CONTROL OF PLANT GENE EXPRESSION
Secretary of Agriculture
I wish to protest, in the strongest terms, your recent negotiations with Monsanto/American Home Products on the licensing of US Patent No. 5,723,765 "Control of Plant Gene Expressions." I believe that as a human being on this green earth I can expect that plants will grow, flower, make seed and thus perpetuate themselves, thereby providing me and all other humans with a continuum of life, essential to our survival on this planet. Now I find that this wonderful miracle of life is threatened, and inexplicably, by our own US Department of Agriculture.
This genetically engineered "terminator" patent is a threat to food security worldwide, as it deprives more than 1.4 billion poor farmers of their primary seed source, farm-saved seed. Scientists have warned that, under certain conditions, the trait for seed sterility will flow via pollen from terminator crops to surrounding plants, making the seeds of neighboring plants sterile. If this gets out of hand, there will only be what gets planted each Spring. Dead earth!
It is unacceptable that our taxpayer dollars are being spent to develop plants genetically engineered to kill their own seeds. And there are a lot of questions regarding the ethics of research which seems to have no other purpose than to enrich the coffers of Monsanto's seed company, forcing farmers to purchase new seed each year. There appears to be no agronomic benefit to farmers, and no benefit to consumers.
I am further concerned by the continuing alliance of a drug manufacturer and the USDA - a few years ago it produced the Bovine Growth Hormone debacle, an illogical attempt to increase milk production, when we maintain a price support and further spend millions of taxpayer dollars to store the surplus milk products. Monsanto also manufactures the antibiotics used in our beef, pork and chicken, which has greatly contributed to the antibiotic-resistant bacteria now threatening our very lives. There is a consensus in the medical community to limit the use of antibiotics, yet this appears to be of little interest to the USDA.
This headlong rush into genetic engineering is the last thing the USDA should be putting our resources into; children are dying from contaminated food products, yet this seems to be a low priority for the Agency. Keeping our food supply uncontaminated and safe to eat should be your first commitment.
(Reprint, Townsend Letters for Doctors & Patients, June, 1999 edition)
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