By Shawn Dell Joyce
Some 200 million acres of the world’s farms grew biotech crops last year, with over 90 percent of the genetically engineered (GE) seeds coming from U.S.-based Monsanto Corp.

Scientists have taken genetic materials from one organism (like a soil bacterium), along with an antibiotic-resistant marker gene, and spliced both into a food crop (like corn) to create a genetically modified crop that resists specific diseases and pests. There has been no long-term independent testing of the impacts of these genetically modified food products – or “frankenfoods,” as they are known – on the ecosystem or human health. Instead, there is a long litany of concealed truths, strong arm tactics and even outright bribery by the world’s biotech giants.

In the early 1990s when frankenfoods were being evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, several FDA scientists warned that genetically engineered crops could have negative health effects. These scientists were ignored and blanket approvals of genetically engineered crops were awarded. Perhaps one reason for the quick approval process is the revolving door at the FDA, which allows corporate executives from biotech giants to hold decision-making positions in the FDA.

Michael Taylor, for example, was an attorney for Monsanto before being appointed deputy commissioner of the FDA in 1991. Taylor hastened approval of genetically engineered crops through the FDA, then returned to Monsanto to become the vice president for public policy.

It is very difficult to avoid eating genetically modified organisms (GMO) in our country, because they are so pervasive in the food system and unlabeled in grocery stores. Part of the reason for this is biotech giants fought to keep GMO-foods unlabeled. GMOs can be found in most commercially farmed meats, and processed foods. In our country, 89 percent of all soy, 61 percent of all corn, and 75 percent of all canola are genetically altered. Among other foods containing GMOs are commercially grown papaya, zucchini, tomatoes, several fish species, and food additives such as enzymes, flavorings, and processing agents, including the sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet), and rennet used to make hard cheeses.

To complicate matters, GMOs move around in the ecosystem through pollen, wind, and natural cross-fertilization. The Union of Concerned Scientists conducted two independent laboratory tests on non-GM seeds “representing a substantial proportion of the traditional seed supply” for corn, soy and oilseed rape. The test found that half the corn and soy, and 83 percent of the oilseed rape were contaminated with genetically modified genes, eight years after the genetically modified varieties were first grown on a large scale in the U.S.

The report states that “Heedlessly allowing the contamination of traditional plant varieties with genetically engineered sequences amounts to a huge wager on our ability to understand a complicated technology that manipulates life at the most elemental level.” There could be “serious risks to health” if drugs and industrial chemicals from the next generation of GM crops were consumed in food.

What can you do to avoid GMOs?

–Know how your food is grown and buy directly from local farmers.

–Support organic agriculture and food producers who label their ingredients, particularly dairy farmers.

–Eat pastured meat raised on organic feed; the only way to ensure this is to buy from someone you know.

–Support farmers who are a sued by biotech giants. Monsanto has set aside an annual budget of $10 million and a staff of 75 devoted solely to investigating and prosecuting more than 150 farmers for a total of more than $15 million.

–Demand labeling on all GMO-containing products so that we at least have a choice.

Shawn Dell Joyce is the director of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery.


One Response to “Frankenfoods”

  1. Jo Galante Cicale Says:

    There is a huge rise in auto immune disorders and cancers. We can anecdotally speculate the role of chemicals in creating that rise.

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