Crestone Eagle, February 2005:
That tomato may not be all-tomato:
The hazards of genetically engineered foods and crops
by Linda Spade
Last month we learned that although Blue Sun’s biodiesel
plant in Alamosa is a welcome addition to the Valley, thus
reducing the dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels and
precluding reasons to invade foreign countries without provocation,
Blue Sun may be contracting with farmers in the San Luis Valley
to grow genetically engineered (GE) canola to provide 20%
of the biodiesel formula. Why should we care whether San Luis
Valley farmers are planting genetically engineered canola,
or any genetically engineered crop for that matter?
On January 20, stockholders challenged Monsanto, the world’s
largest agribusiness conglomerate, on the safety of genetically
engineered food. “Recent reports by the National Academy
of Science, Environmental Protection Agency, Union of Concerned
Scientists, and the Center for Food Safety, among others,
raise warnings about extensive crop contamination, increased
pest resistance, increased herbicide use and impacts on non-target
populations. Furthermore, the reports identify serious gaps
in testing methodologies, the regulatory approval process,
and a lack of oversight once products are commercialized.”
Currently, up to 40% of U.S. corn is genetically engineered,
as is 80% of soybeans. It has been estimated that upwards
of 60% of processed foods on supermarket shelves—from
soda to soup, crackers to condiments—contain genetically
A number of studies over the past decade have revealed that
genetically engineered foods can pose serious risks to humans,
domesticated animals, wildlife and the environment. Human
health effects can include higher risks of toxicity, allergenicity,
antibiotic resistance, immune-suppression and cancer. As for
environmental impacts, the use of genetic engineering in agriculture
will lead to uncontrolled biological pollution, threatening
numerous microbial, plant and animal species with extinction,
and the potential contamination of all non-genetically engineered
life forms with novel and possibly hazardous genetic material.
FDA scientists have repeatedly recommended that GE foods
be tested, but the FDA officials, many of whom are former
employees of agri-business giants like Monsanto, have chosen
to ignore the recommendations of their own scientists.
Here are some of the possible human health risks:
• Toxicity. Genetically engineered food is unstable,
the companies guessing where the introduced genes, antibiotic
markers and viruses are being inserted and hoping that the
combination isn’t toxic with formerly non toxic elements
of the food. Pesticides and heavy metals can bio accumulate
from the environment. Early tests on one of the first GE tomatoes
showed stomach lesions in laboratory rats, and the tomato
was removed from the market. Earlier the FDA concluded GE
was a possible cause of 37 deaths and 1,500 disabling illnesses
caused by consumption of the dietary supplement L-tryptophan,
manufactured by a Japanese company in the late 1980s. It contained
a toxic contaminant by-product which caused the deaths and
• Allergic reactions. In the U.S. a quarter of the
population has some allergic reaction to food. When a gene
from a Brazil nut was engineered into soybeans, people had
an allergic reaction to the nuts when consuming the soy product,
unbeknownst to them due to no law mandating the labeling of
genetically engineered food. According to the New England
Journal of Medicine, “people with known food allergies
have no way of avoiding hidden allergenic material.”
Furthermore, genetically engineered foods contain altered
genes, bacteria, viruses, promoters, marker systems and vectors
which have never been part of the human diet and could be
creating thousands of different and new allergic responses.
These responses can include sudden death, and affect children
the most (see partial list of genetically engineered foods,
including baby formula).
• Antibiotic resistance. All GE foods contain antibiotic
resistance markers to help producers identify whether the
introduced genetic material has been actually transferred
to the host food. Medical professionals world-wide are extremely
alarmed at the increased resistance to antibiotics due to
the massive infusion of antibiotic genes into the human diet
through GE foods. A genetically engineered maize (corn) plant
from Novartis includes an ampicillin-resistant gene. European
countries have refused to permit Novartis B.t. (Bacillus thurengensis)
corn to be grown.
• Immuno-suppression. A study reported in The Lancet
found that rats consuming GE potatoes with B.t. showed detrimental
effects on organ development, body metabolism and immune function.
Twenty-two leading scientists confirmed the test results linking
GE food to immuno-suppression. What does that look like in
terms of immuno-suppression illnesses—Fibromyalgia,
Hashimoto disease, chronic fatigue and HIV, to mention a few?
