Health & Nature

Genetic Engineering & Your Food: What Are The Risks?

“Genetic engineering is bad science working with big business for quick profits against the public good.”— Me Wong Ho

Helke Ferrie, M.A.

The biotech companies have five significant characteristics:

  1. Secrecy, or as they call it, proprietary information. If you want scientific studies from Monsanto on a particular issue like bovine growth hormone, or RoundUp Ready Soybean, they are simply unavailable. They tell you it is proprietary information. The research on their GE products is not in any way available except in abstracts and sometimes astoundingly, in absolutely falsified data (e.g. revealed in the Canadian Senate investigation into the bovine growth hormone).
  2. Stonewalling of objective evidence. If you happen to obtain the information, they simply will not discuss it.
  3. Bribery and intimidation. This is pervasive.
  4. Lying is part of the system and it is quite openly engaged in. Now it is part of government policy as well. Our own home-grown geneticist, David Suzuki said, “Scientists who say that GMOs are safe are either stupid or lying.”
  5. Their primary aim is the creation for a market. The product itself doesn’t really matter.

The effect of all of this is to create a huge world-wide dependency which is achieved through patenting.

Creation Of A Market – Patenting

Let’s look at some of the facts. One patent after another is being given for various GE organisms. Queen Elizabeth owns the patent on the grow faster salmon, which she took out in 1996. Grow faster salmon are engineered with sockeye salmon growth hormone genes. These salmon are seriously deformed and have a different colour.

They also can’t swim properly. Interestingly, her son, Charles, has been instrumental in the critique of GMOs, and he is perhaps pivotal to the process going on in England in rejecting genetically engineered substances. When Tony Blair told him to shut up and stop his website ( www.princeofwales.com), he said, “No!”

The patent for RoundUp, the flagship pesticide of Monsanto, expired in 2000. This explains why there has been such a tremendous race to get the foods that are dependent on RoundUp patented, and to get them into the market as quickly as possible. So that when the patent expires, the world is already dependent on it anyway, and the patent would then be no longer important.

It is their intention to create financial dependency on a worldwide scale with the terminator genes, and the traitor genes. So we wind up with scorpions in tomatoes, and with human genes in potatoes and with spiders in goats in order to make the hair finer, strawberries in fish to make them cold resistant, fireflies in mice. Actually they did that in the laboratory and those things glowed 24 hours a day.

We can see that this is not really a conspiracy, but a grand act of deception, because the CEO of Monsanto wrote an article in 1986 describing exactly how to corner the market. It was published in the Economist.

It describes how to get patenting rights, how to promote GE products on a worldwide scale, how to obtain international property rights and make them dependent entirely on commercial considerations, and how to move in on the governments by putting a few well placed people in the prime minister’s office for instance.

He says, “If we have a few well placed people in each prime minister and president’s office of the important exporting nations of the world, we basically have control. He says this right there in this article in the Economist for everyone to read. The involvement with government which he was aspiring to has in fact occurred. So the devotion of the transnational corporations to this power imbalance has nothing to do with democratic process. We read about this in the papers, about privatization, deregulation and so on.

The financial scale and the power of the GMO companies is enormous. Microsoft, for example, is worth $590 billion. The gross national product of Canada is roughly $690 billion. The four big biotech companies combined are approximately the same as Microsoft, in the $500 billion range. So we are looking at something that is the size of a state, arguing or influencing something as big as Canada.

Bribery, Intimidation And Lying

At the moment the Canadian Senate is conducting hearings into the improper way in which government, and Monsanto, Eli Lilly and Elanco colluded with each other in order to get bovine growth hormone (a genetically engineered substance) through the regulatory process without any hitch. Some horrific things took place from bribery to burglary where the documents which reported problems with bovine growth hormone were stolen from Dr. Margaret Haydon’s office.

