Is Your Food
- Food Watch: Is Your Food Genetically Engineered?
- by Patricia Dines
- Living Nutrition, Vol 6/1999, pp. 17, 22-23.
- (c) Patricia Dines, 1999. All rights reserved.
- "I have the feeling that science has transgressed a
- that should have remained inviolate."
- Dr. Erwin Chargaff, eminent biochemist,
- a pioneer in our understanding of DNA and
Look closely at the food you ate today. Is it genetically
engineered? Did corporate scientists, in their quest for higher
profits and greater control of our food supply, combine the
genetic material of a very different species (like a fish,
bacteria, insect, or animal) into the DNA of that innocent-looking
tomato? Did they do this even though no human testing has been
done on the resulting food, and they acknowledge that they only
know what 1% of DNA does -- let alone how the whole inter-related
system works together? (What they don't understand, some presume
to call just "junk.")
- Hard to tell, isn't it, looking at that otherwise
healthy-looking fruit or vegetable. And there surely was no
labelling about this when you bought it. (Corporations have been
fighting against such labelling with all their considerable
might.) And yet, unbeknownst to many, major segments of our food
supply are now being supplanted by new genetically-engineered (GE)
varieties at an alarming rate.
- Take soy, for instance. In 1997, 15% of U.S. soybeans were
grown from GE seed. By next year Monsanto hopes that will be 100%
(60 million acres)!! Other commodities being bioengineered include
corn, potatoes, tomatoes, canola, cotton, etc., affecting a wide
range of foods on our plates and crops in our ecosystems. (See
sidebar.) Claimed benefits of GE (with varied success rates)
include: crop plants making their own pesticides and better
resisting increased amounts of herbicides; and produce seeming
fresh longer on the store shelf.
- Many corporations, often with histories of making toxic
pesticides - like Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, and Novartis -- are
now betting their futures on this new, largely untested technology
- buying up seed companies, changing relevant laws, and
influencing government leaders. They want nothing to stop them
from the immense profits they anticipate from controlling at an
even greater level the food supply upon which all humans on this
- HARMFUL RESULTS
- The likely harmful results of this mass uncontrolled
experiment, however, are mind-boggling (some of which have already
started happening). Likely harm includes: Allergic and toxic
reactions (to hidden genes and combinations); loss of individual
dietary choice; reduced nutritional integrity in our food supply;
increased use of and dependence on toxic herbicides; errors in
production; harm to farming (deformed crops, increased pest
resistance, loss of heirloom and localized crops, increased farmer
costs and debt); harm to, and destruction of, native species and
natural ecosystems (because nature is all connected); crop
failures and food shortages (from worldwide monocropping of this
risky technology); unpredictable and "mysterious" wide-scale
health and environmental harm rippling through communities and
ecosystems (often untraceable without labelling); a new dimension
of pollution by corporations with very poor track records for
anticipating or being responsible for the harm they cause for
profit; and an unrecallable experiment with the inter-related
ecosystems upon which all life on this planet depends.
- Whew! It's really hard to not sound dramatic when exploring
the ramifications of this experiment. Yet top scientists agree
that this is indeed what's at stake when people with little
understanding make rapid and drastic changes to the DNA basis of
life with which we have co-evolved and co-survived, and which
makes life on this planet possible. The risks are so high and out
of control that insurance companies are refusing to insure
- A chilling prospect to those who care about not only the
health of themselves and those they love, but also the health and
well-being of this beloved planet, now and for years to come.
- SYSTEM CHANGES
- Just as bad are the fundamental changes corporations are
making to our systems for growing and distributing food. What is
an increase in power and profit for them is a loss of control for
us as individuals and communities.
- A key part of their strategy has been changing patent law so
they can patent their genetically-manipulated lifeforms as
inventions - and often all other related variations, even
trying to go back to the Creator's original! Even if one thinks
it's acceptable to patent lifeforms, it's hard to defend this
radical redefinition of "invention."
- But patenting seeds is central to the corporations' goal of
controlling them. It allows them to lease (rather than sell) GE
seeds to people who are not allowed to save the crop's year-end
seeds, but have to keep going back to the company store for more.
