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The BAD Science of Genetically Engineering Part 3

The BAD Science of Genetically Engineered Food Part 3

By Adrian Picot
See also…
- The BAD science of Genetically Engineered Food Part Two
- The BAD Science of Genetically Engineered Food Part One

This is the final article of three that I felt compelled to write so that the claim that opponents to GE farming were unscientific was adequately refuted. I feel that I have completed this duty.

I believe that the main points of the GE issue are ignorant and arrogant tampering with a mechanism that has taken many millions of years to reach stability, and, the increasing trend towards control of food production and breeding by a evangelical scientific movement and international agro-business. It is only recently that food production has moved away from family enterprise into large trans-national corporations and the change has not been beneficial for farmers or food safety and diversity. To conclude, here are some other examples of the bad science of GE.

GE Products Have A History Of Toxic Poisoning.

GE products clearly have the potential to be toxic and a threat to human health. In 1989, a genetically engineered brand of L-tryptophan, a common dietary supplement, killed 37 Americans. More than 5,000 others were permanently disabled or afflicted with a potentially fatal and painful blood disorder, eosinophilia myalgia syndrome (EMS), before it was recalled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The manufacturer, Showa Denko, Japan's third largest chemical company, had for the first time in 1988-89 used GE bacteria to produce the over-the-counter supplement. It is believed that the bacteria somehow became contaminated during the recombinant DNA process. Showa Denko has paid out over $2 billion in damages to EMS victims.

In 1999, front-page stories in the British press revealed Rowett Institute scientist Dr. Arpad Pusztai's explosive research findings that GE potatoes are poisonous to mammals. These potatoes were spliced with DNA from the snowdrop plant and a commonly used viral promoter, the Cauliflower Mosaic Virus (CaMv). GE snowdrop potatoes were found to be significantly different in chemical composition from regular potatoes, and when fed to lab rats, damaged their vital organs and immune systems. The damage to the rats' stomach linings apparently was a severe viral infection caused by the CaMv viral promoter apparently giving the rats a severe viral infection. Most alarming of all, the CaMv viral promoter is spliced into nearly all GE foods and crops.

Dr. Pusztai's path breaking research work unfortunately remains incomplete. Government funding was cut off and he was fired after he spoke to the media. More and more scientists around the world are warning that genetic manipulation can increase the levels of natural plant toxins or allergens in foods (or create entirely new toxins) in unexpected ways by switching on genes that produce poisons. Since regulatory agencies do not currently require the kind of thorough chemical and feeding tests that Dr. Pusztai was conducting, consumers have now become involuntary guinea pigs in a vast genetic experiment. Dr. Pusztai warns, "Think of William Tell shooting an arrow at a target. Now put a blind-fold on the man doing the shooting and that's the reality of the genetic engineer doing a gene insertion".

GE Produced Hormones Increase Cancer Risks

In 1994, the FDA approved the sale of Monsanto's controversial rBGH. This GE hormone is injected into dairy cows to force them to produce more milk. Scientists have warned that significantly higher levels (400-500% or more) of a potent chemical hormone, Insulin-Like Growth Factor (IGF-1), in the milk and dairy products of rBGH injected cows, could pose serious hazards such as human breast, prostate, and colon cancer. A number of studies have shown that humans with elevated levels of IGF-1 in their bodies are much more likely to get cancer. The US Congressional watchdog agency, the GAO, told the FDA not to approve rBGH. They argued that injecting the cows with rBGH caused higher rates of udder infections requiring increased antibiotic treatment. The increased use of antibiotics poses an unacceptable risk for public health. In 1998, Monsanto/FDA documents that had previously been withheld, were released by government scientists in Canada showing damage to laboratory rats fed dosages of rBGH. Significant infiltration of rBGH into the prostate of the rats as well as thyroid cysts indicated potential cancer hazards from the drug. Subsequently, the government of Canada banned rBGH in early 1999. The European Union (EU) has had a ban in place since 1994. Although rBGH continues to be injected into 10% of all US dairy cows, no other industrialized country has legalized its use. The GATT Codex Alimentarius, a United Nations food standards body, has refused to certify that rBGH is safe.

