The discussion of GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) from an Islamic perspective is in it’s early stages of development, and this same conversation is hopefully taking place in other religions across the globe as the world begins to publicly debate the topic of GMO’s and how/if they can be accepted based on religious principles. Many new (and/or long-term) studies are beginning to paint a negative image on the safety and scientific integrity of GMO’s (Gilles-Eric Séralini). The conversations about the safety and morality of GMO’s, based on a religious perspective, are long over-due.
Islam, not unlike any other religion from around the world, contains many specific instructions about how food should be planted, raised, harvested, butchered, preserved, cooked and eaten. These passages were written long before the invention of genetically modified organisms, but they speak clearly about the importance of clean and healthy food, of non-destructive methods of agriculture and of a different perspective of land ownership. We will take a look at some of these passages found in the Qur’an and the hadith (one of various reports describing the words, actions, or habits of the Islamic prophet Muhammad [pbuh]), and also point out pertinent facts about GMO’s that come into conflict with the Islamic traditional ways of growing and consuming food. Additionally, the book Medicine of the Prophet (Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya, trans. by Penelope Johnston, 1998) contains abundant information about natural healing and the use of food-as-medicine, and it gives us strong support for the argument that safe and high-quality food – and not an abundance of lower quality food using un-natural genetic engineering, toxic chemicals and pesticides – is needed for good health of an entire population. “The body only becomes strong in accordance with the quality of the food it accepts, not its quantity.” (Medicine of the Prophet, Johnston (trans). page 13) In this article, we will discuss various points involving GMO’s – politics and Iraq, Islamic farming in Africa, land ownership and the gut/immune health.
Politics – A Condensed Timeline of GMO’s leading to “Order 81” in Iraq:
How GMO’s are slowly infiltrating traditional farming around the world
1994 – GMO Hits Grocery Stores
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Flavr Savr tomato for sale on grocery store shelves in the United States. The delayed-ripening tomato had a longer shelf life than conventional tomatoes.
1999 – GMO Food Crops Dominate
Over 100 million acres worldwide are planted with genetically engineered seeds. The marketplace begins embracing GMO technology at an alarming rate.
2004 April 26 – Order 81
“Order 81” is introduced as part of the “rehabilitation” of Iraq toward the end of the war. In his 400 days of service as CPA administrator, US diplomat L Paul Bremer issued a series of directives known collectively as the “100 Orders.” Bremer’s orders set up the building blocks of the new Iraq, and among them is Order 81, officially titled Amendments to Patent, Industrial Design, Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety Law.
What Order 81 did was to establish the strong intellectual property protections on seed and plant products that a company like the St. Louis-based Monsanto — purveyors of genetically modified (GM) seeds and other patented agricultural goods — requires before they’ll set up shop in a new market like the new Iraq. With these new protections, Iraq was open for business. In short, Order 81 was Bremer’s way of telling Monsanto that the same conditions had been created in Iraq that had led to the company’s stunning successes in India.
Order 81 deals specifically with Plant Variety Protection (PVP) because it is designed to protect the commercial interests of corporate seed companies. Its aim is to force Iraqi farmers to plant so-called “protected” crop varieties ‘defined as new, distinct uniform and stable’, and most likely genetically modified. This means Iraqi farmers will have one choice; to buy PVP registered seeds. Order 81 opens the way for patenting (ownership) of plant forms, and facilitates the introduction of genetically modified crops or organisms (GMOs) to Iraq. U.S. agricultural biotechnology corporations, such as Monsanto and Syngenta will be the beneficiaries. Iraqi farmers will be forced to buy their seeds from these corporations. GMOs will replace the old tradition of breeding closely related plants, and replace them with organisms composed of DNA from an altogether different species, e.g., bacterium genes into corn. In the long run, there won’t be a big enough gene pool for genetic viability. (Hassan)
