GENETICALLY MODIFIED FOOD
FACTS DEMONSTRATING THE NEED FOR AN IMMEDIATE WORLDWIDE BAN
the huge complexity of genetic coding, even in very simple organisms
such as bacteria, no one can possibly predict the effects of introducing
new genes into any organism or plant.
This is because:
The following are some of the facts:
- The transposed gene may act differently when working
within its new host
- The original genetic intelligence of the host will
- The new combination of the host genes and the
transposed gene will have unpredictable effects; and therefore.
- There is no way of knowing the overall, long-term
effect of these foods on the health of those who eat them.
Unnatural gene transfers from one species to another
are dangerous. Biotechnology companies erroneously claim that
their manipulations are similar to natural genetic changes or
traditional breeding techniques. However, the cross-species transfers
being made, such as between fish and tomatoes, or between other
unrelated species, would not happen in nature and may create new
toxins, diseases, and weaknesses. In this risky experiment, the
general public is the guinea-pig. Biotechnology companies also
claim their methods are precise and sophisticated. In fact, gene
insertion methods involve a high degree of randomness, particularly
with regard to where the new gene is inserted into the genetic
code of the organism. Genetic research shows that many weaknesses
in plants, animals and humans have their origin in tiny imperfections
in the genetic code. Therefore, side-effects and accidents are
inevitable, and scientists have assessed the risks to be unlimited.
(Refs: Palmiter, R.D. et al (1986) Annual Review of Genetics 20:
465; Inose, T. et al (1995) International Journal of Food Science
and Tech. 30:141.)
Unpredictable health damaging effects. When genetic
engineers insert a new gene into any organism there is a 'position
effect' which entails an unpredictable pattern of gene expression
and genetic function. The protein product of the transposed gene
may carry out unexpected reactions and produce potentially toxic
products. There is also serious concern about the dangers of using
genetically engineered viruses as delivery vehicles (vectors)
in the generation of transgenic plants and animals. This in turn
could destabilise the genome and also lead to horizontal gene
transfer to other species, including mammals. This could cause
dangerous new diseases, resistance to antibiotics, and severe
immune reactions. (Refs: Green, A.E. et al (1994) Science 263:1423;
Osbourn, J.K. et al (1990) Virology 179:921; Mae-Wan Ho (1996)
Biology Dept., Open University.)
Genetically engineered products carry more risks
than traditional foods. The process of genetic engineering can
introduce dangerous new allergens and fatal toxins into foods
that were previously naturally safe. Already, one genetically
engineered soybean was found to cause severe allergic reactions,
and bacteria genetically engineered to produce large amounts of
the food supplement tryptophan have produced toxic contaminants
that killed 37 people and permanently disabled 1,500 more in the
USA. (Refs: Nordlee, J.A. et al (1996) The New England Journal
of Medicine 688; Mayeno, A.N. et al (1994) Tibtech 12:364.)
Increased pollution of food and water supply.
It is estimated that about 57% of research by biotechnology companies
is on the development of herbicide-resistant plants and that this
will lead to a threefold increase in the use of herbicides, resulting
in even higher concentrations of chemicals in food and in the
water run-off from the land. (Ref: Goldberg, R.J. (1994) Weed
Health-damaging effects caused by genetic engineering
will continue forever. Unlike chemical or nuclear contamination,
gene pollution can never be cleaned up; effects of genetic mistakes
will be passed on to all future generations of a species.
Inadequate government regulation Biotech companies
claim that government regulatory bodies will protect consumers.
However DDT, Thalidomide, L-tryptophan, etc. were approved
by British and US regulators with tragic results. Recently, US
tests found that 80% of supermarket milk contained traces of either
medicines, illegal antibiotics used on farms, or hormones, including
genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). The facts
show that regulators are not protecting the public adequately.
(Ref: Epstein, S.S. (1996) International Journal of Health Services,
Ethical concerns Transferring animal genes into
plants raises important ethical issues for vegetarians and religious
groups. It may also involve animal experiments which are unacceptable
to many people.
Genetic transfer across species and competition
from new species damaging the environment. When new genetic information
is introduced into plants, bacteria, insects or other animals,
it can easily cross into related organisms, through processes
such as cross pollination. This process has already created 'super
weeds'. Existing species can also be displaced from the ecosystem
with disastrous effects, as happened with genetically modified
Klebsiella soil bacteria. Crops are now being engineered to produce
their own pesticides. This will promote the more rapid appearance
of resistant insects and lead to excessive destruction of useful
insects and soil organisms, thus seriously perturbing the ecosystem.
In addition, the pesticide produced by the plant may be harmful
to the health of consumers. (Refs: Union of Concerned Scientists
(1994) Gene Exchange, 5:68; Mikkelsen, T.R. et al (1996) Nature
380:31; Skogsmyr, I. (1994) Theoretical and Applied Genetics 88:770;
Hama, H. et al (1992) Applied Entomology and Zoology 27:355.)
Inadequate safety at research facilities. UK research
institutions have little protection to ensure that experimental
genetically engineered organisms are not escaping. For example,
seeds can be blown by the wind over low fences or carried great
distances very quickly by birds. It is not possible for anyone,
any farm, or any country to isolate itself from the potentially
disastrous effects of genetic manipulation.
Despite their advantages, many
new technologies produce disastrous side-effects.
There is now a serious debate on the acceptability
of some of these unpredicted side-effects, such as nuclear pollution,
global warming, and the toxic effects of pesticides and herbicides.
Medicines often have to be withdrawn because the side-effects turn
out to be too poisonous. In each case, it takes time for the effects
to come to light and be evaluated before action can be taken.
Genetic engineering poses the greatest danger of any technology yet
introduced. Safety testing will never be adequate, because organisms
once introduced can never be recalled from the environment and their
effects will spread without limit. If action is not taken now, virtually
everyone in the world will soon be eating genetically engineered foods
and will be at risk.
Genetically engineered foods are being introduced without due regard
for health, yet any damaging effects will be irreversible.