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By Ronnie Cummins
GMO science corporations proclaim with great fanfare that their new products will revolutionize agriculture, eliminate hunger, cure disease and improve the health of the general public.
Genetic engineering (GE) technology offered by transnational "life science" corporations plants, animals, humans and microorganisms, patenting and then commercializing the resulting ones such as Monsanto and Novartis consists of the practice of altering or interrupting the blueprints. genetics of living organisms - food, grains and other products for profit. Life science corporations proclaim with great fanfare that their new products will revolutionize agriculture, eliminate hunger, cure disease and improve the health of the general public. In reality, through the practice of their business and political power, genetic engineers have made it clear that they intend to use GE to dominate and monopolize the world market for grains, food, fiber, and pharmaceuticals.
GE is a revolutionary technique that is still in an early stage of development. This technology has the power to break down fundamental genetic barriers - not just between species but also between humans, animals and plants.
By randomly inserting genes from unrelated species - using viruses, antibiotic resistant genes, and bacteria as vectors that promote permanent alteration of genetic codes, organisms whose genes have been modified are able to transmit these changes to their descendants by heritage. Genetic engineers around the world are altering, inserting, recombining, and programming genetic material. Genes from animals, including human genes, are combined with the chromosomes of plants, fish and animals creating transgenic life forms as a result. For the first time in history transnational biotech corporations are becoming the architects and owners of "life."
With little or no restrictions, labeling requirements, or scientific protocol, bioengineers have begun to create hundreds of genetically altered monstrous products which are dangerous to health, the ecosystem, and negative socio-economic impacts on billions of farmers in all the world. Despite a growing number of scientists claiming that genetic separation techniques are inaccurate and unpredictable, hence their inherent dangerousness - governments and regulatory agencies that support genetic development, led by the United States maintain that GE foods and crops are " substantially equivalent ”to conventional foods and therefore no information labels or pre-market safety tests are required. This new world of monster foods is spooky.
There are currently more than four dozen genetically altered foods and seeds being grown or available to the public in the United States. These foods and seeds are widely dispersed in the food chain and in the ecosystem. More than 60 million hectares are cultivated with GE seeds in the US alone while more than 500,000 dairy cows are being injected regularly with bovine growth hormone (rBGH).
Most processed foods in the supermarket test “positive” for the presence of GE ingredients. In addition to this, several dozen GE crops are in the final stages of development and will soon be used in the environment and placed on the market. According to the Biotechnology Industry, almost 100% of foods and fibers will be the product of genetic engineering within 5 to 10 years. The "hidden menu" of these foods in the United States includes: soybeans, soybean oil, corn, potatoes, zucchini, canola oil, cottonseed oil, papayas, tomatoes, and dairy products.
Genetic engineering of food and fiber products is inherently dangerous - for humans, animals, the environment, and the future of organic agriculture. As Dr. Michael Antonieu, British scientist in molecular biology explains: gene separation has given "unexpected results in the production of toxic substances ... in genetically altered bacteria, crops, plants and animals with the problem that remain undetected until a large threat to public health is present ”. GE food and crop hazards fall into three categories: human health hazards, environmental hazards, and socioeconomic hazards. A brief look at products that have been proven to be hazardous provides a compelling argument for why we need a global moratorium on all GE products and crops.
Toxins & Poisons
Genetically created products clearly have the potential to be toxic and threaten human health. In 1989 a genetically enhanced dietary supplement called L-tryptophan killed 37 American citizens and permanently affected more than 5,000, leaving them with symptoms such as painful blood disorders, eosinophilia, myalgia syndrome (EMS), before be canceled by the Food and Substances Administration. The manufacturer, Showa Denko, which is the third largest chemical producer in Japan, used GE bacteria for the first time to produce a supplement that is easily available without a prescription.
There is a theory that the bacteria became contaminated in some way during the recombination process of genetic material or DNA. Showa Denka has paid more than $ 2 billion in damages to victims to date. In 1999 headlines in the British press revealed that Rowett Institute scientist Dr. Arpad Pusatai found through research that GE potatoes genetically conjugated to the plant snowflake and cauliflower mosaic virus are highly poisonous to mammals. These potatoes, which differ in chemical composition from regular ones, donated the vital organs AND immune systems of laboratory rats fed GE potatoes. Most alarming is the damage it did to the lining of the intestines - apparently due to a severe viral infection, most likely caused by the CaMv viral promoter, a promoter grafted into almost all GE foods and crops. The work of Dr. Pusztai unfortunately remains incomplete (funds from the Government were canceled and dismissed after he was contacted by the media). However, more and more scientists around the world are warning that genetic manipulation can raise natural levels of toxins and produce more food allergies in unexpected situations by changing genes that cause these toxins.
