Richard Wolfson, PhD
Europe is considering banning the herbicide Roundup because of a recent scientific report showing that the chemical (technically called glyphosate) kills beneficial insects.
EU Poised to Ban Roundup
Europe is considering banning the herbicide Roundup because of a recent scientific report showing that the chemical (technically called glyphosate) kills beneficial insects. A ban would not only hurt Roundup sales, but would also affect the biotech crops genetically engineered to withstand the chemical. Independent research in Sweden linked exposure to glyphosate with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer.
Suzuki Calls for Moratorium
Canada’s renowned geneticist and CBC host, Dr David Suzuki, calls for a moratorium on genetically altered foods. He said Canadians have become unwitting guinea pigs in an experiment on our food supply. Dr. Suzuki stated that anyone who says these foods have been proven safe is mistaken because it would take decades of research to determine the safety of genetically engineered foods, which have only been around for a few years.
The European Commission is currently investigating biotech ingredients in cosmetics. Soya and corn, which can be genetically engineered, are used in a huge number of beauty products, including moisturizers, powder compacts, eye shadow, anti-aging creams and lipsticks. Antibiotic resistance genes, which are routinely included in many genetically engineered crops, are a major concern because of the fear they may be taken up by disease organisms and add to the growing number of antibiotic resistant diseases.
Thailand Bans Altered Seeds
Thailand recently banned imports of genetically engineered (GE) seeds pending clear scientific proof they are safe. Thai authorities are struggling to protect billions of dollars worth of exports to countries that will not accept products with GE ingredients. In one case, Thai exporters switched from soy oil to sunflower oil for canning tuna, because Europe banned Thai tuna canned in imported GE soy oil.
Farmers Consider GE-Free Options
Casco, Ontario’s largest exporter of corn products, is urging farmers to plant non-GE corn because of worldwide consumer concern and loss of markets for genetically engineered crops. According to Casco spokesman John Peakes, "It might be best to consider planting GM [genetically] -free corn to maximize (farmers’) marketing options."
NFFC Farmers Concerned
The National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) in the United States calls for a complete suspension of genetic engineering in agriculture pending an independent and comprehensive assessment of the social, environmental, health, and economic impacts of those products. The NFFC also points out that corporate control of the seed supply through biotechnology threatens farmers’ independence, and that farmers who have used this new technology may face massive liability from damage caused by genetic drift, increased weed and pest resistance and the destruction of wildlife and beneficial insects.
Dr Mae-Wan Ho, a molecular geneticist at the Open University in UK, explains that genetic engineering bypasses conventional breeding by using artificially constructed parasitic genetic elements as vehicles called "vectors" to smuggle genes into cells. Unlike natural parasitic genetic elements that can only infect a limited range of hosts, the vectors used in genetic engineering are designed to overcome species barriers, and can therefore infect a wide range of species.
These vectors are derived from disease-causing viruses, plasmids, and mobile genetic elements--parasitic DNA that have the ability to invade cells and insert themselves into the cell’s genome. In the process of shuttling genes between a wide range of species, the vectors can pick up components of viruses of different species to create new pathogens. Unlike ordinary pieces of DNA, these vectors are resistant to enzymic degradation, and can survive indefinitely and independently in the environment where they infect cells, multiply in them, and jump in and out of their genomes.
The full text of Dr Ho’s concerns can be read at http://www.twnside.org.sg/ souths/twn/title/mae-cn.htm
For further information on biotechnology and its hazards, see the website: http://www.concentric.net/~Rwolfson/home.html