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Genetically Engineered Foods

by bobby jennings

Genetic engineering is the largest food experiment in the history of the world - and this experiment is being conducted with humans, not rats. It is estimated that 60-70% of the foods in grocery stores contain genetically engineered (GE) components. The FDA estimates that 150 new genetically engineered foods will be approved for sale within the next few years.

Genetically engineered foods contain substances that have never been a part of the human food supply - they are manmade alterations to what nature has intended for consumption. They are not subjected to rigorous pre-market safety testing. And THEY ARE NOT LABELED. Thus, our right of choice is being taken from us. If you do not wish to consume the modified genes, you find yourself in a difficult position - unless you grow all your food from certified non GM seeds, then you have been eating genetically engineered foods.

Is genetic engineering safe for you and your family? Is it safe for the environment? What effects does it have on the future of mankind? No long-term studies have been done. No one can answer these questions.

There is an ongoing debate about genetically engineered foods, cloning, etc. While it is not our intent here to vouch for one of the other, our stand is that the public has a right to know and the right to make a choice. The fact that genetically engineered foods have been part of our diet without our knowledge is alarming. Whether one agrees with the process or not, one should at least be notified that the food contains genetic changes so that a choice can be made. We have been eating genetically engineered corn and soybeans, and drinking BHT in our milk. These three products form a base for most manufactured foods. A look at ingredients in most prepared foods will reveal either corn, soybeans, or milk. 

While in the U.S., we are consuming genetically engineered food without our knowledge, in London, regulations requiring all restaurants to identify dishes containing genetically modified ingredients came into force on Sunday, September 19th, 1999. 

Even food manufacturers are becoming aware of the consumer demand for non-genetically altered foods. Nissin Food Products announced on September 10th that it intends to stop using genetically engineered US-grown soybeans. In so doing, it is joining the likes of Kirin Brewery in shunning genetic technology out of respect for consumer fears. 

Grupo Maseca, Mexico's leading producer of corn flour, recently announced it will no longer purchase any genetically modified corn. Corn flour is made into tortillas, a Mexican staple. Mexico buys $500 million of U.S. corn each year, so the Grupo Maseca announcement will have great repercussions with Midwestern corn farmers who planted Monsanto's genetically modified seeds.

Last month, Australian food manufacturers including the Sanitarium Health Food Company, Cadbury-Schweppes, Master Foods Australia, Mars Confectionery of Australia, Wyeth Australia and Heinz Watties Australasia confirmed that they either had changed to GM-free sources or were in the process of doing so. While it is great news to see that these major corporations are shunning GM foods, the chilling revelation is that all these corporations have been using GM foods without our knowledge -- thus we have been consuming these foods without knowledge or choice.

Canada has outlawed the use of BHT in milk, yet the US, no doubt due to monetary pressure exerted by PAC groups, continues to allow BHT in milk. No doubt, the presence of genetically engineered foods in our stores is due to the same source - corporations with big bucks buying their way into our government. 

In Tokyo, Jusco Co Ltd will become the first major Japanese supermarket operator to label food products based on the genetic origin of the crops used. Jusco, which operates over 300 stores nationwide, has decided to start labeling genetically-modified (GM) food before the Japanese government's label requirements are implemented from 2001, because of requests from consumers, a company spokesman said. "It is the responsibility of a retail company to disclose information that consumers want to know," he said.

Japanese trading house Itochu Corp said yesterday it plans to import 150,000-200,000 tons of non-genetically modified (GM) food soybeans from the United States in the year beginning with this harvest, to secure supplies for food makers who want to avoid using GM crops. "Most of our customers say they want to use non-GM food soybeans," a Itochu spokesman said.

In Australia, the government has taken a stand. CSIRO - the Federal Government's agricultural research and development body - announced it would not market any GM grain crops for at least five years...

In the U.S., Mothers for Natural Law, the National Coordinators for the Consumer Right to Know is sponsoring a One Million Signature Campaign. They have initiated a petition to secure the mandatory labeling of all Genetically Engineered Foods to be submitted to the President of the United States, Congress, USDA and FDA.

The petition states "New substances are being introduced into our foods via a technology called genetic engineering. A growing number of scientists and physicians are voicing concern over possible health and environmental risks from these foods. Genetically engineered foods are currently being produced and sold in the U.S. without proper labeling or safety testing. This petition upholds the right of consumers to make informed choices about the foods they eat and feed their families." To add your name to the petition go to http://www.safe-food.org/-campaign/petition.html 

As consumers, we have a great power and responsibility. We can affect what food manufacturers are doing by our "vote" with our buying dollars. However, when we don't know what we are buying, then our vote becomes extinct. Labeling for genetically modified foods is a must, so that consumers can let their preference be known. If genetically labeled foods do not sell, manufacturers will be forced (by diminishing income) to switch to non genetically altered foods. We must demand labeling so that we can then make our choices and our voices heard. 

For more info on genetically engineered foods, pros and cons, brand names, claims and facts, go to http://www.safe-food.org 


About The Author

bobby jennings is co-publisher of InnerSelf Publications and webmaster of InnerSelf.com. Originally a Democrat for many years, he moved to the Republican party in the mid 1980's. He now supports common sense initiatives from all parties, but is a registered Green Party member. He is an ex-Army officer and retired small business owner. He was born, raised, and educated in the "Old South" in Northern Florida. 

More articles by this author.

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