Because regulatory agencies do not currently require the kind of food and chemical tests that Dr. Pusztai was conducting, consumers have unexpectedly turned into guinea pigs in a vast genetic experiment. As Dr. Pusztai warns: "Think of William Tell shooting an arrow at a target, now cover the eyes of the man who is shooting and there you have the reality of a genetic engineer doing a gene insertion."
Increasing the risk of cancer
In 1994, the FDA approved the sale of the controversial GE Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), for injecting dairy cows to force them to produce even more milk, despite scientists warning that high levels (400% - 500% or more ) of a potent insulin-like chemical hormone, Growth Factor (IGF-1) in milk and dairy products from injected cows, poses a serious threat to the mammary glands, prostate, and colon cancer. A number of studies have shown that people with high levels of IGF-1 in their bodies are much more likely to get cancer.
What's more: the US congressional watchdog agency, the GAO told the FDA not to approve rBGH on the grounds that increased antibiotic residues in the milk of cows injected with rBGH (as a result of elevated levels of infections requiring antibiotic treatment) poses an unacceptable risk to public health. In 1998, Monsanto / FDA documents were released to the public by government scientists in Canada, showing the harm done to laboratory rats exposed to doses of rBGH. A significant infiltration of rBGH into the prostate and thyroid cysts indicate a cancer potential of the drug. Consequently the government of Canada banned rBGH early in 1999. The European Union has banned it since 1994. Although rBGH continues to be injected into 4-5% of dairy cows in the US, no other industrialized country has legalized its use. Even the GATT Codex Alimentarious, a body for the United Nations food standards has refused to certify rBGH as safe.
In 1996 a major GE food disaster was almost irreparable when researchers in Nebraska realized that a gene in a Brazilian nut grafted onto soybeans can induce fatal allergies in people sensitive to Brazilian nuts. Animal experiments on these grains have been negative. People with food allergies (which afflict 8% of American children), whose symptoms can range from regular disgust to sudden death, can probably be harmed by exposure to foreign proteins being now genetically mixed in foods common. Since humans have not tested these kinds of strange proteins mixed with breath, tringent experimentation before putting them on the market (including long-term animal feeding and voluntary human studies) is necessary to prevent future public disaster. Marketing labels containing food information are also necessary for those who suffer from allergies to avoid dangerous GE foods and also for public health officials to capture and record which specific components are the cause when an event occurs. of epidemic characteristics.
Damage to Food Quality and Nutrition
A study published in 1999 by Dr. Marc Lappe published in the Journals of Medicinal Foods found that beneficial concentrations of pytoestrogen compounds, which are believed to stain the function of protecting against heart disease and cancer, are more diminished in the genetically engineered soybeans than natural varieties. This and other studies, including that of Dr. Pusztai indicate that foods derived from genetically engineered organisms are more likely to contain a poorer nutritional level. For example: milk from cows treated with growth hormones contains a high percentage of pus, bacteria and fat.
When genetic engineers mix a foreign gene into a plant or microbe, it is often linked to other genes called the antibiotic resistance marker gene (ARM), which helps determine if the primary gene was successfully grafted. in the host's organism. Some researchers warn that this technique can produce counterproductive results because these ARM genes also tend to unexpectedly associate with harmful bacteria or microbes in the environment or in the intestines of animals or people who eat GE foods, thus contributing to increased public health danger. from antibiotic resistance - from infections that do not respond to the normal treatment of traditional antibiotics, for example new varieties of salmonella, ecoli, campylobacter and enterococci. The United States authorities are currently considering banning the manufacture of all GE products that contain genes with antibiotic resistance.
Increase in Pesticide Waste
Quite contrary to propaganda by the Biotechnology Industry, recent studies have found that farmers in the US growing GE grains are using almost the same amount of toxic pesticides & herbicides as common farmers and in some cases even more. Genetically improved herbicide resistant crops made up up to 70% of the total GE crops harvested in 1998. The so-called “benefits” of these herbicide resistant crops are that farmers are able to use more herbicides in industrial quantities to finish with herbs without affecting crops. Estimates by the scientific community show that crops around the world will be responsible for the indiscriminate use of herbicides whose use will triple the amount of broad-acting herbicides used in agriculture.
These broad-acting herbicides are designed to kill anything green. The leaders in biotechnology are the same transnational corporations -Montsanto, DuPont, AgrEvo, Novartis and Rhone Poulenec that manufacture and sell pesticides. These companies are genetically manipulating plants to make them more resistant to the pesticides they manufacture. In this way they can sell more herbicides to the farmers who in turn apply increasingly powerful herbicides to kill the weeds.
