went through any approval process or testing for safety. It isn't at all clear how they reached the retail market, but there are now around a dozen varieties. They appear to have been originally created by Syngenta by inserting genes from Bt corn, but never commercialized. Even though they are illegal in the UK and most of Europe, and the USDA has asked nurseries (though they've refused to order them pulled off the market) to destroy current stocks of seed and plants, I found that it is still easy to buy them. There were several sellers on eBay. Here's one on Etsy who describes them as "rare."
So, since the USDA claims these flowers pose no risk to human health or the environment, and have requested stocks be destroyed merely as a compliance issue, why am I so disturbed by this? Think about it. What has this incident just proven? It's simple and obvious; this is glaring, damning evidence that all the fears of GMO opponents have been realized. Genetically modified organisms cannot be contained, controlled or effectively regulated. Safe or not, these petunias have been sold for several years. They're in gardens all over the world, they've had plenty of time to cross with wild relatives in Europe, and with other petunias in North American flower beds. Growers have already hybridized them into over a dozen varieties, so it can also be assumed that there are now varieties of other colors that carry these foreign genes. To be fair to the USDA, a recall now is pointless. The genie is out of the bottle.
What's worse, it has apparently occurred to nobody, or at least nobody who's voiced this suspicion, that these plants are probably the tip of the iceberg. They are, for practical purposes, the first black market GMO product that has been discovered, and then only because of a color that should not have occurred in the species. How did they get away from Syngenta in the first place? Employee theft? Some sort of seed mix up? This forces me to ask, how many other genetically engineered life forms have also entered the market under the RADAR? How many are in the food supply, even organics? How much of the epidemic of relatively new health problems we're seeing, diabetes, cancer, IBS, gluten intolerance, fibromyalgia, etc. are due to undiscovered contamination of food and personal care products, among other things?
I don't suppose it matters how the petunias escaped, as they may not actually be Syngenta's at all. The technology itself has escaped. Any hobbyist with a credit card has been able to buy their very own CRISPR kit and brew up designer bacteria to their heart's content for a couple of years now. Never mind that the much celebrated new CRISPR technique has already been proven to produce the same types of unintended mutations as older methods. There have been communities of people experimenting in home labs, referred to as biohackers, for over a decade. Not to mention the work that has no doubt been, and is being, conducted in military and corporate labs around the world, without proper safeguards, as is rumored at Plum Island and similar locations. I find myself wondering about the origins of some new diseases, as well as sightings of never before seen cryptids.
I think at this point, Pandora's box isn't just open, the lid's been blown off with dynamite. Our choice to partake of this technology, in our diets or any other part of our lives, has been taken from us, perhaps deliberately. Jeffrey Smith may as well pack up his tent. I'm all for creative innovation, that's what this site is really about. That doesn't mean we should jettison common sense and prudence. The biotech industry is acting like a five year old who's found the kitchen matches, and I fear it's too late to prevent them from burning down the house.
I am, and have always been, unafraid to voice my opinions. In fact I believe everyone needs to vent now and then, and we all have a God given right to do so. I despise willful ignorance and intellectual dishonesty, and take a perhaps perverse pleasure in puncturing the politically correct proclamations of those who have anointed themselves as our betters. I could be described as a contrarian and a bit of a curmudgeon, having now reached an age at which those labels no longer sound odd. Not everything I'll address here will be controversial. In fact, I would rather keep that sort of thing somewhat limited (and it should surprise no one that I probably won't succeed in doing so). We already have our fill of whining talking heads on the 'net. However, if you are easily offended or thin skinned, you might want to skip this blog. You have been warned.