We are confronted with what is undoubtedly the single most potent technology the world has ever known - more powerful even than atomic energy. Yet it is being released throughout our environment and deployed with superficial or no risk assessments - as if no one needs to worry an iota about its unparalleled powers to harm life as we know it - and for all future generations.
Updated 2009. Comments email: firstname.lastname@example.org More blue underlined links shortly in an ongoing update.
What is called "biotechnology" is a vital issue that impacts all of us.
Largely between 1997 and 1999, genetically modified (GM) food ingredients suddenly appeared in 2/3rds of all US processed foods. This food alteration was fueled by a single Supreme Court ruling. It allowed, for the first time, the patenting of life forms for commercialization. Since then thousands of applications for experimental genetically-modified (GM) organisms, including quite bizarre GMOs, have been filed with the US Patent Office alone, and many more abroad. Furthermore an economic war broke out to own equity in firms that legally claimed such patent rights or the means to control not only genetically modified organisms but vast reaches of human food supplies. This has been the behind-the-scenes and key factor for some of the largest and rapid agri-chemical firm mergers in history. The merger of Pioneer Hi-Bed and Dupont (1997), Novartis AG and AstraZeneca PLC (2000), plus Dow's merger with Rohm and Haas (2001) are three prominent examples, Few consumers are aware this has been going on and is ever continuing. Yet if you recently ate soya sauce in a Chinese restaurant, munched popcorn in a movie theatre, or indulged in an occasional candy bar - you've undoubtedly ingested this new type of food. You may have, at the time, known exactly how much salt, fat and carbohydrates were in each of these foods because regulations mandate their labeling for dietary purposes. But you would not know if the bulk of these foods, and literally every cell had been genetically altered!
In just those three years, as much as 1/4th of all American agricultural lands or 70-80 million acres were quickly converted to raise genetically-modified (GM) food and crops. And in the race to increase GM crop production verses organics, the former is winning. For details, see our article Who is Winning The Race Between GM Global and Organic Crop Production?
Core Philosophical Issues
When Gandhi confronted British rule and Martin Luther King addressed those who disenfranchised Afro-Americans, each brought forth issues of morality and spirituality. They both challenged others to live up to the highest principles of humanity. With the issue of GM food technology, we should naturally do the same, and with great respect for both sides. It is not enough to list fifty or more harmful effects but we need to also address moral, spiritual and especially worldview issues. Here the stakes are incredibly huge. For an introductory discussion of the philosophical issues involving GMOs, why this technology represents the impregnation of a mechanical worldview, a death-centered vision of nature that is greatlyt accelerating the death of species on earth, see our article GMOs - Philosophical Issues of a Thanoptic (Death-Delivering) Technology.
FROM HYBRIDIZATION TO GMOs
Another challenging phenomenon to face in our modern world is that of hybridization. It seems to have worked so very successfully in some commercial realms, and as a major application of Gregor Mendel's revolutionary Gene Theory. Mendel offered a logical extension of the larger mechanical worldview. Just as we create factory assembly lines for manufacturing inanimate products, why can't we also manufacture living organisms, and using the same or similar principles? Why not take this assembly-line process to the next logical and progressive level?
What's wrong then with the "advance" of genetic engineering? No doubt, with hybridizations conscious life is manipulated. But living organisms continue to make some primary genetic decisions amid limited selections. We can understand this with an analogy. There is an immense difference between being a matchmaker and inviting two people to a dinner party, to meet and see if they are compatible. This differs essentially from forcing their meeting and union or a violent date rape. The former act may be divine, and the latter considered criminal. The implication is that biotechnology involves vital moral issues in regard to the whole of life in nature.
With biotechnology, roses are no longer crossed with just roses. They are mated with pigs, tomatoes with oak trees, fish with asses, butterflies with worms, orchids with snakes. The technology that makes this all possible is called biolistics - a gunshot-like violence that pierces the nuclear membrane of cells. This essentially violates not just the core chambers of life (physically crossing nuclear membranes) but the conscious-choice principle that is part of living nature's essence. Some also compare it to the violent crossing of territorial borders of countries, subduing inhabitants against their will.
What will happen if this technology is allowed to spread? Fifty years ago few predicted that chemical pollution would cause so much vast environmental harm. Now nearly 1/3rd of all species are threatened with extinction (and up to half of all plant species and half of all mammals). Few also knew that cancer rates would skyrocket during this same period. Nowadays approximately 41% on average of Americans can expect cancer in their lifetime.
No one has a crystal ball to see future consequences of the overall GMO technology.Nevertheless, there are silent alarm signals like the early death of canaries in a mine shaft. There is, for example, growing evidence that the wholesale disappearance of bees relates directly to the appearance of ever more GM pollen. If we understand certain philosophical issues about the 17th century's worldview, the potential harm of GMOs actually can potentially far outweigh that of chemical pollution. This is because chemistry deals mostly with things altered by fire (and then no longer alive, isolated in laboratories - and not infecting living terrains in self-reproducible ways). Thus a farmer may use a chemical for many decades, and then let the land lie fallow to convert it back to organic farming. This is because the chemicals tend to break down into natural substances over time, Genetic pollution, however, can alter the oil's life forever!
Farmers who view their land as their primary financial asset have reason to heed this warning. They need to be alarmed by evidence that genetically-modified soil bacteria contamination can arise. This is more than just possible, given the numerous (1600 or more) distinct microorganisms that can be found in a single teaspoon of soil. If that soil contamination remains permanently, the consequences can be catastrophic. Someday the public may blacklist precisely those farms that have once planted GM crops. No one has put up any warning signs on product packaging for farmers, including those who now own 1/4 of all agricultural tracks in the US. Furthermore, the spreading potential impact on all ecosystems is profound.
Writes Jeremy Rifkin, in The Biotech Century,
"Our way of life is likely to be more fundamentally transformed in the next several decades than in the previous one thousand years...Tens of thousands of novel transgenic bacteria, viruses, plants and animals could be released into the Earth's ecosystems...Some of those releases, however, could wreak havoc with the planet's biospheres."
In short these processes involve unparalleled risks. Voices from many sides echo this view. Contradicting safety claims, no major insurance company has been willing to limit risks, or insure bio-engineered agricultural products. The reason given is the high level of unpredictable consequences. Over eight hundred scientists from 84 countries have signed The World Scientist open letter to all governments calling for a ban on the patenting of life-forms and emphasizing the very grave hazards of GMOs, genetically-modified seeds and GM foods. This was submitted to the UN, World Trade Organization and US Congress. The Union of Concerned Scientists (a 1000 plus member organization with many Nobel Laureates) has similarly expressed its scientific reservations. The prestigious medical journal, Lancet, published an article on the research of Arpad Pusztai showing potentially significant harms, and to instill debate. Britain's Medical Association (the equivalent of the AMA and with over a 100,000 physicians) called for an outright banning of genetically-modified foods and labeling the same in countries where they still exist. In a gathering of political representatives from over 130 nations, drafting the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, approximately 95% insisted on new precautionary approaches. The National Academy of Science report on genetically-modified products urged greater scrutiny and assessments. Prominent FDA scientists have repeatedly expressed profound fears and reservations but their voices were muted not due to cogent scientific reasons but
intense political pressure from the Bush administration in its efforts to buttress and promote the profit-potentials of a nascent biotech industry.
To counterbalance this, industry-employed scientists have signed a statement in favor of genetically-modified foods. But are any of these scientists impartial? Writes the New York Times (Feb 20, 2000) (about a similar crisis involving genetic engineering and medical applications).
"Academic scientists who lack industry ties have become as rare as giant pandas in the wild...lawmakers, bioethics experts and federal regulators are troubled that so many researchers have a financial stake [via stock options or patent participation] ...The fear is that the lure of profit could color scientific integrity, promoting researchers to withhold information about potentially dangerous side-effects."
Looked at from outside of commercial interests, perils of genetically modified foods and organisms are multi-dimensional. They include the creation of new "transgenic" life forms - organisms that cross unnatural gene lines (such as tomato seed genes crossed with fish genes) - and that have unpredictable behavior or replicate themselves out of control in the wild. This can happen, without warning, inside of our bodies creating an unpredictable chain reaction. A four-year study at the University of Jena in Germany conducted by Hans-Hinrich Kaatz revealed that bees ingesting pollen from transgenic rapeseed had bacteria in their gut with modified genes. This is called a "horizontal gene transfer." Commonly found bacteria and microorganisms in the human gut help maintain a healthy intestinal flora. These, however, can be mutated.
Mutations may also be able to travel internally to other cells, tissue systems and organs throughout the human body. Not to be underestimated, the potential domino effect of internal and external genetic pollution can make the substance of science-fiction horror movies become terrible realities in the future. The same is true for the bacteria that maintain the health of our soil - and are vitally necessary for all forms of farming - in fact for human sustenance and survival.
