Monday, December 03, 2007

Dangers Of GM Foods

The following presents some of the dangers of genetically engineered foods and reasons why avoiding them is an important step to safeguard our health.

The biotech industry claims that the FDA has thoroughly evaluated GM foods and found them safe. This is untrue. Internal FDA documents made public from a lawsuit, reveal that agency scientists warned that GM foods might create toxins, allergies, nutritional problems, and new diseases that might be difficult to identify. Although they urged their superiors to require long-term tests on each GM variety prior to approval, the political appointees at the agency, including a former attorney for Monsanto, ignored the scientists. Official policy claims that the foods are no different and do not require safety testing. A manufacturer can introduce a GM food without even informing the government or consumers. A January 2001 report from an expert panel of the Royal Society of Canada said it was “scientifically unjustifiable” to presume that GM foods are safe. Likewise, a 2002 report by the UK’s Royal Society said that genetic modification “could lead to unpredicted harmful changes in the nutritional state of foods,” and recommended that potential health effects of GM foods be rigorously researched before being fed to pregnant or breast-feeding women, elderly people, those suffering from chronic disease, and babies.

How could the government approve dangerous foods? A close examination reveals that industry manipulation and political collusion—not sound science—was the driving force. Government employees who complained were harassed, stripped of responsibilities, or fired. Scientists were threatened. Evidence was stolen. Data was omitted or distorted. Some regulators even claimed they were offered bribes to approve a GM product.

There are only ten published animal feeding studies on the health effects of GM foods—only two of these are independent. One study showed evidence of damage to the immune system and vital organs, and a potentially pre-cancerous condition. When the scientist tried to alert the public about these alarming discoveries, he lost his job and was silenced with threats of a lawsuit. Two other studies also showed evidence of a potentially pre-cancerous condition. The other seven studies, which were superficial in their design, were not designed to identify these details. In an unpublished study, laboratory rats fed a GM crop developed stomach lesions and seven of the forty died within two weeks. The crop was approved without further tests.

Many industry studies appear to be rigged to find no problems. In the case of a genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH), for example, researchers injected cows with only one forty-seventh the normal dosage before reporting hormone residues in milk. They heated the milk 120 times longer than standard, to report that pasteurization destroys the hormone. They added cows to their study that were pregnant before treatment, to claim that rbGH didn’t impede fertility. Cows that fell sick were dropped from studies altogether. With soybeans, serious nutritional differences between GM and natural soy were omitted from a published paper. Feeding studies masked any problems by using mature animals instead of developing ones and by diluting their GM soy 10 to 1 with non-GM protein.

There are no adequate tests to verify that GM food will not create dangerous allergic reactions. While an international organization developed testing standards to minimize the possibility of allowing allergenic GM varieties on the market, GM corn currently sold in the U.S. has not been subjected to those tests and would most certainly fail them. One of these tests, for example, uses a test tube simulation to evaluate how long a potential GM allergen can last inside the digestive system before being broken down. Compared to the recommended international standards, however, one biotech company used a far stronger acid concentration and more than 1,250 times the recommended amount of a digestive enzyme to make the claim that their protein degrades too quickly to cause a reaction.

The only human feeding trial ever conducted confirmed that genetically engineered genes from soy transferred to the bacteria inside the digestive tract. (The biotech industry had previously said that such a transfer was impossible.) The World Health Organization, the British and American Medical Associations, and several other groups have expressed concern that if the “antibiotic resistant marker genes” used in GM foods got transferred to bacteria, it could create super-diseases that are immune to antibiotics. More worrisome is that the “promoter” used inside GM foods could get transferred to bacteria or internal organs. Promoters act like a light switches, permanently turning on genes that might otherwise be switched off. Scientists believe that this might create unpredictable health effects, including the potentially pre-cancerous cell growth found in the animal feeding studies mentioned above.

The biotech industry says that millions have been eating GM foods without ill effect. This is misleading. About 100 people died and up to10,000 to fell seriously ill when they consumed the food supplement L-Tryptophan. Only those who consumed the variety that was genetically modified became ill. That brand had minute, but deadly contaminants that would easily pass through current regulations today. If the disease it created had not been rare and acute, with crippling and deadly symptoms, the GM supplement might never have been traced as the cause. Once discovered, however, industry and government covered up facts and diverted the blame. Even the FDA testimony before Congress withheld vital information.

