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It's Not Nice to Fool With Mother Nature
By Don Bennett, DAS

The title of this article is a paraphrase of a TV commercial from the 70's. A woman depicting Mother Nature is shown sampling what she thinks is her "rich, creamery butter", and when told it is actually margarine, she remarks in an angry tone, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!" She was understandably upset... and so am I. And it's about something far worse than butter or margarine; something that could jeopardize human existence. I'm speaking of genetically engineered food (also known as GMO's - Genetically Modified Organisms).

Since the early 90's, agribusiness has been converting a large portion of our naturally grown food supply to one that is derived from genetically modified seeds. Some of these crops include corn, soybeans, potatoes and tomatoes, and approximately 60% of processed foods contain GMO's.

Many informed scientists express concern about the health and environmental risks associated with GMO's, and many renowned biologists contend that the claim by the biotech industry and the FDA that GM crops are not demonstrably different from those that have been cultivated through cross breeding and pollination and are therefore safe, is false. Genetic engineering has made it possible to combine genes from species that would never exchange genetic material in Nature.

During the genetic engineering of food, genes are taken from animals, plants, bacteria, and viruses and are artificially inserted into the DNA of food crops, which bypass the relatively slow natural evolutionary process, and in so doing, create opportunities for diseases and genetic weaknesses to cross over to completely unrelated species. Genetic engineering uses techniques that can allow genes to move spontaneously in the organism's genetic material, which can cause unexpected changes. These changes could have catastrophic consequences to humans and the environment. While it's true that naturally occurring mutations can have similar effects, the probability is greatly increased as a result of genetic engineering.

As an example of the possible harm GMO's can cause, studies have shown that genetic sequences survive digestion and can enter the blood stream through the digestive tract, and then enter cells where they can interfere with the immune system, or cause cancers.

Not only do genetically engineered crops pose a real danger to human health, they can potentially do great damage to the environment. GM crops can reproduce and cross-pollinate with non-GM crops, and with closely related wild species. If a genetically engineered plant creates unanticipated problems, it will be impossible to remove it from the environment. Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin said in a New York Times Magazine article (10/25/98)...

"There's no way of knowing what all the downstream effects will be or how it might affect the environment. We have such a miserably poor understanding of how the organism develops from its DNA that I would be surprised if we don't get one rude shock after another".

If all this isn't bad enough, the FDA and other regulatory agencies officially see GM crops as "equivalent" to natural crops, so new products containing GM substances have been approved with nothing more than a safety assessment done by the company who intends to sell the product! Somehow this does not help me rest easy.
And here's the part that initially caught my attention: Presently the FDA does not require that processed foods with GM ingredients be labeled with information about their genetically modified origins. And the majority of GM crops are mixed with their natural, genetically unaltered, relatives. The lack of labeling of foods containing GMO's is a flagrant infringement on the rights of consumers to make informed choices about what we eat. And this lack of labeling is a double edged sword - if certain GM foods have harmful health effects, it will be impossible to trace the origin of the problems.

Up to now, the biotech industry was trying to keep consumers in the dark regarding GM foods. But thanks to the uproar in Europe (which has led to an almost complete rejection of GM foods there), and the growing number of protests in the U.S. against GM foods, the biotech industry is endeavoring to win you over with a powerful ad campaign to program you (via television programming) with a positive attitude towards genetic engineering. You may have seen the TV commercials about "Golden Rice".
It seems we have "the smarts" to make a tomato that contains genes from an arctic fish (in an effort to make the tomato more frost resistant), but not the wisdom to test and make sure there are no unfavorable side effects (By the way, these tomatoes were a commercial failure because they bruised easily and consumers didn't like the taste). Nor do the powers that be (Dow, Dupont, Novartis, Monsanto) have the wisdom to think better of what they are doing... their goals are financial profit and control of the world's food supply.

The widespread introduction of GMO's into our environment will result in one of the most profound transformations of our delicate ecosystem that has ever occurred. There is currently no need for such a transformation. Efforts to create a food supply from mostly genetically modified crops only benefit the corporations involved. The rest of the population - who have had no say in this decision, either through the political system or as informed consumers - are unwitting guinea pigs in what is essentially a massive and potentially dangerous experiment.

Knowledge is power, and so is your dollar. Ask your grocer to inform their distributors that you don't want genetically engineered food. Write or email your representatives in government and demand that food items containing GMO's be labeled as such. For other suggestions, visit gefoodalert.org

Genetically Modified foods are creating a situation where "Oops!" could mean the end of civilization as we know it. I think that's a good reason to get involved, how about you?

Also read:

A Plan for More GMOs? -- A Complex Food Conspiracy Exposed

There's a Lot You Don't Know About What's in Your Food - How to avoid GMO food
An interview with the author of Your Right to Know: Genetic Engineering and the Secret Changes in Your Food

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