Without factoring in biotechnology, milder forms of controlling nature have gravitated toward restrictive monocropping. In the past 50 years, this underlies the disappearance of approximately 95% of many native grains, beans, nuts, fruits, and vegetable varieties in the United States, India, and Argentina among other nations (and on average 75% worldwide). Genetically-modified monoculture, however, can lead to yet greater harm. Monsanto, for example, had set a goal of converting 100% of all US soy crops to Roundup Ready strains by the year 2000. If this plan were effected, it would have threatened the biodiversity and resilience of all future soy farming practices. Monsanto laid out similar strategies for corn, cotton, wheat and rice. This represents a deepest misunderstanding of how seeds interact, adapt and change with the living world of nature.
One need only look at agricultural history - at the havoc created by the Irish potato blight, the Mediterranean fruit fly epidemic in California, the regional citrus canker attacks in the Southeast, and the 1970's US corn leaf blight. In the latter case, 15% of US corn production was quickly destroyed. Had weather changes not quickly ensued, most all crops would have been laid waste because a fungus attached their cytoplasm universally. The deeper reason this happened was that approximately 80% of US corn had been standardized (devitalized/mechanized) to help farmers crossbreed - and by a method akin to those used in current genetic engineering. The uniformity of plants then allowed a single fungus to spread, and within four months to destroy crops in 581 counties and 28 states in the US. According to J. Browning of Iowa State University: "Such an extensive, homogeneous acreage of plants... is like a tinder-dry prairie waiting for a spark to ignite it."
The homogeneity is unnatural, a byproduct again of deadening nature's creativity in the attempt to mechanize, to grasp absolute control, and of what ultimately yields not control but wholesale disaster. Europeans seem more sensitive than Americans to such approaches, given the analogous metaphor of German eugenics.
Overall the "biotech revolution" that is presently trying to overturn 12,000 years of traditional and sustainable agriculture was launched in the summer of 1980 in the US. This was the result of a little-known US Supreme Court decision Diamond vs. Chakrabarty where the highest court decided that biological life could be legally patentable.
Ananda Mohan Chakrabarty, a microbiologist and employee of General Electric (GE), developed at the time a type of bacteria that could ingest oil. GE rushed to apply for a patent in 1971. After several years of review, the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) turned down the request under the traditional doctrine that life forms are not patentable. Jeremy Rifkin's organization, the Peoples Business Commission, filed the only brief in support of the ruling. GE later sued and won an overturning of the PTO ruling. This gave the go ahead to further bacterial gmo research throughout the 1970's.
Then in 1983 the first genetically-modified plant, an anti-biotic resistant tobacco was introduced. Field trials then began in 1985, and the EPA approved the very first release of a GMO crop in 1986. This was a herbicide-resistant tobacco. All of this went forward due to a regulatory green light as in 1985 the PTO also decided the Chakrabarty ruling could be further extended to all plants and seeds, or the entire plant kingdom.
It then took another decade before the first genetically-altered crop was commercially introduced. This was the famous delayed-ripening "Flavr-savr" tomatoapproved by the FDA on May 18, 1994. The tomato was fed in laboratory trials to mice who, normally relishing tomatoes, refused to eat these lab-creations and had to be force-fed by tubes. Several developed stomach lesions and seven of the forty mice died within two weeks. Without further safety testing the tomato was FDA approved for commercialization. Fortunately, it ended up as a production and commercial failure, and was ultimately abandoned in 1996. This was the same year Calgene, the producer, began to be bought out by Monsanto. During this period also, and scouring the world for valuable genetic materials, W.R. Grace applied for and was granted fifty US patents on the neem tree in India. It even patented the indigenous knowledge of how to medicinally use the tree f(what has since been called biopiracy). Also by the close of the 20th century, about a dozen of the major US crops - including corn, soy, potato, beets, papaya, squash, tomato and cotton - were approved for genetic modification.
Going a step further, on April 12, 1988, PTO issued its first patent on animal life forms (known as oncomice) to Harvard Professor Philip Leder and Timothy A. Stewart. This involved the creation of a transgenic mouse containing chicken and human genes. Since 1991 the PTO has controversially granted other patent rights involving human stem cells, and later human genes. A United States company, Biocyte was awarded a European patent on all umbilical cord cells from fetuses and newborn babies. The patent extended exclusive rights to use the cells without the permission of the donors. Finally the European Patent Office (EPO) received applications from Baylor University for the patenting of women who had been genetically altered to produce proteins in their mammary glands. Baylor essentially sought monopoly rights over the use of human mammary glands to manufacture pharmaceuticals. Other attempts have been made to patent cells of indigenous peoples in Panama, the Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea, among others.
Thus the groundbreaking Chakrabarty ruling evolved, and within little more than two decades from the patenting of tiny, almost invisible microbes, to allow the genetic modification of virtually all terrains of life on Earth.
Certain biotech companies then quickly, again with lightening speed, moved to utilize such patenting for the control of first and primarily seed stock, including buying up small seed companies and destroying their non-patented seeds. In the past few years, this has led to a near monopoly control of certain genetically modified commodities, especially soy, corn, and cotton (the latter used in processed foods when making cottonseed oil). As a result, between 70-75% of processed grocery products, as estimated by the Grocery Manufacturers of America, soon showed genetically-modified ingredients. Yet again without labeling, few consumers in the US were aware that any of this was pervasively occurring. Industry marketers found out that the more the public knew, the less they wanted to purchase GM foods. Thus a concerted effort was organized to convince regulators (or bribe them with revolving-door employment arrangements) not to require such labeling.
About the 50 Harmful Effects of GM Foods
This article does more than dispute the industry and certain government officials' claims that genetically-modified (GM) foods are the equivalent of ordinary foods not requiring labeling. It offers an informative list of the vast number of alarm signals, at least fifty hazards, problems, and dangers. also interspersed are deeper philosophical discussion of how the "good science" of biotechnology can turn against us as a thano-technology, grounded in a worldview that most seriously needs to be revisied.
When pesticides were first introduced, they also were heralded as absolutely safe and as a miracle cure for farmers. Only decades later the technology revealed its truer lethal implications. Here the potentially lethal implications are much broader.
The following list of harms is also divided into several easily referred-to sections, namely on health, environment, farming practices, economic/political/social implications, and issues of freedom of choice. There is a concluding review of means of inner activism - philosophical, spiritual, worldview changing. Next there is a list of action-oriented, practical ideas and resources for personal, political and consumer action on this vital issue. Finally, I want the reader to know that this article is a living document, subject to change whenever new and important information becomes available.
The reader is thus encouraged to return to this article as a resource, explore other parts of our site, and otherwise keep in touch with us and the Websites we link to. Most importantly please sign up for our newsletter so we can exchange vital information with you.
"Recombinant DNA technology faces our society with problems unprecedented not only in the history of science, but of life on Earth. It places in human hands the capacity to redesign living organisms, the products of three billion years of evolution. Such intervention must not be confused with previous intrusions upon the natural order of living organisms: animal and plant breeding...All the earlier procedures worked within single or closely related species...Our morality up to now has been to go ahead without restriction to learn all that we can about nature. Restructuring nature was not part of the bargain...this direction may be not only unwise, but dangerous. Potentially, it could breed new animal and plant diseases, new sources of cancer, novel epidemics."
Deaths and Near-Deaths
1. Recorded Deaths from GM: In 1989, dozens of Americans died and several thousands were afflicted and impaired by a genetically modified version of the food supplement L-tryptophan creating a debilitating ailment known as Eosinophilia myalgia syndrome (EMS) . Released without safety tests, there were 37 deaths reported and approximately 1500 more were disabled. A settlement of $2 billion dollars was paid by the manufacturer, Showa Denko, Japan's third largest chemical company destroyed evidence preventing a further investigation and made a 2 billion dollar settlement. Since the very first commercially sold GM product was lab tested (Flavr Savr) animals used in such tests have prematurely died.