She was the veterinary regulator. Among other things, when the Health Canada scientists stood firm and said, “Bovine growth hormone is carcinogenic; it causes hormone disruption, and we cannot allow it in the food supply”, and provided the evidence, they were punished in a variety of ways with days off without pay and so on. Three human rights cases have been heard and two Supreme Court cases, and the Senate has made a systematic analysis of it.

One of the people who was subpoenaed as a witness was David Dodge who is currently president of the Bank of Canada. When he was the Deputy Minister of Finance he gave us the Free Trade Agreement which the Canadian people were not too happy about and had actually rejected, but he managed to find ways to put it through anyway.

He was the architect of the entire thing. So he was also trying to get the bovine growth hormone pushed through. When he was put on the stand and asked why he didn’t accept the scientific reports and why he gave orders for punitive actions against the Health Canada scientists, his answer was “…..because the public cannot understand these scientific matters”.

So none of you know, or can understand that bovine growth hormone is bad for your own hormones and bad for you because you might get cancer or because it might cause birth defects in your children. You are not capable of understanding that. The Canadian Government has decided that in its infinite wisdom. There have been other punitive actions taken against scientists, such as Ann Clark at Guelph University. Guelph University is heavily subsidized by the big biotech companies, and she has spoken out against it very strongly.

National funding for science declined in the last ten years by 27%. Provincial funding for science declined by 69%. Federal funding increased by 16% but only to certain research chairs. But business and industry funding by the government increased by 117%. That is how it is done.David Dodge is the architect of those kinds of things.

How else is it done? Monsanto managed to get their genetically engineered potatoes through in 30 days, instead of the mandatory 360 days. Forty-three of these crops are now approved. And doctors play a very important role, because they can inform the Health Protection Branch if there are any health problems. But how are you going to determine health problems when nothing is labelled and you haven’t got a clue what you are eating?

In recent years, the biotech companies have sustained tremendous losses; the truth is out, or as the X-Files say, “The truth is out there”, and it definitely is. We need to write to Loblaws and other markets, we need to write to our MPs and MPPs.

Joe Cummins, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, University of Western Ontario

Substantial Equivalence

Government and biotech companies claim that genetically modified crops are “substantially equivalent” to crops which are not genetically modified. This means that they do not have to be labelled in the market, and they do not have to be subjected to testing at the level of pharmaceutical drugs or pesticides. Therefore, testing of these products is totally inadequate. In general, foods are not tested at all.

Two major challenges to the theory of substantial equivalence are the alterations of the phytoestrogens, and the allergenicity of the Bt toxin used in corn, potatoes, and cotton crops to fight off insects. They introduced the gene from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiengis (Bt).

When you put Bt on organic crops in the field, you put it on as spores and it can easily be washed off, but when it is genetically engineered into the crop there is no way to wash it off. It is intrinsic to that crop and it is well documented that it is allergenic to workers exposed to it, and animal studies demonstrate that the Bt toxin itself is highly allergenic. So although substantial equivalence has broken down, the government prefers to ignore this.

The issue of substantial equivalence is really crucial because it is being used and imposed by Codex Alimentarius of the United Nations and in international trade. Greenpeace’s solution of going to the consumer is important because the judiciary is influenced by public opinion and I think we could influence them on that basis.

The Precautionary Principal

The problem is that the burden of proof is on us, the public, to prove that GMOs are dangerous; whereas in the precautionary principal these materials ought to be proven safe before they are marketed.

Gene Therapy

In spite of over ten years of research in gene therapy with over 400 human subjects involved, and numerous deaths, the most recent being a high profile case where it was clearly an unnecessary death, the university bureaucrats and researchers are given a light slap on the wrist and told they can go back to work.

It is as if their subjects have no value. The terminator genes are the most dangerous, because of their viral nature and the damage they can do, and that is just one example. If researchers injure or kill people, they should face the courts, as was established in the Nuremberg Convention.

