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GENETIC ENGINEERING & FOOD

Updated 7/24/2013   


         Dr. Bernard Presser D.C.

5696 Magnolia Woods Drive

Memphis, TN 38134



 

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Most people don't realize they may be eating foods from genetically engineered (GE) crops.  The FDA does not require labeling.  (I wonder why?).  More than 30 GE crops are now approved for sale in the US.  From 60% to 80% of foods in grocery stores (mostly processed foods) contain at least some GE ingredients such as soft drinks, candy bars, aspartame, canola oil, veggie burgers, tortilla chips, tacos, milk, cheese, tomato paste, berries, papaya, yellow squash, potato chips, and more.  Genetically modified (GM) soy and corn are frequently used in livestock feed.

Genetic modification occurs by transferring genes from one organism to another by processes that do not occur in Nature.  It is not a simple matter of selecting a gene that produces a desired trait and neatly inserting it into the target plant, animal, or microorganism.  In reality, all current genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are extremely complex constructions with DNA segments of bacterial, viral, or insect genes and/or antibiotic-resistant markers.  Direct insertion is not yet possible, so a "shotgun approach" is used.  Either genetic material is shot into target cells after the cell membrane is weakened by an electric shock or chemical, OR a modified microorganism is used to infect the target cell with the new gene.  It is never known where the new gene lands or if it will work.  A common way to determine if the new gene will work involves the use of antibiotic-resistant marker genes from antibiotic resistant bacteria.  The marker genes are attached to the gene with the desired trait and shot into the target cells.  The cells are then cultured and an antibiotic is added.  The cells that survive have adopted the new gene.  When the cells grow into a plant, every part of that plant contains antibiotic-resistant genes which, in as little as two hours after consumption by either animal or human, can be transferred to human gut bacteria.

When foreign DNA is inserted into a target cell, one of three defensive mechanisms occurs:  Usually the foreign DNA is digested and used as amino acids and energy.  It may also be rejected.  Or, the cell may enclose the foreign DNA and deactivate it.  Whichever the response, the cell will not have the desired trait from the new gene.  To overcome this natural protective process, a construction with a virus section (e.g. cauliflower mosaic virus) is built along with the new gene and the antibiotic-resistant marker gene.  The virus provides the signal that activates or promotes the new gene, ensuring that the gene is active and the desired trait works in the new plant.  Every current GMO plant is part virus.

There is concern that recombination of viruses in GMOs with other viruses may produce highly virulent viruses.  Since GM constructs are designed to cross species barriers and invade genomes (complete sets of chromosomes), they are likely to transfer horizontally, increasing the opportunity for genetic recombination.  The cauliflower mosaic virus, for example, is unstable within chromosomes of GM plants.  Later generations of the plants become unstable and variable.  The virus moves from one part of a chromosome to another, activating the gene next to it.  It randomly causes genes within the plant to work in ways that would not normally occur.  This can lead to future problems including reduction or imbalance of beneficial phytonutrients.  GM constructs can escape into wild relatives of the plants or contaminate non-GMO crops as has occurred with canola, corn, and soybeans.  Additional "unexpected" DNA has been discovered in GM soybeans.  In other words, GMOs make up a large-scale uncontrolled experiment.

Scientists are manipulating Nature without really knowing what they are doing or what the outcomes will be.  This is not a mere refinement of natural selection or breed improvement.  Nature does not splice genes in a laboratory or insert genetic materials from one species to another such as fish genes into strawberries or human genes into pigs.  There is much too much NOT known about mix-and-match gene play.  "The more rearranging and changing you do to a gene, the more likely you'll get unexpected effects."  It is impossible to manipulate a gene and not have some radical effect on protein formation, structure, or behavior.  Different types of proteins can be produced; "funny" proteins that might measure well in lab tests but fail biologically.

It does not take a big change in genetics to create toxins or aberrant chemistries.  Potential dangers are real. It may sound good to increase the disease resistance or protein content of a food crop.  But if the crop creates allergies or disrupts the normal biochemical balance or if its pollen confuses bees or poisons butterflies or infects nearby crops, the ecology (Nature's inter-connectedness) suffers.  It is similar to the medical viewpoint of killing bacteria with an antibiotic, numbing an arthritic knee with a powerful masking drug, or poisoning a tumor.  What about the impact on the rest of the body?  The synergy, the intricate interactions of the whole are ignored, often with disastrous effects.  And the cause of the original problem is bypassed and only the symptom is treated.

