Take Action Now: Unlabeled genetically engineered sugar, chimeras, and drugs slipped into your food

Forget the hype about it feeding the world, yielding more crops, needing fewer pesticides, and other nonsense, genetically engineered (GE) food is solely about profits and corporate control over farmers and the global food supply.

By entering into contracts with biotech companies, farmers have to buy seeds from a biotech company, use a company’s patented chemicals along with those seeds, and then they are not permitted to save seeds.  It is astounding when you realize that about eighty percent of the world’s farmers rely on seed saving.

Just as critically, none of the GE foods on the market today have ever been proven safe for human consumption. Independent scientific evidence has shown that human health effects of eating GE food can include toxic and allergic reactions, antibiotic resistance, immune suppression, and other serious illnesses.

Why do people continue to mistakenly believe (and some passionately defend this misguided notion) that GE crops feed the world and help the environment by reducing pesticide use?  Perhaps it’s because the government and the biotechnology industry expend questionable efforts to “educate” consumers, the media, and politicians with propaganda championing GE food as safe and necessary. 

To sell the public on GE food, they have methodically promised a variety of benefits, such as higher crop yields, fewer pesticides, longer shelf life, and more.

In April 2008, a published UN report, the work of more than 400 international scientists, concluded that GE crops “will not play a substantial role in addressing the key problems of climate change, biodiversity loss, hunger, and poverty.”

GE crops fail to deliver benefits, while consumers assume all of the health risks.  Food prices are soaring, people continue to go hungry worldwide, and the use of pesticides with GE crops is escalating. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data reveals that in the ten years after the 1994 introduction of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops, herbicide use increased by fifteen times.

In addition to the major GE foods currently on grocery store shelves today (soy, corn, canola, cotton, and dairy products), these new categories of GE foods – GE sugar, GE farm animals, and pharmaceutical plants – have also never been proven safe for human consumption and may be on your dinner table soon – if not already.

Genetically Engineered Sugar:

We have all been advised to stay away from high fructose corn syrup and the like…and if trying to avoid GE corn sweetener, we might opt for sugar anyway. Think again, because now Monsanto has convinced the USDA to deregulate their GE sugar beets. In fact, thousands of acres of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GE sugar beets have already been planted, and GE sugar is expected to enter the food supply this year.

Sugar beets account for more than half of U.S. production of sugar, while the rest is produced using sugarcane. Americans consume about 10 million tons of refined sugar each year and about 12 tons of corn sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup.

With the introduction of GE sugar beets, the two leading sweeteners consumed in the U.S. will now be derived from GE corn and GE sugar beets. Because U.S. law does not require labeling of GE ingredients, consumers of products from candy to breakfast cereal will be unknowingly eating GE sugar, with unknown health consequences.

But wait a minute, why are they engineering our sweeteners? What does that have to do with feeding the world?

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) sent a letter to Kellogg’s in June, requesting the company not use sugar from GE sugar beets in its products or face a consumer boycott. Even though Kellogg’s products are GE-free in Europe, the company responded to OCA’s request, claiming that U.S. consumers do not care if their food contains GE ingredients or not – especially if they don’t even know what they are, what potential health hazards they pose, or that GE ingredients are already in their food!

To find out more about GE sugar and to sign OCA’s petition, visit OCA’s webpage at http://www.organicconsumers.org/kelloggs.cfm.

Genetically Engineered Meat:

Taking this into a new and different direction, scientists have also been tinkering to create chimeras, farm animals with a variety of cross-species characteristics – also to be served up, unknowingly, for public consumption.

Fast-growing fish, super-sized and featherless chickens, goats engineered with spider genes to produce silk in their milk, pigs carrying mouse and bacterial genes…these and more are headed to your dinner table without your knowledge. The ethics of such unlabeled, untested, and unsafe aberrations of animals in our food supply have clearly not been considered.

In September 2008, the FDA proposed that they will only review GE animals for their safety as food – and will not require any labeling. Jean Halloran, director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, said,

It is incomprehensible to us that FDA does not view these animals as different from their conventional counterparts [i.e. a cow is a cow regardless of how it was created or where it came from]…In our view, consumers have a right to know if the ham, bacon or pork chops they are buying come from pigs that have been engineered with mouse genes.

Just because something was created in the laboratory, doesn’t mean we should have to eat it. Sign the Consumers Union’s petition before November 18, 2008 and show the FDA that we want to know what’s in our food at: https://secure.consumersunion.org/site/SPageServer?pagename=NIMF_Frankenfood&JServSessionIdr001=43k3dol5s1.app46a.

Pharmaceutical (“Pharma”) Crops:

On another front, drug and biotech companies are using food crops to produce pharmaceutical drugs, hormones, and vaccines; industrial chemicals such as detergent enzymes, bio-fuels, and plastics; research chemicals; and untested food additives and supplements.

Corporations do not typically disclose the types of chemicals that are being developed—they classify this information as “confidential business information.” Keep in mind, hundreds of pharma-crop products are in the pipeline.

These drugs and chemicals were never meant to be eaten by the general public, yet the potential for human health effects could be massive if they wind up in common foods such as corn chips, breakfast cereal, snack foods, and baby food.

In October 2008, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) denounced newly proposed USDA rules governing GE crops, including food crops engineered to produce pharmaceutical and industrial products. The proposed USDA regulations would not protect the U.S. food supply from potential contamination by drugs from pharma-crops.

The key here is that the agency could allow certain levels of drugs in food that the USDA says are “safe” to eat.

However, as we know, U.S. regulatory agencies often rely on advisory committees made up of outside experts to offer “science-based” advice, and those panels typically include—and are sometimes dominated by—scientists or researchers who have direct financial relationships with the companies whose products are under scrutiny.

If the above proposals for pharma-crops are enacted into law, consumers will be unaware (due to no labeling) and must accept the possibility of drugs in their common daily food choices.

Do you want the USDA deciding for you which chemicals and drug levels are “safe” for you to consume in your food? Take action by signing the UCS’s petition at: http://ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/what_you_can_do/sign-the-ucs-petition-to-the.html.

The only way for change to happen is if we drive this on a consumer, grassroots level and stop eating GE food. Call food manufacturers (almost every package has a company 800 number on it) and tell them you don’t want GE food or ingredients. If food processors stop accepting GE crops because of consumer rejection, the agriculture biotech industry won’t have a market.

In Europe, governments took a precautionary first step with regard to GE food and labeled it, which led to consumer awareness and rejection of it. Because of that, many of the same companies that use genetically engineered ingredients in the U.S. are GE-free in Europe. We can be GE-free if enough consumers become aware.

Go organic. When you buy organic, no animals are permitted to have been given antibiotics, growth hormones, or feed made from animal byproducts. No genetically engineered ingredients, irradiated ingredients, synthetic ingredients, or fertilizers made with sewage sludge are legally permitted in organic food. All of these are permitted in most conventional food production. 

Get informed and let your voice be heard. Take action and sign these petitions. Tell your friends and family about GE food and the risks. We have to act today to protect our health, our environment, and future generations. As consumers become aware, big changes can happen.

Why should you be a guinea pig for the biotech industry? Shouldn’t you be the “the Decider” when it comes to the food you eat?

By Beth H. Harrison, PhD, author of four-time award-winning Shedding Light on Genetically Engineered Food, exploring why and how you have been kept in the dark about GE foods and the risks, why these foods continue to go unlabeled, and what foods to avoid and how to take action.