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environmental kitchenarchivehazards of genetically engineered foods
Hazards of Genetically Engineered Foods

The technology of genetic engineering (GE), wielded by transitional "life science" corporations such as Monsanto and Novartis, is the practice of altering or disrupting the genetic blueprints of living organisms--plants, animals, humans, microorganisms - patenting them, and then selling the resulting gene-foods, seeds, or other products for profit. Life science corporations proclaim, with great fanfare, that their new products will make agriculture sustainable, eliminate world hunger, cure disease, and vastly improve public health. In reality, through their business practices and political lobbying, the gene engineers have made it clear that they intend to use GE to dominate and monopolize the global market for seeds, foods, fiber, and medical products.

GE is a revolutionary new technology still in its early experimental stages of development. This technology has the power to break down fundamental genetic barriers--not only between species--but between humans, animals, and plants. By randomly inserting together the genes of non-related species--utilizing viruses, antibiotic-resistant genes, and bacteria as vectors, markers, and promoters--and permanently altering their genetic codes, gene-altered organisms are created that pass these genetic changes onto their offspring through heredity. Gene engineers all over the world are now snipping, inserting, recombining, rearranging, editing, and programming genetic material. Animal genes and even human genes are randomly inserted into the chromosomes of plants, fish, and animals, creating heretofore unimaginable transgenic life forms. For the first time in history, transnational biotechnology corporations are becoming the architects and "owners" of life.

With little or no regulatory restraints, labeling requirements, or scientific protocol, bio-engineers have begun creating hundreds of new GE "Frankenfoods" and crops, oblivious to human and environmental hazards, or negative socioeconomic impacts on the world's several billion farmers and rural villagers. Despite an increasing number of scientists warning that current gene-splicing techniques are crude, inexact, and unpredictable--and therefore inherently dangerous--pro-biotech governments and regulatory agencies, led by the US, maintain that GE foods and crops are "substantially equivalent" to conventional foods, and therefore require neither mandatory labeling nor pre-market safety-testing. This Brave New World of Frankenfoods is frightening.

There are currently more than four dozen genetically engineered foods and crops being grown or sold in the US. These foods and crops are widely dispersed into the food chain and the environment. Over 70 million acres of GE crops are presently under cultivation in the US, while up to 500,000 dairy cows are being injected regularly with Monsanto's recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). Most supermarket processed food items now "test positive" for the presence of GE ingredients. In addition several dozen more GE crops are in the final stages of development and will soon be released into the environment and sold in the marketplace. According to the biotechnology industry almost 100% of US food and fiber will be genetically engineered within 5-10 years. The "hidden menu" of these unlabeled genetically engineered foods and food ingredients in the US now includes soybeans, soy oil, corn, potatoes, squash, canola oil, cotton seed oil, papaya, tomatoes, and dairy products.

Genetic engineering of food and fiber products is inherently unpredictable and dangerous--for humans, for animals, the environment, and for the future of sustainable and organic agriculture. As Dr. Michael Antoniou, a British molecular scientist points out, gene-splicing has already resulted in the "unexpected production of toxic substances... in genetically engineered bacteria, yeast, plants, and animals with the problem remaining undetected until a major health hazard has arisen." The hazards of GE foods and crops fall basically into three categories: human health hazards, environmental hazards, and socioeconomic hazards. A brief look at the already-proven and likely hazards of GE products provides a convincing argument for why we need a global moratorium on all GE foods and crops.

Information provided with the help of Ronnie Cummins at the Organic Consumers Association

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