• Cancer. In 1993 the FDA approved bovine growth hormone
in dairy cows to produce more milk. Both Canada and Europe
have rejected the drug as recent research shows conclusively
that the levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor-1
(IGF-1) are increased in dairy products produced by cows treated
with bovine growth hormone. This IGF-1 can survive digestion
in consumers and make its way into the intestines and blood
stream. Studies now demonstrate that IGF-1 is a factor in
the growth of breast, prostate and colon cancer.
• Loss of nutrition. In 1992 FDA scientists warned
the agency that GE foods could result in alteration in the
nutrient levels of food. The agency ignored their scientists
and never subjected the foods to mandatory government testing
of any sort.
So, let’s see, where does that leave us? Can’t
consume cheese, milk, soy milk, tamales, half and half, yogurt,
infant formula, tofu, Ritz crackers, butter, canola oil or
margarine, cornbread, tacos, granola, corn flakes (for heaven’s
sake), potatoes, beer or soy burgers. Then of course there’s
mad cow disease, so no hamburgers either. Forget French fries.
No milkshakes. No cheeseburgers.
Having a predilection for Ritz crackers, I ran to the pantry.
Oh, brother. Soybean oil, soy lecithin and high fructose corn
syrup. It’s a 60 percent chance that these ingredients
came from genetically engineered crops.
There’s a long list of genetically engineered food
brands at the site for Center for Food Safety in their Food
Safety Review Spring 2000 Volume 1. (www.centerforfoodsafety.org)
Such brands as Morningstar, Boca Burger, Gardenburger that
you may have thought safe, are potentially not. The Organic
Consumers Association (www.organicconsumers.org) have a list
of all the genetically engineered crops foods allowed on the
market thanks to the FDA not doing their job.
Going shopping is like playing Russian roulette, since none
of the GE food is labeled, again thanks to the FDA being bought
out by agri-biz. And what happens if you do get sick and suspect
it could be from eating genetically engineered food? Nothing.
The Center for Disease Control can’t track reports of
illnesses from consumption of GE food because the FDA hasn’t
If you’re a gardener or a farmer and have always saved
your seed, you might well have to give that up now, too. Monsanto
has successfully sued farmers and “settled” with
hundreds of others, even though those farmers had no desire
to grow GE crops. Farmers who have done natural selection
of their own seed for generations can legally be deprived
of their seed just because some wind may have blown pollen
from the genetically engineered field two miles away and contaminated
their crop. Since a GE version of their crop is now growing
in local fields and ditches, it will continue to cross-pollinate
their crops. If they want to continue growing that crop, because
of patent laws, they will forevermore have to purchase seed
on an annual basis as well as pay a patent fee to Monsanto
or any other GE agribiz corporation for “using”
their patented seed. They’ve now effectively become
serfs of the corporation.
Furthermore, the genetic precursor to corn, teosinte, in
southern Mexico has been contaminated with GE corn, despite
a restriction by Mexico on growing GE corn. University of
California professor, Chapela, was fired for pointing this
out because UC got a big juicy grant from agribiz to suppress
Increased Pesticide Use
More and more pesticides will have to be applied (and purchased)
every year as the detrimental insects become more and more
resistant to that which is already being applied. And of course
these pesticides are carcinogenic, so you’ll see more
and more cancer, an industry unto itself. Why do so many children
suffer from deficit disorder?
Crops with Bacillus thurengensis are killing Monarch butterflies
and other beneficial insects.
So what can you do about this? Go to the Organic Consumers
website and sign the petition to have the Food and Drug Administration
and the Environmental “Protection” Agency do their
job. Support organic farming. Join their Millions Against
Monsanto. Come to one of the Citizens for GE-Free SLV meetings.
Tell your friends. Show the video “The Future of Food”
(available at the Baca Grande library and Co-Ev Coop). Join
a Community Supported Agriculture garden. Lobby for the labeling
of GE food ingredients. As the Bioneers say, “It’s
all alive. It’s all connected.” And you’re
a part of it.
(Contact the Bioneers at www.bioneers.org.)