Former Monsanto Employee Talks GE Crop Concerns Amidst Deregulation Efforts
This week the Food Nation Radio Network interviewed former Monsanto employee Kirk Azevedo about his concerns with the leading biotech company's practices, a timely interview as the battle over genetically engineered (GE) food regulation continues on a state, national, and international scale.
Azevedo graduated with a biochemistry degree from California Polytechnic State University and started working for the chemical industry doing research on Bt (or Bacillus thuringiensis) pesticides. Around 1996, he became a local market manager for Monsanto, serving as a facilitator for GE crops for the western states. He explained to Food Nation Radio how he had assumed that California cotton that was genetically engineered for herbicide resistance could be marketed as conventional California cotton (to get the California premium) since the only difference between the two, he believed, was the gene Monsanto wanted in the crop. However, one of Monsanto's Ph.D. researchers informed Azevedo that "there's actually other proteins that are being produced, not just the one we want, as a byproduct of genetic engineering process." This concerned Azevedo, who had also been studying protein diseases (including prion diseases such as mad cow disease) and knew proteins could be toxic. When he told his colleague they needed to destroy the seeds from the GE crop so that they aren't fed to cattle, the other researcher said that Monsanto isn't going to stop doing what it's been doing everywhere else.
Azevedo recalls his disillusionment:
I saw what was really the fraud associated with genetic engineering: My impression, and I think most people's impression with genetically engineered foods and crops and other things is that it's just like putting one gene in there and that one gene is expressed. If that was the case, well then that's not so bad. But in reality, the process of genetic engineering changes the cell in such a way that it's unknown what the effects are going to be.
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