Who Put The Genes In My Beans?
The purposeful genetic engineering and modification of our food supply has resulted in a plethora of questions and valid concerns regarding the safety of our food supply. Many of these issues directly relate to the power of food manufacturers and growers and their unchecked ability to distribute GE modified foods without adequate testing.
This also extends to other spheres of interest, as in issues regarding labeling and intelligent regulation of the biotech industry; religious and ethical issues involving tampering with the natural order of life; the pros and cons of creating food substances that are purported to help eradicate food shortages, starvation and nutritional deprivation by accelerated food growth, enhanced nutritional content and resistance of crops to disease and specific climactic conditions. It is important to understand that the above mentioned are merely stated goals and no formal third party scientific research has been performed on the effects of GE foods on human beings.
There also exists an environmental concern involved with the unregulated development of GE organisms due to the fact that they are biological and will continue to breed on their own. Thereby, infusing their altered genetics in environmental settings with crops or plant life that have been grown naturally. As a result, the natural gene pool becomes contaminated with unnatural and scientifically engineered genes. There exist intellectual property questions, which could affect the pricing and distribution of these genetically modified food products. Although research and manufacturing biotech companies purport an altruistic agenda, critics postulate that their eagerness for distribution without adequate testing adds up to a motive of pure profit. It is no secret that the unscrupulous zest for corporate profits already has and will continue to claim the health of tens of thousands.
Three organizations currently “regulate” genetically-modified food — the Environmental Protection Agency, which allegedly assures that the foods are safe for the environment and it’s human and animal inhabitants; the USDA, which presumes to monitor food safety in regards to the existing agricultural environment and the FDA, which supposedly seeks to assure GMO food safety for human consumption. The purpose of these organizations crosses over somewhat. Theoretically, there appears to be a sound system of checks and balances in place. But, is the system really in force at all? Does the system recognize that in addition to GMO alteration, there also exists a marked decline in vitamin and other nutrient contents as compared to their naturally grown counterparts? Unfortunately, all of the above organizations had their regulations in place long before genetically modified foods were a consideration. To date, there exists absolutely no guidelines or regulations which address or adhere to the GE food industry. The current GE technology is much different than what these organizations were designed to mandate decades ago. The bottom line: there is not one government agency that regulates or mandates the GE food industry.
Advocates of proper food labeling are deeply concerned about the FDA’s position that if GE foods are “substantially” equivalent to their “natural” counterparts, then they need not be labeled. The famous “food” engineering giant, Monsanto and one of its influential lawyers, Michael Taylor, head of food policy for the FDA the years 91-94 were legally able to get away with their “substantially equivalent” statement. Critics complain that GE products could have potentially unknown and disastrous widespread consequences as illustrated by the examples cited in this article. The science is too young to make assumptions about food safety in a broadly untested area. At the very least the FDA should label all genetically-modified foods. With so little testing, it seems the valid concerns perhaps are not enough to allow the free-for-all distribution of these foods, say the critics. Although the American Dietetic Association supports the FDA’s policy of miniscule labeling, many European countries are not so sanguine and ban American foods from being exported to their country.
One of the most disturbing stories concerns the 1998 research of Arpad Pusztai, who worked in Scotland at the Rowett Research Institute. He is credited to having performed the first non-industry, fully independent research to study the effects of genetically altered food on mammals. The study involved feeding rats transgenic potatoes and legumes, which had been altered by splicing genes with theirs from another species. The point of the original research was to genetically infuse the sugar-binding protein, lectin, into the potato plants to make them more resistant to pests. His meticulous study, which at the same time tested rodents for the results of non-engineered potatoes and non-engineered potatoes infused with lecithin, found notable damage to the rat’s digestive and immune systems via the ingestion of the GE potatoes.
According to an article in In These Times, “In an attempt to quell the resulting public furor, Rowett Institute director Philip James (who had approved Pusztai’s TV appearance) said the research didn’t exist. He fired Pusztai, broke up his research team, seized the data, and halted six other similar projects. It came out later that Monsanto, a leading U.S. biotech firm, had given the Rowett Institute a $224,000 grant prior to Pusztai’s interview and subsequent firing. It’s not that difficult to surmise that this grant had something to do with the negation of the research by Puszati.
Is the truth about the effects and frequency of the use of genetically-modified foods an actual cover-up? Jeffrey M. Smith thinks so. In a video, more or less summarizing his book, “The Health Dangers of Genetically Engineered Food and Their Cover-up,” Smith tells his audience to not to be told what to eat by “by the biotechnology companies or their Washington branch, the FDA.”
