• Documented threats to our health from consuming genetically modified
(GM) foods - direct consumption or by eating meat or dairy products from
animals fed on GM crops - include allergic reactions, reduced fertility,
compromised immune function and premature death (find out more below).
• There is growing concern amongst geneticists and biologists that
the mixing of DNA from species that do not naturally reproduce with one
another (e.g. inserting fish DNA into vegetables) gives rise to unpredictable
effects that lead to potentially grave and unforeseen consequences for
both humanity and the world’s ecosystems.
• Lack of adequate research on the human health and environmental
effects of GM is being ignored or played-down by governments, health regulators
and vested interests in agri-business and allied sectors.
• Control of the global food supply by a handful of transnational
biotechnology companies with clear commercial and political motives poses
a huge threat to the livelihood of thousands of small farmers and growers
• We - the consumer - hold the key to getting our society off the
potentially lethal GM crop bandwagon through our campaigning and purchasing
power. ‘Say no to GM’ to help bring transparency, responsibility,
good science and common sense to the GM debate.
6 FEBRUARY 2009 | LONDON.
Click here for an illuminating exchange between the UK’s minister for agriculture,
Hilary Benn, and organic farming proponents, hosted by organic gardener
Monty Don. Reported by Sam Burcher of the
Institute for Science in Society.
Contrary to the PR from the handful of biotech companies that are responsible
for producing the genetically modified (GM) foods that can now be found
in up to 70% of processed foods in supermarkets in the US - and in increasing
amounts in many other countries - the process of ‘engineering’
genes from unrelated species into food crops is far from precise.
Our direct consumption of GM food, but also our indirect consumption of
it via animals that have in turn been fed GM feed, poses very serious risks to
human health and the environment.
These threats are very real but have been ignored by regulators like the
pro-GM FDA. These regulators have avoided any detailed evaluations of GM safety as
they regard it to be unnecessary because GM crops are “substantially
equivalent” to their non-GM cousins. Unfortunately, this is an assumption
that has been proven false many times over and is one that is contested
by a large and ever growing group of geneticists and molecular biologists
around the world.
The ANH upholds the view that consumer resistance to purchasing any GM
produce, as well as political pressure, is going to be among the most
powerful determinants as to whether the rampage of GM on the natural environment,
and on our bodies, is going to continue. In a word, it’s really
up to you and what you, your friends and your family are going to do.
Are you prepared to avoid consuming any GM produce? (Europeans need only
read the labels of packaged or processed foods or buy organic foods to
Consumers in the US - as well as other parts of the world - can learn a
lot about the ways of avoiding GM by going to the website of the
Institute for Responsible Technology, its
Campaign for Healthier Eating in America, its
Non-GMO Shopping Guide and its
GM-Free Schools Campaign. Also, look out for the No-GMO logo that’s going to be increasingly
found on US produce once the initiative is launched later this year. The
initiative currently has the support of food businesses with around $12
Soybeans, maize, oilseed rape and cotton have been the biggest targets
for GM, although potatoes, tomatoes, papaya, alfalfa and a few other crops
have also been ‘engineered’, but on a much smaller scale.
The key traits that have been added to commercial GM crops are herbicide
tolerance, which allows farmers to spray such GM crops with herbicide
(mostly glyphosate or RoundUp®) to kill weeds while not killing the
crop itself, and insect resistance, particularly through the expression
of Bt-toxin (a toxin produced by the bacterium
Bacillus thuringiensis). Some crops possess both traits and are referred to as ‘stacked’
110 million hectares of agricultural land is currently cultivated with GM crops, around half of this is in the USA,
the single largest GM crop cultivator. The global area given over to GM
has doubled in the last 5 years.
The US has also allowed the use of a GM-altered (recombinant) bovine growth
hormone (rbGH) intended to increase dairy yields, which most other countries
refuse to accept on the grounds of the health risks it presents to consumers
of dairy products derived from rbGH injected cows. The EU continues to
refuse import of dairy products derived from rbGH-treated cows.
