Published on
The Times Herald-Record (New York)

Is Your Picnic Filled With 'Franken-Foods'?

Shawn Dell Joyce

Some 200 million acres of the world's farms grew biotech crops last year, with over 90 percent of those crops coming from genetically engineered seeds patented by U.S.-based Monsanto.0713 04 1

Scientists have taken genetic material from one organism (like a soil bacterium), along with an antibiotic resistant marker gene, and spliced both into a food crop (like corn) to create a genetically modified crop that resists specific diseases and pests.

There has been no long-term, independent testing on the effects of these "Franken-foods" on the ecosystem or human health.

In the early 1990's when biotechs were being evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, several key FDA scientists warned that GE crops could cause negative health effects. These scientists were ignored and blanket approvals of GE crops were passed.

It would be difficult to avoid eating genetically modified organisms in our country because they are so pervasive in the food system and unlabeled in the grocery stores.

Part of the reason for this is biotech giants fought to keep GMO foods unlabeled.

Most recently, the growth hormones from GE organisms known as rBGH, which is given to cows to make them produce more milk, were banned in Europe and Canada after authorities learned about the health risks of drinking milk from cows treated with rBGH hormones.

American milk producers started labeling their milk "rBGH and rBST free." Monsanto, which sells bovine growth hormones under the brand name Posilac, has successfully sued dairy producers to force them to stop labeling their milk.

In addition to most milk products, GMOs can be found in commercially farmed meats and processed foods on store shelves. In our country, 89 percent of all soy, 61 percent of all corn, and 75 percent of all canola are genetically altered.

Other foods, like commercially grown papaya, zucchini, tomatoes, several fish species, and food additives like enzymes, flavorings and processing agents, including the sweetener aspartame and rennet used to make hard cheeses, also contain GMOs, according to Greenpeace.


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To complicate matters, GMOs move around in the ecosystem through pollen, wind and natural cross-fertilization. The Union of Concerned Scientists conducted two independent laboratory tests on non-GM seeds "representing a substantial proportion of the traditional seed supply" for corn, soy and oilseed.

The test found that at "the most conservative expression," half the corn and soy were contaminated with GM genes, eight years after the modified varieties were first grown on a large scale in the U.S.

The reports states that "heedlessly allowing the contamination of traditional plant varieties with genetically engineered sequences amounts to a huge wager on our ability to understand a complicated technology that manipulates life at the most elemental level."

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What can you do to avoid GMO's?

• Know how your food is grown by buying directly from local farmers.

• Support organic agriculture, and food producers who label their ingredients, particularly dairy farmers.

• Eat pastured meat raised on organic feed. The only way to ensure this is to buy from someone you know.

• Support farmers who are sued by biotech giants. Monsanto has set aside an annual budget of $10 million and a staff of 75 devoted solely to investigating and prosecuting more than 150 farmers for a total of more than $15 million.

• Demand labeling on all GMO-containing products.

Copyright © 2008 Hudson Valley Media Group

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