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 environment.
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?
Scientists want to transfer desirable qualities from one organism to
another, for example, to make a crop resistant to an herbicide or to enhance
IS IT NECESSARY?
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?
WHAT ARE THE DANGERS? (Please see more detailed discussion below.)
Those identified so far include:
WHAT IS THE SITUATION NOW?
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 are incalculable.
Genetically modified 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.
The 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
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
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.
Genetic 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!
Genetically engineered foods are being introduced without due regard
for health, yet many damaging effects will be irreversible.
What is needed
TO PROTECT OUR HEALTH:
TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT:
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 these foods.
What you can do
All applications of genetic engineering should be banned that carry the
risk of accidental or intentional release of genetically modified organisms
into the environment.
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 FOLLOWING ARE SOME OF THE FACTS:
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.
GLOBAL THREAT TO HUMANITY'S FOOD SUPPLY
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 sophisticated.
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 TECH.
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 foods.
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.)
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.)
Giant 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
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.
CAMPAIGN 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, VEDIC ENGINEERING: THE SOLUTIONS
by John Fagan Ph.D. - an award-winning geneticist who returned his government
grants and began new research in Maharishi'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 Street
Fairfield, Iowa, 52557-1078
Fax (515) 472-5725