EATING GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD IS GAMBLING WITH YOUR HEALTH
By Jeffrey Smith
January 24, 2004
You probably eat genetically modified (GM) foods at every meal without knowing it. Most Americans do. While the biotech industry claims that the FDA has thoroughly evaluated GM foods and found them safe, 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.
Genetically modified foods are those which have foreign genes inserted into their DNA. While scientists originally assumed that the inserted genes would only add a particular desired trait to the crop, new evidence suggests that the host's normal natural genes can get switched off, turned on permanently, damaged, or altered in the process. And that's just some of the many ways that GM foods may create unpredicted and potentially dangerous side effects.
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, and that the "default prediction" for any GM foods is the creation of unintended side effects. They called for safety testing, looking for short- and long-term human toxicity, allergenicity, and other health effects.
Unfortunately, there have been very few safety studies. Of the 10 published animal feeding studies, the most in-depth one showed evidence of damaged immune systems, digestive problems, excessive cell growth, and stunted organ development in rats fed an experimental GM potato. The scientists identified the process of genetic modification as the probable cause-the same process used in creating most GM food on the market. When the scientist went public with his findings, he was fired from his job after 35 years, and silenced with threats of a lawsuit. Unfortunately, no published study has yet tested the GM food on the market to see if they create these same damaging effects in laboratory animals or humans.
Rats fed the genetically modified FlavrSavr tomato developed stomach lesions. Seven of forty rats died within two weeks. The crop was approved, but has since been taken off the market.
The only human feeding trial ever conducted confirmed that genetically engineered genes from soy burgers and a soy milkshake transferred to the bacteria inside the digestive tract after only one meal, making the bacteria resistant to herbicide. (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.
In the 1980's a deadly epidemic was traced to the food supplement L-tryptophan, created from genetically modified bacteria. About 100 Americans died and an estimated 5-10,000 fell sick-some were permanently disabled. Biotech proponents successfully diverted the blame away from genetic engineering by attributing the disease to changes in the filtration system at the factory. It is now known, however, that hundreds had contracted the disease from genetically modified versions of L-tryptophan created during the four years prior to the change in the filter.
The disease created by the contaminated L-tryptophan was acute, rare, and came on quickly. If all three of these characteristics had not been present, it is unlikely that doctors would have identified the supplement as the cause; it might still be on the market. This begs the question, Are there other genetically modified products on the market creating serous health problems that are not being traced?
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 lots of newly introduced GM foods. Could that be contributing to the 5,000 deaths, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 76 million illnesses related to food each year? It's hard to say since there is no monitoring in place.
In the UK-one of the few places that do annual evaluations of allergy statistics- soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% immediately just after GM soy was imported for the first time from the United States. This might have resulted from the increased allergen, trypsin inhibitor, in the genetically modified Roundup Ready® soy or perhaps from the protein in that soy that has never before been part of the human food supply.
Milk and dairy products from cows treated with the genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (bGH) milk 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." In addition, Sam Epstein, M.D., Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition and author of eight books, wrote, "bGH 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."
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."
In spite of such warnings and the mounting evidence of potential dangers, the FDA claims that GM foods are no different and do not require safety testing. A manufacturer can introduce a GM food without even informing the government or consumers. How could the agency put such a dangerous industry-friendly policy in place, when their own scientists had insisted that each GM variety should be subjected to long-term safety tests before being allowed on the market? One hint was that a former attorney to the biotech giant Monsanto was in charge of FDA policy making. Another hint comes from a memo by former FDA Commissioner David Kessler, who described the agency's policy as "consistent with the general biotechnology policy established by the Office of the President." He said, "It also responds to White House interest in assuring the safe, speedy development of the U.S. biotechnology industry."
Thus, the biotech companies themselves determine if their own foods are safe. While they voluntarily submit studies, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, they contain "technical shortcomings in the safety data . . . as well as some obvious errors that the FDA failed to detect." There are also a handful of published industry-sponsored studies. But many scientists describe these as "designed to avoid finding any problems.",
Many of the key assumptions used as the basis for industry and government safety claims have been proven wrong or remain untested. Although they continue to promote the myth that GM foods are needed to feed the world, according to the United Nations this is not true. Furthermore, GM crops increase reliance on agricultural chemicals and actually reduce average yields . I encourage you to ignore industry's vacuous claims and review the data for your self. It provides a compelling case why these foods should never have been approved, and why eating them is gambling with your health.