GE Foods May Transfer Allergies From One Species To Another

In 1996, a major GE food disaster was narrowly averted when Nebraska researchers learned that a Brazil nut gene spliced into soybeans could induce potentially fatal allergies in people sensitive to Brazil nuts. Animal tests of these Brazil nut-spliced soybeans had turned up negative. People with food allergies (which currently afflicts 8% of all American children), whose symptoms can range from mild unpleasantness to sudden death, may likely be harmed by exposure to foreign proteins spliced into common food products. Since humans have never before eaten most of the foreign proteins now being gene-spliced into foods, stringent pre-market safety-testing (including long-term animal feeding and volunteer human feeding studies) is necessary in order to prevent a future public health disaster.

Mandatory labelling is also necessary so that those suffering from food allergies can avoid hazardous GE foods and so that public health officials can trace allergens back to their source when GE-induced food allergies break out. In autumn 2001, public interest groups, including Friends of the Earth and the Organic Consumers Association, revealed that lab tests indicated that an illegal and likely allergenic variety of GE, Bt-spliced corn called StarLink, had been detected in Kraft Taco Bell shells, as well as many other brand name products. The StarLink controversy generated massive media coverage and resulted in the recall of hundreds of millions of dollars of food products and seeds.

GE Foods Have Been Found To Damage To Quality And Nutrition

A 1999 study by Dr. Marc Lappe published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that concentrations of beneficial phytoestrogen compounds thought to protect against heart disease and cancer were lower in GE soybeans than in traditional strains. These and other studies, including Dr. Pusztai's, indicate that GE food will likely result in foods lower in quality and nutrition. For example, the milk from cows injected with rBGH contains higher levels of pus, bacteria, and fat.

The Use Of Antibiotic Resistance Genes In GE Foods May Breed New Disease-Causing Bacteria.

When gene engineers splice a foreign gene into a plant or microbe, they often link it to another gene, called an antibiotic resistance marker gene (ARM), that helps determine if the first gene was successfully spliced into the host organism. Some researchers warn that these arm genes might unexpectedly recombine with disease-causing bacteria or microbes in the environment or in the guts of animals or people who eat GE food. These new combinations may be contributing to the growing public health danger of antibiotic resistance of infections that cannot be cured with traditional antibiotics, for example new strains of salmonella, e-coli, campylobacter, and enterococci. German researchers have found antibiotic resistant bacteria in the guts of bees feeding on gene-altered rapeseed (canola) plants. EU authorities are currently considering a ban on all GE foods containing antibiotic resistant marker genes.

GE Food Does Not Decrease Pesticide Residues

Contrary to biotech industry propaganda, recent studies have found that US farmers growing GE crops are using just as many toxic pesticides and herbicides as conventional farmers and in some cases are using more. Crops genetically engineered to be herbicide-resistant account for almost 80% of all GE crops planted in 2000. The "benefits" of these herbicide-resistant crops are that farmers can spray as much of a particular herbicide on their crops as they want-killing the weeds without damaging their crop. Scientists estimate that herbicide-resistant crops planted around the globe will triple the amount of toxic broad-spectrum herbicides used in agriculture. These broad-spectrum herbicides are designed to literally kill everything green. The leaders in biotechnology are the same giant chemical companies-Monsanto, DuPont, Aventis, and Syngenta (the merger between Novartis and Astra-Zeneca)-that sell toxic pesticides. The same companies that create the herbicide resistant GE plants are also selling the herbicides. The farmers are then paying for more herbicide treatment from the same companies that sold them the herbicide resistant GE seeds.