Following pressure imposed by the USA through the World Trade Organization
(WTO), with support from both Canada and Argentina, the EU has had to
face sanctions, that allow the US to impose import duties on EU exports
$116.8 million annually. An additional CAN$11.3 million a year is levied by the Canadian government
on EU exports to Canada. The
EU argues that it is compliant with WTO rules because there is solid scientific
evidence that rbGH is harmful.
Horse trading is the name of the game when it comes to the global food
trade, and there is increasing evidence that the EU is slowly caving to
pressure over the commercial cultivation of GM crops, an issue that has
been the subject of a long-standing trade dispute ever since the EU imposed
a 6-year moratorium on GM crops from 1998. The WTO has ruled that the
EU’s moratorium is illegal and it is putting increasing pressure on the EU to stop some of its Member
States, notably Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg,
imposing unilateral bans on GM imports.
Despite widespread public opposition to GM crops in Europe, GM food and
animal feed usage in Europe is continuing to grow. The difference in Europe,
compared with many parts of the world, including the US, is that there
is compulsory labelling of GM-containing foods (at least those that contain
more than 0.9% GM). The trouble is, European consumers clearly don’t
study labels that carefully and are consuming ever larger amounts of GM-containing
produce, as revealed in a recent EU study involving 6 countries, led by
scientists at King’s College London.
Monsanto, Bayer CropSciences, BASF, Dow AgroSciences, Pioneer (DuPont),
and Syngenta are among the leading biotech companies in the field of GM
The transfer of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) - the two strand spiral of
genetic information found in every plant, animal and microorganism cell
that controls the development and function of all organisms - from one
organism to crop cells is not a clean, surgically-precise procedure. It
is a very hit-and-miss process based on faulty foundations.
The genes from the donor organism, or synthetic equivalents, are not neatly
spliced into the ‘videotape’ of the recipient’s DNA.
They are forced into the DNA using a range of methods, often with very
A common method of genetic engineering used in the development of GM crops
involves the use of a ‘gene gun’. Millions of tiny particles
of gold or tungsten coated in selected DNA fragments containing the required
gene (gene cassettes) of the donor organism are fired with great intensity
at recipient plant cells in the laboratory. An antibiotic marker is added
so that cells where DNA has been successfully inserted survive following
their dousing with antibiotic. A ‘promoter’, usually a part
of the cauliflower mosaic virus 35S (CaMV35S) - actually the naked virus,
the virus without its protein coat - is also included to ensure the gene
expression is permanently turned on to maximum. This is something that
tends not to happen with many traits in non-GMOs. Any surviving cells
will have had the antibiotic resistant marker along with the new gene(s)
and DNA of the CaMV35S successfully incorporated and can then be cloned
to produce the new-to-nature GM crop plant, complete with its new complement of DNA.
The above method of gene insertion has now been superseded, in many cases,
by using a bacterial vector. This approach originates from the work of
Professor Marc Van Montagu and colleagues at the University of Gent in
Belgium in 1975, and involves using a particular bacterium
(Agrobacterium tumefasciens) that induces tumours in plants. Actually only a part of the bacterium’s
cells is used - the plasmid - which contains essential elements of its
DNA without the tumour-inducing sectors. The bacterium possesses an unusual
ability, not unlike that of a virus, to insert some of its own DNA into
its host. Genetic engineers are able to insert gene cassettes (containing
one or more genes) into the tumour-inducing section of the bacterium’s
DNA, which then inserts the new genes into the plant cell.
Contrary to what the biotechnology companies responsible for genetic engineering
of crops tell us, there is a very real risk that transgenic DNA might
directly transfer into unrelated species, a process known as horizontal
gene transfer. Find out more about the science on this in an
ISIS article published in March 2008.
Wrong. Owing to the fact that regulators have decided under pressure from
biotech companies that there is no need to thoroughly evaluate the health
and environmental consequences of GM crops because they are viewed as
“substantially equivalent” to their non-GM relatives, safety
evaluation has been very limited.
One of the most thorough evaluations to-date involved a GM potato that
was engineered to produce a lectin (protein) from the snowdrop that is
well known for its selective toxicity to insects. The purpose of the genetic
modification was to have a potato that would produce its own insecticide
and hence reduce the need for conventional insecticides, while still being
safe to humans.