Impact Of GM Crops On Bees And Butterflies

The most concrete data have determined that the monarch butterfly, ladybug beetles, and lace wigs have all been severely injured by GM crops. These crops are wiping out a huge microfauna of various organisms and there are reports of the bee population being dreadfully impacted in Saskatchewan.

Another problem is that GM crops tend to generate a select group of weeds which are resistant to multiple herbicides. The weeds keep changing and they have to use more and more herbicides and do more drastic damage to the whole ecology, because herbicides are sprayed from small airplanes and helicopters as you know.

Infection of Non-GMO Crops

The genes do travel from one crop to another. This means that if we do not limit genetically modified foods right now, then it may be too late. Strangely enough, last year Canada allowed a genetically modified herbicide tolerant sorghum on the market, although even in 1982 there was a general agreement in both United States and Europe that sorghum spreads so much that it should never be genetically engineered.

Michael Khoo, GE foods campaigner, Greenpeace, Canada

Rejection of GMOs in Europe and Asia

Canada is the global lynchpin in the GMO debate. Europe is pretty much opposed and Asian markets are closing very quickly. The developing world already resists GMOs and they won’t be duped by false arguments like “feeding the world with GMOs”. Biotech companies realize United States is the ultimate target of this campaign as the largest exporter and greatest developer of GMOs.

Canada really is but a stepping stone. However, Canada has a unique position in that we are a heavy exporter of GMOs, but we have a small enough population that groups such as Greenpeace or Gene action and other groups can actually have an impact here. And the biotech companies know that if they lose here, they will lose America next.

GMO-Free Products in Europe

All the manufacturers – Kellogg’s, Nestle’s, General Mills, Kraft, Nabisco, Unilever, have gone GMO-free in Europe and the UK. Also, the top food retailers, the supermarkets, Sainsbury, Tesco, Marks and Spencer, and Safeway do not sell foods with genetically modified ingredients.

So when manufacturers say that is not possible to reject GM ingredients in their products here, or that they can’t label GM foods, it is very obvious they are lying because they have done it elsewhere.

We find that Canadians get very confused by the double standards of these large corporations. When large retailers and food manufacturers go GMO-free in Europe, but those same companies do not do so over here, consumers become distrustful. Our current campaign target is Kellogg’s.

ASIA More importantly, though, in 2000 Nestle, Hong Kong, went GMO-free. With a company like that going GE free in both Europe and Asia, is a matter of time before they do so here. Hong Kong’s top two supermarkets have also gone GM free. Del Monte has gone GMO-free for the entire Asian Pacific.

In Japan, their government has already imposed mandatory labelling programs. And Thailand has outright banned GMO products. So we can take the examples of the movements in Europe and Asia and realize that it’s just a matter of putting pressure on these companies, by calling their 1-800 numbers, or writing letters.

Animal Feed

The public concern in Europe is also now spreading to the area of animal feed, which is a substantially more important sector. For example, only about 20% of soybeans are for public consumption; the remaining 80% are for commercial use and animal feed. But last month we have seen excellent developments in the U.K. British food chains are refusing to sell meat, eggs and dairy products from animals fed on genetically engineered crops.

Even fast food chains such as McDonalds are refusing to use animal products from animals fed on biotech feed. Last year, the largest retailer, Tesco, announced that they would remove GMOs from the animal feed of their poultry. A second company called Sun Valley, the largest importer of soymeal in the U.K. also followed suit. What is significant about that is that Sun Valley is owned by Cargill, which is one of the largest grain handlers in North America, one of the top two or three, I believe.

Cargill’s statement to the U.K. parliament was that the animal feed market would soon follow the way of the consumer market. Predictions from U.S. farm journals and consulting companies say that there will be a 25 to 50% drop in GMO plantings this year. The development slashes the crops’ biggest remaining market in UK and marks another severe blow for the biotech industry.

