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Hazards of Genetically Modified Foods

Hazards of Genetically Modified Foods

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Every day millions of Americans unknowingly eat genetically-modified foods. Due to strong lobbying, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) does not require package labeling for or pre-sale testing of these foods. In spite of the fact that the majority of Americans are opposed to the FDA policy, it remains in place.
Every day millions of Americans unknowingly eat genetically-modified foods. Due to strong lobbying, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) does not require package labeling for or pre-sale testing of these foods. In spite of the fact that the majority of Americans are opposed to the FDA policy, it remains in place.

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Published by: Deb Equality Della Piana on Aug 10, 2009
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02/06/2013

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significant percentage of processed foodspurchased today contain some geneticallyengineered (GE) food products.
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As aresult, each day, tens of millions of Americaninfants, children and adults eat geneticallyengi-neered foods without their knowledge.Consumers have no way of knowing what foods aregenetically engineered becausethe Food and Drug Adminis-tration (FDA) does notrequire labeling of theseproducts. What’s worse, theagency also does not requireany pre-market safety testingof GE foods. Companies donot even have to inform theFDA that they are marketingGE foods.
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The agency’s fail-ure to require testing orlabeling of GE foods has made millions of con-sumers into guinea pigs, unknowingly testing thesafety of dozens of gene-altered food products.Not surprisingly, FDA’s “no-testing, nolabeling” policy is opposed by the vast majorityof Americans. The public clearly believes it has aright to know if food has been genetically engi-neered. Opinion polls consistently show thatmore than 90% of Americans strongly supportthe labeling of genetically engineered foods.
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A1999
Time
poll revealed that close to 60% wouldavoid such foods if they were labeled.
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And in 1998more than 275,000 angry consumers protested theClinton Administration’s proposal that genetical-ly engineered foods be certified as “organic.”
 5
Alarmed by the public’s overwhelming rejec-tion of GE foods, the biotech industry has recentlyhired top PR firms and lobbyists in a $50 millioneffort to try to sell the public on the idea that GEfoods are safe and that they are just like any otherfood.
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A centerpiece of theindustry PR initiative is theirrepeated claim that GE foodsare subject to rigorous gov-ernment-mandated testingand have been proven safe.
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These are outright lies. In1992, the FDA, without anyscientific basis, declared thatgenetically engineered foodsas a class are “generally recog-nizedas safe” and has refusedto require any safety testing of any sort for these foods.
8
TheFDA does not even require notification by com-panies that they are marketing a genetically engi-neered food. Nor has the FDA or anyone elseproven that GE foods are safe. The FDA, in itsresponse to a lawsuit filed by the Center for FoodSafety (CFS) in May 1998, admitted in court thatit has made “no dispositive scientific findings,” whatsoever,about the safety of genetically engi-neered foods.
9
In other words, the FDA hasgiven the biotech industry carte blanche to pro-duce and market any number of genetically engi-neered foods without mandatory agency over-sight or safety testing and without a scientificshowing that these foods are safe to consume.
The Hidden Health Hazardsof Genetically Engineered Foods
 S  R I   N G 0  0  0  V O UM O N
A
The FDA’s failure to requiretesting or labeling of GE foods has made millions of consumers into guinea pigs,unknowingly testing thesafety of dozens of genealtered food products.
continued on page 3
FoodSafety
 Review
A PUBLICATION OF THE CENTER FOR FOOD SAFETY
The Center for Food Safety is a national non-profit membership organization committed to protecting human health and the environment by promoting organic agriculture and other sus-tainable practices. CFS engages in legal initiatives, grassroots mobilizations, and educational  programs designed to influence government and industry and to inform the public on suchissues as genetic engineering, food irradiation, and organic food standards.
 
elcome to the inaugural issue of the
Food  Safety Review
. The
 Review
is designed toprovide the public with accessible, well doc-umented information on important food safetyquestions. It is often difficult for consumers toobtain dependable information about the food safe-ty issues that are so critical to personal and familyhealth, a sustainable farm economy and the envi-ronment. Front page controversies swirl aroundissues such as genetic engineering, irradiation,sewage sludge, antibiotics, hormones, and pesti-cides. Yet the mainstream media and governmentagencies, usually under heavy industry pressure,consistently fail to accurately inform consumersabout theses issues and, more often than not, dis-seminate misinformation. Consumers are often leftto fend for themselves in a confusing sea of contra-dictory stories and assertions. The
 Review
is intend-ed be a dependable, independent source of infor-mation which will allow consumers to better under-stand today’s cutting edge food controversies. It isour hope that it will allow you to make informedchoices about which foods to buy, and that it willhelp galvanize action on issues critical to our health,the survival of farm communities and the protectionof the environment.The current issue deals with one of the mostimportant and urgent food safety issues before thepublic — the human health hazards of geneticallyengineered (GE) foods. The biotechnology industryand the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) haveconsistently claimed that these foods are safe andhave been subject to rigorous government-mandat-ed testing. Recently the industry announced a mas-sive multi-million dollar PR campaign to assure thepublic about the safety of GE foods. This issue of the
 Review
cuts through the misinformation comingfrom the industry and government and provides a well documented summary of the numerous poten-tial health hazards presented by these unlabeled,untested foods.Finally, a note of background on the Center forFood Safety (CFS) which publishes this
 Review
.CFS is a non-profit, national membership organiza-tion. We attempt to promote awareness and under-standing of food safety issues and provide the pub-lic — through newsletters, action alerts and our
 Review
— with scientifically sound public educa-tional materials. CFS is also the nation’s leadinglegal action group on food safety, utilizing petitions,regulatory proposals and litigation to influence pol-icy makers. You can get updated on our recent legalactions and other initiatives by checking our web-site at www.centerforfoodsafety.org. We also havean interactive website, www.foodsafetynow.org, which enables you to send your comments on GEfoods directly to the FDA. If you have not alreadydone so, we hope that after reading this
 Review
andbecoming more familiar with our activities, you willconsider joining CFS as a member.
 Andrew Kimbrell 
    U    P    D    A    T    E    S    W    E    L    C    O    M    E    F    R    O    M    T    H    E    E    X    E    C    U    T    I    V    E    D    I    R    E    C    T    O    R
W
A federal court recently threatened to “hold [theEPA’s] feet to the fire” unless it answers CFS’scharges that its approval of transgenic B.t. cropsthreatens the future of organic agriculture and riskssignificant harm to wildlife and the environment.The lawsuit filed by CFS on behalf of itself,Greenpeace and several organic farmers, chargesthe agency with the “wanton destruction” of 
 Bacillus thuringiensis
(B.t.), the world’s most impor-tant natural pesticide, pointing to warnings by sci-entists that genetically engineered B.t. crops willlead to insect resistance within 3-4 years. Recentstudies also show that pollen from B.t. corn is toxicto monarch and other butterfly larvae. CFS wasforced to bring suit after the EPA failed to respondto its September 1997 petition; however, the EPAhas promised U.S. District Court Judge Louis F.Oberdorfer that it will answer the petition by April2000. For more information or to reference thiscase, see: Greenpeace Int’l, et al. v. Browner, U.S.District Court for the District of Columbia, DocketNo. 99-CV-389 (LFO), filed Feb. 18, 1999. Ourpleadings are posted on our website at www.center-forfoodsafety.org.
CFS Wins First Round In EPA Lawsuit to Ban Genetically Engineered B.t. Crops
2
WELCOME FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR 
 
