Richard Wolfson, PhD
Lack of Testing Genetically-engineered foods are being rushed to market without long-term testin.
Genetically-engineered foods are being rushed to market without long-term testing. Dr Ann Clark, Associate Professor of Crop Science at the University of Guelph, looked at the research on all 42 approved biotech foods in Canada. She found that 70 per cent of these crops were approved without laboratory tests for toxicity. None of the crops was tested for allergenicity. Even for the 30 per cent studied for toxicity, the tests were quite limited. For instance, potatoes and corn were engineered to contain a toxin to kill insect pests. These foods are already on the market, though no one knows the long-term effects on animals or on humans who eat the "toxin enriched" crops.
Already, one genetically-engineered (GE) soy, developed by Pioneer Hybrid, was discovered to be allergenic and could have killed people with life-threatening allergies if it had not, by chance, been caught and kept off the market. Since GE soy came on the market, soy allergies have risen 50 per cent. In 1989, 37 people died and thousands were permanently damaged after ingesting an altered food supplement, GE tryptophan. Beneficial insects, such as monarch butterflies and ladybugs, have also died after eating GE crops.
Because scientists are creating genetic changes overnight that might in nature take thousands of years, unexpected effects are no surprise. The potential for damage to human health or to the environment is unknown. The British Medical Association, representing 115,000 physicians, calls for a moratorium on all GE crops until more research is done.
Who Needs It?
Biotech is not needed to feed the world. There is already enough food to feed the entire globe, if the food were evenly distributed. Studies by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that biotech crops produce on average seven per cent less yield than conventional crops.
In other unexpected effects, biotech cotton in the USA fell off plants prematurely, creating millions of dollars of damage. In another case, GE soy burst open in hot weather, because of increased lignin content.
Cross-pollination with biotech crops (genetic pollution) has damaged organic crops and also produced superweeds that are immune to herbicides.
Insects exposed to biotech crops produced superbugs, insect pests immune to synthetic chemicals and natural pesticides, and which damage both organic and conventional crops.
Contrary to industry hype, genetic engineering has not produced any super-nutritious wonderfoods. The majority of approved GE foods are herbicide resistant (HR). This allows more use of herbicides to kill weeds without harming crops. The same companies that make the HR crops make the herbicides and force farmers to use only their herbicides with their crops, or face fines.
Is the main purpose of biotech crops to promote herbicide sales? USDA studies show that farmers growing these crops use up to two to five times as much herbicide.
Also, as GE crops are patented, biotech companies receive large royalties from farmers growing the crops. Farmers are also disallowed from saving seeds from one season to the next.
Government documents show that GE foods were approved in the USA, even though many scientists at the American Food and Drug Administration questioned their safety.
Two hundred scientists at Health Canada sent a letter to the Minister of Health saying they are concerned that unsafe products are rushed to market.
The scientists referred not only to GE foods, but also to antibiotics and hormones administered to food-producing animals. They stated they are pressured to approve products of questionable safety and that even when they did not recommend approval, products were approved.
Built into Canada’s Food and Drugs Act is the precautionary principle, which asserts that products should not be approved for sale until proven safe. However, due to industry pressure, products are allowed on the market without adequate testing and then only removed if there is sufficient evidence of harm (enough "dead bodies.")
Deregulation has created several calamities, including Canada’s tainted-blood mega-disaster, in which 60,000 people received infected blood that was not properly tested. Deregulation in Europe allowed cows to be fed sheep offal, which caused mad cow disease. Have we learned our lesson, or are we going to blindly trust industry and continue to allow genetically engineered on the market without long-term testing?