Genetically engineered crops have been grown in large numbers across the States since 1996.  These genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are created by taking a gene (or genes) from an unrelated species like a bacterium and splicing it (them) into a crop like corn or cotton with the intention of improving some aspect of it (to protect against herbicides, drought, etc.).  These GMOs have received the Food and Drug Administration’s label of ‘Generally Recognized as Safe’, but as Southerners, as a people with a strong Christian and agrarian heritage, we need to examine that claim.

The Southerner’s first guide will naturally be the Holy Scriptures.  What do they tell us about how we should approach the creation?  In the opening chapter of Genesis, the Holy Prophet Moses writes this about the plants and animals God made:

[11] And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
[12] And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

[20] And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
[21] And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

[24] And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
[25] And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

Gen. 1: 11-12, 20-1, 24-5

The implication here is that every species of plant and animal will reproduce ‘after his kind’, i.e., that mixing of species was not God’s intention for His creation.  But let us test that against the Church Fathers.  They see more deeply into the meaning of the verses of the Bible than ordinary folk do.  How do they understand those we have just quoted?  St Ambrose of Milan (+397) writes,

What pure and untarnished generations follow without intermingling one after another, so that a thymallus produces a thymallus; a sea-wolf, a sea-wolf.  The sea-scorpion, too, preserves unstained its marriage bed….  Fish know nothing of union with alien species.  They do not have unnatural betrothals such as are designedly brought about between animals of two different species as, for instance, the donkey and the mare, or again the female donkey and the horse, both being examples of unnatural union.  Certainly there are cases in which nature suffers more in the nature of defilement rather than that of injury to the individual.  Man as an abettor of hybrid barrenness is responsible for this.  He considers a mongrel animal more valuable than one of a genuine species.  You mix together alien species and you mingle diverse seeds.

Hexaemeron, quoted in Fr Seraphim Rose, Genesis, Creation, and Early Man: The Orthodox Christian Vision, 2nd edn., Hieromonk Damascene, ed., Platina, Cal., St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2011, p. 185.

St Basil the Great (+379) adds,

The nature of existing objects, set in motion by one command, passes through creation without change….  …it continues to preserve each of the animals by uninterrupted successions until the consummation of the universe.  No length of time causes the specific characteristics of the animals to be corrupted or effaced, but, as if established just recently, nature, ever fresh, moves along with time.

 . . . from seeds spring forth plants related to the seeds sown.  Thus, what was put forth by the earth in its first generation has been preserved until the present time, since the kinds persisted through constant reproduction.

Hexaemeron, quoted in Fr Seraphim, pgs. 182-3.

Our hunch about Genesis 1 is here confirmed by the Fathers:  The mixing of species, whether plant or animal, was not God’s intention.  Each species was meant to remain separate and distinct ‘until the consummation of the universe’, and, furthermore, that mingling them would result in harm for nature in some form. 

This last word from the Fathers is being confirmed in many disastrous ways.  GM crops are leading to all kinds of diseases and deformities:

But what we do know is that a number of scientific studies seem to indicate that GMO food is not healthy.  According to a paper released by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, animal studies have linked GMO food with a whole host of health problems

“Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.

Sadly, the health consequences from eating GMO food may not just be temporary.  In fact, one study found that the effects of eating genetically-modified food could last for a lot longer that anyone had anticipated

The only published human feeding study revealed what may be the most dangerous problem from GM foods. The gene inserted into GM soy transfers into the DNA of bacteria living inside our intestines and continues to function. This means that long after we stop eating GMOs, we may still have potentially harmful GM proteins produced continuously inside of us. Put more plainly, eating a corn chip produced from Bt corn might transform our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories, possibly for the rest of our lives.

Michael Snyder

William Engdahl puts forward even more of these nightmarish effects.

The Southern States, one after another, through the Grace of God and their good sense – Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana – have lately been passing stout pro-life legislation (heartbeat bills and the like).  But the raising and eating of GM crops is begetting more and more sickness and death for men, women, and children alike, as well as for the wider sphere of the creation:  bees, butterflies, earthworms.  It is time the Southern States took the pro-life cause a step further by casting out from their borders any and all GMOs.  Why should we bring more Southern children into the world only to poison them from the day they are born to they day they die with this kind of ‘food’?

That will not do.  It is a denial of who we are as a people:  Southerners do not sacrifice the good of others for the idolatrous sake of the work of our minds and hands.  Rather, we sacrifice ourselves on behalf of other men and the creation, in imitation of Christ Who was crucified that they all might be renewed (Rom. 8:18-22).  The way forward is clear:  Return to traditional methods of farming, for the well-being of mankind and of the creation he was made ‘to dress and to keep’ (Gen. 2:15).

Walt Garlington

Walt Garlington is a chemical engineer turned writer (and, when able, a planter). He makes his home in Louisiana and is editor of the 'Confiteri: A Southern Perspective' web site.

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