FDA’s failure to require safety testing of GEfoods could pose a very real health threat to millionsof Americans. A significant body of scientific evi-dence, including findings of FDA’s own scientists,shows that the genetic engineering of foods cantransform safe foods into dangerous products.Below is a summary of the documented potentialhuman health threats posed by genetically engi-neered foods. Much of the scientific support forthese health hazards has comefrom the over 44,000 pages of discovery provided to CFS aspart of its ongoing lawsuitagainst the FDA for its failureto require testing and labelingof GE foods.
Six Potential HumanHealth Concerns
Genetically engineered foodsare different from other foods.Genetic engineering allows, forthe first time, foreign genes,bacterial and viral vectors, viralpromoters, and antibiotic mark-ersystems to be engineeredinto food. These genetic “cas-settes” are new to the human diet and should besubject to extensive safety testing.
10
Instead, in 1992the FDA ruled, without any scientific basis, thatgenetically engineered foods present no differentrisks than traditional foods.
11
FDA’s own scientistsridiculed this unscientific agency view of geneticengineering. “What happened to the scientific ele-ments in [the] document?” one asked.
12
FDA scien-tists consistently stated that “[t]here is a profounddifference between the types of unexpected effectsfrom traditional breeding and genetic engineering.... [T]his difference should be and is notaddressed.”
13
What are the new “unexpected effects”and healthrisks posed by genetic engineering?
Toxicity
Genetically engineered foods are inherently unsta-ble. Each insertion of a novel gene, and the accom-panying “cassette” of promoters, antibiotic markersystems, and vectors, is random. GE food produc-ers simply do not know where their genetic “cas-sette” is being inserted in the food, nor do theyknow enough about the genetic/chemical makeupof foods to establish a “safe” place for such inser-tions.
14
As a result, each gene insertion into a foodamounts to playing food safety “roulette,” with thecompanies hoping that the new genetic materialdoes not destabilize a safe food and make it haz-ardous. Each genetic insertion creates the addedpossibility that formerly nontoxic elements in thefood could become toxic.
15
FDA was well aware of the “genetic instability”problem prior to establishingtheir no-testing policy. FDAscientists warned that thisproblem could create danger-ous toxins in food and was asignificant health risk. The sci-entists specifically warned thatthe genetic engineering of foods could result in “increasedlevels of known naturally occur-ringtoxicants, appearance of new, not previously identifiedtoxicants, increased capabilityof concentrating toxic sub-stances from the environment(e.g., pesticides or heavy met-als).” These same FDA scien-tistsrecommended that longterm toxicological tests berequired prior to the marketing of GE foods.
16
FDA officials also were aware that safety testingon the first genetically engineered food, the Calgene
Flavr Savr 
tomato, had shown that consumption of this product resulted in stomach lesions in labora-tory rats.
17
Even more significantly, FDA hadalready concluded that genetic engineering was apossible cause for the 37 deaths and 1,500 disablingillnesses caused by consumption of the dietary sup-plement L-tryptophan. Showa Denko, a Japanesecompany, had begun using genetic engineering toproduce the dietary supplement in the late 1980s. Itis suspected that the genetic engineering of the sup-plement created a toxic contaminant by-product which in turn caused the deaths and illnesses.
18
FDA’s response to the potential toxicity prob-lem with genetically engineered foods was to ignoreit. They disregarded their own scientists, the clearscientific evidence and the deaths and illnessesalready attributed to this problem. The agencyrefused to require pre-market toxicological testingfor GE foods or any toxicity monitoring. FDAmade these decisions with no scientific basis and
HHI  DD N HH H R D S  O G NI   C  N GI   N R D  O OD S 
FDA’s failure to requiresafety testing of GE foodscould pose a very real health threat. A significant body of scientific evidence,including the findings of FDA’s own scientists,shows that the genetic engineering of foods cantransform safe foods intodangerous products.
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HIDDEN HEALTH HAZARDS (
continued from cover)

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