The work was conducted between 1995 and 1998 at the Rowett Research Institute in
Aberdeen (Scotland) under the leadership of Dr Arpad Pusztai, one of the
world’s leading authorities on lectins and previously a pro-GM proponent.
The research findings,
published in the prestigious
Lancet journal in 1999, still stand as one of the most thorough investigations of the potential
human health risks of GM.
The study involved assessing the effects of GM potatoes which had been
engineered to express the lectin on young rats. The lectin, on its own,
had been shown to be safe to rats when fed at 800 times the concentration
at which it occurred in the GM potatoes. The results showed dramatic and
unexpected effects that could not be caused by the lectin and could only
be associated with the genetic modification.
The results rocked the shaky foundation of the GM industry. Dr Pusztai
faced huge opposition from the
Royal Society in London, from pro-GM governments, including the UK government and ended
up being unceremoniously forced out of his job at Rowett. As increasing
evidence for health and environmental risks continue to accumulate, Dr
Pusztai is joined by an ever growing band of leading scientific researchers
in the GM field who are adamantly opposed to the outdoor release of GM
and its incorporation into human food and animal feed.
Read an article by Dr Pusztai,
Genetically Modified Foods: Are They a Risk to Human/Animal Health?, which demonstrates the lack of adequate safety evaluation of GM crops.
Read an abstract of a recent (2007) review by Dr Joseluis Domingo of the School
of Medicine, Rovira I Virgili University, Spain, entitled
Toxicity studies of genetically modified plants: a review of the published
Scientists have revealed a very large number of adverse effects associated
with the genetic engineering of crop plants.
The following is just a small list of some of the adverse effects that
have been documented following exposure findings:
• reduced organ weight
• reduced growth
• reduced fertility
• compromised immune function
• allergic reactions
• new diseases
• reduced nutrient content of food
• premature death
Probably the most complete and accessible compilation of documented health
risks of genetically engineered foods has been undertaken by Jeffery Smith,
author of the bestseller
Seeds of Deception (2004, Green Books, Totnes, UK / Yes! Books, Fairfield IA, USA), and his
Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods (2007, Yes! Books, Fairfield IA, USA). We strongly recommend all members
of the public, academia and governments with concerns about GM foods to
read both these books. They can be readily
obtained through Amazon.
click here to discover more about the 65 health risks documented in Jeffery Smith’s book.
The continued march of GM into our food supply has occurred only because
dozens of errors, misconceptions, misrepresentations and even outright
lies have been accepted by regulators, governments and unsuspecting members
of the public. We look here at just five of the most glaring defective
bricks in the unsound foundations of genetic engineering:
George Beadle and Edward Tatum were awarded the Nobel Prize for
proposing this hypothesis back in 1958. They proposed that each gene within DNA coded for the production
of a single protein or enzyme. The view formed the bedrock for the development
of the genetic engineering of crop plants between the 1970s and 1990s.
It allowed the scientists to think of strands of DNA, and the genes on
them, like videotape or Lego bricks. You could splice or chop and change
the DNA of a crop plant to incorporate whatever trait you so desired.
Because the resulting GM crop would then be unique, you could also make
a lot of money out of it through its patent.
Human Genome Project which was completed in April 2003 - the largest collaborative scientific
project ever conducted - eventually proved this hypothesis to be incorrect.
In unravelling the human genome, the project showed that there are only
around 30,000 genes in the human genome, a much smaller number than was
anticipated. Given that we know about the existence of some 200,000 cellular
proteins (including enzymes) in the body, it is clear that some genes
must code for more than one protein. Since this time, it has been found
that most genes code for multiple proteins and only a very few code for
a single one.
Therefore by incorporating a gene for a selected trait, it is highly likely
that other, unpredictable consequences will arise. An increasing body
of research is now beginning to support this view.
This has again been demonstrated to be a completely false assumption. When
the foreign gene is ‘spliced’ into the host plant’s
DNA, there is no telling exactly where it will be situated and the foreign
genes may have a wide range of unpredictable effects on the native genes
in the recipient’s cells. The foreign gene and associated DNA may
directly or indirectly cause some native genes to stop producing specific
proteins or enzymes they are programmed to produce (‘gene silencing’),
while it may increase the expression of others, some of which may have
been dormant in the DNA for thousands of years. It may also cause some
genes to express themselves differently and unpredictably, giving rise,
for example, to allergens or toxins.
