GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD-A SERIOUS HEALTH RISK
Genetically engineered foods containing genes derived from bacteria and
viruses are now starting to appear in the shops, and foods with insect, fish,
and animal genes will soon follow. These genetic changes are radically different
from those resulting from traditional methods of breeding. Yet, the sale of
these foods is being permitted without proper assessment of the risks and
without adequately informing the public, even though many scientists say that
genetically modified foods could cause serious damage to health and the
WHAT IS GENETIC ENGINEERING?
Genes are the
blueprints for every part of an organism. Genetic engineering is the process of
articficially modifying these blueprints. By cutting and splicing DNA-genetic
surgury-genetic engineers can transfer genes specific to one type of organism
into any other organism on earth.
WHY DO IT?
to transfer desirable qualities from one organism to another, for example, to
make a crop resistant to an herbicide or to enhance food value.
At first sight it may seem appealing. However, closer
examination reveals that commercial and political motives are taking precedence
with little regard to the possible dangers. We already have the ability to feed
the world's population without the risks posed by genetic engineering. Why
subject humanity to these unnecessary risks?
ARE THE DANGERS? (Please see more detailed discussion below.)
identified so far include:
- New toxins and allergens in foods
- Other damaging effects on health caused by unnatural foods
- Increased use of chemicals on crops, resulting in increased contamination
of our water supply and food
- The creation of herbicide-resistant weeds
- The spread of diseases across species barriers
- Loss of bio-diversity in crops
- The disturbance of ecological balance
- Artificially induced characteristics and inevitable side-effects will be
passed on to all subsequent generations and to other related organisms. Once
released, they can never be recalled or contained. The consequences of this
WHAT IS THE SITUATION NOW?
foods available, or about to appear, in U.S. markets include tomatoes, squash,
yeast, corn, potatoes, and soybeans (which are used in 60 % of all processed
foods, such as bread, pasta, candies, ice cream, pies, biscuits, margarine, meat
products and vegetarian meat substitutes). Genetically modified organisms are
also used to produce cheeses and canola oil. But this is just the beginning. In
a few years it may be almost impossible to find natural food.
industry and government appear to be complacent. They assume that these new
foods are not substantially different from existing foods and pose no special
risks. But this assumption is wrong and dangerous. The radical changes being
made by biotechnologists could never happen in nature, and have already caused
toxic side-effects. Current regulations require only minimal safety testing for
some foods, and none at all for others. In no case do regulations require
evaluation of long term impacts on health.
Most genetically modified foods
will not be labelled. Under present regulations manufacturers are already
introducing genetically modified ingredients into many processed foods without
informing consumers. The government is ignoring the wishes of the public.
Surveys consistently find that 85-90% of consumers want clear labelling of all
genetically engineered foods.
DESPITE INTENDED BENEFITS, MANY
TECHNOLOGIES PRODUCE DISASTROUS SIDE-EFFECTS.
Increasingly, society is
recognizing side-effects such as nuclear pollution, global warming, and the
toxic effects of pesticides and herbicides. Medicines are often withdrawn
because the side-effects turn out to be too poisonous. In every case, it has
taken time for hazards to come to light and for action to be taken.
engineering poses the greatest danger of any technology yet introduced. Because
many of the damageing effects of genetic engineering are irreversible, we must
prevent problems before they occur. The precautionary approach is essential if
we are to protect ourselves, our children, and all generations to come. We must
take action now, if we want to prevent an avalanche of genetically engineered
foods from inundating the market and placing virtually everyone at risk.
WE MUST ACT BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!
foods are being introduced without due regard for health, yet many damaging
effects will be irreversible.
What is needed
TO PROTECT OUR HEALTH:
- Any food produced through genetic engineering should be banned until
scientifically shown to be safe and safe for everyone.
- In the meantime, labeling should be required for any food that contains
even one genetically engineered ingredient, or that has been produced using
genetically modified organisms or enzymes.
- Full disclosure labelling will allow consumers to choose what they eat. It
will also help scientists trace the source of health problems arising from
TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT:
- All applications of genetic engineering should be banned that carry the
risk of accidental or intentional release of genetically modified organisms
into the environment.
What you can do
- Write to members of Congress, food producers, supermarkets, the press and
consumer groups, expressing your concern and enclosing this leaflet.
- Make copies of this document for friends, family, colleagues, students,
trades unions, clubs and societies. Alert everyone to the dangers.
DANGERS OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS
The scientific facts demonstrating the need for an immediate worldwide
Because living organisms are highly complex, genetic engineers
cannot possibly predict all of the effects of introducing new genes into them.
This is the case for even the simplest bacterium, not to mention more complex
plants and animals.
THIS IS BECAUSE:
- the introduced gene may act differently when working within its new host
- the original genetic intelligence of the host will be disrupted
- the new combination of the host genes and the introduced gene will have
unpredictable effects; and therefore
- there is no way of knowing the overall, long-term effect of genetically
engineered foods on the health of those who eat them.
THE FOLLOWING ARE SOME OF THE FACTS:
- Unnatural gene transfers from one species to another are dangerous.
Biotechnology companies erroneously claim that their manipulations are similar
to natural genetic changes or traditional breeding techniques. However, the
cross-species transfers being made, such as between fish and tomatoes, or
between other unrelated species, would not happen in nature and may create new
toxins, diseases, and weaknesses. In this risky experiment, the general public
is the guinea-pig.