In biochemistry there is a specific limitation to the kinds of molecules that are compatible in a single cell.  Proteins made in living organisms are a very narrowly selected group of molecules from among the various types of proteins that could be made.  Scientists are now synthesizing proteins that are NOT normal, proteins with amino acid sequences that no one has ever seen in a living cell.  Proteins are not only specialized sequences of amino acids; they are also folded or convoluted in innumerable specific ways.  Genes, the proteins they make, and other components involved do not work in isolation, but function in cooperative groups, "the complexity of which we are only just beginning to appreciate."  Genes in their complex groupings are "finely tuned" to work harmoniously.  Boundaries have been established by Nature so reproduction takes place normally only between closely related forms or species.  Now humans are clumsily tinkering with this intricate system.  Pigs have been implanted with spinach genes in an attempt to make "healthier" pork.  Efforts to put wax-producing genes in corn are being made to create cornflakes that do not get soggy in milk.  Claiming that moving DNA from one species to another as a natural thing to do is absurd.  If one part is inserted, there is no way of knowing what will happen when it confronts other parts that were carefully and delicately arranged by Nature.  GE is an unnatural and very perilous process.

Plants contain 20,000 to 80,000 genes.  Animals and humans have an estimated 80,000 to 150,000 genes.  In spite of glowing reports of scientific advances, the gene "maps" for plants, animals, and humans are still extremely incomplete; only a few percent of all the genes are known.  Even less is known about how genes are switched on as an integrated whole to produce correct combinations of proteins in the correct place, time, and quantity.  An overt trail of dead bodies has not yet appeared, but then proteins act slowly.  There are thousands of protein molecules within a cell and all of them will not change quickly nor at the same time.  Slow, harmful changes may be taking place already.  "This is inherently a very unpredictable, dangerous process." i

AGRICULTURE & ENVIRONMENT

THEORETICALLY, GE crops mean greater yields, less pesticide use, little or no plowing with reduced soil runoff, better meat, more milk, and other impressive outcomes.  What is the truth about these claims?

Fewer toxic chemicals?  It is claimed (who, the manufacture?) that GE crops reduce the need for intensive use of chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.  Yet many GE crops are designed to be MORE resistant to these chemicals so more can be used!  Weed resistance to Roundup is increasing on Roundup- Ready crops like soybeans, corn, and cotton.  There is "sometimes" less success with weed control on herbicide-tolerant crops than on conventional varieties.  Farmers spray MORE weed killer, not less.  GE crops designed to kill pests are causing MORE pests.  Larvae of some insects grow bigger and faster fed GE crops than do larvae fed non-treated crops.  Insects attack and consume unhealthy plants.  GE plants attract more pests and that means more pesticide use.  Insect pests are developing resistance to GE crops much faster than expected.  Tests confirm the need for a refuge - planting at least 20% of fields with a non-GE crop variety -- to harbor susceptible pests.  But migration of GE genes increases the rate of pest resistance.  Scientific reports say that farmers who grow GE crops may need additional pesticide sprayings AND different combinations of pesticides in order to maximize yields.  Since 1996 when GE crops made their big debut, pesticide use has increased by about 50 million pounds.  More pesticide use means more pollution of air, water, and soil.  The impact on wildlife has "yet to be determined."

Roundup applications change the microbial composition of soil.  Major colonization of several distinct types of fungi is one consequence.  So is soil sterilization.  Roundup remains in the soil for as long as three years.  Bt bacteria seeps into the soil through roots and stays there at least seven months, depressing soil microbes that help plants grow.  "Monoculture of genetically homogenous crops can increase vulnerability to pests and disease."  If reducing the use of pesticides and other toxins was a real goal, why not encourage the time-tested, poison-free, environmentally safe choice: organic agriculture?

Better for the environment?  Plants engineered to produce proteins with pesticidal properties, such as Bt toxin (from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis), can have direct and indirect effects on "non-target species."  For example, toxins from Bt primarily target certain beetles, butterflies, and moths such as the European corn borer.  Yet effects can occur on "nonpest species" in these insect groups.  For example, Bt corn fed to larvae of green lacewings (a beneficial insect that is a major predator of corn pests) doubles its death rate.  GMOs indirectly impact populations of species that depend on the "pests" trying to be controlled for their reproduction and survival.  Control of weeds by herbicide-tolerant crops can mean less food available for various species.  Some GE crops are already known to affect soil ecosystems, impact soil fertility, reduce species diversity of soil microorganisms, and lower crop diversity and productivity above ground.