The documented increase in allergic reactions in countries in which GM
crops are consumed and the
death of at least 37 people and illness in up to around 10,000 Americans following the consumption of the genetically modified L-tryptophan dietary
(food) supplement in the 1980s are examples of this. No risks obviously
apply to good old non-GM L-tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid
found in liberal quantities in chicken and other meats. It acts as a precursor
to serotonin, the mood enhancing hormone that prevents so many of us entering
states of anxiety and depression and taking SSRI drugs.
L-tryptophan and its intermediate, 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), have been
used safely for decades as food supplements and are invaluable to many
thousands. They are a natural part of the food supply and again pose no
risk, provided that they are taken in non-GM forms.
It was assumed originally by genetic engineers that once the insertion
of new genes had taken place and the modified cells had been developed
into viable and crop plants, that their DNA would be relatively stable
- or at least as stable as non-GM crops. This has been found to not be
the case. It seems that the process of genetic engineering - where foreign
DNA, often from a completely unrelated species - is forced into the DNA
of a plant, making its DNA much less stable. As such, the DNA of GM crops
is subject to unpredictable changes, some of which may be harmful, or
even lethal, to other organisms.
For years the biotech industry argued that the movement of transgenic DNA
into non-GM crops or weeds or other plant, animal or microorganism species
would not occur and could be guarded against by ensuring buffer zones
between GM crops and non-GM ones.
It is now almost universally accepted that this is an
inevitable consequence of increasing the hectarage of GM. It’s referred to as
horizontal gene transfer or outcrossing and its impact could be catastrophic in either the short
or the long term.
This is the big and emotive argument being pushed around by governments.
It pulls at our heart strings and we are told that genetic engineering
is merely an extension of plant breeding techniques that have been ongoing
for centuries. Wrong again. Firstly, plant breeding works within the laws
of nature. Nature doesn’t allow you to incorporate DNA from an unrelated
species into a crop plant. It doesn’t, for example, allow you to
put spider genes into maize plants. It also has a very specific rule system
for allowing recombination of DNA between related species. It is therefore
a gradual process and does not involve the forced introduction of foreign
DNA, antibiotic marker genes and naked cauliflower mosaic virus into its
There’s little evidence that GM crop plants consistently give better
yields, or that such yields can be sustained over many generations. There’s
also little consistent evidence that GM crops are more nutritious and
there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that they are less nutritious
and pose considerable health and environmental risks.
Then there’s the huge issue of who controls the seed supply. Biotech
companies and pro-GM governments tell us that GM is the answer to food
shortages in developing countries, as well being the most cost-effective
way of producing cheap food for the developed world. But around 2 billion
people on the planet today are subsistence farmers who rely on raising
their own seed. GM takes this capability away from subsistence farmers
and makes them depend on a small handful of biotech companies for their
seeds. This concept flies in the face of all that has been learned about
re-establishing self-sufficiency in rural communities in developing countries.
The approach favoured by the biotech giants also flies in the face of findings
on the state of agriculture made over 4 years of study by a collaboration
of 400 scientists from 60 countries, which are detailed in a 2,500 page report -
released in April 2008 - as part of a UN project, the International Assessment of Agricultural
Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD).
The executive summary of the report concludes that GM raises numerous contentious issues for developing countries,
ranging from gene transfer, contamination of organic crops, undermining
of local practices, reduced food security and unpredictable or reduced
yields. In short, the scientists are saying that GM - at least in its
present form - is not the solution to food shortages in the developing world.
Many developing countries have been at the forefront of resisting the shift
to GM. Their governments, which by and large accepted agrochemicals in
the past - many of which were banned in the west owing to their excessive
health or environmental hazard - have not been so forgiving over GM. They
are alive to the huge health and environmental risks. They understand
the predicament it puts them in by becoming dependent on patented seeds
from western biotech companies.
