The Truth About Genetically Modified Foods

  • 5 Jan 2009
  • Reading time 20 mins
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Precise and safe or out of control and deadly? The shocking truth behind GM foods and how they pose a serious health risk.

The Truth About Genetically Modified Foods
By author of Seeds of Deception, Jeffrey M. Smith

Are you confused about genetically modified organisms (GMOs)? There’s good reason. The official policy of the US Food and Drug Administration is that genetically modified (GM) foods are not substantially different, and therefore no special safety tests are required. But the official policy of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine is that GM foods pose a serious health threat, and therefore all doctors should advise patients to avoid them.

Monsanto, the largest producer of GM seeds, claims that their gene-spliced crops increase yield and will feed the hungry. The Union of Concerned Scientists’ report, Failure to Yield, shows that GM seeds do not increase yield; and the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology – a three-year collaboration of more than 400 scientists, 30 governments, and 30 civil society organisations – concludes that GM foods offer nothing to feed the hungry world.

Save the world or destroy it? Precise and safe, or out of control and deadly? This report helps you navigate the contradictory claims and make sense of one of the most powerful and far-reaching technologies ever introduced.

Breaking the species barrier
For centuries, farmers saved the best seeds from their crops for replanting, improving the quality and reliability year after year. They also crossbred pairs of crops with desirable traits in the hopes that the offspring carried the best of both. Early last century, scientists realized that those traits were stored in genes, found within the DNA.

In the 1970s, scientists made a radical discovery. They could remove a gene from one species and force it into the DNA of another. No longer was sexual reproduction needed to create new types of offspring. And by transferring genes across the species barrier, the possible combinations became virtually infinite.

Scientists put spider genes into goats, in the hopes of milking the goat to get spider web proteins to make bullet proof vests. They’ve put genes into corn so the crop makes a spermicide. They’ve used jellyfish genes to make fish and puppies glow in the dark, created pigs with cow hides, and salmon that grow up to five times faster.

Nature became man’s playground, with a more profound and lasting impact than ever before.

GMO crops designed to drink or produce poison
There are nine genetically modified (GM) food crops on the market. The five major ones are soy, corn, cotton, canola, sugar beets, and alfalfa. All five are engineered with the trait called herbicide tolerance. Here’s the back story: Scientists discovered bacteria growing in a chemical waste dump near Monsanto’s factory. The bacteria was surviving in the presence of glyphosate –the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup – which normally kills bacteria. The company figured “Great! Let’s put it into the food supply.” So they took out the bacterial gene that allowed it to survive, and forced it into the DNA of soybeans. Now you can spray Roundup Ready soybeans with Roundup, and not kill the crops. Just the weeds die. Each of the five crops have a Roundup Ready version. Some also have Liberty Link variety, which survives otherwise deadly doses of Liberty, from Bayer CropScience.

Although the biotech industry claimed that herbicide tolerant crops would reduce the use of herbicides, the opposite happened. Over the first 13 years, there was an increase of 383 million pounds, or 10%. But now weeds are getting wiser, they too are developing resistance to Roundup, and farmers are spraying lots more. So the rate of herbicide use is now growing in the range of 30% per year or more. And this means that we consume more herbicide residues in our food. And so do the animals.

The second popular trait, found in some corn and cotton varieties, is pesticide producing. These crops produce a pesticide in every cell, which breaks open the stomach of certain insects and kills them. The plants’ DNA is outfitted with a gene from the soil bacteria called Bt (Bacillus Thuringiensis), which makes Bt-toxin. Hence these plants are called Bt crops.

Nearly all GM crops in the world (more than 99%), are either herbicide tolerant, pesticide producing, or both. In other words, they either drink poison or produce poison.

Three minor crops are Hawaiian papaya, and a little courgette and yellow squash. They have viral genes added that allow the crop to resist a particular plant virus.

GMOs are inherently unsafe
When you cross plants through natural breeding, there’s a lot of random re-sorting of genes from each parent, causing wide variations among the offspring. Because genetic engineering allows scientists to isolate a desired gene and transfer it into a host plant, the industry likes to say that it is a more precise technology. This simplistic statement, however, is misleading.

The process of genetic engineering itself creates unpredicted alterations, irrespective of which gene is transferred. Gene insertion, for example, is accomplished by either shooting genes from a “gene gun” into a plate of cells, or using bacteria to infect the cell with foreign DNA. They don’t guide the “transgene” into a particular location in the plant DNA. Sometimes it will be imbedded in the middle of a native gene, changing its function. It can also delete natural genes, permanently turn them on or off, and cause mutations in and around the insertion site and elsewhere [1].

The “transformed” cell is then cloned into a plant through a process called tissue culture, which results in additional hundreds or thousands of mutations throughout the plants’ genome. In the end, the GM plant’s DNA ......

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