The Genetic Engineering Nightmare Comes Closer
Copyright Tony Burfield May 2003

Extact details of the botanical origin of natural materials are a basic requirement of many branches of alternative medicine in many areas of professional practice and research. In this way we hope to ensure that we use, say, oil of Yugoslavian grown German Chamomile Chamomilla recutita as an anti-inflammatory for the skin, we will be using a form which hopefully has high levels of the desirable efficacious properties of chamazulene and a-bisabolol, and low levels of the unwanted bisalol oxides. In other words we are drawing on a body of knowledge relating to a history of previous usage for certain conditions, with tried and tested essential oils of known characteristics.

We are informed in a recent article that geneticists in the US and Israel (P. Gates 2003) are working on ways of extracting scent producing genes of roses and inserting them into bacteria. In this way they hope to produce perfumed flowers which were previously scentless, and presumably produce valuable rose oil in the laboratory as against having to tediously and expensively import the real thing from Morocco or Egypt – when its’ available that is. The rose crop has failed several years running in Morocco because of drought.

At first glance I suppose it sounds like fun to be able in the future to produce sunflowers that smell like bananas, or daisies that smell of jasmine. The problem is that unnaturally produced genetic material has a way of staying around for tens of thousands of years, and maybe inserting itself into wild or crop plants, when you don’t want it to. This of course is already happening in the US, and because of the level of GM food croppage, some certifying authorities do not consider that organic essential oils can any longer be signed off, if produced from aromatic plants grown there. This is turn has led to GM companies leading campaigns against those who are telling the truth in these matters, and hoping against hope that the next stock market melt down wont be GM companies themselves, when the public at large realises what’s happening.

For natural perfumers, aromatherapists, herbalists and professionals in sister industries, the idea of GM produced plant oils is abhorrent. We have enough problems ensuring analytical consistency in essential oils produced from cloned plants – natural variation from a number of intrinsic and extrinsic factors are variables we have to live with on a daily basis in the essential oil industry. In Europe it may be illegal, or against individual nation, or the company policies of national and international aroma concerns to use these GM derived materials anyway. It would be interesting to see exactly who’s interests they think they are furthering by engaging in this work. Potential GM pollution of the DNA of the plant life of this planet seems to be set to be yet another tombstone in this planets’ growing graveyard. It is already littered with tombstones labelled: chemical and radioactive pollution.  

P. Gates (2003) "Tomorrows World - Rose Secrets Revealed" Gardeners World June 2001 p94.