Recall that Clearfield wheat, the semi-dwarf strain of wheat now grain on nearly one million acres in the Pacific northwest of the U.S., is the product of chemical mutagenesis, the purposeful induction of mutations using chemicals. In the case of Clearfield, the industrial compound sodium azide was used to induce mutations. The mutation for an altered form of the acetohydroxyacid synthetase gene was provoked and selected, making this strain of wheat resistant to the herbicide Beyond, or imizamox, allowing the farmer to spray the herbicide freely, killing weeds (and soil microbiota) but not the wheat. The chemical giant, BASF, holds the patent for both the seeds of Clearfield wheat, as well as the Beyond.
In their marketing, BASF advises farmers that Clearfield wheat is the product of “enhanced traditional breeding methods.” Enhanced traditional breeding methods?
Earth Open Source has published a document titled GMO Myths and Truth authored by Michael Antoniou,PhD, Claire Robinson, MPhil, and John Fagan, PhD. Antoniou and Fagan have backgrounds in genetics and molecular biology. (The full document can be accessed here.)
An important quote from their document:
“Radiation-induced mutation breeding is potentially even more mutagenic than GM [genetic modification], and at least as destructive to gene expression, and crops produced by this method should be regulated at least as strictly as GM crops.”
Did you catch that? “Radiation-induced mutation breeding is potentially even more mutagenic than GM”? And “at least as destructive to gene expression”?
In other words, genetic modification is an improvement over the techniques of mutagenesis. While neither is controllable or predictable, the purposeful induction of mutations, whether via chemical means, or gamma radiation or high-dose x-ray, is crude, unpredictable, and uncontrollable–far WORSE than genetic modification.
Imagine I expose the developing fetus in a chimpanzee mother’s womb to gamma rays to induce mutations. I’m hoping to create a super-chimpanzee with a bigger brain and the ability to clean my house, change diapers, and wash the windows. Maybe after 100 attempts I get a smarter chimp with a bigger brain . . . but with deformed external features like cleft palate and spine abnormalities, internal biochemical and immune abnormalities that require, for instance, constant use of antibiotics, etc. In short, is is not the simple bearer of the one desired trait; it is a collection of mutations, many undesirable.
While no genetically-modified wheat has yet made it to market (as the Wheat Lobby likes to point out), the mutated forms of wheat created via the techniques of mutagenesis have been sold for years. Yes: The products of the mutagenesis are already on the market and have been for years. The world is in an uproar over the potential dangers of genetically-modified food, but the products of mutational processes that are worse than genetic-modification are already reality . . . and the public has been eating them.
How’d that little mutated muffin taste with your coffee this morning?