I’ve interviewed farmers, scientists, ecologists, and permaculture designers, but until today I’d never interviewed a plant.
A Conversation With Corn
J (Jill Cloutier)- Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. Tell me a bit about your background. Where were you born?
Corn (C)- My name is as Zea mays. I’m a member of the Poaceae family, the grass family. All cereal grains belong to my family, including wheat, rice, and rye. I’m an Annual, a monocot, and believed to have been born in Mexico thousands of years ago. Like anything that’s been around for a long time, I’ve had my ups and downs. For millennia, I roamed the earth. My seeds were saved and passed down from generation to generation. I was venerate and revered and used as food, fiber and in ceremony. But, now that Monsanto’s got a hold of me, I’ll never be the same.
J- That brings me to the issue that I wanted to talk with you about today. Genetic modification and the large role that you’ve played in this controversial topic.
C- I didn’t volunteer for the job. I never asked to be modified.
J- What does it mean when something is genetically modified?
C- It’s a laboratory process where the genes from the DNA of one species are taken out and put into the genes of an unrelated animal or plant. The genes can be from insects, animals, humans, bacteria, or viruses.
J- I’ve read that 85% of the corn grown in the US is genetically modified. How do you feel about being one of the most widely genetically modified plants?
C- At first, my reaction was one of complete and utter despair. But now, I’m pissed.
J- Why? What happens when you are genetically modified?
C- This gets a little personal, but basically it can happen in a number of ways, genes can be shot from a gene gun into a plate of cells. Or bacteria are used to invade cells with foreign DNA. The changed cell is cloned into a plant. Most commonly, a gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis is injected in me, so I secrete an insecticide that kills corn root worm pests.
J- I have no idea what that means, but it sounds terrible.
C- I’m a food crop that’s bio-engineered to produce my own internal insecticide. Quite frankly, it’s abusive. I’d rather have a rootworm eating me then be violated like this.