Cornucopia’s Take: Caius Rommens, PhD spent his career in bioengineering with Monsanto and JR Simplot. Encouraged by other industry scientists and the companies he worked for, he is responsible for the GMO traits in potatoes that have made it quietly to the market. In the article below, Rommens reflects on his past work and the ethics around genetically modifying plant traits.
Hidden Health Dangers: A Former Agbiotech Insider Wants His GMO Crops Pulled
Independent Science News
by Caius Rommens
Genetic engineering isn’t everyone’s childhood dream. Even I didn’t care for it when I started studying biology at the University of Amsterdam, but my professor explained it was an acquired taste and the best option for a good job. So, I suppressed my doubts and learned to extract DNA from plants, recombine the DNA in test tubes, reinsert the fusions into plant cells, and use hormones to regenerate new plants.
People say that love is blind, but I started loving what I did blindly. Or, perhaps, what started as an acquired taste soon became a dangerous addiction. Genetic engineering became part of me.
After I received my PhD, I went to the University of California in Berkeley to help develop a new branch of genetic engineering. I isolated several disease resistance genes from wild plants, and demonstrated, for the first time, that these genes could confer resistance to domesticated plants. Monsanto liked my work and invited me to lead its new disease control program in St. Louis in 1995.
I should not have accepted the invitation. I knew, even then, that pathogens cannot be controlled by single genes. They evolve too quickly around any barrier to infection. It takes about two to three decades for insects and plants to overcome a resistance gene, but it takes only a few years, at most, for pathogens to do the same. Read Full Article »