GE Crops Damage Beneficial Organisms

In 1999, Cornell University researchers made a startling discovery. They found that pollen from GE Bt corn was poisonous to Monarch butterflies. The study adds to a growing body of evidence that GE crops are adversely affecting a number of beneficial insects, including ladybugs and lacewings, as well as beneficial soil micro-organisms, bees, and possibly birds.

Creation of GE "Superweeds" and "Superpests"

Genetically engineering crops to be herbicide-resistant or to produce their own pesticide presents dangerous problems. Pests and weeds will inevitably emerge that are pesticide or herbicide-resistant, which means that stronger, more toxic chemicals will be needed to get rid of the pests. Herbicide resistant "superweeds" are already emerging. GE crops such as rapeseed (canola) have spread their herbicide-resistance traits to related weeds such as wild mustard plants. Lab and field tests also indicate that common plant pests such as cotton bollworms, living under constant pressure from GE crops, will soon evolve into "superpests" completely immune to Bt sprays and other environmentally sustainable biopesticides. This will present a serious danger for organic and sustainable farmers whose biological pest management practices will be unable to cope with increasing numbers of superpests and superweeds.

GE Crops Are Introduced Exotic Species – Historically An Ecological Disaster

By virtue of their "superior" genes, some GE plants and animals will inevitably run amok, overpowering wild species in the same way that exotic species, such as kudzu vine and Dutch elm disease have created problems when introduced in North America. What will happen to wild fish and marine species, for example, when scientists release into the environment carp, salmon, and trout that are twice as large, and eat twice as much food, as their wild counterparts?

GE Foods Threaten The Independence And Viability Of Farmers

The patenting of GE foods and widespread biotech food production threatens to eliminate farming as it has been practiced for 12,000 years. GE patents such as the Terminator Technology will render seeds infertile and force hundreds of millions of farmers who now save and share their seeds to purchase evermore-expensive GE seeds and chemical inputs from a handful of global biotech/seed monopolies. If the trend is not stopped, the patenting of transgenic plants and food-producing animals will soon lead to universal "bio-serfdom" in which farmers will lease their plants and animals from biotech conglomerates such as Monsanto and pay royalties on seeds and offspring. Family and indigenous farmers will be driven off the land and consumers' food choices will be dictated by a cartel of trans-national corporations. Rural communities will be devastated. Hundreds of millions of farmers and agricultural workers worldwide will lose their livelihoods.

GE Science Is Unethical And Open To Biological Abuse

The genetic engineering and patenting of animals reduces living beings to the status of manufactured products. A purely reductionist science, biotechnology reduces all life to bits of information (genetic code) that can be arranged and rearranged at whim. Stripped of their integrity and sacred qualities, animals that are merely objects to their "inventors" will be treated as such. Currently, hundreds of GE "freak" animals are awaiting patent approval from the US federal government. One can only wonder, after the wholesale gene altering and patenting of animals, will GE "designer babies" be next?


The last 200 years have been a disaster for the ecosystems of the earth with an increasing emphasis on mindless economic growth and the gradual solidification of an economic system that favours individual enrichment and collection of power tokens over respect for nature and intelligent use of planet resources. GE is a weapon that enriches and entrenches vested corporate interests while it simultaneously denies citizens the human right of access to the foods and medicines of choice.

The fight against GE is a fight for citizens to regain control of their food supply and diversity. This will not be a tea party – more like a war of attrition against a collection of selfish and greedy manipulators, financed from outside New Zealand, who see our relatively unspoilt island nation as an ideal, isolated laboratory to experiment and develop a huge variety of GE products in a global market.

The real agenda is monopoly control of the world’s food supply. Yet again, as with Rogernomics, NZ is in danger of becoming hostage to imported, unwanted, destructive ideologies with disastrous consequences for our products and reputation.

The idea that we need GE to progress is both disingenuous and wrong. If you care about saving New Zealand from the predations of GE companies, or indeed any exploitative outside party, vote for any party that opposes both these bad options, and any dilution of our independence and freedom. The choice is obvious.

- Adrian Picot


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