There, I said it. I'm not a reporter so I'm not going to hide my bias. If there's one thing I'm as passionate about at Green Acres as I am of the environment, it's the food we eat and our health. And it just so happens that they're all connected. How we produce our food affects our environment as well as our health. When it comes to genetically engineered (GE) or modified (GM) crops, what many call "frankenfoods", it's no different (though assuredly worse).
But I'm not going to bother with the environmental aspects of GE foods today. Though they're vast and important, I'm going to stick to the food and health aspect of them. Besides, the images I could stir up of what the possible hazards are of unleashing an unproven technology into the outdoors isn't as scary as the possible hazards of what eating those foods could do to us- and what studies are starting to show.
You're probably aware of GE or GM corn, soybeans, cottonseed, canola and soon sugar beets. What you may not be aware of is that there have been over 60 serious health risks documented when feeding GE and GM foods to laboratory and farm animals. Those risks include serious fertility problems, lower birth weights and increased mortality in offspring of laboratory animals among other not so pleasant things to farm animals. (They're pointed out in detail in the book "Genetic Roulette" by Jeffrey M. Smith.)
But those foods pale to what is up next for GE and GM foods. Pharma crops to produce drugs and industrial chemicals and genetically engineered or modified animals. Other than creating industrial chemicals in crops, this technology is being touted as the answer to feeding or medicating a growing population. Done right, maybe they could be. For instance, scientists creating genetically engineered corn with antibodies to prevent the virus that causes AIDS or genetically engineered salmon that grows twice as fast as regular farmed salmon seems promising. But setting aside the environmental and now also setting aside ethical issues, they're not being done right. The USDA is considering relaxing regulations on growing pharma crops outdoors. Engineering food plants to be medicine in a global economy opens the door to people being medicated who shouldn't be. Also, drift happens. Corn pollen can travel miles away pollinating other corn plants not intended as medicine.
As far as the salmon goes, the reason they grow twice as fast is because they're engineered with a protein that makes them produce a growth hormone year-round. That makes them aggressive eaters. It may be an old cliché, but we are what we eat. We know fish oil feeds our brains. How do we know if the trait genetically engineered into salmon couldn't transfer to the humans or pets that eat them?
The FDA is responsible for regulating GE fish and farm animals and is currently drafting (or has just drafted) rules for an approval process that requires review of the effectiveness of the genetically engineered trait and any health impact on the ANIMAL, but no review or studies on the health impact to humans who eat those animals. There's also no provisions for making companies label genetically engineered meat that ends up on grocery store shelves allowing us to be informed consumers.
Even Andrew Zimmern from the Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods" wants to know what he's eating before he eats it!
And I'm no Andrew Zimmern.
But I'd willingly eat what he eats before I'd willingly eat frankenfoods.
Because it's not just limited to salmon engineered to grow fast. They've genetically engineered goats with spider genes so their milk produces silk stronger than steel. They've engineered pigs with mouse and bacterial DNA to improve their digestion to limit pollution. They've genetically engineered cows to produce disease-fighting human antibodies in the plasma of their blood. There are more examples but you get the idea.
Let me tell you that I don't believe this technology is about feeding a growing population or providing them with cheap drugs. I believe it's strictly about corporate profits. If there were true altruistic people behind them they would instead work towards a clean environment and producing healthy food through organic farming and green chemistry. They would clean up the oceans and promote sustainable fisheries. They would not risk our health, the health of future generations or our planet by creating foods and medicines that are not freely shared but corporately controlled. Remember, our health is directly connected to the health of the environment as well as to the food we eat. We wouldn't need to “engineer” our food and medicine if we cleaned up our environment, produced healthy food (and fostered family planning).
Anyway, it seems illogical to me that GE animals fall under the FDA and GE pharma crops fall under the USDA but that's the way it is. The Union of Concerned Scientists has a pre-written letter to the USDA to oppose weakening the regulations on growing pharma crops. If you oppose it too you can find it here:
Food and Water Watch has a pre-written letter to the FDA asking them to ban GE animals for food. You can find it here:
Here’s an article explaining why the FDA regulates GE animals:
A good article " Pharma Crops' Threaten Food Safety":
Another good article "Should Biotech Piggy go to Market?" (You may have to hit enter in the upper right hand corner to read it.)
And here’s a link to the Institute for Responsible Technology website where you can learn more about GE foods:
Tofu anyone? Oh, wait. Is it made from non GMO sourced soybeans?
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