Setting the scene: young woman and her beau dining out. Later, woman dies of unknown poisoning. Suspect: boyfriend – until it’s discovered that she contracted an über-deadly new strain of e-coli. Did it come from the restaurant? “No!” the chef explains, bitterly. She runs a tight ship: “it had to have come in from the fields.”
Sound like the latest in a string of headlines? Nope, it’s the story line from the most recent episode of CSI: Miami titled “Bad Seed.” Yes, I’m a sucker for cheesy crime shows, David Caruso one-liners and overt Miami sexiness. I never thought I’d see overlap between my own passions and day job, with the CSI franchise, but it’s telling, I think, of how our movement has managed to get our messages across to the wider American audience. “Baby – we’ve made it to primetime!” In a way.
Warning: If you’re intending to watch the episode I’m totally going to give away the ending here!
How so? The episode was complete with shots of corn and tomato monocrops and undocumented farmworkers who work for one of many “organic” growers contracted by a mega-firm known as Dickson Organics. It just so happens that one of these farmers has an irrigation well where the e-coli contamination seemed to originate from, which of course lies just downhill from a huge cattle compound.
Case closed, right? Fine the farmer for negligent homicide? Well, in another plot twist, the original victim’s boyfriend has himself suffered from a poisoning, leaving him brain-dead and paralyzed. Turns out that this farmer has become the victim of “drift” from his neighbors, and water contamination from another, as he explains to the CSI team. Dickson Organics is going after his land and livelihood because they discovered genetic markers from their patented corn on his land.
In an effort to support this farmer’s fight against a likely lawsuit, the CSI team tracks down the GMO corn genetics. What they find is a bacterial gene has been fixed to the corn in order to better break down cellulose, and in turn allows people to more easily digest corn products. A seemingly beneficial quality of GMO corn, yeah? Except the bacteria is directly related to the bacterial strain that causes botulism – and paralysis – and the Dickson Organics CEO knew about it.