2. Near-deaths and Food Allergy Reactions: In 1996, Brazil nut genes were spliced into soybeans to provide the added protein methionine and by a company called Pioneer Hi-Bred. Some individuals, however, are so allergic to this nut, they can go into anaphylactic shock (similar to a severe bee sting reaction) which can cause death. Using genetic engineering, the allergens from one food can thus be transferred to another, thought to be safe to eat, and unknowingly. Animal and human tests confirmed the peril and fortunately the product was removed from the market before any fatalities occurred. The animal tests conducted, however, were insufficient by themselves to show this. Had they alone been relied upon, a disaster would have followed."The next case could be less than ideal and the public less fortunate," writes Marion Nestle author of Food Politics and Safe Food, and head of the Nutrition Department of NYU in an editorial to the New England Journal of Medicine. It has been estimated that 25% of Americans have mild adverse reactions to foods (such as itching and rashes), while at least 4% or 12 million Americans have provably more serious food allergies as objectively shown by blood iImmunoglobulin E or IgE levels. In other words, there is a significant number of highly food-sensitive individuals in our general population. The percentage of young children who are seriously food-allergenic is yet higher, namely 6-8% of all children under the age of three. In addition, the incidence rates for these children has been decidedly rising. Writes Dr. Jacqueline Pongracic, head of the allergy department at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago, "I've been treating children in the field of allergy immunology for 15 years, and in recent years I've really seen the rates of food allergy skyrocket." The Center for Disease Control confirmed the spike on a US national level. Given the increased adulteration of our diets, it is no wonder at all that this is happening. Yet the FDA officials who are sacredly entrusted to safeguard the health of the general public, and especially of children, declared in 1992, under intense industry-lobbying pressure, that genetically-modified (GM) foods were essentially equivalent to regular foods. The truth is that genetically modified foods cannot ever be equivalent. They involve the most novel and technologically-violent alterations of our foods, the most uniquely different foods ever introduced in the history of modern agriculture (and in the history of biological evolution). To say otherwise affronts the intelligence of the public and safeguarding public officials. It is a bold, if not criminal deception to but appease greed-motivated corporate parties and at the direct expense and risk of the public's health. The FDA even decided against the advice of its own scientists that there was no need at all for FDA allergy or safety testing of these most novel of all foods. This hands-off climate (as promoted by the Bush Administration and similar to what was done with the mortgage and financial industry) is a recipe for widespread social health disasters. When elements of nature that have never before been present in the human diet are suddenly introduced, and without any public safety testing or labeling notice, such as petunia flower elements in soybeans and fish genes in tomatoes (as developed by DNA Plant Technology Corporation in the 1990s), it obviously risks allergic reactions among the most highly sensitive segments of our general population. It is a well-know fact that fish proteins happen to be among the most hyper-allergenic, while tomatoes are not. Thus not labeling such genetically modified tomatoes, with hidden alien or allergenic ingredients, is completely unconscionable. The same applies to the typical GMO that has novel bacterial and viral DNA artificially inserted. Many research studies have definitively confirmed this kind of overall risk for genetically modified foods:
CORN- Two research studies independently show evidence of allergenic reactions to GM Bt corn,
- Farm workers exposed to genetically-modified Bt sprays exhibited extensive allergic reactions.
POTATOES - A study showed genetically-modified potatoes expressing cod genes were allergenic.
PEAS - A decade-long study of GM peas was abandoned when it was discovered that they caused allergic lung damage in mice.
SOY - In March 1999, researchers at the York Laboratory discovered that reactions to soy had skyrocketed by 50% over the year before, which corresponded with the introduction of genetically-modified soy from the US. It was the first time in 17 years that soy was tested in the lab among the top ten allergenic foods.
Cancer and Degenerative Diseases
3. Direct Cancer and Degenerative Disease Links: GH is a protein hormone which, when injected into cows stimulates the pituitary gland in a way that the produces more milk, thus making milk production more profitable for the large dairy corporations. In 1993, FDA approved Monsanto's genetically-modified rBGH, a genetically-altered growth hormone that could be then injected into dairy cows to enhance this feature, and even though scientists warned that this resulted in an increase of IGF-1 (from (70%-1000%). IGF-1 is a very potent chemical hormone that has been linked to a 2 1/2 to 4 times higher risk of human colorectal and breast cancer. Prostate cancer risk is considered equally serious - in the 2,8.to 4 times range. According to Dr. Samuel Epstein of the University of Chicago and Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, this "induces the malignant transformation of human breast epithelial cells." Canadian studies confirmed such a suspicion and showed active IGF-1 absorption, thyroid cysts and internal organ damage in rats. Yet the FDA denied the significance of these findings. When two award-winning journalists, Steve Wilson and Jane Akre, tried to expose these deceptions, they were fired by Fox Network under intense pressure from Monsanto. The FDA's own experiments indicated a spleen mass increase of 40-46%- a sign of developing leukemia. The contention by Monsanto that the hormone was killed by pasteurization or rendered inactive was fallacious. In research conducted by two of Monsanto's own scientists, Ted Elasser and Brian McBride, only 19% of the hormone was destroyed despite boiling milk for 30 minutes when normal pasteurization is 15 seconds. Canada, the European Union, Australia and New Zealand have banned rBGR. The UN's Codex Alimentarius, an international health standards setting body, refused to certify rBGH as safe. Yet Monsanto continued to market this product in the US until 2008 when it finally divested under public pressure. This policy in the FDA was initiated by Margaret Miller, Deputy Director of Human Safety and Consultative Services, New Animal Drug Evaluation Office, Center for Veterinary Medicine and former chemical laboratory supervisor for Monsanto. This is part of a larger revolving door between Monsanto and the Bush Administration. She spearheaded the increase in the amount of antibiotics farmers were allowed to have in their milk and by a factor of 100 or 10,000 percent. Also Michael Taylor, Esq. became the executive assistant to the director of the FDA and deputy Commissioner of Policy - filling a position created in 1991 to promote the biotech industry and squelch internal dissent. There Taylor drafted a new law to undermine the 1958 enacted Delaney Amendment that so importantly outlawed pesticides and food additives known to cause cancer. In other words carcinogens could now legally be reintroduced into our food chain. Taylor was later hired as legal counsel to Monsanto, and subsequently became Deputy Commissioner of Policy at the FDA once again. On another front, GM-approved products have been developed with resistance to herbicides that are commonly-known carcinogens. Bromoxynil is used on transgenic bromoxynmil-resistant or BXN cotton. It is known to cause very serious birth defects and brain damage in rats. Glyphosate and POEA, the main ingredients in Roundup, Monsanto's lead product are suspected carcinogens.
As to other degenerative disease links, according to a study by researcher Dr. Sharyn Martin, a number of autoimmune diseases are enhanced by foreign DNA fragments that are not fully digested in the human stomach and intestines. DNA fragments are absorbed into the bloodstream, potentially mixing with normal DNA. The genetic consequences are unpredictable and unexpected gene fragments have shown up in GM soy crops. A similar view is echoed by Dr. Joe Cummins, Professor of Genetics at the University of Western Ontario, noting that animal experiments have demonstrated how exposure to such genetic elements may lead to inflammation, arthritis and lymphoma (a malignant blood disease).
4. Indirect, Non-traceable Effects on Cancer Rates:The twentieth century saw an incremental lowering of infectious disease rates, especially where a single bacteria was overcome by an antibiotic, but a simultaneous rise in systemic, whole body or immune system breakdowns. The epidemic of cancer is a major example and is affected by the overall polluted state of our environment, including in the pollution of the air, water, and food we take in. There are zillions of potential combinations for the 100,000 commonly thrust upon our environment. The real impact cannot be revealed by experiments that look at just a few controlled factors or chemicals isolates. Rather all of nature is a testing ground. Scientists a few years ago were startled that combining chemical food additives into chemical cocktails caused many times more toxic effects than the sum of the individual chemicals. More startling was the fact that some chemicals were thought to be harmless by themselves but not in such combinations. For example, two simple chemicals found in soft drinks, ascorbic acid and sodium benzoate, together form benzene, an immensely potent carcinogen. Similarly, there is the potential, with entirely new ways of rearranging the natural order with genetic mutations and that similar non-traceable influences can likewise cause cancer. We definitively know X-rays and chemicals cause genetic mutations, and mutagenic changes are behind many higher cancer rates or where cells duplicate out of control. In the US in the year 1900, cancer affected only about 1 out 11 individuals. It now inflicts 1 out of 2 men and 1 out of 3 women in their lifetime. Cancer mortality rates rose relentlessly throughout the 20th century to more than triple overall.
Viral and Bacterial Illness
5. Superviruses: Viruses can mix with genes of other viruses and retroviruses such as HIV. This can give rise to more deadly viruses - and at rates higher than previously thought. One study showed that gene mixing occurred in viruses in just 8 weeks (Kleiner, 1997). This kind of scenario applies to the cauliflower mosaic virus CaMV, the most common virus used in genetic engineering - in Round Up ready soy of Monsanto, Bt-maise of Novaris, and GM cotton and canola. It is a kind of "pararetrovirus" or what multiplies by making DNA from RNA. It is somewhat similar to Hepatitis B and HIV viruses and can pose immense dangers. In a Canadian study, a plant was infected with a crippled cucumber mosaic virus that lacked a gene needed for movement between plant cells. Within less than two weeks, the crippled plant found what it needed from neighboring genes - as evidence of gene mixing or horizontal transfer. This is significant because genes that cause diseases are often crippled or engineered to be dormant in order to make the end product "safe." Results of this kind led the US Department of Agriculture to hold a meeting in October of 1997 to discuss the risks and dangers of gene mixing and superviruses, but no regulatory action was taken. A French study also showed the recombination of RNA of two Cucomoviruses, and under conditions of minimal selection and in supposedly virus resistant transgenic plants. The issue and research involved are also detailed in the consumer reports article by Mae Wan Ho, Angela Ryans and Joe Cummins, Cauliflower Mosaic Viral Promoter - A Recipe for Disaster?
6. Antibiotic Threat Via Milk: Cows injected with rBGH have a much higher level of udder infections. The Center for Food Safety claims a 25% increasein the frequency of udder infections in cows that are given this growth hormone. Since this hormone causes infections, farmers will use more antibiotics that may eventually end up in the dairy products we consume. Even worse, labels do not warn of this growth hormone so many do not realize what they are consuming. The unacceptable levels of antibiotic residues in the milk can cause allergic reactions and weaken the effects of other antibiotics due to a growth in resistant bacteria. Scientists have warned of public health hazards due to growing antibiotic resistance.The overuse of antibiotics can be strongly linked to hard-to-treat illnesses in people. Most companies have been catching onto the consumer's uproar and many have since become rBGH freedue to increasing concerns.