Milk from rbGH-treated cows contains an increased amount of the hormone IGF-1, which is one of the highest risk factors associated with breast and prostate cancer, among others. Soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% in the UK, coinciding with the introduction of GM soy imports from the U.S.

According to a March 2001 report, the Center for Disease Control says that food is responsible for twice the number of illnesses in the U.S. compared to estimates just seven years earlier. This increase roughly corresponds to the period when Americans have been eating GM food. Could that be contributing to the 5,000 deaths, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 76 million illnesses related to food each year? Might it play in role in our national epidemic of obesity or the rise in diabetes or lymphatic cancers? We have no way of knowing if there is a connection because no one has looked for one.

One of the most dangerous aspects of genetic engineering is the closed thinking and consistent effort to silence those with contrary evidence or concerns. Just before stepping down from office, former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman admitted the following: “What I saw generically on the pro-biotech side was the attitude that the technology was good, and that it was almost immoral to say that it wasn’t good, because it was going to solve the problems of the human race and feed the hungry and clothe the naked. . . . And there was a lot of money that had been invested in this, and if you’re against it, you’re Luddites, you’re stupid. That, frankly, was the side our government was on. . . . You felt like you were almost an alien, disloyal, by trying to present an open-minded view” Contrast this with the warning by the editors of Nature Biotechnology: “The risks in biotechnology are undeniable, and they stem from the unknowable in science and commerce. It is prudent to recognize and address those risks, not compound them by overly optimistic or foolhardy behavior.”

The biotech industry and the government have been foolhardy indeed. Blinded, perhaps by the baseless myth that GM foods are needed to feed the world, they gamble with our health and support their safety claims on obsolete or unproven assumptions. Accepting their vacuous assurances by eating these dangerous foods or serving them to your customers may likewise be overly optimistic or foolhardy.

Risk for Children

Young, fast-developing bodies
Children’s bodies develop at a fast pace and are more likely to be influenced and show the effects of genetically modified (GM) foods. That is why independent scientists used young adolescent rats in their GM feeding studies. The rats showed significant health damage after only 10 days, including damaged immune systems and digestive function, smaller brains, livers, and testicles, partial atrophy of the liver, and potentially pre-cancerous cell growth in the intestines.

Children are three to four times more prone to allergies than adults. Infants below two years old are at greatest risk-they have the highest incidence of reactions, especially to new allergens encountered in the diet. Even tiny amounts of allergens can sometimes cause reactions in children. Breast fed infants can be exposed via the mother’s diet, and fetuses may possibly be exposed in the womb. Michael Meacher, the former minister of the environment for the UK, said, “Any baby food containing GM products could lead to a dramatic rise in allergies.” GM corn is particularly problematic for children, as they generally eat a higher percentage of corn in their diet. Further, allergic children often rely on corn protein. Mothers using cornstarch as a talc substitute on their children’s skin might also inadvertently expose them via inhalation.

Problems with milk
Milk and dairy products from cows treated with the genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH) contain an increased amount of the hormone IGF-1, which is one of the highest risk factors associated with breast and prostate cancer. The Council on Scientific Affairs of the American Medical Association called for more studies to determine if ingesting “higher than normal concentrations of IGF-1 is safe for children, adolescents, and adults.” Sam Epstein, M.D., Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition and author of eight books, wrote, “rbGH and its digested products could be absorbed from milk into blood, particularly in infants, and produce hormonal and allergic effects.” He described how “cell-stimulating growth factors . . . could induce premature growth and breast stimulation in infants, and possibly promote breast cancer in adults.” Dr. Epstein pointed out that the hormones in cows could promote the production of “steroids and adrenaline-type stressor chemicals. ... likely to contaminate milk and may be harmful, particularly to infants and young children.”

Nutritional problems
A 2002 report by the UK’s Royal Society, said that genetic modification “could lead to unpredicted harmful changes in the nutritional state of foods.” They therefore recommended that potential health effects of GM foods be rigorously researched before being fed to pregnant or breast-feeding women, elderly people, those suffering from chronic disease, and babies. Likewise, according to former minister Meacher, unexpected changes in estrogen levels in GM soy used in infant formula “might affect sexual development in children,” and that “even small nutritional changes could cause bowel obstruction.”

Antibiotic resistant diseases
Children prone to ear and other infections are at risk of facing antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, due to the use of antibiotic resistant genes in GM food. The British Medical Association cited this as one reason why they called for a moratorium of GM foods.