In his lecture, Smith describes how in 1989, patients went to doctors with a variety of illnesses. Smith relates how people claimed to experience idiopathic pain, distressing neurological symptoms such as memory loss and tremors, physical symptoms such as muscle weakness with muscles sometime involuntarily contracting and locking up, and unidentifiable skin conditions. The blood work performed on these patients revealed them to be deficient in essential vitamins for health and other nutrients. According to his synopsis, these victims of illnesses with an unknown pedigree had an elevated level of Eosinophils, a form of white blood cell generally associated as a component of the mammalian immune system, which specializes in fighting parasites. Luekocites, which are general white blood cells that fight foreign invaders in the mammalian body, were also found to be elevated. The common denominator amongst all patients was the fact that they consumed heavy amounts of a genetically engineered form of L-Tryptophan, a dietary supplement. As soon as the GE form of L-Tryptophan was removed, the majority of patients recovered. This recovery with assistance from all natural vitamins, typically found in supplements such as organic aloe vera juice. Unfortunately, a certain percentage of the patients experienced no relief and continued to suffer symptoms long after the ingestion of L-tryptophan was ceased.
Smith, in fact, is part of a movement that is highly concerned with the problem of labeling genetically modified foods. In his video, he is introduced by Craig Winters, head of “The Campaign to Label Genetically Altered Food” who Smith acknowledges as one of the great leaders of this movement to label genetically-modified foods. Winter’s website and his over-all campaign raises vital concerns most citizens should be aware of, including the key question: “Why don’t the food manufacturers and the biotech companies want you to know if your foods have been genetically engineered?” His answer is — these companies don’t want you to realize that these products have not been tested for safety on human beings. With that in mind, it is important to realize that no safety testing or GE product warnings on labels means that there is no way to trace illnesses back to GE modified foods or the companies that produce them.
“The Campaign” also makes other disturbing claims — for instance, it says “Since genetically engineered soy and corn are used in many processed foods, it is estimated that over 70 percent of the foods in grocery stores in the U.S. and Canada contain genetically engineered ingredients.” These estimates come from “The Grocery Manufactures of America Group.” The campaign also notes that “all of the European Union nations, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries require the mandatory labeling of foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients. As a result, food manufacturers in all those countries choose to use non-genetically engineered ingredients.”
According to “The Campaign,” pro-labeling countries, unlike the United States, actually discourage the proliferation of these untested foods because their labeling demand has the effect of indirectly curtailing manufacturers from using these substances. These manufacturers fear the public reaction to people realizing that some corporation has put strange genes in their corn, beans, soy, and potatoes and therefore prefer to create products with more natural ingredients. On the other hand, the FDA’s stand supports non-awareness and ignorance of the nature of the food supply. But why? Could it be possible that they are supporting the profit motive for food manufacturers over public safety? Is the FDA, as Smith claims, truly acting like a branch office of the biotech companies that produce these foods?
The reality is, these foods have been around for quite some time — for almost two decades. Many common food substances like corn, canola, cottonseed oil and soybeans have been modified. How many consumers in the United States know how widespread the distribution of these substances are, that they are not labeled, as a rule — and that there are activists lobbying for their labeling? Unfortunately, the answer is — not many. Most consumers don’t know beans — or rather, what’s even in them. Unfortunately, as is the track record in the United States, people must experience adverse reactions or become deathly ill in order to make serious issues like this front page news. As a result, much of this behind the doors activity never reaches the public consciousness.
Modification usually is created for a scientific reason or application of some sort. Such as making a plant pest or frost-resistant. It is interesting to note that Monsanto, the world’s giant in genetically altered seeds and such, purchased Seminis Seeds, one of the worlds largest seed suppliers. It is quite evident that Monsanto is artfully positioning itself slowly but surely to strong-arm the world’s food supply with its engineered food supply. Sadly, this eventually purports genetically altered food for everyone.
Genetically engineered seeds are a problem for everyone, in one way, shape or form. GE seeds are a huge liability even for those farmers who refuse to plant genetically altered seeds. The cross pollination of plants and crops is a natural occurrence. It is guaranteed by nature that GE crops will pollinate with non-GE crops. This leaves the door wide open for innocent farmers to become targets of lawsuits from these major corporations as they can be accused of “stealing” food technology. Not to mention the total ruination of a crop that was cultivated to proliferate as nature intended.
Scientists take the gene from one type of plant and then infuse it into the DNA structure of another. These are hard core hands down intentional plant mutations. While science may only be concentrating on one aspect of the plant, the abnormal mutation has the potential to result in a condition referred to as mutagenic instability. The frequency of mutations above and beyond what science may have originally intended. This type of genetic instability has the potential to create super allergens, toxic plants and other possibilities buried deep in this Pandora’s Box.
There is obviously a financial benefit rendered from genetically altering foods. As many opponents of this kind of alteration say, ‘if the ramifications go beyond the scientists’ intention, then instead of a food with a superpower, you may find yourselves with an unintentionally-created Franken food. A food that has the potential to cause a myriad of health problems, wreaks havoc on the environment, and prove itself vitamin and nutrient poor. Haven’t we done enough tampering with the food supply already? Sadly, it will take at least a couple decades from the date of this writing and affect the lives of tens of thousands (in one way, shape, or form) before the ramifications of GMO foods are fully recognized and identified.
Dr Linda Kennedy MS SLP ND: Is an avid animal activist and nature lover. She owns a 10,000 square foot state of the art nutritional laboratory where she produces nutritional health supplements that are free of animal products.