Animal Husbandry and GMOs

Cerberus, guardian of the underworld, illustrated here by William Blake.

Cerberus, guardian of the underworld, illustrated here by William Blake.

“Genetic engineering represents the ultimate tool. It extends humanity’s reach over the forces of Nature as no other technology in history, perhaps with the exception of the nuclear revolution.”

– Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety

Genetically engineering farm animals, including salmon, is an outgrowth of the belief that man can discover truth by objective, quantitative measurement, that creation can be explained simply by mathematics and mechanics. This view dismisses human subjectivity and multi-dimensional man. This view has also led to the separation of man from nature. Rather than being a part of nature, man has risen above nature. Nature is meant to serve man. This view underlies the clear cutting of old-growth forests and contributes to overfishing. That is, of course, a world view run amok.

Animal husbandry is a complex mixture of both art and science. The notion that farming and agriculture are a way of life, and the practice of husbandry, is often replaced with the view of agriculture as an industry driven by efficiency to achieve maximum production. Bigger faster and faster bigger

Vern Pursel was looking for the perfect pork chop. Vern was a USDA researcher when he invented Pig #6707. With a belief system rooted in the certainty of objective science, Vern set out to create a Super Pig. Vern’s pig would be larger than animals raised using traditional animal husbandry practices. The sole purpose of Pig #6707 was human consumption. He called them “Arnie Schwarzenegger pigs” with robust muscles and broad shoulders. Vern chose strict animal science over animal husbandry. Vern injected the human growth gene into a pig embryo. The pig was born and quickly developed a larger than normal body. Pig #6707 weighed so much it was crippled, bowlegged and could not stand under its own weight. It was almost completely blind and had arthritis. To photograph his scientific invention/creation, Vern had to prop it up with a plywood board.

Transgenic research to produce faster growing chickens produced malformities of limbs, reduced survival rates and weakened immune systems. Transgenic research on mice produced fatter mice with severe kidney and liver damage, structural abnormalities of the heart and spleen, elevated incidence of tumors and increased juvenile mortality.

Transgenic salmon don’t have to worry about standing up. They swim. But knowing the deformities and other problems that have occurred with transgenic research on land animals, doesn’t lend itself to having any confidence in Dr. Moreau’s GMO salmon.

“If reason and morality are what set human beings apart from animals, then reason and morality must always guide us in how we treat them.” – Matthew Scully, author and Republican speechwriter

Husbandry defines artisanship. Plants, livestock and fish genetically engineered for greater efficiency in the drive for industrial scale production and the quest for wealth is something altogether different.

Husbandry is the name of all the practices that sustain life by connecting us conservingly to our places and our world; it is the art of keeping tied all the strands in the living network that sustains us.”Wendell Berry, writer and Kentucky dirt farmer