7. Antibiotic Threat Via Plants: Much of the techniques of genetic implantation are ineffective so scientists must use a marker to track where the gene goes into the plant cell. In the article "Why We Need Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food," Jean Halloran and Michael Hansen state that the most common marker is a gene for antibiotic resistance and most genetically engineered food products contain this gene. GM maize plants use an ampicillin resistant gene. In 1998, the British Royal Society called for the banning of this marker as it threatens a vital antibiotic's use. Halloran and Hansenelaborate on this saying that some European countries have prohibited the growth of certain genetically engineered corn due to the fact that the gene can be transfered to the food chain. The resistant qualities of GM bacteria in food can be transferred to other bacteria in the environment and throughout the human body causing society to be less receptive to common antibiotics. What's worse is that some genes can be transferred to disease-causing bacteria making them also resistant to our antibiotics in the future. The GMO Compassexplains how the plants with the resistance markers are the only ones to survive after being injected with the antibiotic, thus proving they are resisting the antibiotic. We are vulnerable to those resistant cells due to easy transference.
8. Resurgence of Infectious Diseases: The Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease journalreported in 1998 that gene technology may be implicated in the resurgence of infectious diseases. This occurs in multiple ways. There is growing resistance to antibiotics misused in bioengineering, the formation of new and unknown viral strains, and the lowering of immunity through diets of processed and altered foods. There is also the horizontal transfer of transgenic DNA among bacteria. Several studies have shown bacteria of the mouth, pharynx and intestines can take up the transgenic DNAin the feed of animals, which in turn can be passed on to humans. This threatens the hallmark accomplishment of the twentieth century - the reduction in infectious diseases that critically helped the doubling of life expectancy. A study by the UK Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) recommended that due to the secondary horizontal transfer of transgenic DNA on livestock and human beings, no genetically modifed food be fed to animals since it can render our common infectious diseases untreatable via the food chain.
9. Increased Food Allergies: The loss of biodiversity in our food supply has grown in parallel with the increase in food allergies. This can be explained as follows. The human body is not a machine-like "something" that can be fed assembly line, carbon copy foods. We eat for nourishment and vitality. What is alive interacts or changes with its environment. Unnatural sameness - required for patenting of genetic foods - are "dead" qualities. Frequently, foods we eat and crave are precisely those testing positive for food allergies.Allergic reactions are misguided defense reactions aganist incoming parasites and in GM food cases, the body senses an unnatural invasion. Cells in our body recognize this lack of vitality, producing antibodies and white cells in response. This is analogous to our brain's cells recognizing and rejecting mechanically repeated thoughts - or thinking "like a broken record." Intuitively our body cells and the overall immune system seems to reject excess homogeneity. Each new food item produced contains many new potentially allergenic proteins.
10. Birth Defects and Shorter Life Spans: As we ingest transgenic human/animal products there is no real telling of the impact on human evolution. We know that rBGh in cows causes a rapid increase in birth defects and shorter life spans and the number of calves born with birth defects to dairy cows has increased significantly. A Circle of Responsibility article says that while no thorough study of long term effects has been conducted, Canada and the European Union have taken precautions and banned the use of rBGH in their dairy cows. In a very recent study by Cornucopia Institute Research the following information was reported:
"...The experience of actual GM-fed experimental animals is scary. When GM soy was fed to female rats, most of their babies died within three weeks—compared to a 10% death rate among the control group fed natural soy. The GM-fed babies were also smaller, and later had problems getting pregnant.
When male rats were fed GM soy, their testicles actually changed color—from the normal pink to dark blue. Mice fed GM soy had altered young sperm. Even the embryos of GM fed parent mice had significant changes in their DNA. Mice fed GM corn in an Austrian government study had fewer babies, which were also smaller than normal.
Reproductive problems also plague livestock. Investigations in the state of Haryana, India revealed that most buffalo that ate GM cottonseed had complications such as premature deliveries, abortions, infertility, and prolapsed uteruses. Many calves died. In the US, about two dozen farmers reported thousands of pigs became sterile after consuming certain GM corn varieties. Some had false pregnancies; others gave birth to bags of water. Cows and bulls also became infertile when fed the same corn.
In the US population, the incidence of low birth weight babies, infertility, and infant mortality are all escalating..." Reported May 20,2009.
As a result of this research "the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) called on 'Physicians to educate their patients, the medical community, and the public to avoid GM (genetically modified) foods when possible and provide educational materials concerning GM foods and health risks.' They called for a moratorium on GM foods, long-term independent studies, and labeling. AAEM’s position paper stated, 'Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,' including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. They conclude, 'There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation,'as defined by recognized scientific criteria. 'The strength of association and consistency between GM foods and disease is confirmed in several animal studies.' (see: Institute for Responsible Technology.)
11. Interior Toxins: "Pesticidal foods" have genes that produce a toxic pesticide inside the food's cells. The food is engineered to produce their own built in pesticide in every cell which produces a poison that splits open a bug's stomach and kills them when the bug tries to eat the plant. This represents the first time "cell-interior toxicity" is being sold for human consumption. There is little knowledge of the potential long-term health impacts. However, while some biotech companies claim that the pesticide called Bthas been approved safe and used by farmers for natural insect control, the Bt-toxin in GM plants is thousands of times more concentrated than the natural bug spray, can not be washed off the plants, and has a properties of allergens. We are now ingesting this interior plant toxin from GM foods.
12. Lowered Nutrition: A study in the Journal of Medicinal Food (Dr. Marc Lappé, 1999) showed that certain GM foods have lower levels of vital nutrients - especially phytoestrogen compounds thought to protect the body from heart disease and cancer. In another study of GM Vicia Faba, a bean in the same family as soy, there was also an increase in estrogen levels, what raises health issues - especially in infant soy formulas. Milk from cows with rBGH contains substantially higher levels of pus, bacteria, and fat. Monsanto's analysis of glyphosate-resistant soya showed the GM-line contained 28% more Kunitz-trypsin inhibitor, a known anti-nutrient and allergen.
13. No Regulated Health Safety Testing: The FDA only requests of firms that they conduct their own tests of new GM products in what Vice President Quale back in 1992 referred to as a "regulatory relief program." The FDA makes no review of those tests unless voluntarily requested by the company producing the product. Companies present their internal company records of tests showing a product is safe - essentially having the "fox oversee the chicken coup." As Louis J. Pribyl, an FDA microbiologist explained, companies tailor tests to get the results they need. They further relinquish responsibility as Pjil Angell, Monsanto's director of corporate communications expressed it "Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech foods. Our interest is in selling...Assuring its safety is the FDA's job." But the FDA has not assumed the responsibility. Essentially it is "like playing Russian roulette with public health," says Philip J. Regal, a biologist at the University of Minnesota. In his contacts with the FDA, he noted that in the policy of helping the biotech industry grow, "government scientist after scientist acknowledged there was no way to assure the health safety of genetically engineered food... [yet] society was going to have to bear an unavoidable measure of risk." The situation was summarized by Richard Steinbrecher, a geneticist working for the Women's Environmental Network "To use genetic engineering to manipulate plants, release them into the environment and introduce them into our food chains is scientifically premature, unsafe and irresponsible."
14. Unnatural Foods: Recently, Monsanto announced it had found "unexpected gene fragments in their Roundup Ready soybeans. It is well known that modified proteins exist in GE foods, new proteins never before eaten by humanity. In 1992, Dr. Louis J. Pribyl of the FDA's Microbiology Group warned (in an internal memo uncovered in a lawsuit filed) that there is "a profound difference between the types of expected effects from traditional breeding and genetic engineering."He also addressed industry claims of no "pleiotropic" (unintended and/or uncontrolled) effects. This was the basis for the industry position that GM foods are "equivalent" to regular foods, thus requiring no testing or regulation. "Pleiotropic effects occur in genetically engineered plants...at frequencies of 30%...increased levels of known naturally occurring toxicants, appearance of new, not previously identified intoxicants, increased capability of concentrating toxic substances from the environment (e.g. pesticides or heavy metals), and undesirable alterations in the level of nutrients may escape breeders' attention unless genetically engineered plants are evaluated specifically for these changes." Other scientists within the FDA echoed this view - and in contrast to the agency's official position. For example, James Marayanski, manager of the FDA's Biotechnology Working Group warned that there was a lack of consensus among the FDA's scientists as to the so-called "sameness" of GM foods compared to non-GM foods. The reason why this is such an important issue is that Congress mandated the FDA to require labelingwhen there is "something tangibly different about the food that is material with respect to the consequences which may result from the use of the food."
