Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Genetically engineered (GE) crops part 2.

Here are some fact to consider about GE produce. (Sourced from

Basically, genetic engineers have focused on three plant characteristics. First, they attempt to make crops tolerant to herbicides so fields can be sprayed with weed killers and only genetically engineered plants can grow. Farmers often end up having to use more chemicals than before. Second, crops have been engineered to produce a bacterial pesticide toxic to specific types of field pests. The problems associated with this approach would take too long to discuss here but pests can develop resistance to these pesticides. They can harm beneficial insects like ladybugs, honeybees, and monarch butterflies. The third area is viral resistance. Of course, a plant that develops viral resistance may lead to a natural backlash through the development of newer viruses that can surmount the genetically engineered resistance. Research on genetic engineering in every case confirms what opponents have been saying all along about the likely negative ecological consequences. But the problem is that it is taking a long time for research on the negative consequences to catch up with 15-20 years of research that has been rather narrowly focused on the development of products. Corn, soybeans, cotton, and canola are the main genetically engineered crops. Over 60 percent of processed foods have one or more of these products as ingredients. So, to get these products out of our food supply is an ongoing battle.

Another important thing that happened in 1999 was that a series of surprising experiments were released in Britainexperiments that the industry had spent six months trying to suppress. They showed that laboratory rats that were fed genetically engineered potatoes had severe problems with their digestive tracts, immune responses, and the development of nearly all their vital organs. Their brains, hearts, livers, spleens, etc. were all significantly reduced in size, and many of the endocrine glands were enlarged. Some of this data was published in the prestigious British medical journal, The Lancet, but the lead scientist was fired and the research was never finished. The suggestion is that much more extreme health effects are possible, but the industry has a huge vested interest in seeing to it that we dont ever know for sure.

This industry would love for farmers to become as beholden to the large processors and distributors as, say, companies that make auto parts for Ford and GM. The larger company completely controls the supply, the price, and the specifications, and the subcontractors simply follow the requirements of their contracts, buy the right chemicals, and apply them according to a fixed schedule

It seems that as long as GE produce doesn’t cause cancer, it is considered safe.

What’s also disturbing is that GE crops are not entirely motivated by benevolent corporations. The driving force is the need to make a profit and hold the market captive to their products. We wouldn’t place the rain forests in the hands of corporations and then expect them to make the welfare of the planet a corporate priority. Placing the future of all food crops in the hands of corporations would be a similar folly.


Jeannie said...

I take it you are going to continue with this...
I think Crichton wrote a book that included some of the problems with genetic engineering in novel form. Or I read something about it myself. Soy beans were not allergenic until they engineered some with peanut parts. Those soy beans caused allergic reactions with people with peanut allergies. The strain is now "out there" and can't be taken back again and there is no way to know which you have purchased. Scary stuff.

Lexcen said...

Jeannie, you give a very good example of what can go wrong.

Pip said...

There are other people out there all over the world trying to fight against GM food crops. In Japan last night a message was projected onto a ship and a silo containing GM seed saying "Stay GM Free" which was more than likely directed at Australia who are planning on lifting their ban of GM canola at the end of the month. See the Greenpeace website for more info.

But basically, you're right. Consumers should know which products have been contaminated by genetic engineering but lifting the ban on GM food crops is not going to help the matter.

We need to be able to choose!