a different kind of coffee break with Gerry and Ray Coffey

Disease-Free Living Through Fitness and Nutrition


Genetically Engineered Foods

Campaign Against Real Problems
Rhio's response to someone who thinks that campaigning against genetically engineered food is the wrong battle to fight

Subj: Campaign against real problems
Date: 4/8/2003
From: [email protected]  
To: [email protected]  


I must say that for right now I believe you have picked the wrong battle to fight. GE food products are not something that is terrible for the world. If it can save billions of lives and be safe in the process why fight it. Most campaigns against GE foods come down to them being unsafe and freak foods. Well I have to assume that when they are tested by 3 different systems including the FDA they are safe. Until someone hands me a complete test of what happens to my body when eating GE foods I will consider them safe.

I for one will say that I do not go hungry everyday. I love growing food in my garden to eat, but I cannot stop other starving people around the world to go hungry because I believe GE foods are dangerous. Basing that on no actual evidence other than they created it so it has to have side effects. I am not sure how you can cause young children to starve to death everyday simply because YOU do not like what THEY will be eating. I do not believe it is your choice to keep a starving boy or girl from eating GE food that can save their lives. That should be their choice. You have the same choice, but do not assume that you can keep food from other countries. Other people just because you would rather everyone eat organic food. Is eating moldy or rotten bread good for them? Definitely not but they are still forced to eat those foods because they have no other choice.

My intent was not to anger anyone with this message. Just to see if we can let everyone decide for him or herself what THEY should be eating.


Denver, CO

April 20, 2003

Dear Chad,

Your letter regarding GE foods was forwarded to me for a response. I am an opponent of GE foods and lecture on the subject.

I wanted to respectfully answer each of your points because I believe that you are unaware of the very real and uncertain implications that the proliferation of GE foods has for human health and for the environment. You are not aware of facts showing the damage that results from growing these foods.

You wrote, "My intent was not to anger anyone with this message. Just to see if we can let everyone decide for him or herself what THEY should be eating."

I'll start with your closing remark. The trouble is, everyone is NOT able to decide for him or herself what THEY should be eating, because GE foods are not labeled in the USA. Without labeling of GE products, this choice has been taken away from us. (That is, unless we purchase organically grown foods. And even with organic foods, there is a risk of GE contamination - see further below).

You also wrote that GE foods are tested by three different systems, including the FDA. The FDA does not test GE foods for safety or anything else. No US government agency tests the safety of genetically altered foods. This is a fact. They rely on industry tests, but even these tests are not mandatory. It's like the honor system. They are relying on the industry to monitor itself. When it concerns our food safety, I do not believe that industry should monitor itself. It didn't work in the tobacco industry, it doesn't work in the chemical industry and I know it's not working in the food industry.

Our government classifies GE food as "substantially equivalent" to non-GE food. However there were no tests of any kind performed to establish this designation. In 1991, during the first Bush administration, a post was created in the FDA called, I think, Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy. Michael Taylor, a lawyer working for Monsanto on policy issues, was revolved (appointed) into the FDA to be the Deputy Commissioner and to write the policy for GE food. He wrote the pro-GE policy, despite the vigorous objection of the FDA's own scientists, whose opinions he overruled. After Michael Taylor wrote this policy, he was revolved back out of the FDA to the private sector again - a job at Monsanto awaited him. You've heard of the "revolving door policy" in our government? This shameful history only serves private industry and not the people (consumers) who are supposed to be protected by the FDA.

Some prominent researchers, lawyers and writers opposed to GE include David Suzuki, Vandana Shiva, Mae-Wan Ho, Steve Druker, Brian Tokar, Andrew Kimbrell, Joe Cummins, and Arpad Pusztai. Put any of these names into a search engine for more information.

Dr. Arpad Pusztai, a genetic scientist working at the Rowett Research Institute in Scotland was originally very pro GE. In 1998, he set up a 3 year, $1.6 million study, to test the effects of genetically altered foods on rats. His study included rats feeding on three different types of potatoes as follows:

1) regular non-GE potatoes

2) Genetically engineered potatoes (the potatoes were spliced with a snowdrop lectin - the lectin was believed to make the plant toxic to insects).

3) Regular potatoes mixed with the same lectin - but not genetically engineered lectin.

Out of the three groups of rats, only the group feeding on GE potatoes suffered ill effects. In ten days all their organs decreased in weight, signaling a compromised immune system. They also suffered from viral infections of the stomach lining.

Prior to his own research, Dr. Pusztai was a proponent of GE and he fully expected his research to give GE a clean bill of health. After evaluating the results of only ten days of the much longer study, he went on a TV show and told of his research findings. Within 48 hours, Dr. Pusztai was relieved of his long-standing post at the Rowett Research Institute, denied access to his research and put under a gag order. You may well ask: "What could keep him from talking - why was he successfully gagged? It was because the Institute also threatened to fire his entire research team. Now, of course, the doctor has retrieved his research documents and is talking through lectures all over the world. This is only one of too few "independent research" studies conducted that suggest that GE food is dangerous to human health. It is very difficult to get the truth out when the very institution authorizing research tries to suppress it, because it does not like the results.