15. Radical Change in Diet:Humanity has evolved for thousands of years by adapting gradually to its natural environment - including nature's foods. Within just three years a fundamental transformation of the human diet has occurred. This was made possible by massive consolidations among agri-business. Ten companies now own about 40% of all US seed production and sales. The Biotech industry especially targeted two of the most commonly eaten and lucrative ingredients in processed foods - corn and soy. Monsanto and Novaris, through consolidations, became the second and third largest seed companies in the world. They also purchased related agricultural businesses to further monopolize soy and corn production. Again within three years, the majority of soybeans and one third of all corn in the US are now grown with seeds mandated by the biotech firms. Also 60% of all hard cheeses in the US are processed with a GM enzyme.A percentage of baking and brewery products are GM modified as well. Most all of US cotton production (where cotton oil is used in foods) is bioengineered. Wheat and rice are next in line. In 2002, Monsanto plans to introduce a "Roundup" (the name of its leading herbicide) resistant wheat strain. The current result is that approximately two-thirds of all processed foods in the US already contain GM ingredients - and this is projected to rise to 90% within four years according to industry claims. In short, the human diet, from almost every front, is being radically changed - with little or no knowledge of the long-term health or environmental impacts.
"Genetic Engineering is often justified as a human technology, one that feeds more people with better food. Nothing could be further from the truth. With very few exceptions, the whole point of genetic engineering is to increase sales of chemicals and bio-engineered products to dependent farmers."
David Ehrenfield: Professor of Biology, Rutgers University
General Soil Impact
16. Toxicity to Soil: The industry marketing pitch to the public is that bioengineered seeds and plants will help the environment by reducing toxic herbicide/pesticide use. Isolated examples are given, but the overall reality is exactly opposite. The majority of GM agricultural products are developed specifically for toxin-resistance - namely for higher doses of herbicides/ pesticides sold by the largest producer companies - Monsanto, Dupont Novaris, Dow, Bayer, Ciba-Geigy, Hoescht, AgroEvo, and Rhone-Poulenc. Also the majority of research for future products involves transgenic strains for increased chemical resistance. Not to be fooled, the primary intent is to sell more, not less of their products and to circumvent patent laws. According to an article by R.J. Goldburg scientists predict herbicide use will triple as a result of GM products. As an example of the feverish attempt to expand herbicide use, Monsanto's patent for Roundup was scheduled to expire. Not to lose their market share, Monsanto came up with the idea of creating "Roundup Ready" seeds. It bought out seed companies to monopolize the terrain - then licensing the seeds to farmers with the requirement that they continue buying Roundup past the expiration of the patent. These contracts had stiff financial penalties if farmers used any other herbicide. As early as 1996, the investment report of Dain Boswell on changes in the seed industry reported that Monsanto's billion dollar plus acquisition of Holden Seeds (about 1/3rd of US corn seeds) had "very little to do with Holden as a seed company and a lot to do with the battle between the chemical giants for future sales of herbicides and insecticides." Also as revealed in corporate interviews conducted by Marc Lappé and Britt Bailey (authors of Against the Grain - Biotechnology and the Corporate Takeover of your Food), the explicit aim was to control 100% of US soy seeds by the year 2000 only to continue to sell Roundup - or to beat their patent's expiration. In fact in 1996, about 5000 acres were planted with Roundup Ready soy seeds when Roundup sales accounted for 17% of Monsanto's $9 billion in annual sales. Not to lose this share but to expand it, Monsanto saw to it that by 1999, 5000 acres grew to approximately 40 million acres out of a total of 60 million - or the majority of all soy plantings in the United States. Furthermore, Roundup could now be spayed over an entire field, not just sparingly over certain weeds. However, the problem with evolving only genetically cloned and thus carbon-copy seeds and plants is that historically, extreme monoculture (high levels of sameness in crop planting) has led to a loss of adaptive survival means - or where deadly plant infections have spread like wildfire. As a separate issue, according to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Monsanto's Roundup already threatens 74 endangered species in the United States. It attacks photosynthesis in plants non-specifically - their quintessential, life-giving way to process sunlight. Farmers sowing Roundup Ready seeds can also use more of this herbicide than with conventional weed management. Since the genetically modified plants have alternative ways to create photosynthesis, they are hyper-tolerant, and can thus be sprayed repeatedly without killing the crop. Though decaying in the soil, Roundup residues are left on the plant en route to the consumer. Malcolm Kane, (former head of food safety for Sainsbury's chain of supermarkets) revealed that the government, to accommodate Monsanto, raised pesticide residue limits on soy products about 300-fold from 6 parts per million to 20 parts. Lastly Roundup is a human as well as environmental poison. According to a study at the University of California, glyphosate (the active ingredient of Roundup) was the third leading cause of farm worker illnesses. At least fourteen persons have died from ingesting Roundup. These cases involved mostly individuals intentionally taking this poison to commit suicide in Japan and Taiwan. From this we know that the killing dose is so small it can be put on a finger tip (0.4 cubic centimeters). Monsanto, however, proposes a universal distribution of this lethal substance in our food chain. All of this is not shocking, given Monsanto's history - being the company that first distributed PCBs and vouched for their safety.
17. Soil Sterility and Pollution: In Oregon, scientists found GM bacterium (klebsiella planticola) meant to break down wood chips, corn stalks and lumber wastes to produce ethanol - with the post-process waste to be used as compost - rendered the soil sterile. It killed essential soil nutrients, robbing the soil of nitrogen and killed nitrogen capturing fungi. A similar result was found in 1997 with the GM bacteria Rhizobium melitoli. Professor Guenther Stotzky of New York University conducted research showing the toxins that were lethal to Monarch butterfly are also released by the roots to produce soil pollution. The pollution was found to last up to 8 months with depressed microbial activity. An Oregon study showed that GM soil microbes in the lab killed wheat plants when added to the soil.
18. Extinction of Seed Varieties: A few years ago Time magazine referred to the massive trend by large corporations to buy up small seed companies, destroying any competing stock, and replacing it with their patented or controlled brands as "the Death of Birth." Monsanto additionally has had farmers sign contracts not to save their seeds - forfeiting what has long been a farmer's birthright to remain guardians of the blueprints of successive life. Golden Harvest Organics explains in an article that "the failure of commercial plant breeding has left global agriculture badly prepared for the challenges of the near future, such as climate change and the need to wean ourselves off dependence on fossil fuels. It is now time to start rolling back the monopoly privileges of the seed industry, not to strengthen them further."
19. Superweeds:It has been shown that genetically modified Bt endotoxin remains in the soil at least 18 months (according to Marc Lappé and Britt Bailey) and can be transported to wild plants creating superweeds - resistant to butterfly, moth, and beetle pests - potentially disturbing the balance of nature. A study in Denmark (Mikkelsen, 1996) and in the UK (National Institute of Agricultural Botany) showed superweeds growing nearby in just one generation. A US study showed the superweed resistant to glufosinate (which differs from glyphosate) to be just as fertile as non-polluted weeds. Another study showed 20 times more genetic leakage with GM plants - or a dramatic increase in the flow of genes to outside species. Also in a UK study by the National Institute of Agricultural Botany, it was confirmed that superweeds could grow nearby in just one generation. Scientists suspect that Monsanto's wheat will hybridize with goat grass, creating an invulnerable superweed. The National Academy of Science's study stated that " concern surrounds the possibility of genes for resisting pests being passed from cultivated plants to their weedy relatives, potentially making the weed problem worse. This could pose a high cost to farmers and threaten the ecosystem." (quoting Perry Adkisson, chancellor emeritus of Texas A&M University, who chaired the National Academy of Science study panel). An experiment in France showed a GM canola plant could transfer genes to wild radishes, what persisted in four generations. Similarly, and according to New Scientists, an Alberta Canada farmer began planting three fields of different GM canola seedsin 1997 and by 1999 produced not one, but three different mutant weeds - respectively resistant to three common herbicides (Monsanto's Roundup, Cyanamid's Pursuit, and Aventis' Liberty). In effect genetic materials migrated to the weeds they were meant to control. Now the Alberta farmer is forced to use a potent 2,4-D what GM crops promised to avoid use of. Finally Stuart Laidlaw reported in the Toronto Star that the Ontario government study indicated herbicide use was on the rise primarily largely due to the introduction of GM crops.
20. Plant Invasions:We can anticipate classic bio-invasions as a result of new GM strains, just as with the invasions of the kudzu vine or purple loosestrife in the plant world.
21. Destruction of Forest Life: GM trees or "supertrees" are being developed which can be sprayed from the air to kill literally all of surrounding life, except the GM trees. There is an attempt underway to transform international forestry by introducing multiple species of such trees. The trees themselves are often sterile and flowerless. This is in contrast to rainforests teaming with life, or where a single tree can host thousands of unique species of insects, fungi, mammals and birds in an interconnected ecosphere. This kind of development has been called "death-engineering" rather than "life-" or "bio-engineering." More ominously pollen from such trees, because of their height, has traveled as much as 400 miles or 600 kilometers - roughly 1/5 of the distance across the United States.
22. Terminator Trees: Monsanto has developed plans with the New Zealand Forest Research Agency to create still more lethal tree plantations. These super deadly trees are non-flowering, herbicide-resistant and with leaves exuding toxic chemicals to kill caterpillars and other surrounding insects - destroying the wholesale ecology of forest life. As George McGavin, curator of entomology Oxford University noted, "If you replace vast tracts of natural forest with flowerless trees, there will be a serious effect on the richness and abundance of insects...If you put insect resistance in the leaves as well you will end up with nothing but booklice and earwigs. We are talking about vast tracts of land covered with plants that do not support animal life as a sterile means to cultivate wood tissue. That is a pretty unattractive vision of the future and I for one want no part of it."