Pollen from Bt corn was found to kill monarch caterpillars, imperiling the safety of the monarch butterfly, a "nonpest" insect.  There "may be a slow and chronic effect" on larvae of lacewings and monarchs as well as other species of insects, birds, and animals.  What happens to Bt-corn pollen if rain washes it off the fields and into streams?  Is the aquatic food chain also in jeopardy?  In spite of the fact that several studies demonstrated the increased mortality of monarch butterflies feeding off Bt-contaminated plants, the Environmental Protection Agency decided (in 2000) that there is little danger to the butterflies or any other animal.  Bt toxin seeps into the soil and, binding to clay particles and humic acids, making them not available for normal bacterial breakdown.  It can stay active for at least 234 days.  Pollen falling on the ground and cornstalks plowed back into the soil adds more Bt into soil.  Long-term effects of Bt toxin and other GE toxins on soil and soil organisms are not entirely understood, mostly due to lack of research (by the companies that manufacture and profit from these poisons).  Effects of Bt corn fed to livestock are unknown (same reason?).  Genetic pollution will eventually place the entire environment at risk.

"Weeds" may be considered undesirable, yet all of them are necessary.  Some are therapeutic herbs, wildflowers, important sources of fodder, attractions for beneficial insects or microorganisms, sources of soil nutrients or toxin removers, etc.  Others are native plants needed by animal species for survival.  Genetic contamination of conventional and organic crops or related wild plants by pollen of GM crops will eventually result in ecological disturbances, permanent adulteration of seed stocks, "superweeds," and possibly even infertile seeds.

Raise healthier meat and milk animals?  Bovine somatotropin (BST or bovine growth hormone) is a natural protein produced by cattle.  A GE version, recombinant bovine somatrotropin (rBST) is used to boost milk output in dairy cows.  Over 30% of herds are affected so far.  Use of rBST on cattle has produced severe mastitis and other problems for the animals.  The milk has elevated levels of insulin-like growth factor which some researchers believe puts consumers at risk for problems such as cancer.  Another use of biotech for milk is the enzyme chymosin, a GE-derived rennet substitute used in more than 50% of US cheese production.

Human genes have been inserted into animals to try to create giant pigs and sheep.  A growth-regulating gene of cattle has been inserted into pig embryos with the hope of creating a leaner, larger variety of pig.  The "Macro-Chicken" carries a growth gene of cows.  GE salmon grow twice as fast as normal salmon; if they escape and mate, the wild population will be wiped out.  A GE chicken will produce antibiotics in its own eggs.  Then there are low-cholesterol eggs, vitamin-enhanced meat, or meat with reduced fat content.  Numerous transgenic animals have been or are being created.  Most embryos do not survive.  Those that do live grow into creatures which often suffer ill health and many die.  Growth hormone from extra genes, for example, can adversely affect the liver, kidneys, skeleton, immune system, and heart - but since the animals grow quickly, they are ready for slaughter before severe problems develop.  Then humans eat the meat or eggs.  In 2003, 386 piglets that were offspring of transgenic parents "may have entered the food supply" inadvertently(?).

GM crops for livestock feed supposedly increase and speed up production as well as lessen pollution and disease resistance.  But modern "intensive livestock production" - raising animals in unnatural, unhealthy, distressing conditions - are the real causes of the underlying problems in the first place!  GM crops fed to animals are creating even more problems.  Hogs raised on GE corn have birthing problems which disappear when farmers revert back to regular corn.  Use of Bt corn feed is a quick way to kill cows according to farmers.  Numerous cases are reported in which cattle refuse to graze Bt-corn stubble, hogs go off feed when GE grains are included in their rations, cattle stop eating when given GE silage, the rate of weight gain drops when feed is switched to a GE type, and cattle ignore available GM crops but mow down non-GE plants.

Genetic drift.  Although the public was assured (by whom?) that transgenic plants would stay put, the spread of GE heritage across the countryside occurs by ubiquitous gene drift.  From 20% to 50% of farm acreage is required to be planted with non-altered crop varieties to preserve a buffer zone.  One reason is to preserve some diversity in crop varieties for the environment's sake.  But it is not working.  Cross pollination occurs over large distances.  Pollen travels much farther than anticipated and remains at the same level, not decreasing exponentially with distance.  Canada's canola crop, for example, has been "hopelessly contaminated" by GMOs.  Weeds may acquire traits from herbicide-resistant plants.  Herbicide-resistant genes have been found in 63% of surrounding fields tested.  Standard seed stocks of crops like corn, canola, and soybean have been compromised.  Test results indicate that "broad corruption" of crops must be assumed.  The presumption that seeds of traditional varieties of crops are free of GE elements has been shattered.  Biodiversity has already suffered serious impacts.  This will continue unabated.

