Rommens is the Ex-Director at J.R. Simplot and team leader for Monsanto. After spending twenty-six years in the agriculture industry as a genetic engineer, Rommens has developed over 150,000 varieties of GM potatoes. Through the years of experimentation, Rommens admits he never once left the laboratory to observe how the GM potatoes performed in a real agricultural environment.
Today he looks back, astounded that the USDA and FDA approved his genetic experimentation without any scientific scrutiny. The agencies only evaluated his laboratory data and assumed there was no bias. The government allowed J.R. Simplot to unleash the experiments into the natural environment without a peer review process or a set of safety standards.
Rommens admits, “I was biased, and all genetic engineers are biased. It is not just an emotional bias. We need the GM crops to be approved.” Rommens says that genetic engineers are under tremendous pressure to succeed so that a final product can generate hundreds of millions of dollars for multinational corporations. The data that genetic engineers produce in the lab is just confirmation bias, rushed along to get approval. No objective safety studies are carried out.
For instance, in order to pass the experiment by regulations, the industry data may list the insertion site of the transgene, but readily omit any information on the amount of random mutations that occurred when the tissue culture was manipulated at the genetic level. To gain approval, the industry data may list the compounds that are safe, but they may leave out any measurement of toxins or allergens that arise from the experiment.
Rommens is deeply concerned that the profit motive of these companies is allowing dangerous genetic alterations to be released en masse without any scientific scrutiny. Any dissent to the experiment is frowned upon because scientists are counted on to deliver in order to justify their existence. Any conflicting safety data is covered up and buried because the market demands the GM technology.
Rommens believes modern science is arrogant in that we ignore the interconnectedness of all things and separate life into individual parts. For instance, how do genetic alterations to crops change soil ecology, insect life and other plant life? How do pesticides damage and change microbes that live within humans and other animals? What are the long term consequences of altering the natural environment at the genetic level? Are GM potatoes digested in the same way as heirloom varieties? What nutrients and minerals might they lack? GM experiments in the laboratory do not consider long term deficiencies and ecological changes in the field.
“Looking back at myself and my colleagues, I believe now that we were all brainwashed; that we all brainwashed ourselves,” says Rommens. “We believed that the essence of life was a dead molecule, DNA, and that we could improve life by changing this molecule in the lab. We also assumed that theoretical knowledge was all we needed to succeed, and that a single genetic change would always have one intentional effect only.”
Rommens also opened up on how genetic changes to crops affect pollinators in negative ways. The small double stranded RNAs that cause gene silencing are also expressed in the plant’s pollen. When bees consume the pollen, the double stranded RNAs can silence bee genes and adversely affect their survival.