23. Superpests: Lab tests indicate that common plant pests such as cottonboll worms, will evolve into superpests immune from the Bt sprays used by organic farmers. The recent "stink bug" epidemic in North Carolina and Georgia seems linked to bioengineered plants that the bugs love. Monsanto, on their Farmsource website, recommended spraying them with methyl parathion, one of the deadliest chemicals. So much for the notion of Bt cotton getting US farmers off the toxic treadmill. Pests the transgenic cotton was meant to kill - cotton bollworms, pink bollworms, and budworms - were once "secondary pests." Toxic chemicals killed off their predators, unbalanced nature, and thus made them "major pests."
24. Animal Bio-invasions: Fish and marine life are threatened by accidental release of GM fish currently under development in several countries - trout, carp, and salmon several times the normal size and growing up to 6x times as fast. One such accident has already occurred in the Philippines - threatening local fish supplies.
25. Killing Beneficial Insects: Studies have shown that GM products can kill beneficial insects - most notably the monarch butterfly larvae (Cornell, 1999). Swiss government researchers found Bt crops killed lacewings that ate the cotton worms which the Bt targeted. A study reported in 1997 by New Scientist indicates honeybees may be harmed by feeding on proteins found in GM canola flowers. Other studies relate to the death of bees (40% died during a contained trial with Monsanto's Bt cotton), springtails (Novartis' Bt corn data submitted to the EPA) and ladybird beetles.
26. Poisonous to Mammals: In a study with GM potatoes, spliced with DNA from the snowdrop plant and a viral promoter (CaMV), the resulting plant was poisonous to mammals (rats) - damaging vital organs, the stomach lining and immune system. CaMV is a pararetrovirus. It can reactivate dormant viruses or create new viruses - as some presume have occurred with the AIDES epidemic. CaMV is promiscuous, why biologist Mae Wan-Ho concluded that "all transgenic crops containing CaMV 35S or similar promoters which are recombinogenic should be immediately withdrawn from commercial production or open field trials. All products derived from such crops containing transgenic DNA should also be immediately withdrawn from sale and from use for human consumption or animal feed."
27. Animal Abuse:Pig number 6706 was supposed to be a "superpig." It was implanted with a gene to become a technological wonder. But it eventually became a "supercripple" full of arthritis, cross-eyed, and could barely stand up with its mutated body. Some of these mutations seem to come right out of Greek mythology - such as a sheep-goat with faces and horns of a goat and the lower body of a sheep. Two US biotech companies are producing genetically modified birds as carriers for human drug delivery - without little concern for animal suffering. Gene Works of Ann Arbor, Michigan has up to 60 birds under "development." GM products, in general, allow companies to own the rights to create, direct, and orchestrate the evolution of animals.
28. Support of Animal Factory Farming: Rather than using the best of scientific minds to end animal factory farming - rapid efforts are underway to develop gene-modified animals that better thrive in disease-promoting conditions of animal factory farms.
29. Genetic Pollution:Carrying GM pollen by wind, rain, birds, bees, insects, fungus, bacteria - the entire chain of life becomes involved. Once released, unlike chemical pollution, there is no cleanup or recall possible. As mentioned, pollen from a single GM tree has been shown to travel 1/5th of the length of the United States. Thus there is no containing such genetic pollution. Experiments in Germany have shown that engineered oilseed rape can have its pollen move over 200 meters. As a result German farmers have sued to stop field trials in Berlin. In Thailand, the government stopped field tests for Monsanto's Bt cotton when it was discovered by the Institute of Traditional Thai Medicine that 16 nearby plants of the cotton family, used by traditional healers, were being genetically polluted. US research showed that more than 50% of wild strawberries growing inside of 50 meters of a GM strawberry field assumed GM gene markers. Another showed that 25-38% of wild sunflowers growing near GM crops had GM gene markers. A recent study in England showed that despite the tiny amount of GM plantings there (33,750 acres over two years compared to 70-80 million acres per year in the US) wild honey was found to be contaminated. This means that bees are likely to pollinate organic plants and trees with transgenic elements. Many other insects transport the by-products of GM plants throughout our environment, and even falling leaves can dramatically affect the genetic heritage of soil bacteria. The major difference between chemical pollution and genetic pollution is that the former eventually is dismantled or decays, while the later can reproduce itself forever in the wild. As the National Academy of Science's report indicated - "the containment of crop genes is not considered to be feasible when seeds are distributed and grown on a commercial scale." Bioengineering firms are also developing fast growing salmon, trout, and catfish as part of the "blue revolution" in aquaculture. They often grow several times faster (6x faster for salmon) and larger in size (up to 39X) so as to potentially wipe out their competitors in the wild. There are no regulations for their safe containment to avoid ecological disasters. They frequently grow in "net pens," renown for being torn by waves, so that some will escape into the wild. If so, commercial wild fish could be devastated according to computer models in a study of the National Academy of Sciences by two Purdue University scientists (William Muir and Richard Howard). All of organic farming - and farming per se - may eventually be either threatened or polluted by this technology.
30. Disturbance of Nature's Boundaries: Genetic engineers argue that their creations are no different than crossbreeding. However, natural boundaries are violated - crossing animals with plants, strawberries with fish, grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes with bacteria, viruses, and fungi; or like human genes with swine.
31. Unpredictable Consequences of a Gunshot Approach: DNA fragments are blasted past a cell's membrane with a "gene gun" shooting in foreign genetic materials in a random, unpredictable way. According to Dr. Richard Lacey, a medical microbiologist at the University of Leeds, who predicted mad cow disease, "wedging foreign genetic material in an essentially random manner...causes some degree of disruption...It is impossible to predict what specific problems could result." This view is echoed by many other scientists, including Michael Hansen, Ph.D., who states that "Genetic engineering, despite the precise sound of the name, is actually a very messy process."
IMPACT ON FARMING
"The decline in the number of farms is likely to accelerate in the coming years...gene-splicing technologies... change the way plants and animals are produced."
Small Farm Livelihood and Survival
32. Decline and Destruction of Self-Sufficient Family Farms: In 1850, 60% of the working population in the US was engaged in agriculture. By the year 1950 it was 4%. Today it is 2% (CIA World Factbook 1999 - USA). From a peak of 7 million farms in 1935, there are now less than one-third or 2 million left. In many urban areas, the situation is starker where family farms are becoming largely extinct. For example, Rockland Country, New York (1/2 hour from New York City) had 600 family farms in 1929. Exactly seventy years later only 6 remained. Similar declines have occurred throughout the US and abroad. Of the one-third remaining US farms, 100,000 or 5% produce most of our foods. Agri-corporations have taken economic and legislative power away from the small, self-sufficient family farms - sometimes via cutthroat competition (such as legal product dumping below production costs to gain market share - what was legalized by GATT regulations). The marketing of GM foods augments this centralizing and small-farm-declining trend in the US - as well as on an international level. For example, two bioengineering firms have announced a GM vanilla plant where vanilla can be grown in vats at a lower cost - and which could eliminate the livelihood of the world's 100,000 vanilla farmers - most of whom are on the islands of Madagascar, Reunion and Comoros. Other firms are developing bioengineered fructose, besides chemical sugar substitutes, that threatens, according to a Dutch study, a million farmers in the Third World. In 1986, the Sudan lost its export of gum arabic when a New York company discovered a bioengineering process for producing the same. Synthetic cocoa substitutes are also threatening farmers. It is estimated that the biotech industry will find at least $14 billion dollars of substitutes for Third World farming products. Far beyond hydroponics, scientists are developing processes to grow foods in solely laboratory environments - eliminating the need for seeds, shrubs, trees, soil and ultimately the farmer.
33. General Economic Harm to Small Family Farms: GM seeds sell at a premium, unless purchased in large quantities, which creates a financial burden for small farmers. To add to this financial injury, Archer Daniels Midland has instituted a two-tier price system where it offers less to farmers per bushels for GM soybeans because they are not selling well overseas. Many GM products, such as rBGH, seem to offer a boom for dairy farmers - helping their cows produce considerably more milk. But the end result has been a lowering of prices, again putting the smaller farmers out of business. We can find similar trends with other GM techniques - as in pig and hen raising made more efficient. The University of Wisconsin's GM brooding hens lack the gene that produces prolactin proteins. The new hens no longer sit on their eggs as long, and produce more. Higher production leads to lower prices in the market place. The end result is that the average small farmer's income plummeted while a few large-scale, hyper-productive operations survived along with their "input providers" (companies selling seeds, soil amendments, and so on). In an on-going trend, the self-sufficient family farmer is shoved to the very lowest rung of the economic ladder. In 1910 the labor portion of agriculture accounted for 41% of the value of the finally sold produce. Now the figure has been estimated at between 6-9% in North America. The balance gets channeled to agri-input and distribution firms - and more recently to biotech firms. Kristin Dawkins in Gene Wars: The Politics of Biotechnology, points out that between 1981 and 1987, food prices rose 36%, while the percentage of the pie earned by farmers continued to shrink dramatically.
34. Losing Purity: At the present rate of proliferation of GM foods, within 50-100 years, the majority of organic foods may no longer be organic.
