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Disease-Free Living Through Fitness and Nutrition

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Genetically Engineered Foods
How to Avoid Genetically-Manipulated (GMO) Food Ingredients

In North America, all soy that is labeled "organic soy" is guaranteed to not be genetically-manipulated and not be treated with herbicides. Look for soy products and ingredients (e.g., tofu, tempeh, miso, soy sauce, soy milk, etc.) which are organic. All other soy ingredients are almost always genetically-manipulated and herbicide-treated. The same is true for canola, corn, dairy products and potatoes. Look for organic corn, potato and dairy ingredients at your local health food store. Check the ingredients labels carefully. It may be best to avoid canola altogether because it is rarely organic and is usually chemically-treated as detailed by world expert, Udo Erasmus. Outside of Europe and Asia it may not be possible at this time to avoid genetically-manipulated ingredients 100% of the time, but it is a good idea to avoid them when possible. The List of Companies Pledging to Remove GMO Ingredients is another very useful resource.

Health Hazards

There are a number of compelling reasons to completely avoid genetically-manipulated and herbicide-treated food ingredients from soy, corn, canola, dairy and potatoes. Children should be particularly careful to avoid such non-organic food ingredients.

Scientists attending the Open-ended Working Group on Biosafety of The UN-Convention on Biological Diversity (13-17 October, 1998) implored "all governments to use whatever methods available to them to bar from their markets, on grounds of injury to public health, Monsanto's genetically manipulated (GM) [herbicide-resistant] Roundup-Ready (RR) soybean." Non-organic soy ingredients are made with Roundup-Ready soybeans. Full Text of News Release and Scientists' Statement.

A recent experiment conducted by independent expert Dr. Alpad Pusztai in the United Kingdom has shown that genetically-manipulated foods can, when fed to animals in reasonable amounts, cause very gradual organ damage and immune system damage.

The food used in the experiment was genetically-manipulated potatoes. Two sets of potatoes were grown in the same pot and greenhouse: 1) a genetically-manipulated variety altered to produce a non-toxic "GNA lectin", and 2) a normal variety of potato. The normal potato was fed to animals with no adverse effects. The genetically-manipulated potato caused gradual organ damage and immune system damage.

A separate followup experiment conducted by Dr. S.W.B. Ewen, a Senior Pathologist at the University of Aberdeen, has confirmed that it was not the "GNA lectin," but toxic or infectious by-products of the genetic manipulation process led to the immune system damage and organ damage in the animals fed genetically-manipulated potatoes. Because it was not the lectin in the potatoes, but the genetic manipulation process itself which led to toxicity, similar results might be seen in animals or humans fed genetically-manipulated soy, canola, and corn over a long period of time (i.e., years or decades).

There were initial reports of flaws in the research when government agencies audited the Dr. Pusztai's preliminary notes. But since that time, over 20 top scientists around the world have peer-reviewed the Final Report and stated that the conclusions are justified. Parts of these experiments conducted by Dr. Pusztai and Dr. Ewen were recently published in the scientific journal, The Lancet. Most of The Lancet reviewers deemed it acceptable research for publication.

A couple of reviewers and other scientists and organizations receiving biotech money have been critical of the research. They have made the following statements (paraphrased below):

"Raw potatos should not have been fed to the animals in the experiment." However, the animals eating non-genetically manipulated raw potatos did fine. It was only the genetically manipulated food which caused health problems.

"Too few animals were used." Initial objections of The Lancet's statistician reviewer were satisfied. Enough animals were used to show a statistically significant difference between the test group and control group.

"There was an inadequate control group." This is a non-specific criticism. The experiment wasn't perfect. But the only difference between the two groups of animals was that one group ate genetically manipulated foods and the other didn't.

"One cannot take the results of this experiment and apply it to all genetically manipulated foods." The only difference was the genetic manipulation of the potatos. The same hazards may or may not be found in genetically manipulated soy, canola, etc. It is prudent to assume that all genetically manipulated ingredients have the same slow toxic effects until long-term, independent research can be conducted on each genetically manipulated crop.

On ocassion, news reports of flaws in the research are mistakenly repeated, but almost independent scientists who have seen the Final Report of Dr. Pusztai's research and are aware of the results of Dr. Ewen's research agree that the conclusions are justified.