Seeds that are supposedly non-GMO may be unintentionally tainted.  GE DNA was found in at least half of tested corn and soybean seeds, and 83% of canola seeds.  Organic food crops may become inadvertently contaminated.  If discovered, harvested organic crops cannot be sold as "certified organic".  GMOs can pass newly altered genes into the environment, permanently changing genetic codes of other organisms.  Gene tampering may annihilate the gene pool of heirloom varieties of crops that are capable of taking up a wide spectrum of nutrients.  Genetic drift will create more havoc than chemical drift with potentially irreversible effects.  GMOs, once let loose, cannot be recalled.  Biopharm crops are food crops engineered to produce pharmaceutical (drug) ingredients.  A GE rice modified to produce an antimicrobial and anti-diarrheal, for example, if grown in quantity, will no doubt contaminate the food supply.  "No one wants drugs in their food," but these types of crops carry that very real potential.  "Goofs" such as when a GE crop designed to produce a pig vaccine was found to have contaminated commercial crops, 500,000 bushels of soybeans had to be destroyed.  How many other "goofs" have not been caught?

Feed the hungry?  A 1998 USDA study found that 66% of GE seeds produced no significant differences in crop yield.  A 1999 study showed that, of more than 8,200 field trials, Roundup Ready soybean seeds produced lower yields than non-GE seeds.  GE seeds are more expensive and often yield less than traditional seeds.  For example, indigenous varieties of rice are hardier than GE varieties.  "Contrary to the promise made by the biotech corporations, the reality of the last ten years shows that the safety of GM crops cannot be ensured, that they are neither cheaper nor higher quality and that they are not the magical solution to solve world hunger."  Food production may be reduced.  Biotechnology creates dependency with monoculture as a byproduct.  Twice as much food is already produced than needed to feed all 6 billion people on earth.  It is trade policies, wars, drought, or floods that cause famine, not low productivity. ii

HUMAN HEALTH

Since GE foods entered the marketplace in 1996, the number of foods in the supermarket containing GM ingredients has grown.  For example, many bottled salad dressings and vegetable oils contain canola, a seed crop that is now mostly a transgenic type containing an enzyme that makes it immune to the herbicide Roundup.  The public is told that canola oil is perfectly safe to eat. But critics point out that it was never tested for human safety and its animal testing "was woefully short and inadequate."  Many researchers believe this and other GMOs have the potential to cause health problems in people - from hormonal disruptions, allergies, and toxicity to poisoning, birth defects, and cancer.

Allergic reactions.  Genetic engineering can transfer new and unidentified proteins from one type of organism into other organisms used as foods.  How does a person's body cope with a new, foreign protein?  People with or who develop allergies can react, sometimes violently, to the GE variety.  For example, in the mid-1990s, a type of GM soybean containing a gene from the Brazil nut caused reactions in people allergic to Brazil nuts.  Even those not allergic to the food from which a gene was inserted may have a reaction.

Trypsin inhibitor (an allergen with anti-nutritional effects) is 26.7% higher in Roundup Ready soybeans.  A 2000 study found a dramatic 50% increase in the incidence of soy allergy.  This does not prove that the increase in GM soy production caused the rise in soy allergies, but it was the first time soy was among the top 10 allergenic foods.  Due to innumerable unknown proteins created during genetic manipulations, there are no tests for assessing the allergen potential of GE foods.

StarLink, a Bt corn, was approved for use as a food for animals only, not for humans.  In 2000, the FDA recalled over 300 kinds of tacos and related corn products found to contain StarLink corn.  Pollen drift evidently contaminated corn grown for human consumption.  The Bt organism is heat stable and resistant to degradation in gastric juices - significant indicators for allergenicity.  Virtually an entire village of 39 people living adjacent to a large field of Bt-maize was stricken by a disease with respiratory, intestinal, and skin reactions as well as fever. Tests indicated an immune reaction to GM-maize pollen.  What effect will eating the meat or milk of animals fed Bt corn have on consumers? Only time will tell.  When the Bt bacterium is inserted into vegetable cells, it is always present.  Constant exposure can cause pre-allergy immune changes.  Even tiny amounts of Bt in foods can trigger an allergic reaction.  The more one eats such foods, the more likely an allergy will develop.  About 70% of farm workers directly exposed to the Bt toxin develop an allergic response within three months.  What of people increasingly exposed through their food?  Bt releases a toxin in low-acid environments; how about people who take antacids or have low hydrochloric acid production?