35. Mixing: A Texas organic corn chip maker, Terra Prima, suffered a substantial economic loss when their corn chips were contaminated with GM corn and had to be destroyed.
36. Losing Natural Pesticides: Organic farmers have long used "Bt" (a naturally occurring pesticidal bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis) as an invaluable farming aide. It is administered at only certain times, and then sparingly, in a diluted form. This harms only the target insects that bite the plant. Also in that diluted form, it quickly degrades in the soil. By contrast, genetically engineered Bt corn, potatoes and cotton - together making up roughly a third of US GM crops - all exude this natural pesticide. It is present in every single cell, and pervasively impacts entire fields over the entire life span of crops. This probably increases Bt use at least a million fold in US agriculture. According to a study conducted at NYU, BT residues remained in the soil for as much as 243 days. As an overall result, agricultural biologists predict this will lead to the destruction of one of organic farming's most important tools. It will make it essentially useless. A computer model developed at the University of Illinois predicted that if all US Farmers grew Bt resistant corn, resistance would occur within 12 months. Scientists at the University of North Carolina have already discovered Bt resistance among moth pests that feed on corn. The EPA now requires GM planting farmers to set aside 20-50% of acres with non-BT corn to attempt to control the risk and to help monarch butterflies survive.
Control and Dependency
37. Terminator Technology: Plants are being genetically produced with no annual replenishing of perennial seeds so farmers will become wholly dependent on the seed provider. In the past Monsanto had farmers sign agreements that they would not collect seeds, and even sent out field detectives to check on farmers.
38. Traitor Technology:Traitor technologies control the stages or life cycles of plants - when a plant will leaf, flower, and bear fruit. This forces the farmer to use certain triggering chemicals if he is to yield a harvest - again causing much deeper levels of economic dependence. These technologies are being developed and patented at a furious pace.
39. Less Diversity, Quality, Quantity and Profit: One of the most misleading hopes raised by GM technology firms is that they will solve the world's hunger. Some high technology agriculture does offer higher single crop yields. But organic farming techniques, with many different seeds interplanted between rows, generally offer higher per acre yields. This applies best to the family farm, which feeds the majority of the Third World. It differs from the large-scale, monocrop commercial production of industrialized nations. Even for commercial fields, results are questionable. In a study of 8,200 field trials, Roundup Ready soybeans produced fewer bushels of soy than non-GM (Charles Benbrook study, former director Board of Agriculture at the National Academy of Sciences). The average yield for non-GM soybeans was 51.21 bushels per acre; for GM soybeans it was 49.26. This was again confirmed in a study at the University of Nebraska's Institute of Agricultural Resources. They grew five different strains of Monsanto soya plants in four different locations of varied soil environments. Dr. Elmore of the project found that on average GM seeds, though more expensive, produced 6% less than non-GM relatives, and 11% less than the highest yielding conventional crops. "The numbers were clear," stated Dr. Elmore. The yield for Bt corn, however, in other studies was higher. But this did not lead to greater profit because GM related costs in terms of insecticides, fertilizer and labor were nearly $4 more per acre.
40. Fragility of Future Agriculture: With loss of biological diversity there inevitably develops a fragility of agriculture. During the Irish potato famine of the 19th century, farmers grew limited varieties of potatoes. This allowed a crop blight to spread throughout. By contrast, there are thousands of varieties of potatoes in Peru - what provides adaptability and thus a constant resource for blight resistance. Farm researchers have tapped into this treasure chest for the benefit of the rest of the world. Reminiscent of the Irish potato catastrophe of the 1840's, Cornell Chronicle reports a still more virulent strain than ever - known as potato late blight is presently attacking Russian potato crops and threatening regional food shortages. The new strain can survive harsh winters. In January of 2000, the NY Times reported a citrus canker blight in Southern Florida - one seriously threatening the state's entire $8.5 billion citrus fruit industry. Coca plants, monocropped and nearly identical, are also endangered by an international blight. Thus the destruction rather than preservation of alternative, adaptable seed stocks by GM companies, follows a dangerous path for the future of all of agriculture.
41. Lower Yields and More Pesticides Used With GM Seeds: Contrary to claims, a Rodale study shows that the best of organic farming techniques - using rich natural compost - can produce higher drought resistance as well as higher yielding plants than with current technological attempts. Dr. Charles Benbrook, a consultant for the Consumer's Union, published a summary of a report revealing Roundup Ready soybeans actually used 2-5 times more pounds of herbicides per acre than conventional soybeans sprayed with other low-dose pesticides.
42. Monopolization of Food Production: The rapid and radical change in the human diet was made possible by quick mergers and acquisitions that moved to control segments of the US farming industry. Although there are approximately 1500 seed companies worldwide, about two dozen control more than 50% of the commercial seed heritage of our planet. The consolidation has continued to grow, In 1998 the top five soy producers controlled 37% of the market (Murphy Family Foods; Carroll's Foods, Continental Grain, Smithfield Foods, and Seaboard). One year later, the top five controlled 51% (Smithfield, having acquired Murphy's and Carroll's, Continental, Seaboard, Prestige and Cargill). Cargill and Continental Grain later merged. With corn seed production and sales, the top four seed companies controlled 87% of the market in 1996 (Pioneer Hi-Bred, Holden's Foundation Seeds, DeKalb Genetics, and Novaris). In 1999, the top three controlled 88% (Dupont having acquired Pioneer, Monsanto having acquired Holden's and DeKalb, and Novaris. In the cotton seed market, Delta and Land Pine Company now control about 75% of the market. The concentration is staggering. National farming associations see this dwindling of price competition and fewer distribution outlets as disfavoring and threatening the small family farm. Average annual income per farm has plummeted throughout the last decade. Almost a quarter of all farm operating families live below the poverty level, twice the national average - and most seek income from outside the farm to survive. A similar pattern is developing in Europe.
43. Impact on Long -Term Food Supply: If food production is monopolized, the future of that supply becomes dependent on the decisions of a few companies and the viability of their seed stocks. Like the example of Peru, there are only a few remaining pockets of diverse seed stocks to insure the long-term resilience of the world's staple foods. All of them are in the Third World. Food scientists indicate that if these indigenous territories are disturbed by biotech's advance, the long-term vitality of all of the world's food supply is endangered.
ECONOMIC, POLITICAL AND SOCIAL THREATS
44. Biocolonization - In past centuries, countries managed to overrun others by means of fierce or technologically superior armies. The combined control of genetic and agricultural resources holds a yet more powerful weapon for the invasion of cultures. For only when a person loses food self-sufficiency do they become wholly dependent and subservient. That is why 500,000 farmers in India staged a protest on October 2, 1993 against GATT trade regulations and now oppose GM seed products.
45. Dependency: Under the new regulations of WTO, the World Bank, GATT, NAFTA, the autonomy of local economies can be vastly overridden. Foreign concerns can buy up all the major seed, water, land and other primary agricultural resources - converting them to exported cash rather than local survival crops. This is likely to further unravel the self-sufficiency of those cultures - and as with the past failures of the "green revolution."
46. Health/Environmental/Socio-Political Reasons: The lack of labeling of genetically modified food violates and harms your right to know what is in our foods - given the list of health, environmental, and socio-political reasons to avoid GM ingredients. Even if GM foods were 100% safe, the consumer has a right to know such ingredients - due to their many potential harms.
47. For Religious Dietary Reasons: Previously if someone wanted to avoid foods not permitted by certain religions, the process was simple. With transgenic alterations, every food is suspect - and the religious and health-conscious consumer has no way of knowing without a mandated label. The lack of labeling makes it impossible for religious people to observe dietary customs.
"All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons [and daughters] of the Earth."
Chief Seattle of the Duwamish Tribe
48. Contradiction in Terms: The term bioengineering is a contradiction in terms. "Bio" refers to life - that which is whole, organic, self-sufficient, inwardly organizing, conscious, and living. That consciousness of nature creates a web that is deeply interconnecting The term "engineering," on the other hand, refers to the opposite - to mechanical design of dead machines - things made of separate parts, and thus not consciously connected - to be controlled, spliced, manipulated, replaced, and rearranged.
49. Imposing a Non-Living Model onto Nature: "The crying of animals is nothing more than just the creaking of machines," wrote the philosopher René Descartes in the 17th century. This powerfully expressed an inhumane and mechanical view of nature that does not respect life. The genetic model is derivative of this mechanistic way of relating to nature.
50. Atomic Weapons vs. Gene Mutated Foods: The image of modern progress brought about solely by perfected mechanisms or technology was punctured in the 1940's with the explosion of atomic weapons - which brought humanity to the brink of global annihilation. Einstein's formulas created the bomb. His formulas hinged on the very same ideas of the philosopher René Descartes for their foundation. Descartes developed the underlying geometry that space may be universally or infinitely separated ("Cartesian coordinates") into distinct points. If we perfectly visualize this, we run the risk of bringing that exact image to life. Einstein's famous formula (E = mc2), for example, allows us to explode space. Only in hindsight and seeing this result, Einstein expressed the wish of never having taken on the career of a physicist. Genetic engineering, or the splicing of genes, may be viewed as a still more perilous outcome of a Cartesian-like approach to nature. We can prevent nuclear disaster or hopefully keep nuclear weapons bottled up. But genetic engineering applies a similar philosophy and creates products intentionally released - with potential chain reactions that may not be stoppable. Genetic engineering essentially forms a violence against nature. It takes gene guns and aims them at the heart of each cell or its nucleus, and where the depth of life and consciousness lives. This does violence to that innate consciousness, the life principle in nature, as we impose the mechanical view of genetics. It is much overdue that in the 21st century we become wiser - and learn to rather live in peace and harmony with ourselves and all other living creatures on earth.