Unknown Risks

Recently, the term genetic pollution officially entered the public lexicon. Scientists at Cornell University reported in the journal Nature that the pollen from genetically engineered corn, containing a toxin gene called Bt, killed 44 percent of the monarch butterfly caterpillars who fed on milkweed leaves dusted with it. By contrast, caterpillars fed with conventional pollen all survived. The results are all the more shocking given the fact that nearly 25 percent of the US corn crop now contains the Bt transgene and the Corn Belt states of the Midwest are where half of the monarch butterflies are produced each year. In the wake of the monarch butterfly study, a growing number of scientists now say they wonder about the potential environmental effects of scores of other genetically engineered crops being introduced into the agricultural fields. Indeed, some critics are asking why these and other studies weren’t done before introducing genetically engineered corn, soy, cotton and other crops over millions of acres of farm land.

The fact is, genetically engineered crops are radically different from conventional crops because they contain genes in their biological makeup from completely unrelated species. For example, scientists have introduced an antifreeze gene from flounder fish into the genetic code of a tomato plant to protect the plant from cold spells. While scientists have long been able to cross close relatives in the plant kingdom, the new genetic tools allow them to cross all of the biological boundaries, adding genes from viruses, bacteria, other animals and plants into the genetic code of traditional food crops. Ecologists are unsure of the impacts of bypassing natural species boundaries. Consider, for example, the ambitious plans to engineer transgenic plants to serve as pharmaceutical factories for the production of chemicals and drugs. Foraging animals, seed-eating birds, and soil insects will be exposed to a range of genetically engineered drugs, vaccines, industrial enzymes, plastics, and hundreds of other foreign substances for the first time, with untold consequences.

Over the next 10 years, life science companies plan on introducing thousands of laboratory-conceived transgenic plants over millions of acres of farmland around the world. Ecologists tell us that the risks in releasing these novel crops into the biosphere are similar to those we’ve encountered in introducing exotic organisms into North America. While many of these nonnative creatures have adapted to the North American ecosystems without severe dislocations, a small percentage of them have wreaked havoc on the flora and fauna of the continent. Whenever a genetically engineered organism is released, there is always a small chance that it too will run amok because, like nonindigenous species, it has been artificially introduced into a complex environment that has developed a web of highly integrated relationships over long periods of evolutionary history. Much of the current effort in agricultural biotechnology is centered on the creation of herbicide-tolerant plants. To increase their share of the growing global market for herbicides, life-science companies like Monsanto and Novartis have created transgenic crops that tolerate their own herbicides. Monsanto’s new herbicide-resistant patented seeds, for example, are resistant to its best-selling chemical herbicide, Roundup.

The companies hope to convince farmers that the new herbicide-tolerant crops will allow for a more efficient eradication of weeds. Farmers will be able to spray at any time during the growing season, killing weeds without killing their crops. Critics warn that with new herbicide-tolerant crops planted in the fields, farmers are likely to use even greater quantities of herbicides to control weeds, as there will be less fear of damaging their crops in the process of spraying. The increased use of herbicides, in turn, raises the possibility of weeds developing resistance, forcing an even greater use of herbicides to control the more resistant strains. New pest-resistant transgenic crops, such as Bt corn, are also being introduced for the first time. Monsanto and Novartis are marketing transgenic crops that produce insecticide in every cell of each plant. A growing body of scientific evidence points to the likelihood of creating ‘’super bugs’’ resistant to the effects of the new pesticide-producing genetic crops. Some ecologists warn of the danger of gene flow–the transfer of transgenic genes from crops to weedy relatives by way of cross-pollination. New studies have shown that transgenic genes for herbicide tolerance and pest and viral resistance, can spread by way of pollen and insert themselves into the genomes of relatives, creating weeds that are resistant to herbicides, pests, and viruses.

The insurance industry has quietly let it be known that while it will provide coverage for negligence and short-term damage, resulting from the introduction of genetically engineered crops into the environment, it will not offer liability coverage for long-term catastrophic environmental damage, because the industry lacks a risk assessment science–a predictive ecology–to judge the risks. The industry understands the Kafkaesque implications of a government regime claiming to regulate the new field of biotechnology in the absence of clear scientific knowledge of how genetically modified organisms interact once introduced into the environment. Who, then, will be held liable for losses if a transgenic plant introduction were to trigger genetic pollution over an extended terrain for an indefinite period of time? The life-science companies? The government? The introduction of novel genetically engineered organisms also raises a number of serious human health issues that have yet to be resolved. Most of these new crops contain genes from nonfood-source organisms. With 2 percent of adults and 8 percent of children having allergic responses to commonly eaten foods, consumer advocates argue that all novel gene-spliced foods need to be properly labeled that consumers can avoid health risks.

