Superb roundup of dangers of GM foods + excellent new GM action resource (26/8/2005)

The following is taken from an amazing new resource - the Genetic Engineering Action Toolkit - compiled by Luke Anderson and distributed by the Genetic Engineering Action Network.

It comes in CD-ROM format. It works on Macs as well as PCs. And it includes a truly amazing amount of information, including:

* introductions to all the key issues
* all kinds of articles and reports
* examples of different actions people are taking
* tools for grassroots activists.

To order copies email [email protected]

We'll be bringing you more material from this remarkable resource. Here for starters is a brilliant roundup of the dangers of genetically engineered foods.

Exposing the Dangers of Genetically Engineered Foods
Testimony before the Vermont State Agriculture Committee, Oct. 2, 2003 [slightly edited]
By Jeffrey M. Smith, author of Seeds of Deception

My name is Jeffrey Smith, I have been involved with the issue of genetically engineered foods since the mid 1990s... I worked as vice-president of marketing for a GMO detection laboratory... I recently wrote a book entitled, Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies About the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating...

The book includes information never before in the public domain...

My conclusions are these:

GM foods are inherently unsafe...

Many of the assumptions used by the biotechnology companies as the basis for their safety claims have been proven wrong, or remain untested.

There have been dangerously few safety tests on GM foods.

Industry safety tests are typically rigged to avoid finding problems.

The most in-depth independent studies show serious damage to laboratory animals.

One genetically modified food supplement killed about 100 Americans and caused another 5-10,000 to fall sick. Evidence implicating genetic engineering as the cause was suppressed.

Many scientists both in government and in the private sector who discovered dangers or even expressed concern, have been attacked and silenced.

How could the government approve dangerous foods? A close examination reveals that industry manipulation and political collusion—not sound science—allowed these on the market.

*Government employees who complained were harassed, stripped of responsibilities, or fired.

*Scientists were threatened. Evidence was stolen. Data was omitted or distorted. Some regulators even claimed they were offered bribes to approve a GM product.

Let's explore some of the popular myths about GM foods:

Myth 1: The FDA has thoroughly evaluated GM foods and found them safe. This is untrue.

Internal FDA documents made public from a lawsuit, reveal that agency scientists warned that GM foods might create toxins, allergies, nutritional problems, and new diseases that might be difficult to identify. Although they urged their superiors to require long-term tests on each GM variety prior to approval, the political appointees at the agency, including a former attorney for Monsanto, ignored the scientists. Official policy claims that the foods are no different and do NOT require safety testing . A manufacturer can introduce a GM food without even informing the government or consumers.

A January 2001 report from an expert panel of the Royal Society of Canada said it was "scientifically unjustifiable" to presume that GM foods are safe.

Likewise, a 2002 report by the UK's Royal Society said that genetic modification "could lead to unpredicted harmful changes in the nutritional state of foods," and recommended that potential health effects of GM foods be rigorously researched before being fed to pregnant or breast-feeding women, elderly people, those suffering from chronic disease, and babies.

Myth 2: These foods have been extensively tested for safety. Untrue.

In the mid-90s, a major grant was awarded by the British government to develop the first independent safety testing program on GM food. It was to become the model for the UK, and later for all of Europe. As part of the research, scientists fed rats a GM potato engineered to create an insecticide, known to be harmless to rats. But upon examination, it was found that the rats developed damage to the immune system, smaller brains, livers, and testicles, partial atrophy of the liver, and potentially pre-cancerous cell growth in the intestines and stomach. When the lead scientist tried to alert the public about these alarming discoveries, he lost his job, was silenced with threats of a lawsuit, and the safety testing program was scrapped.

The research was eventually published in the prestigious journal The Lancet, and remains the most in depth animal feeding study on GM foods ever conducted.

Two other studies also showed preliminary evidence of a potentially pre-cancerous condition reported in the Lancet. All the other remaining published animal feeding studies on GM foods were not designed to identify these details...

In unpublished studies on the FlavrSavr tomato, laboratory rats fed the GM crop developed stomach lesions and seven of the forty died within two weeks. The tomato was approved.

Myth 3. Approval was based on sound science.

I asked Dr. Arpad Pusztai, the eminent scientist who was fired and gagged after discovering damage to rats, what was the most shocking moment he encountered. It was not discovering the damaged health in the rats or being fired after 35 years.

It came months earlier when he read the confidential submissions made by the biotechnology companies to the UK government, requesting that their foods be approved. He was given the 6-700 pages by the director of his institute, who sat on the 12-member committee that approved requests. Arpad knew that the director and most of the committee members would never actually read the studies, as they were committee men, not working scientists. Arpad, on the other hand, had been in charge of a 20-member team for two years, designing safety protocols. He was among the most qualified persons in the world to evaluate the submissions. Reading them, however, was the most shocking moment. He said the studies were examples of extremely poor science. It was obvious that the companies were doing as little as possible [to test the foods in order] to get their foods onto the market quickly. Reading these superficial studies was a turning point in this pro-biotech scientist's life. Later, when he discovered the damage to the rats after consuming GM potatoes for the equivalent of 10 human years, he realized that if the soy and corn on the market were creating the same effect in humans, it would never have been picked up by their flimsy tests, and it would not be obvious in the population for years.