The Creator's original design and a 10,000 year old seed-saving
tradition would be gone in a snap. What we got from nature we'd
now just get from corporations -- greatly increasing the costs and
risks to everyone -- including the billions of subsistence farmers
worldwide, living crop to crop, who'll likely be unable to pay the
costs of this brave new world.
- All this so wealth and power can be concentrated into even
- One of the most chilling aspects of these changes are the ways
that corporations plan to enforce their seed patents and prevent
people from saving and planting their year-end seeds. The first is
using the police and courts. The article "Gene Police", in the
February 3, 1999 Washington Post, discusses in horrifying detail
how corporate seed investigations and lawsuits are causing for
communities what local farmers are calling a "reign of
- But the second way corporations plan to prevent seed-saving is
even more disturbing: they're developing ways to genetically
engineer plants to create seeds that won't reproduce. The seeds of
life become the seeds of death. Suicide seeds. The activist group
RAFI (Rural Advancement Foundation International) has uncovered
over three dozen new patents for genetically-sterilizing plants
and seeds, including one they nicknamed the Terminator. But what
are the ramifications of neutering our food seeds -- to our
health, our ecosystems, our survival? Will the food still nurture
us on all levels? Who knows. No testing has been done, no
labelling expected. But is it really in our best interest? Don't
we even get a chance to decide . . . ?
- COMMUNITIES STANDING UP
- And, for some, this is the most disturbing point of all --
that these changes are being made without us even having a chance
to discuss them, weigh the costs and benefits, decide what we as a
democratic society want. Should corporations be allowed to change
the DNA basis of food and life for their profit? Should they be
able to patent life? What controls, testing, and labelling do we
as consumers and sovereign citizens want on this process? Vital
questions that should at least be discussed.
- And what about the alternatives - for our food,
communities, world, and future? Some people would choose a very
different future world - with sustainable, ecological
agriculture; healthy, alive food; and communities, not
corporations, making vital choices like these. When do we discuss
how we create that world?
- And that's what citizens and consumers all over the globe are
insisting be on the agenda. They are loudly protesting these
untested, highly risky changes to our world, and are instead
insisting on a healthier future. And they're impacting their
governments and corporations. If U.S. citizens chose to get that
powerful here, our impact worldwide would be astonishing. Just
consider the impact last year of our record-breaking 300,000
comments rejecting the unacceptable proposed national organic
- So, what kind of future do you want? And what can you do
(more) to help that happen?
- WHAT YOU CAN DO
- (1) EDUCATE YOURSELF AND OTHERS. This is a pivotal time
when much of our future will be determined. Don't assume someone
else will do this for you; be a positive contribution to a better
world. Follow the leads in the Resources box; contact us for more
- (2) BUY ORGANIC FOOD. This is the only food explicitly
defined to keep us out of this GE experiment. Go to farmers'
markets or grow your own. Invest in your health and a better
world. Encourage others to do the same.
- (3) TAKE COMMUNITY-LEVEL ACTION. Because all nature is
connected, and all the world threatened by GE, community-level
action is the only way we can truly protect ourselves. Write
letters to the FDA, EPA, USDA, your Congressional representatives,
and the media. Write articles for newsletters. Get your group to
take a stand against GE. Work with local, national, and
international groups to help make our voices heard. Insist that
our community resources and attention be on agriculture that's
sustainable and healthy, not toxic and
- (4) SUPPORT THE HEROES. Support with your money, time,
and passion the people who provide information and help us all
take effective action on these issues so vital to us all.
- (5) CELEBRATE. Enjoy deeply the better world that we
Dr. Erwin Chargaff, genetic pioneer often referred to as the
father of molecular biology, warned that all innovation does not
result in "progress." He once referred to genetic engineering as
"a molecular Auschwitz" and warned that it poses a greater threat
to the world than the advent of nuclear technology.
- Noting the "awesome irreversibility" of GE experiments being
planned, Chargaff warned, "...you cannot recall a new form of
life.... It will survive you and your children and your children's
children. An irreversible attack on the biosphere is something so
unheard of, so unthinkable to previous generations, that I could
only wish that mine had not been guilty of it."
