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Disease-Free Living Through Fitness and Nutrition
Genetically Engineered Foods
Is Genetically Engineered Food Safe?
Genetic Engineering and Its Dangers:
Essays Compiled by Dr. Ron Epstein
Bio-Safety - Risks From Genetically Engineered Organisms (GEOs)
The risks of irreversible damage to the environment have caused scientists around the world to demand a moratorium on the release of genetically-manipulated crops. This document focuses on health hazards. For a discussion of the environmental risks, please see the Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Application of Science and Technology web page.
Regulation of Genetically-Manipulated Foods
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not test nor require significant safety tests for genetically-manipulated foods. It has recently become known that the FDA's own scientists have been warning FDA officials that they are ignoring the potential hazards of genetically-manipulated foods. Neither the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nor the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) require any significant tests for the health effects of these crops.
As has been widely-reported, FDA, EPA, and USDA officials are often rewarded with lucrative jobs at companies that they were regulating. A recent report by the Edmonds Institute lists several of hundreds of possible examples of the revolving door between the regulators and the companies they are supposed to regulate.
Many organizations have expressed concern that officials at these government agencies regularly ignore concerns of their own scientists and the general public and then go out of their way to please companies that they regulate. For example, the health department in the U.K. raised the allowable food residue levels of Roundup (Monsanto's soybean and canola herbicide) by 200 times the existing level. This was done despite dangers expressed by the leading food safety experts. Similar increases in allowable pesticide and herbicide residues have been granted in the U.S. and other countries at the request of companies involved in genetically-manipulating foods.
Worldwide Condemnation of Genetically-Manipulated Crops/Foods
In many other countries, reknowned scientists, medical trade organizations and government officials are detailing the known health hazards and potential health hazards from genetically- manipulated food ingredients. For example, in the last several months, a top UK Scientist has warned about potential hazards from genetically-manipulated foods, the British Medical Association (BMA) has called for a ban on genetically-manipulated foods and the French President and German Chancellor listed genetically-manipulated foods under "Global Threats" at a recent summit meeting. Top scientists in Asia and other parts of the world are speaking out as well. This has caused many manufacturers and grocery stores chains all around the world (outside of North America) to ban genetically-manipulated food ingredients. In order to keep up with news from around the world, please read through the following compilation of news articles:
Corporate Public Relations (PR) Strategies
The multinational companies trying to sell genetically-manipulated foods (Monsanto, Dupont, Novartis, Agrevo [Hoechst and Schering]) have spared no expense in their public relations campaign. They have sometimes been successful in getting newspaper and magazine articles or television shows created to help promote genetically-manipulated crops. In addition, these multinational companies give huge sums of money to dietetic associations, farming and seed associations, grocery associations, and PR organizations (e.g., IFIC) in order to obtain help in propogating PR statements to the media and general public. Common PR statements include:
"Genetic Engineering is exactly like breeding and has been done for hundreds of years."
As described above, artificial genetic manipulation of plants/food ingredients is different from breeding and has significant hazards associated with it including toxicity hazards seen in recent research.
"Careful tests by the FDA, EPA, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have proven that these ingredients are safe." (Alternative: "We have the strictest regulatory process in the world"!)
These government agencies have not conducted, nor required any significant safety testing. Scientists around the world are calling for a moratorium on genetically-manipulated food ingredients and long-term, independent human studies lasting many years before these food are allowed for sale on the market. Because these government agencies are ignoring the hazards of genetically-manipulated foods, a very large alliance of scientists, consumer groups, environmental groups, and religious groups are suing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"Europe and Asia are not making scientific evalations of the issue, but relying on emotional arguments."
Many of the top scientists around the world are speaking out about the hazards of genetically-manipulated crops/food ingredients. A small selection of these scientists have signed the following referenced document calling for a moratorium on genetically-manipulated crops. These are independent scientists who do not receive money from companies researching, creating or selling these genetically-manipulated crops and food ingredients. When U.S. officials make these sorts of public comments (quoted above), they are insulting much of the population of Europe and Asia and perhaps will strengthen the desire of European and Asian countries to avoid imports of food ingredients from the United States and Canada.
"Genetically-manipulated crops are safer because less pesticides and herbicides are used."
In fact, recent research has shown that farmers growing genetically-manipulated crops use, on average, an equal amount or more pesticides than farmers growing non-genetically-manipulated, non-organic crops.
"Farmers are Reaping Rewards of Growing Genetically-Manipulated Crops."
Farmers are being victimized as well. Evidence of problems they are experiencing include:
Research showing reduced yields from genetically-manipulated crops.
More money spent on herbicides and pesticides for genetically-manipulated crops.
Potential of reduced farm land values.
Possible lawsuits and intimidation from Monsanto.
Increased costs in order to segregate their crops
Risk of possible permanent damage to their soil by growing genetically-manipulated crops.
The scientific journal Nature (September 9, 1999) has reported that some farmers are considering class-action lawsuits because the seed and chemical companies (e.g., Monsanto) were misrepresenting their products as benign. The Washington Post reported (September 18, 1999):
"American farmers planted [gene-altered crops] in good faith, with the belief that the product is safe and that they would be rewarded for their efforts," the American Corn Growers Association said in a statement last week. "Instead they find themselves misled by multinational seed and chemical companies and other commodity associations who only encouraged them to plant increased acres of these crops without any warning to farmers of the dangers associated with planting a crop that didn't have consumer acceptance."
Wheat farmers should prepare to avoid these genetically-manipulated seeds when they come on the market in the next year or two.
"Genetically-Manipulated crops have the potential to produce "functional foods" with extra nutrients and drugs which can save lives!"
The reality is that these nutrients or drugs can be taken separately when needed. The high cost of drugs is largely due to drug commpanies trying to recoup the millions of dollars of research money spent and is rarely due to high production costs. The costs of developing a drug-producing, genetically-manipulated plant is quite high. The costs of drugs will remain high wheather they are genetically-manipulated into plants or not. Therefore, these drugs and nutrients can be produced without genetic manipulation as been the case in the past. It is also important to keep in mind that Alternative Medicine techniques are now begining to replace the use of pharmaceuticals in some cases of disease treatment.
Originally, the corporate PR strategy was to say that genetically-manipulated crops would help "feed the world." But when it was pointed out that the world grows 1-1/2 times the amount of food needed to feed the population, that the problem was food distribution, and that genetically-manipulated crops have reduced yields, the companies changed their PR to say that genetically-manipulated crops will grow drugs and save lives.
There is a very serious danger of pollen from these manipulated crops infecting normal crops of the same species or of different species leading to the unintentional ingestion of drugs by the general population. Pollen can travel a very long way from fields to infect other crops. In addition, scientists are concerned that accidental inhalation of pollen from these genetically-manipulated plants might lead to adverse health effects in some people.
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