Health damage.  In 1998, Dr. Arpad Pusztai and his colleagues developed a type of GM potato that made its own pesticide.  The pesticide was a lectin considered safe for consumption.  Rats fed the lectin-producing GE potatoes showed damage to the immune system, thymus, kidneys, spleen, gastrointestinal tract (including precancerous cell growth); poor brain development; and smaller brains, testicles, and livers.  The adverse effects were apparently NOT caused by the lectin or by the transferred gene, but by the PROCESS of genetic engineering.  Such problems apply not only to the potatoes, but to ALL transgenics using the same technology.  After making these results public, Dr. Pusztai was fired and gagged with legal threats.  However, his findings were confirmed in subsequent studies by scientists from 13 countries.  A few years later, 22 leading scientists signed a full-page ad in The New York Times stating that GE foods contribute to immune suppression.

The potential for GM food crops to produce a protein that is potentially dangerous to humans is "very real".  A "scrambled section of DNA" was found in GM soybeans that had no relationship to soybeans.  The injected gene had produced an "unexpected" protein.  When genes from a different organism are injected, they "disrupt the contextual relationship that exists between the gene and the rest of the cell."  Foreign proteins that have never been in human foods are now being consumed.  "I worry about GMOs being hormone disruptors and in that respect perhaps being carcinogenic," says one scientist.  Harmful effects may not be apparent for years, making it difficult to establish a direct association between exposure and disease.

GMOs survive passage through the digestive tract, albeit in degraded form.  Fragments of foreign genes inserted into foods were detected in the brain cells of baby mice.  Scientists wonder whether genetically-altered foods could pose genetic hazards for humans.  The genome is specific to each species and appears to contain a fixed number of genes.  The addition of extra genes from a different species may disrupt the natural gene balance.  Inserted genes may transfer to other cells and parts of plants or animals.  Cells may react to the foreign invader genes by producing known or unknown toxins, which GE yeast did in the case of L-tryptophan some years ago.  Most US milk products come from cows injected with rBGH), a GE hormone.  The milk contains elevated levels of IGF-1, a growth regulator that can accelerate cancer growth.  GM bacteria may transfer their antibiotic-resistant genes to bacteria in the human digestive tract.  If normal, healthful intestinal bacteria are destroyed (as in antibiotic therapy, for example), the transfer rate of normal bacteria to antibiotic-resistant bacteria can increase tenfold.

Nutrition.  Biotech claims that altered foods will bring "improved nutritional profiles," better nutrient content and improved taste.  (A method already exists for doing this: called organic farming.)  An example is "golden rice," a GM variety that contains increased levels of beta carotene and iron.  It also aids iron absorption (by a phytase gene to break down phytic acid that may hinder iron absorption).  But an adult would have to eat almost 20 pounds of cooked rice daily to get the required amount of beta-carotene.  A four-year old child would have to eat 27 bowls of cooked rice.  This "kibble" approach to nutrition discounts the other complementary, synergistic carotenoids, vitamins, trace minerals, and other natural contents, known and unknown, that accompany beta-carotene and iron in natural, complete, balanced foods.  Phytic acid occurs in seeds (grains, beans, nuts, etc.) for good reason and releases valuable nutrients when the food is properly processed.  Besides, dark leafy greens and other untampered-with foods already provide carotenes and iron in a wide variety of ways and in complete packages.  Even in poor countries like India, traditional recipes contain greens such as coriander and curry leaves that contain more carotenoids than "golden rice."  Coriander leaves contain 1400 IU beta-carotene compared to 30 IU in a similar volume of golden rice.  Why take risks when Nature has already done a better job?

Seed oil in a model plant, Arabidopsis, was altered to increase alpha-tocopherol content ninefold.  Though called "vitamin E," alpha-tocopherol is just one small part of the vitamin E complex.  What of the other tocopherols, tocotrienols, selenium, various fatty acids, and other components that naturally accompany alpha-tocopherol in unaltered foods?  What happens to the ecology of the plant since alteration of one part affects all other parts?  A corn plant has been engineered to produce up to four times the normal amount of "vitamin C" (ascorbic acid).  Attempts are being made to insert a gene into cattle and poultry that would result in beef, milk, and eggs containing the omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon.  In development are a tomato with increased levels of lycopene and a soybean that will produce an oil containing little or no saturated fat.  Other gene-altered "functional foods" are being readied for market, fortified with vitamins, spliced with "disease-fighting capabilities," modified to be lower in fat, and so on.