The Emergence of Islamic (Conservative) Farming in Africa
Dr Ahmad Husna OBE (Africa) is the author of “Islamic Farming, A Toolkit for Conservation Farming.” The manual, which was instigated in 2012, is a faith-based curriculum for farming based on Islamic teachings and is the result of collaboration between Islamic clerics and scholars in Africa. Dr Husna is the author of the manual, which is “designed for trainers to inspire and train Muslim farmers on sustainable Islamic agriculture; incorporating their Islamic duties of stewardship of the land and practical methods to increase their harvests InshAllah.” (Husna, 6)
“What is particularly interesting in today’s context is the fact that the system described by the Muslim agronomists has much in common with the various methods of alternative farming practiced today under such names as sustainable agriculture, organic farming, permaculture, biodynamic farming, holistic agriculture, low-input farming, ecological farming, and regenerative agriculture, which all have sustainability as their ultimate goal: the ability to farm productively in perpetuity, without depletion of natural resources or harm to the environment and without compromising the needs of future generations.” (Husna)
GMO farming, unfortunately, has proven to be detrimental to future generations of human, animal and plant life. Round-up, which is sprayed on all GMO crops, has been detected in groundwater supplies worldwide, in the breast milk of 99% of American women, and herbicide usage has increased by 527 million pounds per year since the introduction of GMO’s. These sprays can cause mass die-offs in the insect and bird populations, and Round-up has been recently been labeled as “carcinogenic” in the state of California. GMO pollen can spread and infect neighboring plant life with un-natural DNA, altering the plant DNA permanently and harming the integrity of native plant, insect and animal life. Super weeds and super bugs have become a concern as well, and the diseases that the GMO’s were attempting to avoid are also mutating beyond the reaches of the chemicals. These diseases can spread to native plants. This could bring-on a national food crisis all by itself. (Benson)
Then let mankind look at his food, How We poured down water in torrents,
Then We broke open the Earth, splitting [it with sprouts], And caused to grow within it grain,
And grapes and herbage,And olives and palm trees,
And gardens of dense shrubbery,And fruit and grass—
[As] enjoyment for you and your grazing livestock.
Surah `Abasa: 24-32
“If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person, or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a sadaqah (voluntary charity) for him.” (Bukhari)
However, recent research on GMO’s has led to conclusions about the negative impact of GMO’s on insects, such as the following:
“Here we show that chronic exposure of bumble bees to two pesticides (neonicotinoid and pyrethroid) at concentrations that could approximate field-level exposure
impairs natural foraging behavior and increases worker mortality leading to significant reductions in brood development and colony success. ” (Mercola)
At least 94% of the 92 million acres of corn planted across the U.S. this year will have been treated with either clothianidin or thiamethoxam (another neonicotinoid). (PAN) Bees are highly attracted to corn, and an entire colony can be gone in one day from exposure to these chemicals. Additionally, Round-up, Bt bacteria and other GMO byproducts are known to degrade and deplete the soil of its vital nutrients, leaving the soil arid and lifeless, upsetting the normal micro biome of the soil, and causing the soil to be unable to grow food without the use of more and more synthetic chemicals and fertilizers. The micro biome of the soil is what maintains the health of the plants, without it there is a high incidence of un-checked fungus and pests, which requires even more chemicals. It is an endless cycle and the only “cure” is to return the soil back to its healthy state, which can take many years and the cessation of GMO farming.
“Between the eighth and 12th centuries, the Islamic rules and land ownership and labour rights created big incentives to engage in agriculture. There are a number of hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) which relate to land ownership and the importance of equitable distribution of yields from agricultural production. During the Islamic Agricultural Revolution, Islamic precepts and customary laws ensured that farming was conducted more fairly and more effectively. For the first time in many places, any individual – man or woman – had the right to own, buy, sell, mortgage and inherit land, and most importantly, farm it as he or she liked.