Poll Results

Domestic polling has been done extensively in Canada by Angus-Reed, Montreal Gazette, Environics, and other companies. In the last year, we have seen a doubling of public awareness on this issue, to the point where 80% of consumers are now aware of the issue of genetically engineered foods.

The polls say that 50% don’t trust the government’s regulatory system for GMOs. The most recent stats said that 97% of people wanted labelling; 68% of people absolutely reject it and won’t eat it, and 50% of people want an outright ban, not just a moratorium, but a ban.

Most consumers realize that any potential benefits would be to the corporations and a quarter of consumers see no benefit to themselves at all. For these reasons, Greenpeace concentrates on a consumer campaign.

What Can You Do?

It is perhaps sad to recognize that government is a slow and inefficient place for people to put their energy, but I believe that governments have spent a good part of the last decade divesting themselves of any control that they ever had over these transnational corporations. So we do a direct consumer campaign.

We encourage people to call the 1-800 phone numbers. We know that companies listen intently and are quite fearful of their lines being flooded by these types of calls, people simply calling to ask what their position is. Larger companies like Loblaws have been issuing extensive questionnaires to their suppliers to find out if they have the capability to guarantee them that they will be GMO-free. But nobody is taking any action here.

Julie Daniluk, Gene Action

Julie is also a nutritionist at the Big Carrot. Gene Action is a Toronto-based grass roots group that is focused on reducing and eventually eliminating genetically modified food in North America. Activities include direct actions, street theatre, research, workshops and public outreach.

Even if a product is GMO-free to begin with, it is combined in with GMO product at the refinery. With crops like canola oil, even if the crop is only 50% GMO, the actual canola oil will be contaminated completely. So eating organic is extremely important.

If you cannot shop organically, just consider the main crops that you might be able to eliminate from your diet. Try to keep in mind that corn, potatoes, soy, canola, cottonseed, and American dairy are genetically modified. Unfortunately, in America, they are using the bovine growth hormone. Remember that meat is also a problem because of the high concentrations of GMO crops in animal feed. There are plenty of farms available now that are using only GMO-free feed like Cumbrae Farms and Rowe farms.

Kraft and Heinz have bought up some of the wonderful health food companies that we have been dealing with! So we have been trying to find new products to offer. We are having problems with things like margarine and salad dressings. There is not a GMO-free margarine that I can find. Margarine is no good anyway, but for people who buy margarine, we have been unable to find an equivalent.

Even health food brands of mayonnaise, salad dressings, soya products, tofu burgers, cookies, snack foods, potato chips and corn chips frequently have GMO ingredients. There is a 1% allowance due to derivatives. Things like vitamin C and vitamin E are used as natural preservatives in products.

Vitamin C is often taken from corn dextrose, vitamin E is taken from soy and that is the only reason why there might tiny amounts, less that 1% GMO derivatives in some products. If we tried to go 100% GMO-free tomorrow, every health food store would close, which a lot of people don’t know about.

Shopping is your power. And that is the main reason why I think it is very important that you start reading labels and you start with yourself. As long as these products are out there, and if they increase in number, then they are going to eventually infect our organic crops, so eventually, we are not going to be safe from this, if this is accepted in North America.

Dr. Morton Walker

Dr. Morton Walker is a former doctor of podiatric medicine, and has long been recognized as the world's most outstanding medical journalist specializing in holistic medicine. He is the author of 64 published books and more than 1600 published magazine, newspaper and clinical journal articles. He is the winner of 23 medical journalism awards and medals. He received the 1992 Humanitarian Award from the American Cancer Control Society, the 1981 Orthomolecular Award from the American Institute of Preventive Medicine for outstanding achievement in orthomolecular education, and two prestigious Jesse Neal Editorial Achievement Awards from the American Business Press. His books include Smart Nutrients, The Yeast Syndrome, The Healing Powers of Chelation Therapy, Orthomolecular Nutrition, Toxic Metal Syndrome, Pain, Pain Go Away and How to Stop Baldness and Regrow Hair.

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