“Genetic Pollution” and collateral damage from GE crops have begun to create environmental damage. Wind, rain, birds, bees and other pollinating insects have begun to spread the genetically altered pollen to adjacent fields, thus contaminating the DNA of plants from organic producers. A farm in the state of Texas that produces organic food has been contaminated with genetically altered pollen from nearby GE plots, United States regulators are considering proposing an “allowable limit” for non-genetically altered food because they are convinced that genetic contamination cannot be controlled.
The crops with altered genes that are alive are consequently more unpredictable than the chemical substances they pollute, they can reproduce, migrate and mutate. Once released into the environment it is virtually impossible to collect genetically altered organisms in the laboratory or the field.
Beneficial insect damage & soil fertility
In the course of this year, Cornell University through its researchers made a discovery, they found that pollen from Bt type corn which is an artificially improved variety is highly poisonous to the monarch butterfly. This study accumulates even more evidence than the existing one that artificially altered crops are affecting an increasing number of beneficial insects for humans including ladybugs, lace wings, also soil-dwelling microorganisms, bees and possibly birds as well.
Creation of "super grasses" & "super pests" GE
Crops artificially altered to have greater resistance to herbicides or with the ability to produce their own defenses present a serious problem. Pesticide resistant pests & herbs will eventually emerge which consequently humans fight back creating in turn more potent and toxic herbicides and pesticides. We are witnessing the creation of new varieties of "super grasses" due to the transmission of characters in plants artificially altered to more tolerate herbicides with the surrounding grasses of the harvest fields, such is the case of the canola fields that are affecting herbs such as wild mustard. Laboratory and field tests have shown that common wild grasses such as cotton boll worms living under pressure from artificially bred plants become super-pests immune to Bt-type herbicides and other biodegradable herbicides. This presents a serious problem for farmers who practice organic agriculture whose pest control practices will not be sufficient to counteract the effect and increasing numbers of super pests and super grasses.
Creation of new viruses and pathogens
The gene grafting technique is inevitably going to deliver unexpected results that can harm plants and the environment. Researchers at Michigan State University some years ago found that genetically altered plants to resist viruses, they change to new forms more virulent than the previous ones with more defenses. Scientists in Oregon found that a genetically enhanced microorganism, scientifically called Klebsiella Planticola, completely kills essential nutrients in the soil. The Environmental Protection Agency issued warnings in 1997 about government approval of the bacterium found in soil called Rhizobium melitoli.
By virtue of the "superiority" of genes, some genetically enhanced plants and animals will inevitably compete more successfully with wild species, in the same way that alien species were introduced, such as the kudzu vine and the European disease of oaks, which have created problems in North America.
What will happen to fish and marine species, for example, when scientists release into the environment carp, salmon, and trout that are twice the size and eat twice as much as their wild counterparts?
The process of patenting genetically improved foods and the wide variety of biotech food production threatens to end farming practices as they have been practiced for 12,000 years. GE patents such as Terminator Technology will end up ruining seed fertility and force hundreds of millions of farmers who now save and share their seeds to purchase more expensive GE seeds and chemical backing from a handful of biotech monopolies. If this practice is not stopped in time, the patenting system for transgenic plants and animals will soon incur a situation where farmers will have to rent their plants and animals from biotechnology companies such as Montsanto, for which they will have to pay excessively high prices. tall for their own crops and livestock.
The small farmer will be displaced from his land so the food alternatives will be dictated by a cartel of transnational corporations. Rural communities will be the first to be affected ending in total devastation. Hundreds of millions of farmers and farm workers around the world will lose their livelihoods.
The practice of Genetic Engineering and the patenting of animals reduces living beings to the level of manufactured products. Biotechnology, which is characterized by being a purely reductionist science, reduces all life into small information sessions (genetic code) that can be fixed or decomposed at will. Stripped of all integrity and sacred qualities, animals that will be reduced to objects by their "inventors" will be treated as such. Hundreds of genetically deformed animals are currently awaiting patent approval from the federal government. One can only wonder, after the gene-altering and patented wholesaling of animals will genetically engineered custom-made human babies be next?
• A global moratorium on all transgenic foods and crops. These products have not been proven safe for human health or the environment, and should not be on the market.
• End industrial agriculture and significantly reduce the amount of toxic chemicals and animal drugs used on farms, by 2010.
• Convert North American agriculture to at least 30% organic by 2010.
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* Ronnie Cummins is National Director, Organic Consumers Association