Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods and Crops – Why We Need A Global Moratorium

The technology of genetic engineering (GE), wielded by transnational “life science” corporations such as Monsanto and Novartis, is the practice of altering or disrupting the genetic blueprints of living organisms – plants, animals, humans, microorganisms – patenting them, and then selling the resulting gene-foods, seeds or other products for profit. Life science corporations proclaim that their new products will make agriculture sustainable, eliminate world hunger, cure disease and vastly improve public health. In reality, through their business practices and political lobbying, the gene engineers have made it clear that they intend to use GE to dominate and monopolize the global market for seeds, foods, fiber and medical products.

GE is a revolutionary new technology still in its early experimental stages. This technology has the power to break down fundamental genetic barriers, not only between species, but also between humans, animals and plants. By randomly inserting together the genes of non-related species – utilizing viruses, antibiotic-resistant genes, and bacteria as vectors, markers and promoters – and permanently altering their genetic codes, gene-altered organisms are created that pass these genetic changes onto their offspring through heredity. Gene engineers all over the world are now snipping, inserting, recombining, rearranging, editing and programming genetic material. Animal genes and even human genes are randomly inserted into the chromosomes of plants, fish and animals, creating heretofore unimaginable transgenic life forms. For the first time in history, transnational biotechnology corporations are becoming the architects and “owners” of life.
What You Can Do

Volunteer to help form an anti-GE Grassroots Action Network in your community: call 218-726-1443 or email safefood@cp.duluth.mn.us
Call for labeling: Alliance for Bio-Integrity v. Shalala, Docket Number 98-1300 (CKK)
Mail to: Jane Henney, Commissioner
Food & Drug Administration
5600 Fisher Lane, Room 1471
Rockville, MD 20857
Contact the EPA in support of the lawsuit that asks the agency to take GMO crops that contain Bt (corn, cotton and potatoes) off the market until further testing is done to evaluate their environmental risks and potential threats to organic farmers. Mention the following case name and docket number: Greenpeace International v. Browner, Docket Number 99-389 (LFO).
Mail to: Carol M. Browner, Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency
401 M St., SW, Room W1200
Washington, D.C. 20460

Boycott known GE foods: Nabisco (Snackwells granola bars): 1-800-8NABNET (1-800-862-2638)
General Mills (Total Corn Flakes, Bac-Os bacon bits): 1-800-328-1144
Heinz (Heinz 2 Baby Cereal): 1-800-USA-BABY (1-800-872-2229)
Kellogg’s (Corn Flakes): 1-800-962-1413
Nestle (Carnation Alsoy Infant formula): 1-818-549-6818
Eat organic foods.

Keep organic organic. Write a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and demand that no loopholes be included in National Organic Standards that would allow any genetically engineered foods to be considered organic.
Mail to: Keith Jones, Program Manager
Room 2510-SAG Stop 0275
P.O. Box 96456
Washington, D.C. 20090-6456

With little or no regulatory restraints, labeling requirements or scientific protocol, bio-engineers have begun creating hundreds of new GE “Frankenfoods” and crops, oblivious to human and environmental hazards, or negative socioeconomic impacts on the world’s several billion farmers and rural villagers. Despite an increasing number of scientists warning that current gene-splicing techniques are crude, inexact and unpredictable (and therefore inherently dangerous) pro-biotech governments and regulatory agencies, led by the U.S., maintain that GE foods and crops require neither mandatory labeling nor pre-market safety-testing.

There are currently more than four dozen genetically engineered foods and crops being grown or sold in the U.S. Over 70 million acres of GE crops are presently under cultivation in the U.S., while up to 500,000 dairy cows are being injected regularly with Monsanto’s recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). Most supermarket processed food items now “test positive” for the presence of GE ingredients. According to the biotechnology industry almost 100% of U.S. food and fiber will be genetically engineered within five to 10 years. The “hidden menu” of these unlabeled genetically engineered foods and food ingredients in the U.S. now includes soybeans, soy oil, corn, potatoes, squash, canola oil, cotton seed oil, papaya, tomatoes and dairy products.

Genetic engineering of food and fiber products is inherently unpredictable and dangerous for humans, for animals, for the environment and for the future of sustainable and organic agriculture. As Dr. Michael Antoniou, a British molecular scientist points out, gene-splicing has already resulted in the “unexpected production of toxic substances… in genetically engineered bacteria, yeast, plants and animals with the problem remaining undetected until a major health hazard has arisen.”

The hazards of GE foods and crops fall basically into three categories: human health, environmental and socioeconomic.

Toxins and poisons
In 1989 a genetically engineered brand of L-tryptophan, a common dietary supplement, killed 37 Americans and permanently disabled or afflicted more than 5,000 others with a potentially fatal and painful blood disorder, eosinophilia myalgia syndrome (EMS). The manufacturer, Showa Denko, had for the first time in 1988-89 used GE bacteria to produce the over-the-counter supplement.

Increased cancer risks
In 1994, the FDA approved the sale of Monsanto’s controversial GE recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) – injected into dairy cows to force them to produce more milk – even though scientists warned that significantly higher levels (400-500% or more) of a potent chemical hormone in the milk of injected cows could pose serious hazards for human breast, prostate and colon cancer. The government of Canada banned rBGH in early 1999. The European Union (EU) has had a ban in place since 1994.