- Biotechnology companies also claim their methods are precise and
In fact, the process of inserting genes is quite random
and can damage normal genes. Genetic research shows that many weaknesses in
plants, animals, and humans have their origin in tiny imperfections in the
genetic code. Therefore, the random damage resulting from gene insertion will
inevitably result in side-effects and accidents. Scientists have assessed
these risks to be substantial. (Refs: Palmiter, R.D. et al (1986) ANNUAL
REVIEW OF GENETICS 20: 465; Inose, T. et al (1995) INT. JOUR. FOOD SCIENCE
- Unpredictable health damaging effects.
When genetic engineers
insert a new gene into any organism there are "position effects" which can
lead to unpredictable changes in the pattern of gene expression and genetic
function. The protein product of the inserted gene may carry out unexpected
reactions and produce potentially toxic products. There is also serious
concern about the dangers of using genetically engineered viruses as delivery
vehicles (vectors) in the generation of transgenic plants and animals. This
could destabilise the genome, and also possibly create new viruses, and thus
dangerous new diseases. (Refs: Green, A.E. et al (1994) SCIENCE 263:1423;
Osbourn, J.K. et al (1990) VIROLOGY 179:921.)
- Genetically engineered products carry more risks than traditional
The process of genetic engineering can thus introduce dangerous
new allergens and toxins into foods that were previously naturally safe.
Already, one genetically engineered soybean was found to cause serious
allergic reactions, and bacteria genetically engineered to produce large
amounts of the food supplement, tryptophan, have produced
toxic contaminants that killed 37 people and permanently disabled 1,500 more.
(Refs: Nordlee, J.A. et al (1996) THE NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE 688;
Mayeno, A.N. et al (1994) TIBTECH 12:364.)
- Increased pollution of food and water supply.
More than 50% of
the crops developed by biotechnology companies have been engineered to be
resistant to herbicides. Use of herbicide-resistant crops will lead to a
threefold increase in the use of herbicides, resulting in even greater
pollution of our food and water with toxic agrochemicals. (Ref: Goldberg, R.J.
(1994) WEED TECHNOLOGY 6:647.)
- Health-damaging effects caused by genetic engineering will continue
Unlike chemical or nuclear contamination, genetic pollution
is self-perpetuating. It can never be reversed or cleaned up; genetic mistakes
will be passed on to all future generations of a species.
- Inadequate government regulation.
Biotech companies claim that
government regulatory bodies will protect consumers. However DDT, Thalidomide,
L-tryptophan, etc. were approved by U.S. regulators with tragic results.
Recently it was found that 80% of supermarket milk contained traces of either
medicines, illegal antibiotics used on farms, or hormones, including
genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH). The facts show that
regulators are not protecting the public adequately. (Ref: Epstein, S.S.
(1996) INT. JOUR. HEALTH SERVICES, 26:173.)
- Ethical concerns.
Transferring animal genes into plants raises
important ethical issues for vegetarians and religious groups. It may also
involve animal experiments which are unacceptable to many people.
- Gene transfer across species and competition from new species damaging
When new genetic information is introduced into
plants, bacteria, insects or other animals, it can easily be passed into
related organisms, through processes such as cross pollination. This process
has already created "super weeds". Existing species can also be displaced from
the ecosystem with disastrous effects, as happened with genetically modified
Klebsiella soil bacteria. (Ref: Holms, M.T. and Ingam, E.R. (1994) Bulletin of
the Ecological Society of America (Supplement), 75:97)
- Crops are now being engineered to produce their own pesticides.
This will promote the more rapid appearance of resistant insects and
lead to excessive destruction of useful insects and soil organisms, thus
seriously perturbing the ecosystem. In addition, the pesticide produced by the
plant may be harmful to the health of consumers. (Refs: Union of Concerned
Scientists (1994) GENE EXCHANGE, 5:68; Mikkelsen, T.R. et al (1996) Nature
380:31; Skogsmyr, I. (1994) THEORETICAL AND APPLIED GENETICS 88:770; Hama, H.
et al (1992) APPLIED ENTYMOLOGY AND ZOOLOGY 27:355.)
GLOBAL THREAT TO HUMANITY'S FOOD SUPPLY
transnational companies are carrying out a dangerous global experiment by
attempting to introduce large numbers of genetically engineered foods widely
into our food supply. Because genetic manipulations can generate unanticipated
harmful side-effects, and because genetically engineered foods are not tested
sufficiently to eliminate those that are dangerous, this experiment, not only
jeopardizes the health of individuals, but could also lead to national or even
global food shortages and large-scale health threats.
There is no logical
scientific justification for exposing society to this risk, nor is it necessary
to take this risk for the purpose of feeding humanity. It is only of benefit to
the biotech industry, which will obtain short term commercial gains at the
expense of the health and safety of the whole population. Tampering with the
genetic code of food is reckless and poses a serious threat to life. It could
easily upset the delicate balance between our physiology and the foods that we
eat. There is already ample scientific justification for an immediate ban on
genetically modified foods in order to safeguard our health.
TO BAN GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD
For further information or to offer
your support for this campaign, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, for further
information and solutions read:
GENETIC ENGINEERING: THE
HAZARDS, EVEDIC ENGINEERING: THE SOLUTIONS by John Fagan Ph.D. - an
award-winning geneticist who returned his government grants
and began new research inMaharishi's Vedic Science. To order, phone
John B. Fagan, Ph.D.
Professor of Molecular Biology
Maharishi University of Management
(Maharishi International University 1971 to 1995)
1000 North Fourth
Fairfield, Iowa, 52557-1078