Genetically engineered food is created
by taking the DNA from one organism and inserting it into another. The
process passes on certain characteristics to plants and animals. The resulting
organism is called "transgenic." This modification of gene material is
not possible with traditional selective breeding.
No tests have been conducted to determine the impact of
transgenic food on the human diet. At least one study published in the
New England Journal of Medicine, however, has shown that some genetically
engineered food has the potential to cause allergic reactions.
Producers are turning to genetic engineering for a more
abundant, less expensive and more nutritious food supply. Biotechnology
companies like Monsanto and Novartis produce genetically engineered soybeans,
tomatoes, squash and corn. There has been talk, for instance, of inserting
flounder genes in tomatoes to keep them from freezing.
More soybeans are genetically engineered than any other
food, and 13 percent to 16 percent of the country's soybean crop is being
grown from genetically engineered seeds. Between 60 and 70 percent of
processed food contains soy, but there is no way to know, without testing,
how much of that is genetically engineered.
About 2 percent of the corn crop is genetically engineered.
Europeans have been quicker than Americans to react to transgenic food.
Thousands of Europeans, rallied by Greenpeace and green parties, have
participated in referendums and rallies, signed petitions and marched
in protest to the corporate headquarters of biotechnology companies. They
have demanded that transgenic food be labeled and kept separate from other
food. The European Commission has proposed strict labeling. In Austria
and Luxembourg, genetically engineered food is banned.
Most observers suggest that Europe's response is so much
more intense because of the European experience with mad cow disease.
Information provided with the help of Organic