Relatively low rates of taxation, where they existed at all, were paid as a fixed proportion of output, freeing farmers from uncertain taxes. Large estates, which had come to dominate everywhere and monopolise agriculture, were often broken down into smaller ownerships, or at least had to compete with smaller farms and individual peasant smallholdings. The lands around cities were given over to small market gardens and orchards. Serfdom and slavery were virtually absent from the countryside in the early Islamic world; instead, the legal and actual condition of the overwhelming majority of those who worked on the land was one of freedom.” (Ahmad, 14)
In comparison, a brief study of the history of Monsanto and GMO farming will reveal a history of land-grabbing by large corporations that has led to large-scale mono-cropping, loss of small family farms, deforestation, land erosion and a great loss of ancient topsoil, polluted water and soil, health issues in the entire population related to consumption of GMO’s, and a general lack of consciousness about long-term consequences. GMO farmers, in essence, seem to have a disconnected relationship with Nature, which seems at-odds with what a farmer should be. Countless traditional farmers in countries whose politicians have allowed GMO agriculture into their borders have lost their farms, many times due to wind-blown GMO pollen contamination on fields that were not planted with GMO seeds. Since GMO seeds are patented, lawyers have been able to sure small farmers for having contaminated fields. These expensive lawsuits seem almost too unbelievable to be true, but the stories are many and the small farmer is often helpless against bio-engineering giants like Monsanto, who have their own lawyers ready-to-go anytime a farm has been flagged “contaminated.” Alternatively, farmers who have signed contracts to grow GMO’s have lost the skills to grow a variety of edible food for their own families, most go into debt unless they receive subsidies (which come from taxes that you and I pay, and that never go to organic farmers), they cannot re-use seeds from year-to-year and many of them become sickly because of the toxicity of the spraying that happens all around them.
Genetic Contamination of Gut Flora (Microbiome)
The idea of having genetically engineered genes permanently living inside our guts has staggering implications:
- If the antibiotic gene inserted into most GM crops were to transfer, it could create antibiotic-resistant diseases.
- Bt toxins (Bacillus thuringiensis) inserted into GM food crops to kill pests are reaching the bloodstreams of 93% of women and 80% of unborn babies because of the consumption of meat, milk, and eggs from livestock fed GE corn. This could turn bacteria in our intestines into pesticide factories.
- Animal studies show that DNA in food can travel into organs throughout the body, even into the fetus. (Alliance for Natural Health)
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) noted that disease began in the gut. We know today that the gut flora (micro biome) is the core of our immune system and a necessary part of digestion. Without a balanced and healthy gut, good health is simply not achievable. Most American mothers are now eating GMO’s throughout their pregnancy, so their health is compromised during pregnancy more than ever before in human history. The unborn of modern times are not getting the same nutrition as mothers in the past, and these nutritional deficiencies and toxicities can cause genetic mutations at every step of development. GMO’s are causing genetic changes in the un-born that cannot be reversed and that can be passed-down to the next generation. These are permanent DNA changes with unknown consequences. It is also suspected that GMO’s play an important role in conditions such as IBS, autoimmune issues, food allergies and general poor health in many ways. It is common for people with food allergies to find quick relief from their “allergies” by switching to organic foods. So are they allergic to the food, or is something wrong with the GMO food? GMO’s are linked to sterility in rats after several generations of consumption, and hamster pups began to grow hair inside the mouth after several generations of parents that had been fed GMO food. It seems highly unlikely that any religion could justify these types of conditions brought-on by lab-created agriculture (as apposed to divinely-created) and the food it produces.
When considered from an Islamic perspective, GMO’s are in conflict with the religion. In fact, GMO’s are in conflict with most (if not all) religions, although this post was about Islam in particular. It is important that the religious leaders and followers educate themselves about GMO’s and become conscious of the politics and health concerns involving them. Please watch the following video – Interfaith Event on GMO’s – Imam Muhammad Musri Presentation to hear from a Muslim religious leader, about GMO’s from his perspective.
Ahmad, Dr Husna. “Islamic Farming, A Toolkit For Conservation Agriculture.”
Alliance for Natural Health-USA. Genetically Engineered Food Alters Our Digestive Systems! May 31, 2011.
Benson, Jonathon. “Seven ways GMO toxicity affects animals, plants and soil” Natural News, Jan 23, 2013.
Gillam, Carey. “Genetically Modified Crops Have Led To Pesticide Increase, Study Finds” Huffington Post, October 1, 2012
Gilles-Eric Séralini, Robin Mesnage, Nicolas Defarge & Joël Spiroux de Vendômois. “Biosafety and the ‘Seralini affair’ – scientific and regulatory reform are essential.”
Hassan, Ghali. “Biospiracy and GMO’s: The Fate of Iraq’s Agriculture”
Mercola, Dr Joseph. “Neonicotinoids and Bee Die Off: GMO Agriculture and Chemical Pesticides are Killing the Bees, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Slapped with Lawsuit.” Global Research, June 03, 2016.
PAN (Pesticide Action Network). “GE corn & sick honey bees – what’s the link?”