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ERIE COUNTY, OH – Transgenics in the Food Market | Editorial

April 12, 2010

This editorial is the second, in a series, The Erie Wire has published to address genetically engineered foods.

Read Part One

Simple Transgenic Timeline for a Genetically Engineered (GE) Food Market Initiative.

  • 1940’s – Beginning of chemical agriculture production.
  • 1970’s – Intro to genetic patenting of seeds or organisms contingent to chemical application. Transgenics begin.
  • 1980’s  & 90’s – A rush to patent life from genetic features in the genome of food related products, and every other feature of life from all species.
  • 1990’s – Move by MonsantoBASF (Cooperates with Monsanto in research), DowBayerSyngenta (Cooperates with Dupont in research), Dupont/Pioneer and Bejo to buy seed companies and create chemically dependent, climate ready and sterile seeds or Transgenic Foods & Feed.
  • The 21st century – Testing begins for Transgenic Food Communities.

* A copy of the FDA’s list for approved Genetically Engineered foods of the businesses above can be found in The Erie Wire Archive. Also, the multitude of companies available on this list has since been reduced to the 7 above.

Five major breakthroughs in the GE food market:

  1. RoundUp Ready seeds – Seeds engineered to be resistant to RoundUp Sprays active ingredient – Glyphosate, so that all things die but the GE crop.
  2. Bt seeds – Seeds that are genetically engineered to have pesticides or herbicides in the structure of the plant, so that it may kill whatever pests feed on it.
  3. Human Growth Genes – Growth Genes inserted into fish species (fish species, because all other animal species reacted badly to initial experiments) to produce large, fast harvests.
  4. Terminator Technology  or GURT (Genetic Use Restriction Technology) – Seeds that have infertile offspring, and do not produce a second years crop if saved and planted again.
  5. Climate Ready seeds – Seeds being monopolized by companies to be resistant to climate change.

Phil Angell, Monsanto’s director of corporate communications explained the company’s regulatory philosophy to Michael Pollan in 1998:

“Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.”

The FDA & Transgenics

GE foods and ingredients are not required to be labeled by the FDA. The former FDA official, overseeing the policies of GE foods, James Maryanski decided, “it was a political decision that applied not just to foods, but to all products of biotechnology” responding to the difference of GE foods and non-GE foods. With this said, the FDA believes that the decision for food safety is political, not scientific; that GE foods are the same as non-GE foods due to the GRAS (generally recognized as safe) policy. But, even simple common sense implies, at the very least, a functional difference. Although, the FDA treats genetic  insertion like a food additive, and does not require the same amount of testing – as even food coloring would be subject to – when testing gene insertions.

The Market

“these genetically modified biotech crops have been adopted at a rate unprecedented in history for any new agricultural technology…” (Syngenta)

“Currently, up to 45% of U.S. Corn is genetically engineered as is 85% of soybeans. It has been estimated that 70-75% (now 80%) of processed foods on the supermarket shelves – from soda to soup, crackers to condiments – contain genetically engineered ingredients.” information provided by The Center for Food Safety. Other reports suggest up to 2/3 of corn is genetically engineered as well as 90% of soybeans.

A former proponent of Genetic Engineering, professor Terji Traavic at the Institute of Gene Technology in Norway declares, “One of the main risk issues of genetic engineering is that 95% of all competent scientists in these fields are working for the producers side, for the corporate market, and only 5% are genuinely independent.” Clarifying reasons to why adverse dissemination in the news and advertisements about genetically altered foods is almost non-existent. For instance Agent Orange, the product used to destroy forests and enemy food supplies, is classified on Dow’s website – “Today, the scientific consensus is that when the collective human evidence is reviewed, it doesn’t show that Agent Orange caused veteran’s illnesses.” an alarming disregard for the mutational characteristics of this chemical. In effect, this company is telling us that genetically engineered food is safe because it uses genes from nature. Afterword, the company reassures us that this something which does mutate nature will not harm our bodies.

“Genetically Engineered technologies cannot co-exist with nature, but act to pollute and destroy it.” This remark paraphrases Andrew Kimbrel, a washington D.C. attorney and pioneer of The Center for Food Safety. It reads like a simple statement, until the human element is recognized.

“If I take a gun and shoot you, that’s criminal! If I expose you to some chemicals which knowingly are going to kill you — What difference is there?… the difference is that it takes longer to kill you.” responds Samuel Epstein, M.D., to chemical application on food crops.

The Center for Food Safety’s website states about Transgenics, “Human Health effects can include higher risks of toxicity, allergenicity, antibiotic resistance, immune-suppression and cancer. As for environmental impacts, the use of genetic engineering in agriculture could lead to uncontrolled biological pollution, threatening numerous microbial, plant and animal species with extinction, and the potential contamination of non-genetically engineered life forms with novel and possibly hazardous genetic material.” Therefore, the harm enacted by GE technologies is simulated to the environment and humanity.

Many Farmers begin to use Transgenic crops because they are promised higher yields and greater profits through subsidization. The BT cotton promise of greater yields made by Monsanto to Indian Farmers turned out to be a tragedy, resulting in over 100,000 suicides of Farmers from failed crops who could not pay back the banks. Instead, these farmers poisoned themselves by drinking Monsanto’s pesticide.

A 30 year old combination of studies at the University of California Berkeley comparing conventional chemical farming vs. organic farming showed organic farming to increase profits for farmers, produce higher yields, and improve topsoil levels. This, after all 7 seed companies claim organic farming cannot feed the world, and the only way to make food productivity or surplus possible is to adapt Biotechnology… Transgenics.

“Monsanto helps both large and small growers around the world farm in a more sustainable way and attain a better quality of life. It is the combination of our Pledge, our focus on excellence in business conduct, our commitment to integrity, and our products that help us bring about our vision of a better world.”  Monsanto is responsible for the production of Agent Orange2, 4-DDioxinPCB’sAspartamerecombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) and DDT. This history seems to negate their possibility for helping secure the quality of our future.

Physicist, ecologist, and seed activist Dr. Vandana Shiva speaks about a competing market paradigm for the future in India, “Farmers who grow their own seed, save their own seeds, don’t buy pesticides; have three-fold more incomes than farmers who are locked into the chemical trade, depending on Monsanto and Cargill. We have managed to make alternatives that work for people.”

Alternatives to Transgenic Foods are not available from the shelves in local retailers. Too many of the products are GE, or have GE additives (80%). The long term solution that is available has never ceased to exist, but rather has been overlooked – i.e. buying directly from local Farmers. A few Farms in the county grow for CSA’s (community supported agriculture), where people can buy into fruit and vegetable yields at a fraction of retail costs and have these products delivered to convenient pick-up locations. These foods are normally grown without the use of chemicals or Transgenics. If you wish to buy directly from local Farms in order to secure your health and the health of County Farmers, we ask you to look at the Erie Fresh CSA. And, to write or email the Farms with your concerns so they may coordinate a crop to meet your demand.

As of January 12, 2009 the EU has taken this position.

*Recently, Germany bans Bayer’s clothianidin in response to honeybee’s dying off with 99% of dead bees containing build-ups of clothianidin.

Read Part One

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