- (c) Patricia Dines, 1999. All rights reserved.
- Patricia Dines has been a writer and educator for 15 years.
She is founder and president of Community Action Publications
(CAP), a community-supported organization providing information
that helps us all create a healthier, more joyful world. For more
information, see <www.monitor.net/~cap> or contact CAP at
<PDines@compuserve.com> or 108 Petaluma Ave. #111 Sebastopol
- [SIDEBAR #1] What GE Food Have You Eaten
- Here are just some of your foods that might be
- * CORN-BASED: Corn oil, corn starch, corn meal, baking soda,
and baking powder. Corn syrup and fructose (found in almost all
beverages and sodas, even health food brands, and almost all sweet
products, yogurt, and aspirin).
- * SOY-BASED: Soy milk, infant formula, baby foods, diet and
protein shakes, protein bars, chocolate and candy bars, margarine,
ice cream, pet food, soy sauce, soy lecithin, and soy oil (like in
salad dressings and snack chips). Soy flour (in baked goods,
pizza, cookies, cakes, and pasta). Fillers in meat products (like
Big Macs). Vegetarian meat substitutes (like tofu, tofu burgers,
tofu hot dogs).
- * MILK-BASED: Milk, cheese, butter, and products made with
them. (When cows are injected with the GE cow growth hormone rBGH,
their milk has shown an increase of a human growth factor linked
to increased cancer. Also most non-organic cheeses are made with a
GE rennet, chymosin.)
- * ASSORTED: Tomatoes, potatoes, canola oil, cotton seed oil,
yellow crook-neck squash, papaya, pork, fish, livestock who eat GE
feed, dough conditioners (Amylase, Catalase, Lactase), etc.
- And much more coming -- as well as GE insects, viruses,
- "Our families are now guinea pigs in the largest food
experiment of all time -- without our knowledge or consent." Laura
Ticciati, Mothers for Natural Law
- (Thanks to Judy Kew and Peter Ligotti for gathering most of
this food list.)
- Q: If I eat 100% organic food, can I ignore GE?
- A: A resounding "No!"
- (1) Do you really eat 100% organic -- in your home,
restaurants, potlucks, at friends', school, and work?
(2) Does everyone you care about eat only 100% organic,
everywhere they go?
- (3) When all nature is connected, how can even the most
diligent organic farmer prevent GE seeds and resistant pests from
eventually drifting into their fields?
- (4) Can anyone really be untouched if our world's food supply,
community structures, ecosystems, and DNA code are radically and
Eating organic is a key step, but it's only part of the
solution until we end this GE madness.
[SIDEBAR #3] Resources for Information and
- * Mothers for Natural Law (877) REAL-FOOD (515) 472-2809
(Iowa) <www.safe-food.org>. Great GE information; sign their
"right to know" petition for labelling GE food.
- * Campaign for Food Safety (218) 226-4164 (Minn.)
<www.purefood.org> <email@example.com>. Information and
email list covering GE, factory farming, citizen action, etc.
- * Alliance for Bio-Integrity (515) 472-5554 (Iowa)
Coordinating broad-based lawsuit against the FDA for failing to
label and demand testing of GE food.
- * Dr. Ron Epstein webpage
<http://online.sfsu.edu/~rone/gedanger.htm> Compilation of
powerful essays on "Genetic Engineering and Its Dangers."
- * Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) (919)
542-1396 (NC) <www.rafi.org>. Information about suicide
seeds, corporations, patents, and more.
- * Ecologist Magazine (510) 527-3873 (CA)
<www.gn.apc.org/ecologist>. Get a copy of their Monsanto
- * Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Application of
Science and Technology <www.psrast.org>
- * Council for Responsible Genetics (617) 868-0870 (Mass.)
<www.essential.org/crg/> <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Sign
their "No patents on life" petition.
- * Center for Ethics & Toxics (CETOS) (707) 884-1700 (CA)
<www.cetos.org>. Their offerings include their book "Against
the Grain: Biotechnology and the Corporate Takeover of our
This entire website is (c) Patricia
Dines, 1998-2007. All rights reserved.
Page last updated 04/05/07