Large tracts of the Amazon rainforest, one of the most important areas
of biodiversity in the world, is presently being flattened to make space
for GM soyabeans to feed livestock in the western world. We have no idea
what the consequences might be, but the existing evidence would suggest
that widespread planting of GM crops poses a catalogue of potentially
dire environmental risks. One of the clearest pieces of evidence demonstrating
the risk was a study in the US showing that
pollen from GM maize kills Monarch butterflies.
Whatever happened to the
precautionary principle that has helped to save many a whale, penguin and polar bear?
Although more and more countries are resisting increasing cultivation of
GM, there is still enormous pressure from biotech companies which is being
felt particularly at a governmental level.
The EU as a whole, and even some European countries that have previously
supported the EU’s moratorium against further commercialization
of GM, are becoming
more pro-GM. This is particularly the case with the
It is clear that the biotech companies and governments are increasingly
trying to prepare the public to be
more amenable to accepting GM.
The World Trade Organization (WTO), the ‘policeman’ of global
trade, regards the banning of GM as a barrier to trade and has been engaged
in disputes with countries to restrict GM. Given that Europe has historically
represented a big export market for agricultural products from the US
and Canada, the US and Canadian governments, supported by the Argentinian
government initiated a dispute against the European Union which is
Our key concern in Europe is that the European Commission itself is not
fundamentally anti-GM. It is the public in Europe that represent the key
opposition to GM - not the governments. In fact, although the European
Commission doesn’t generally admit it, it
is actually pro-GM. There is mounting evidence that the EU will slowly move into line with
the US, to increase the number of
GM registrations, to increase the land area within Europe given over to GM crop cultivation,
and slip ever greater amounts of GM into our food. Leaked documents have revealed
secret plans by the European Commission, and representatives of the 27 EU Member States
to do just this.
Disconcertingly - as is so often the case in other matters - those at the
tough end of the socio-economic scale will pay the highest price in health
terms. This group tends to consume the largest amounts of processed foods,
the perfect disguise for GM soya and maize products and derivatives. At
a global level, apart from the WTO from its pro-big corporate position
as arbitrator over trade disputes, there is also considerable involvement of
Codex Committee on Food Labelling, hosted by the pro-GM Canadian government, is providing the key battleground
for governments, corporation-sponsored NGOs and consumer advocates to
fight out labelling requirements for GM foods. There is a major and growing
divide between those countries, headed by the US and Canada, that are
pro-GM and opposed to compulsory labelling of GM ingredients in foods,
and those, represented by some EU member States, many African and other
developing countries, that are adamant that mandatory labelling of packaged
foods is essential as a means of offering consumers choice. In other words,
they support the fundamental human right - the right to knowledge.
Anything less than compulsory labelling, on the basis of the available
evidence and the risks and uncertainty over GMOs is - in our view - criminally
Remember: if you support the principles of natural health which serve to
offer the body the appropriate internal and external environment to allow
the optimal function of self-healing mechanisms within the body,
ALWAYS say NO to GM! Anyone passionate about natural health has to say NO to GM. That means
making sure you know what you’re eating and buying, and making sure
(as far as you can) that you are not knowingly consuming GM directly in
your food or indirectly in meat produced from animals fed GM-soya or GM-maize.
Presently buying organically certified food is one of the simplest ways
of minimising your intake - but even this doesn’t necessarily eliminate
your exposure altogether. It is particularly important for us to work
to ensure that all children - who are especially susceptible to GMOs -
are not unknowingly exposed to GM.
Help people to understand why we are faced with pro-GM spin from governments,
regulatory agencies, international regulatory bodies such as the Codex
Alimentarius Commission and the World Trade Organization.
Work to ensure safety evaluations by regulatory authorities are massively
extended and made transparent. Based on the current scientific evidence,
no objective safety evaluation could ever approve the use of GM for release
into the environment.
And don’t forget to tell as many people as you can - people you know
or those you can reach out to - about GM and its very considerable risks.
Copy this link:
http://www.anhcampaign.org/campaigns/say-no-to-gm …and send it by email to the people you care about.
(the bottom 3 organisations are pro-GM)