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Health Hazards of Genetically-Manipulated Foods

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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.
  1. 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.

  2. 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.


  3. 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.

  4. 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:


    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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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:


Environmental Hazards

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:

http://www.ethicalinvesting.com/monsanto/news/

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:

  1. "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.

  2. "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.

  3. "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.

  4. "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.

  5. "Farmers are Reaping Rewards of Growing Genetically-Manipulated Crops."

    Farmers are being victimized as well. Evidence of problems they are experiencing include:


    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.

  6. "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.


What You Can Do (7 Steps)

  1. Do what you can to remove genetically-manipulated food ingredients from your diet and your family's diet. You can begin to do this by locating stores in your area which sell foods with organic soy, corn, dairy, and potato ingredients. The stores with the largest selection of such products include:


  2. Print this web page out and share it with others!

  3. Join others in creating web page links to the Soy Info Online! web page or this subpage.

  4. Examine the organizations and web page resources below to determine which group(s) you want to work with so that we can keep food free of genetic manipulation.

  5. Keep up-to-date on the latest news by subscribing to a discussion group listed in the Resource section below and/or by checking the Ethical Investing page for news updates on genetically-manipulated food issues.

  6. Move your investments out of stocks, mutual funds, retirement funds, etc. which involve companies that produce genetically-manipulated crops and foods (Monsanto, Dupont, Novartis and Agrevo [Hoechst and Schering]). Europe's largest bank recently warned large investors that " GMOs [investments] are dead". These companies' stocks are falling quickly and you will lose money or certainly not make as much money as you can if you have stocks or mutual fund and retirement fund investments that involve these companies. Please check the list of mutual funds (e.g., Fidelity, Janus) that invest in Monsanto stock. Also, please join others by checking the Ethical Investing Web Page for ideas on moving your investments.

  7. Please contact grocery stores to ask them to carry more organic foods including soy products, corn, potatoes and other produce. Contact food product manufacturers and ask them to replace any non-organic soy, corn, potato, dairy or canola ingredients they have with organic, non-genetically-manipulated ingredients. Sometimes the manufacturer will listen to consumer requests as is happening all over Europe. Sometimes they will claim that there are no non-genetically-manipulated sources for the ingredients they use. That is rarely the case as manufacturers all over Europe and Asia are removing gentically-manipulated ingredients from their products (Examples). Other times, they will respond with statements which originated with the genetic manipulation industry. However, it will only take a few major manufacturers in the U.S. to switch to non-genetically-manipulated ingredients and the rest will follow in order to avoid losing market share. So, please be persistent!

Resources

Organizations/Web Pages


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