1, "Expert Panel on the Future of Food Biotechnology," January, 2001, www.rsc.ca/foodbiotechnology/GMreportEN.pdf
2, John Vidal, "GM genes found in human gut," The Guardian, July 17, 2002, www.guardian.co.uk/gmdebate/Story/0,2763,75666 6,00.html
3, "The Impact of Genetic Modification on Agriculture, Food and Health," BRITISH MEDICAL ASSOCIATION, Board of Science and Education, May 1999
4, Stephen R. Padgette and others, "The Composition of Glyphosate-Tolerant Soybean Seeds Is Equivalent to That of Conventional Soybeans," The Journal of Nutrition, vol. 126, no. 4, April 1996 (Also see data taken from the journal archives, as it had been omitted from the published study.)
5, Mark Townsend, "Why soya is a hidden destroyer," Daily Express, March 12, 1999
6, Stephen R. Padgette and others, "The Composition of Glyphosate-Tolerant Soybean Seeds Is Equivalent to That of Conventional Soybeans," The Journal of Nutrition, vol. 126, no. 4, April 1996 (Also see data taken from the journal archives, as it had been omitted from the published study.)
7, S. E. Hankinson, and others, "Circulating concentrations of insulin-like growth factor 1 and risk of breast cancer," Lancet, vol. 351, no. 9113, 1998, pp. 1393-1396
8, June M. Chan and others, "Plasma Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 [IGF-1] and Prostate Cancer Risk: A Prospective Study," Science, vol. 279, January 23, 1998, pp. 563-566
9, Peter Montague "Milk, rbGH, and Cancer," Rachel's Environment and Health News, no. 593, April 9, 1998
10, "Growth Hormones Would Endanger Milk," Op-ed article, Los Angeles Times, July 27, 1989
11, Bill Lambrecht, Dinner at the New Gene Café, p. 139
12, "Expert Panel on the Future of Food Biotechnology," January, 2001, wwww.rsc.ca/foodbiotechnology/GmreportEN.pdf
13, David Kessler, "FDA Proposed Statement of Policy Clarifying the Regulation of Food Derived from Genetically Modified Plants-DECISION," March 20, 1992, www.biointegrity.org
14, "Plugging The Holes in Biotech Food Safety," Center for Science in the Public Interest, Press Release, January 7 2003 15, Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, Trust Us We're Experts, Jeremy P. Tarcher/ Putnam, New York, 2001, p154
16, Jeffrey M. Smith, Seeds of Deception, Yes! Books, Fairfield, IA, 2003, pp. 34-38
17, "Expert Panel on the Future of Food Biotechnology," January, 2001, www.rsc.ca/foodbiotechnology/GMreportEN.pdf
18, Charles Benbrook, "Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use: The First Eight Years," BioTech InfoNet Technical Paper Number 6, November 2003, www.biotech-info.net/Technical_ Paper_6.pdf
19, Charles Benbrook, "Evidence of the Magnitude and Consequences of the Roundup Ready Soybean Yield Drag from University-Based Varietal Trials in 1998," Ag BioTech InfoNet Technical Paper Number 1, July 13, 1999, www.biotechinfo.net/RR_yield_drag_98. pdf
© 2004 Jeffrey M. Smith- All Rights Reserved
Jeffrey M. Smith has been involved with genetically modified (GM) foods for nearly a decade. He worked for non-profit and political groups on the issue and in 1998, ran for U.S. Congress to raise public awareness of the health and environmental impacts. To protect children-who are most at risk from the potential health effects of GM foods-Smith proposed legislation to remove the foods from school meals. He also proposed legislation to help protect farmers from cross-pollination by GM crops. Later, he was vice president of marketing for a GMO detection laboratory.
Smith has lectured widely, spoken at conferences, and has been quoted in articles around the world. Prior to working in this field, he was a writer, educator, and public speaker for non-profit groups, advancing the causes of health, environment, and personal development. This book Seeds of Deception, researched and written after he left the industry, combines Smith's passion for these causes with his extensive knowledge of the risks and cover-ups behind genetically modified foods.
Smith is the founding director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, a member of the Sierra Club Genetic Engineering Committee, and a member of the advisory board of the Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods. He has a master's degree in business administration and lives with his wife in Iowa, surrounded by genetically modified corn and soybeans. Website: www.seedsofdeception.com