GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD-A SERIOUS HEALTH RISK
Genetically engineered foods containing genes derived from bacteria and viruses are now starting to appear in the shops, and foods with insect, fish, and animal genes will soon follow. These genetic changes are radically different from those resulting from traditional methods of breeding. Yet, the sale of these foods is being permitted without proper assessment of the risks and without adequately informing the public, even though many scientists say that genetically modified foods could cause serious damage to health and the environment.
WHAT IS GENETIC ENGINEERING?
Genes are the blueprints for every part of an organism. Genetic engineering is the process of artificially modifying these blueprints. By cutting and splicing DNA-genetic surgury-genetic engineers can transfer genes specific to one type of organism into any other organism on earth.
WHY DO IT?
Scientists want to transfer desirable qualities from one organism to another, for example, to make a crop resistant to an herbicide or to enhance food value.
IS IT NECESSARY?
At first sight it may seem appealing. However, closer examination reveals that commercial and political motives are taking precedence with little regard to the possible dangers. We already have the ability to feed the world's population without the risks posed by genetic engineering. Why subject humanity to these unnecessary risks?
DANGERS OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS
The scientific facts demonstrating the need for an immediate worldwide ban
Because living organisms are highly complex, genetic engineers cannot possibly predict all of the effects of introducing new genes into them. This is the case for even the simplest bacterium, not to mention more complex plants and animals.
THIS IS BECAUSE:
the introduced gene may act differently when working within its new host
the original genetic intelligence of the host will be disrupted
the new combination of the host genes and the introduced gene will have unpredictable effects; and therefore
there is no way of knowing the overall, long-term effect of genetically engineered foods on the health of those who eat them.
THE FOLLOWING ARE SOME OF THE FACTS:
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, the process of inserting genes is quite random and can damage normal genes. Genetic research shows that many weaknesses in plants, animals, and humans have their origin in tiny imperfections in the genetic code. Therefore, the random damage resulting from gene insertion will inevitably result in side-effects and accidents. Scientists have assessed these risks to be substantial. (Refs: Palmiter, R.D. et al (1986) ANNUAL REVIEW OF GENETICS 20: 465; Inose, T. et al (1995) INT. JOUR. FOOD SCIENCE TECH. 30:141.) Unpredictable health damaging effects.
When genetic engineers insert a new gene into any organism there are "position effects" which can lead to unpredictable changes in the pattern of gene expression and genetic function. The protein product of the inserted 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 could destabilise the genome, and also possibly create new viruses, and thus dangerous new diseases. (Refs: Green, A.E. et al (1994) SCIENCE 263:1423; Osbourn, J.K. et al (1990) VIROLOGY 179:921.) Genetically engineered products carry more risks than traditional foods.
The process of genetic engineering can thus introduce dangerous new allergens and toxins into foods that were previously naturally safe. Already, one genetically engineered soybean was found to cause serious allergic reactions, and bacteria genetically engineered to produce large amounts of the food supplement, tryptophan, have been suspected to produce toxic contaminants that killed 37 people and permanently disabled 1,500 more (although conclusive proof have not been possible to produce because the bacteria were never analysed(editors comment)). (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.
More than 50% of the crops developed by biotechnology companies have been engineered to be resistant to herbicides. Use of herbicide-resistant crops will lead to a threefold increase in the use of herbicides, resulting in even greater pollution of our food and water with toxic agrochemicals. (Ref: Goldberg, R.J. (1994) WEED TECHNOLOGY 6:647.) Health-damaging effects caused by genetic engineering will continue forever.
Unlike chemical or nuclear contamination, genetic pollution is self-perpetuating. It can never be reversed or cleaned up; genetic mistakes will be passed on to all future generations of a species.Gene 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 be passed 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. (Ref: Holms, M.T. and Ingam, E.R. (1994) Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America (Supplement), 75:97) 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.http://www.psrast.org/jfhealth.htm