One of the facts of life in our times is that many Institutions which are supposed to conduct "independent research" are really beholden to the private industries which fund them. This is often the case with our land-grant universities, as these universities generally have contract partners in private industry. How can we assure that research data is made public, when and if the results of that research may go against what the private industry partners are promoting? Honesty, integrity and transparency seem to get lost in these kinds of arrangements.

You can read more about Arpad Pusztai by putting his name into a Google search. There is also more information on my website:  - both in the Articles section under Biotechnology and in the Links section under Genetic Engineering.

In 1989, a genetically engineered batch of the food supplement, L-tryptophan,* sold in the US by a Japanese company, Showa Denko, caused the death of dozens of people, and the permanent disability of 1500 more. Five thousand people, in all, were affected adversely. This only occurred with the genetically modified version, yet ALL L-tryptophan was taken off the market. The genetic engineering of L-tryptophan produced a toxin - an unexpected occurrence. Had testing been done prior to this occurrence, these deaths and disabilities could have been avoided.

* L-tryptophan is a naturally occurring amino acid.

A very strong thread throughout your letter is the conviction that, if GE is not allowed to proceed, somehow people all over the world will starve. Quite the opposite, available research shows that yields DECREASED in GE plants. A 2-year study out of the University of Nebraska on Round Up Ready soybeans, showed conclusively that yield was reduced. High yielding conventional soybeans produced 57.7 bushels per acre, while GE soybeans produced 52 bushels per acre, a substantial reduction. At the same time, growing the GE soybeans involved the use of more herbicide. Genetically engineered Round Up Ready soybeans are engineered to resist herbicide; specifically, the Round Up Ready Herbicide, which is also sold by Monsanto, the same company which sells the GE seed. When these herbicides are applied, all surrounding plant life (weeds), and the attendant life that lives and feeds on these plants, is killed. Only the target plant is allowed to live. In this sense, GE is a culture of death and destruction. True organic agriculture understands and works with surrounding plant life (weeds). Weeds in cohabitation with target plants assist them in many beneficial ways; breaking up hardpans with their stronger root systems, bringing moisture up to the surface, and recycling nutrients and reducing water needs when applied as mulch.

Researchers report that yields are reduced in GE agriculture because the alteration of the genome in a plant or organism causes a destabilization of the entire structure. The plant is not functioning at its optimum level and yield is reduced. This same destabilization also reduces the nutrients contained in GE food.

So far, all independent research has substantiated these reductions in both yields and nutrients.

The biotechnology industry has launched a $250 million-dollar advertising campaign to convince the American people of the {dubious} benefits of GE. Your belief that we need these foods to feed the starving people of the world was probably garnered from such PR. Not all the money is spent on ads - some of it is spent in strategically placed propaganda, masquerading as science.

One thing that you can be sure of is that, within the legitimate scientific community, there is no agreement or consensus as to the safety of GE foods.

Two more points I will mention, before I end. For those who choose to be a vegetarian, how can their choice be respected if we allow the splicing of animal and insect genes into plants and then do not tell them about it through labeling?

And lastly, in Nature's wondrous system, pollen goes forth through wind, insects and bees to fertilize and even spontaneously hybridize new plants with a plant's close relatives in the world of weeds. This has been a form of natural evolution for plants. But in all the eons of our earth, Nature never, ever crossed a fish gene with a tomato or placed a rat gene into a broccolini plant because Nature has barriers, natural constraints, that do not allow such things to happen. Now, all of a sudden, in what is surely an affront to the integrity of Nature, we are allowing the crossing of all kinds of organisms.

You finished your letter with the question of choice. You said that we have the same choice as the farmers who plant GE.

I choose to be an organic farmer. If my neighbor plants GE seeds across the way from me, and our plants come to flower at the same time, my organic plants will be contaminated with his GE organisms. How does that give me the choice that I need to be organic? This has happened already and many organic farmers in the Midwest can no longer call themselves organic, through no fault of their own. GE technology is a form of trespass onto another person's property and essentially denies them the right to harvest the plant of their choice. In the upside down world that we live in, farmers are being sued because there are GE plants growing on their land (that they never planted) because of this pollen contamination process. Monsanto and other biotech corporations are suing farmers because they claim that the farmers stole their patented technology. In reality, the biotech corporation, with its GE technology, has been the trespasser and has stolen the farmer's use of his land, and denied him the right to grow plants of his own choice on his own land. An unhappy state of affairs.

I note that you are a gardener, so hope that you understand the unfairness of this situation.

GE plants, if they are to be grown at all, should be grown in contained environments - biospheres and such - so that their pollen cannot contaminate the entire countryside.

I hope that I have been able to give you at least some food for further thought and deliberation.


Rhio's Raw Energy  

| Genetically Engineered Foods | Home Page | Articles | Programs | Recipes |

Please feel free to write to us with your comments and questions [email protected]


This site is hosted and maintained by:
The Mary T. and Frank L. Hoffman Family Foundation

Thank you for visiting
Since date.gif (991 bytes)