Announcements in Victoria and NSW that genetically engineered (GE) crops will be allowed threaten more than just the income of Australia’s farmers and food companies. There is irrefutable evidence that GE foods are unsafe to eat.
Working with more than 30 scientists worldwide, I documented 65 health risks of GE foods. There are thousands of toxic or allergic-type reactions in humans, thousands of sick, sterile, and dead livestock, and damage to virtually every organ and system studied in lab animals. Government safety assessments, including those of Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), do not identify many of the dangers, and analysis reveals that industry studies submitted to FSANZ are designed to avoid finding them.
The process of inserting a foreign gene into a plant cell and cloning that cell into a GE crop produces hundreds of thousands of mutations throughout the DNA. Natural plant genes may be deleted or permanently turned on or off, and hundreds can change their function. This is why GE soy has less protein, an unexpected new allergen and up to seven times higher levels of a known soy allergen.
The only human feeding study conducted on GE foods found genes had transferred into the DNA of gut bacteria and remained functional. This means that long after we stop eating a GE food, its protein may be produced continuously inside our intestines.
Lab animals fed GM crops had altered sperm cells and embryos, a five-fold increase in infant mortality, smaller brains, and a host of other problems.
Documents made public by a lawsuit revealed that scientists at the US Food and Drug Administration warned that gene-spliced foods might lead to allergies, toxins, new diseases and nutritional problems. When 25 per cent of US corn farmers planted GE varieties, corn sales to the European Union dropped by 99.4 per cent. All corn farmers suffered as prices fell by 13 to 20 per cent. In North America a growing number of doctors are prescribing a non-GE diet. Next year, the US natural food industry will remove all remaining GE ingredients.
Consumer buying pressure will likely force the entire food chain in North America to swear off GE within the next two years. Such a tipping point was achieved in Europe in April 1999. Australia should be taking notice of the response to GE foods throughout the world. It is certainly not the time to let the state bans expire.
Jeffrey M. Smith Executive director Institute for Responsible Technology Iowa, USA