The British Medical Association has become so concerned about the potential health effects of consuming genetically modified foods that it has just called for an open-ended moratorium on the commercial planting of genetically engineered food crops until a scientific consensus emerges on their safety. And the European Commission recently announced a freeze on licenses for genetically engineered plants after learning about the monarch butterfly study. A worldwide moratorium should be declared now on releasing genetically engineered food crops and other gene-spliced organisms into the environment pending further study of the potential environmental and health risks and liability issues at stake. It would be irresponsible and foolish to continue seeding farmland with genetically engineered food crops when we have yet to develop even a rudimentary risk assessment science by which to regulate these new agricultural products.

Government Subsidies—Why US Farmers Plant G.E. Crops

American farmers are planting millions of acres of Roundup-ready (RR) soybeans and other GE crops, not because there is a market demand for them, but because they are receiving taxpayer subsidies from the US government. Although gene-altered RR seeds and Roundup herbicide are expensive, herbicide-resistant soybeans are more convenient and less time-consuming to grow than traditional varieties-enabling farmers to plant, weed, and harvest more and more acres in a limited amount of time. Instead of having to till weeds with their tractors and spray several different toxic pesticides, farmers need only spray Monsanto’s potent broad-spectrum herbicide Roundup, which kills everything green-except for the GE soybean plants. Especially for cash and time-strapped farmers earning most of their money from off-farm employment (US family farmers get about 90% of their net income from jobs off the farm), this “efficiency” makes RR soybeans seem attractive.

Far more important is the fact that in the US, the more acres a farmer plants in soybeans (or other subsidized crops like corn or cotton), the more money the farmer gets from the government farm subsidy program, which, in 2001, paid out $28 billion. Of this $28 billion in farm subsidies, at least $7-10 billion went to farmers growing GE crops. Thus even though Cargill or ADM routinely rob farmers by paying them less for a bushel of RR soybeans or Bt corn than it took to grow them, farmers can count on recouping their losses with a subsidy payment from the USDA.

The fundamental flaw, from an economic standpoint, of planting more and more GE soybeans so as to collect more and more subsidy payments from the government, is that there is already a huge global surplus of soybeans, not to mention corn and cotton. This massive surplus is quite profitable for the crop commodities giants like Cargill and ADM, cotton buyers, and the big factory farm cattle feedlots and hog farms, who can count on getting cheap grain and fiber from farmers desperate to sell at any price, but it’s nothing less than a recipe for disaster for rural America.

Billion dollar subsidies are the driving force for GE soybeans and corn, but they are also the major destructive force flooding the market and lowering the price for soybeans paid to the farmers. This ever-declining price results in farmers planting even more soybeans or corn. The end result of this process will likely be the elimination of most small and medium sized farms in the US who depend upon subsidies (with the notable exception of organic farms, which are selling products which consumers want). Organic farmers currently receive no US government subsidies whatsoever.

Genetically Engineered Prepared Foods Approved For Commercial Sale

The Food and Drug Administration released the following partial list of foods that tested positive for genetic modification in September 1999: Canola oil, Radicchio, Corn Cotton, Papaya, Potato, Soybean, Squash, Tomato

Genetically Engineered Prepared Foods Approved For Commercial Sale

Alpo Dry Pet Food; Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix; Ball Park Franks; Betty Crocker Bac-O's; Boca Burger Chef Max's Favorite; Bravo's Tortilla Chips; Duncan Hines Cake Mix; Enfamil ProSobee Soy Formula; Frito-Lay Corn Chips; Gardenburger; General Mills Total Corn Flakes Cereal; Heinz 2 Baby Food; Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix; Kellogg's Corn Flakes; McDonald's McVeggie Burgers; Morningstar Farms Better'n Burgers; Morningstar Farms Harvest Burgers; Nestle Carnation Alsoy Infant Formula; Old El Paso Taco Shells; Ovaltine Malt Powdered Beverage Mix; Post Blueberry Morning Cereal; Quaker Chewy Cranola Bars; Quaker Yellow Corn Meal; Quick Loaf Bread Mix; Similac Isomil Soy Formula; Ultra Slim Fast.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, may all your wishes come true!

11:46 AM


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