Yet the more foods are engineered, the lower their REAL nutritional value.  For example, concentrations of isoflavones (thought to protect against heart disease and some cancers) are lower (by 12% to 14%) in GE soybeans than in traditional strains.  The nutritional value of GM tomatoes and other altered foods is also lower.  And it is unclear whether humans can properly absorb or use GE nutrients.  In addition to essential vitamins and minerals, plants produce 80,000 of the 100,000 "characterized secondary metabolites" on earth, a myriad of phytochemicals.  Specific phytochemicals are often unique to certain plant species or genera wherein they play specific roles for the plant or for animals or humans that consume them.  The bioavailability of trace elements and other essential nutrients may be greatly reduced when root mycorrhyza and other soil micro-organisms are harmed or destroyed by Bt toxin.  Destruction of soil microorganisms and increased herbicide use, lower the vitality, disease resistance, and nutritive value of plants and the animals that eat them.

GMOs can be more susceptible and less adaptable to unpredictable and uncontrollable environmental influences such as climatic or temperature changes, fungi, insects, pollution, pH, nutrient resources, competitive or pathogenic organisms, toxic chemicals, etc.  New diseases may evolve in GM plants or animals and in the humans that consume them.  Recombinant DNA can remain viable after a transgenic plant or animal has died or been consumed, possibly becoming incorporated into the genome of other organisms.  The subject of GMOs is so complex that scientists cannot predict what they may do to people.  The effects may be subtly pervasive and slowly incremental.  Perhaps Nature will limit adverse consequences, but that is not known.  To avoid GE foods as much as possible, obtain foods that are certified organic.  Trustworthy local farmers or food producers may also not be using GM seed, feed, or ingredients.  Look at PLU codes on the sticky labels of fruits and vegetables in stores.  GE items have a 5-digit number that begins with ‘8' (84011 for a GE banana).  Organic items begin with number ‘9' (94011 for an organic banana).  Avoid highly processed foods.  Be brand loyal to companies that do not use GM ingredients.  Take dietary supplements that are free of GM raw materials, though they will be more expensive. iii

THIS IS A TEST...

In 2003, a human food-safety study demonstrated that GM genes actually do transfer from food ingested into gut bacteria and potentially into internal organs.  This may explain some of the damage to experimental rats fed GM potatoes by Dr. Arpad Pusztai and his colleagues.  The same problems that occurred in the experimental rats may be gradually occurring in human consumers, being attributed to other causes or remaining a mystery.  Numerous things can go wrong with genetic tampering.  Cells can get turned on, switched off, mixed up.  They may become unstable, mutate, or transfer to gut bacteria.  Things can happen that do not occur with ‘regular' foods.

Scientists who wish to publish incriminating evidence are viciously attacked.  The USDA has exhibited a "don't look, don't find" regulatory framework for oversight of GM crops.  The FDA initially ruled that gene-spliced food is "substantially equivalent" (no different) to food produced conventionally; no pre-market testing was required.  In 2001 the FDA changed its mind, announcing transgenic food IS different, and biotech companies must now supply data on each genetic modification.  But selective data and biased research are distinct possibilities.  An example is aspartame (Equal, (NutraSweet).  Between 1985 and 1995, 166 studies were performed on it, about half industry sponsored and half independently sponsored.  All the industry studies found no problems with aspartame.  All the independent studies raised serious questions.

In May 2004, Monsanto and General Mills trashed their plans to commercialize Roundup Ready wheat when it became clear that they could not convince farmers or the international wheat market to use the product.  This wheat joins other failed GE crops including the FlavrSavr tomato, Endless Summer tomato, StarLink corn, herbicide-resistant sugar beets, Bt potatoes, GE flax and others.  Some controversial crops have been placed on indefinite hold.  But these are not big setbacks.  Actually, ag-biotech is booming:  In 2003, 68 million hectares in 18 countries were planted with GM crops, a 15% increase over 2002.  Many scientists are concerned that GM foods have significant risks and need to be subjected to long-term safety tests.  (Who will be willing to pay for these tests?) This huge, unpredictable gamble is far too risky for human health and safety! iv

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Originally published as an issue of Nutrition News and Views, reproduced with permission by the author, Judith A. DeCava, CNC, LNC.