In fact, many industry studies appear to be rigged to find no problems. In the case of a genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH), for example, researchers injected cows with only a fraction of the normal dosage before reporting hormone residues in milk. They heated the milk 120 times longer than standard, in an apparent attempt to report that pasteurization destroys the hormone. It didn't, so they added powdered hormone, 146 times the naturally occurring amount, heated that 120 times longer than normal, and only then reported that pasteurization destroys 90% of the hormone. That was what the FDA reported as well. Furthermore, researchers apparently added cows to studies that were pregnant before treatment, to claim that rbGH didn’t impede fertility. Cows that fell sick were allegedly dropped from studies altogether.

With soybeans, serious nutritional differences between GM and natural soy were omitted from a published paper . Feeding studies masked any problems by using mature animals instead of developing ones and by diluting their GM soy 10 to 1 with non-GM protein.

There are no adequate tests to verify that GM food will not create dangerous allergic reactions. While the World Health Organization developed testing standards to minimize the possibility of allowing allergenic GM varieties on the market, GM corn currently sold in the U.S. has not been subjected to those tests and would most certainly fail them. One company's test, for example, used a far stronger acid concentration and more than 1,250 times the amount of a digestive enzyme later recommended by the WHO, to make the claim that their protein degrades too quickly to cause an allergic reaction.

The only human feeding trial ever conducted confirmed that genetically engineered genes from soy burgers and a soy milkshake transferred to the bacteria inside the digestive tract after only one meal. (The biotech industry had previously said that such a transfer was impossible.)

The World Health Organization and the American Medical Associations, and several other groups have expressed concern that if the "antibiotic resistant marker genes" used in GM foods got transferred to bacteria, it could create super-diseases that are immune to antibiotics. This was one reason cited why the British Medical Association called for a complete moratorium on GM foods.

More worrisome is that the "promoter" used inside GM foods might get transferred to bacteria or internal organs. Promoters permanently turn on genes that might otherwise be switched off. Scientists believe that this might create unpredictable health effects, including the potentially pre-cancerous cell growth found in the animal feeding studies mentioned earlier.

Myth 4: The biotech industry says that millions have been eating GM foods without ill effect. This is misleading.

*About 100 people died and 5-10,000 to fell seriously ill when they consumed the food supplement L-Tryptophan. Only those who consumed the variety that was genetically modified became ill. That brand had minute, but deadly contaminants that would easily pass through current regulations today. The disease it created was rare, acute, and came on quickly. If all three of these characteristics had not been present, the GM supplement might never have been traced as the cause. Once discovered, however, industry and government covered up facts and diverted the blame. Some tried to pin the blame on a change in the company's filter. We know now that hundreds had contracted the disease from genetically modified versions of the supplement during the four years prior to the change in the filter. The FDA testimony before Congress blamed health fraud schemes, and never told the congressmen that the supplement was genetically modified.

* Milk from [genetically engineered] rbGH-treated cows contains an increased amount of the hormone IGF-1. We know that IGF-1 naturally occurs in milk. We also know that drinking milk can increase the free circulating IGF-1 in humans. Premenopausal women with high IGF-1 levels are 7 times more likely to develop breast cancer. Besides family history, that makes IGF-1 the highest known risk factor for breast cancer. Men with high levels are 4 times more likely to develop prostate cancer. IGF-1 is also implicated in colon and lung cancer.

*Soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% in the UK, coinciding with the introduction of GM soy imports from the U.S.

According to a March 2001 report, the Center for Disease Control says that food is responsible for twice the number of illnesses in the U.S. compared to estimates just seven years earlier. This increase roughly corresponds to the period when large amounts of GM foods have been introduced into the American diet. Could genetic engineering be contributing to the 5,000 deaths, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 76 million illnesses related to food each year? Might it play in role in our national epidemic of obesity or the rise in diabetes or lymphatic cancers? We have no way of knowing if there is a connection because no one has looked for one.

Actually, the Food Standards Agency of the UK developed a plan to monitor potential health problems. They approached the UK supermarkets, asking to use the purchasing records of the 30 million consumers who used "loyalty cards." They were going to see if those people who ate GM foods had higher levels of birth defects, childhood allergies, and cancer. When their plans were leaked to the public, they cancelled the study.

One of the most dangerous aspects of genetic engineering is the closed thinking and consistent effort to silence those with contrary evidence or concerns. Just before stepping down from office, former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman admitted the following:

"What I saw generically on the pro-biotech side was the attitude that the technology was good, and that it was almost immoral to say that it wasn't good, because it was going to solve the problems of the human race and feed the hungry and clothe the naked. . . . And there was a lot of money that had been invested in this, and if you're against it, you're Luddites, you're stupid. That, frankly, was the side our government was on. . . . You felt like you were almost an alien, disloyal, by trying to present an open-minded view"

Contrast this with the warning by the editors of Nature Biotechnology: "The risks in biotechnology are undeniable, and they stem from the unknowable in science and commerce. It is prudent to recognize and address those risks, not compound them by overly optimistic or foolhardy behavior."

Please don't become overly optimistic or foolhardy. I urge you to read the evidence amassed in my book Seeds of Deception. I do not offer opinions. I offer meticulously documented accounts, with 340 footnotes in all, showing that these foods should never have been approved and might already be creating massive health problems in our population. As you read the book, please note down any questions. Make them tough. I will be available to answer the questions, or put you in touch with scientists who may be better equipped to respond.

I will be traveling around the state, speaking about the book, and informing your constituents about the topics I presented here today, but in far greater detail. I will be happy to report to them that their representatives in the Vermont Senate Agricultural Committee have received a copy of the book and now have access to the same information they are hearing about.

Thank you for the opportunity to share with you what I have learned about this important topic.

Seeds of Deception is available at www.seedsofdeception.com, at 888-717-7000, or at local bookstores.

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