The more one reads about how companies like Monsanto and Syngenta, have restricted independent research on their genetically engineered crops, the more one comes to believe that last year’s novel, The Wind-Up Girl, may come to be the most prescient novel of the past few decades (buy it here). On the same level as 1984 and Brave New World.
Under U.S. law, genetically engineered crops are patentable inventions. Companies have broad power over the use of any patented product, including who can study it and how.Agricultural companies defend their stonewalling by saying that unrestricted research could make them vulnerable to lawsuits if an experiment somehow leads to harm, or that it could give competitors unfair insight into their products. But it’s likely that the companies fear something else as well: An experiment could reveal that a genetically engineered product is hazardous or doesn’t perform as promised.
Whatever the reasons, the results are clear: Public sector research has been blocked. In 2009, 26 university entomologists — bug scientists — wrote a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency protesting restricted access to seeds. “No truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions involving these crops,” they wrote.
Soybean, cotton, canola and corn are the four most planted crops in the United States and the majority of those crops are now genetically modified in some capacity. And that, my friends, is a scary proposition.