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"Even for the biggest "winners," it is like winning at poker on the Titanic."
Jerry Mander: Facing the Rising Tide
"The FDA's failure to require labeling of genetically altered foods is effectively restricting Americans from exercising this right and subjects individuals to foods they have sound...reasons to avoid. FDA policy thus appears to violate the First Amendment of the Constitution....the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which requires that added substances to food be labeled...and mandates disclosure of material facts."
Alliance for Bio-integrity Statement - in a lawsuit filed against the DFA by nine scientists and twelve religious leaders.
ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE
"The new genetic science raises more troubling issues than any other technological revolution in history. In reprogramming the genetic code of life, do we risk a fatal interruption of millions of years of evolutionary development? Might not the artificial creation of life spell the end of the natural world?... Will the creation, mass production, and wholesale release of thousands of genetically engineered life forms...cause irreversible damage to the biosphere, making genetic pollution an even greater threat to the planet than nuclear or petrochemical pollution?"
Jeremy Rifkin:The Biotech Century
"I suspect that one day the effects of GM contamination will dwarf both the financial meltdown and peak oil. "
Below we discuss two forms of activism, inner and outer, to help effectively change our world.
Please note that as a youth I was a math prodigy who had a very high fever, and this caused my left-brain to temporarily short down. Then I began to see our world in a very different light and now I want to share this. First, what I learned upset my core beliefs. I was a mathematician who excelled in his knowledge of physics - so how was it possible that our world is not essentially mathematical? Nevertheless that was my conclusion and this became the bedrock foundation for all my "inner activism."
Let me explain the gist of this with a metaphorical approach. If I were to walk into a room and instead of shaking a person's hand in a friendly way, would use a razor hidden in my palm to cut their hand, the person would no doubt scream out in pain, attack me in return, and never forget this experience. He or she would never want to see me again in their space and would likely press criminal charges. If more seriously I took a chainsaw to someone, they would further put me away for life. At the same time, if I was the surgeon who stitched that person's gash, or if I reconnected a severed limb, I become their hero. I would be thanked a lot, and likewise never forgotten for the deed.
When a child first touches a scalding hot fire it also learns, for the rest of its life, to never to do that again. Certain experiences involve our core essence, and penetrate that essence. Next I am about to make some radical statements and relate them to the above story. Radical statements risk meeting up with closing of minds. Nevertheless I must speak my truth as it is critically important to do so. When at the age of 17 my left brain shut down. I was forced to experience our world in an oppositely right brain way. I experienced our world as not being made up of matter and energy defined mathematically.
This is what virtually every primary and high school student is mandatorily taught. I learned this is not the deeper truth of our world and that we must change the education of our youth (the greening of our minds and not just lawns) to most effectively turnaround our modern ecological crises.
Let me here bring up then the essential difference between seeing things in a left- and right-brain way and bring back our metaphorical story in the process. The left-brain form of awareness tends to be "sharp as a razor." It is essentially separative, and derivatively mechanical (step-by-step sequential) as well as separate detail oriented. It can precisely make out separate facts without understanding the whole. A person who cannot recognize a face but can describe its details is right-brain damaged (as with many Alzheimer's patients). The right-brain tends to see oppositely or in a connective, whole, healing, bringing-back-together view.
To give a visual metaphor for the latter, the connective view is "oceanic." Everything is experienced as undivided. To borrow another metaphor from Bertram Russell, the typical right brain view is like that of a pail of molasses and the left-brain view, like a pail of sand. The minute the left-brain has its way, it brings words, separate inner mental images or concepts into use. These guide our diving into the waters of that consciousness. What then happens as we so dive in is that awareness is parted (we focus in a guided way, which is the process of consciousness separating). Or how things are separated is molded by our way of "diving" or internal ideology. This creates personalized separations in our consciousness that have no abiding transpersonal depth. They lack objectivity. This is why ideologies delude and fool even if collectively reinforced. They are illusions.
As a result, our world is definitively and not objectively (from depth-perspectives) made up of what we call "matter" (3-D, so-many-surfaces-defined/separate objects). This becomes further delineated mathematically. This then deepens the illusion rather than objectifies the view because mathematics abstracts how to separate elements of consciousness and that separativity is not the real essence of consciousness. We are systematically guided towards real surface appearances that are thus that, appearances, collectively shared.
In conclusion, we are misled towards an essentially false, non-objective vision of nature.
As a result, when the mathematical/mechanical view - which also connects well to $ sign consciousness and thus supports a primarily commercial society - offers to create the designs for machines, it excels. It seems to work. When it tries to go deeper, it not just flounders but harms. Systematic separation is epitomized by the atomic bomb. The deeper this process occurs, and more so with the violation of living nuclear membranes, the more harmful the end results. The essence of consciousness, of life is violated and trails of death will follow automatically in a dangerous progression. Again the recent wholesale death of bees is a harbinger of things to come.
The global consciousness of humanity is thus on the verge of learning this collectively, as we piece the illusions of our current worldview - and like a child who has never before been so burnt by a stove turned up high. It is a lesson we hopefully will never forget as the price of the course is dear, and the lesson plan requires us to approach the very brink of our own collective self-destruction and of surrounding nature.
Lastly, the shift from a left- to a right-brain dominant view is truly "re-volutionary." It involves a reverse revolving of all inner perspectives, akin to the reversal that was discovered during the 16-17th centuries of egocentricity appearing as heliocentricity. We are on the verge, therefore, of a second, deeper, more important "Copernican-like" revolution as Willis Harman once intuited in his Global Mind Change. Can and will we make this leap in our consciousness? If not, we risk our collective demise. If so, all our outer actions will fall into place and the future of humanity and life on earth may become brighter than ever before.
VOTE & LOBBY
Please support those political candidates who favor a movement toward the elimination of GM foods from our modern diet. While there may be political compromises in favor of labeling laws and moratoriums as intermediate steps, please do not in the process give moral support to any maintenance or return of this technology.
GM foods must never have a place in our stores, labeled or unlabelled. They should not be banned temporarily but permanently.
Sign petitions that call again for a complete banning of this technology.
JOIN, VOLUNTEER, SUPPORT ACTIVIST ORGANIZATIONS
There are many activist organizations in the US and around the globe who are working diligently on the GM issue. Here are a few. Please let us know of other organizations you would like listed or any other suggestions for activism we should share with our readers.
Friends of the Earth - International
Friends of the Earth
Organic Consumers Association
Institute for Responsible Technology
GEAN - Genetic Engineering Action Network
ENGLAND, WALES and NORTHERN IRELAND
Friends of the Earth, UK
CANADA, AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND
African Center for Biosafety
Biowatch South Africa
Earth Life Africa
VAS - Verdi Amviente e Societa Onlus - Italia
Friends of the Earth, EU
Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental (SPDA)
Consider becoming active in organic food coops, environmental activism clubs, green meetups and green political, professional and social organizations.
MOBILIZE PARENTS, STUDENTS, TEACHERS
Contact school officials asking them to follow the example of the Berkeley, California district - eliminating GM products or offering organic food in cafeterias.
PARTICIPATE IN GMO FORUM
Buy organics and educate your family and friends to do the same. Even if the price is more, remember that you are supporting not only a healthier body for yourself, but those dedicated farmers who preserve the earth and do not pollute the environment.
COMMUNICATE WITH PRODUCERS/DISTRIBUTORS
Call and send a letter to the largest companies that distribute genetically-modified (GM) foods. As them in your own words to discontinue the practice. Organize your local environmental or green group to do the same.
CONTACT LOCAL STORE OWNERS
Join (or start) a local network of people, who individually or together contact and educate nearby supermarket and food storeowners on this issue. Ask store owners to provide as large a selection of organic foods as possible.
Divest yourself of shares in GM producing or distributing companies, or use shares for shareholder activism
SOME OF THE LARGEST US DISTRIBUTORS
Heinz Foods 888-472-8437
Healthy Choice 800-323-9980
Coca Cola 800-438-2653
Quaker Oats 800-367-6287
General Mills 800-328-1144
Pepsico 914 -253-2000
Set personal goals to take action, and prioritize them on the issue of GMO foods, and with a specific timeline. List things you can do to achieve these goals - short-term and long-term. Also list and gather resources - friends, fellow activists, books, videos, tapes, conferences, Internet resources and so on. Do two things immediately in the direction of your goals.
Share information, a video, book or tape about GM foods with friends and family members. Write a letter to your newspaper, start a local forum or on the Internet. Inform others through your personal Web Pages and post links to organizations and articles.
Buy not only organic food but other products in buying them you support those who are committed in their livelihood to maintaining a clean environment for all.
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