What is all the fuss!? We live in a world where technology has made seemingly impossible things possible. We live longer, possibly with better quality. The economy could hardly be better. Genetic engineering may well prove to cure cancer, heart disease, Parkinson's and other dreaded diseases, so why is it when the topic shifts to genetically altered food we so vehemently protest?
The old sci-fi movie "THE FLY" comes to mind. In this movie, genetically altered flies, and other invertebrates, grow to the size of houses devouring everything in site. (Maybe the scientists could grow a genetically altered Venus fly trap as well.)I think that we can all be assured that this won't be the case. Yet the real scenario may be one that is much more hidden and just as devious.
What do we really know about genetically altered foods? Better yet, what do the experts really know? Genetically engineered (GE) food is created by the splicing of genes from various species of plants, animals, bacteria, or viruses into different species of fruits, grains, and vegetables. Unfortunately, this is the end of the scientific knowledge anyone has on the matter. The "conclusions" of one study by a Scottish researcher, Arpad Pusztai of The Rowett Institute showed that feeding genetically modified potatoes to laboratory animals stunted their growth and harmed their immune systems, but this remains a scientific conclusion, not necessarily fact.
Since we don't have a crystal ball to see into the future, many might look to the past to see if we can find something to help us learn about GE. Unfortunately, nowhere in history do we have anything to compare to today's chemicalized, processed or genetically altered food. We do know that while using highly chemicalized, highly processed foods, we also have increased incidents of breast cancer (now one in eight) as well as other types of cancer, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, heart disease and other chronic degenerative diseases directly or indirectly related to diet.
History does tell us that we evolved over several millennia eating mostly roots, tubers and grains. Simple foods made up mostly of four very basic elements- hydrogen, carbon, oxygen and nitrogen. These elements bond together to form a multitude of chemical compounds that form and support cell structure, growth and health. Do we know if these processes are altered by using GE foods? No, but just as we splice in pieces of genes to shore up or replace a weak link in a disease process, research by reputable scientists concludes that we may be creating new weak links by altering the very essence of the plant on a cellular level.
The political war waged over the use of GE food will continue for some time to come. There's money to be made. I don't think anyone is as yet arguing against the use of GE food, or is trying to deny the right of the bio-tech industry to investigate and market beneficial technology, but we should have the right to choose.
After years of stalling, the FDA is finally asking for public comments on GE food. If you would like to be heard, now is the time as a consumer to stand up and be counted. Write to the following address: Commissioner Jane Henney, Docket No. 99N-4282, FDA Dockets, Management Branch - 305), 5630 Fishers Ln, Rm 1061, Rockville, MD 20852.
To learn more on how you can become involved, call 312-409-8019, or visit the Sustain website at www.sustainusa.org. Till next time, Rebecca.