News Report on Dr. Pusztai's Research Interview with Dr. Pusztai Summary of the Peer-Review by Researchers Confirming Research by Dr. S.W.B. Ewen (Scroll Down to Text)

There are several differences between the normal breeding process and the artificial genetic manipulation process. One key difference is the use of highly-infectious viruses for artificial genetic manipulation as a promoter to switch on the introduced gene. One commonly-used virus is a highly-infectious form of the Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (CaMV). (The form of CaMV virus found in normal foods is not highly-infectious and cannot be absorbed by mammals.) The dangers were described in detail by reknowed geneticist Dr. Mae-Wan Ho in a meeting on March 31st 1999 at the invitation of UK Environment Minister, Michael Meacher. Additional scientific information about the dangers presented by infectious promoter viruses such as CaMV are described by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Dr. Joe Cummins, Emeritus Professor of Genetics, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Western Ontario. Finally, a recent scientific report by Molecular Biologist, Angela Ryan provides further concerns regarding the use of the CaMV virus to create genetically-manipulated foods.

Another key difference between normal breeding and artificial genetic manipulation is that the genetic manipulation greatly increases the risk that the plant (e.g., soy) will develop toxic or allergy-causing compounds. Such unexpected changes have already been shown to occur in some genetically-manipulated crops.

The insertion of a new gene can sometimes alter the synthesis of chemicals in the plant. Such an alteration can lead to the change in existing chemical compounds in the plant (including a possible significant increase in existing levels of toxic compounds) or the development of new toxic or allergy-causing compounds. There would be no way to predict these effects in advance and it would be difficult to test for these effects without many years of careful, independent research on human test subjects. Gradual toxic effects could occur over weeks, months, years, or even decades and society would not be aware of the health damage until it was too late.

Genetic Manipulation industry representatives often point out that such unexpected hazards could be seen when breeding plants. This is true. However, the evidence demonstrates that there is a much greater likelihood of these unexpected toxic and allergic effects from genetically-manipulated plants/food ingredients. These potentially dangerous effects and their greater likelihood in genetically manipulated crops/food ingredients were discussed in some detail in by one of the world's top experts on genetically manipulated crops:

Scientific principles for ecologically based risk assessment of transgenic organisms P.J. Regal, Published in Molecular Ecology (1994) 3:5-13 (NOTE: Scroll down to the heading: "Ecologically adaptive pleiotropic effects?" approximately 3/5 of the way down the document)

For an excellent summary related to toxic and allergy-causing substances appearing in genetically-manipulated foods, please see the summary of "Assessing the Safety and Nutritional Quality of Genetically Engineered Foods" by Dr. John Fagan, Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. At the end of the summary, there are examples provided of genetically-manipulated crops/ingredients that unexpectedly produced toxic or unusual chemical compounds.

Another major risk from genetically-manipulated foods is the possibility that regular exposure to foreign DNA and RNA material inserted into these artificial foods could cause allergic reactions or autoimmune diseases. Recent scientific research has shown that fragments of DNA from genetically-manipulated food ingredients can be detected in the brains of animals fed these food ingredients. Dr. Sharyn Martin, Ph.D. discusses the evidence that DNA and RNA fragments can cause adverse immune system reactions including autoimmune disorders in Immunological Reactions to DNA and RNA.

Scientists in the United Kingdom measured a 50% increase in soy allergies in one year. They believe that the increase in soy allergies may be caused by the increase use of genetically-manipulated soy ingredients.

Finally, some genetically-manipulated crops are changed so that they produce their own high levels of pesticides. For example, genetically-manipulated "Bt" crops have been shown to emit very high levels of toxins. Plants genetically-manipulated to produce Bt toxin produce at least 1000 times more Bt toxin per acre than does a heavy application of Bt directly on the plants. This may lead to problems with long-term ingestion of such foods (such as non-organic corn and corn-based sweeteners). Other hazards related to crops manipulated to produce their own pesticides are discussed in more detail by Dr. Joseph Cummins, Professor of Genetics in "Plant-Pesticides in GE-food: A Potential Health Risk". Even if the genetically-manipulated plant does not produce its own pesticides, it has been shown conclusively in scientific research that the herbicides used on some of these non-organic, genetically-manipulated plants (e.g., soy, canola, corn) are extremely toxic and can cause birth defects.

Additional authoritative information written by some of the world's leading scientific experts for laypersons, physicians and scientists can be found at:

Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Application of Science and Technology

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