Richard Wolfson, PhD
Toxin Seepage from Biotech Corn Corn has been genetically engineered to contain a toxin called Bt to kill insect pests that eat the corn.
Toxin Seepage from Biotech Corn
Corn has been genetically engineered to contain a toxin called Bt to kill insect pests that eat the corn. Research at New York University shows that the Bt toxin is leaking through the roots of the plants into the soil. Scientists and environmentalists are concerned that the toxin may harm beneficial soil organisms, produce Bt-resistant super-bugs, or cause other ecological damage.
Monsanto’s Soy is Cracking Up
Farmers and researchers have found that Monsanto’s genetically engineered herbicide-resistant soy plants split open in warm weather--causing crop losses of up to 40 per cent. The split plants are also more susceptible to fungal infection.
Meanwhile, at the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania, (despite one of its worst droughts on record) organic soy is producing bumper yields of 30 bushels per acre, compared to 16 bushels per acre from conventional soy.
New Plant Viruses
Research published in the scientific journal Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease (No 4, 1999) warns that a virus that is inserted into many transgenic crops may result in widespread crop damage. The virus in question, the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV), is used to activate genetically-engineered genes. However, the researchers state that it may also reactivate dormant viruses or create new viruses that attack the host species and spread to other plants.
Government Deal on Biotech Spuds
An internal Health Canada memo shows that Monsanto struck a private deal with senior federal food regulators to quickly approve two new kinds of genetically-engineered potatoes. The government agreed to approve Monsanto’s crops in 30 days if Monsanto supplied specific data that was missing on the potatoes.
The ability of industry to get their products fast-tracked through the safety evaluation puts into question the whole regulatory process. Mich? Brill-Edwards, MD, FRCPC, former senior Health Canada drug regulator, commented on Monsanto’s resistance to supply the information on their products. She said, "It’s like a courtroom where you don’t want the evidence against you to get out."
GE Foods in Canada
An updated list of approved genetically-engineered foods in Canada is at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website: http://www.cfia-acia.agr.ca. Hit language preferred for the table of contents to find the list. As of December 1999, this list showed 43 approved biotech crops. A link on the website shows that biotech foods were approved with very little testing for human health and environmental impact.
Gene Therapy Death
Eighteen-year-old Jesse Gelsinger died in Pennsylvania as the result of a reaction to a novel gene therapy experiment for a liver disease. Monkeys treated the same way died from the same reaction, but the research team proceeded with the human experiment. Other scientists ask whether the Penn team overlooked the risks in their eagerness to produce the world’s first gene-based cure. Also anxious for success were corporate sponsors who invested tens of millions of dollars.
More than 30 American farm groups warned members that genetically-engineered crops had become so unpopular with consumers that farmers were risking their livelihoods if they cultivated them. Farmers were also warned that inadequate testing of gene-altered seeds could make farmers vulnerable to "massive liability" from damage caused by genetic drift--the spreading of genetically modified pollens--and other environmental effects. Because of the unknown hazards of biotech crops, the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario is calling for their mandatory labelling.