Fifty years ago, in 1953, the structure of DNA was discovered and hailed as the "secret of life". A complete understanding of living organisms seemed to be certain. However, fundamental questions regarding how DNA and genes actually work remained unanswered. Genetic engineering (GE), at its roots, is based on an over-simplistic theory from the 1950s. Modern science has since shown gene expression to be far more complex than imagined.
Still living on a flat Earth
The technology and tools to insert genes from different species
in a crude, random and often forcible manner into the genomes of
organisms were developed in the 1970s and 1980s and termed "genetic
engineering". Genetic engineering was called a "life" science; it
was the technology to design and shape living organisms.
Our current genetic engineering industry is based on a 50 year
old understanding of molecular biology: that a gene is unaffected
by its local surroundings on the genome. The outcome of
transferring a gene from one organism to another is thought to be
specific and predictable. However, this is now regarded by most
scientists as an over-simplified theory.
Gene expression is now understood to be regulated by a complex
cellular network. Gene expression is the result of many reactions
and interactions between elements such as proteins and RNA. The
significance of these interactions is increasingly being
recognised, but remains far from being fully understood.
This scientific reality is being ignored by GE companies like
Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta. Short-term, economic interests keep
these companies holding on to an old-fashioned and outdated
scientific understanding that no longer has a sound scientific
basis. This behaviour becomes reckless when these companies release
their genetic experiments into the environment and hide it in our
Some GE crops such as soya and maize, have been commercialised
and deliberately released into the environment and food chain in
the last few years.
Surprising and unpredictable effects have occurred in these
crops. In one example, GE Roundup Ready soya plants unexpectedly
split their stems in high temperatures, probably because of a
higher amount of lignin.
GE companies regard such unexpected effects as technical
problems to be overcome by more research or adapted technologies.
However, these unforeseen effects may be due to a more fundamental
reason, that the basis of GE is invalid. Recent science has shown
that the expression of genes in the DNA of cells is not nearly as
simple and not as fully understood as the GE industry would like us
Chronology of Scientific and Genetic Engineering Developments since
1953 (pdf factsheet)
50 Years Since the Double Helix (pdf factsheet)
Illustrating the Problems of Genetic Engineering (pdf)