by Nicanor Perias, Health & Safety
This article first appeared in Third
World Resurgence magazine
Biotechnology’s benefits continue to be
heavily advertised. Its risks are too little discussed. Yet, unknown
to many, the dangers of genetic engineering have already surfaced.
Here are some comments on the kinds of problems that have arisen,
showing that the results of bio-engineering are unpredictable and
US scientists have transplanted the entire AIDS virus genome into
laboratory mice. In February 1990, scientists reported the potential
creation of a "SUPERAIDS’ virus as the AIDS virus combined with
native retroviruses in the mice. One scientist stated that the new
virus might be capable of airborne transmission.
L-tryptophan is a natural product sold for decades at health food
stores to treat insomnia and depression. It was always safe for
consumption. However, a Japanese firm began to genetically engineer
the product. When it reached the market, dozens died and hundreds
were made seriously ill by consuming the genetically altered version
Insulin is the first commercial product of genetic engineering.
However, some British users of the genetically engineered Insulin
have collapsed unconscious. No fewer than 500 diabetics filed a
class action suit against Eli Lilly.
Thousands of children in the United States today use human growth
hormone produced through biotechnology. However, children are
unnecessarily exposing themselves to serious health problems. The
growth hormone may not only be expensive and ineffective, children
may be predisposing themselves to ill health. The use of
biotech-derived human growth hormone is linked with leukaemia and
Bovine growth hormone (BGH) produced through biotechnology can
increase the milk yields of cows by 5 to 20%. Yet the European
Economic Community and the United States recently imposed a 7 1/2
year moratorium on BGH. Policy-makers were worried that the
large-scale use of BGH would wipe out small farms and restructure
the dairy industry. BGH use has also resulted in the increased
incidence of mastitis in cows.
US government scientists engineered human growth genes into
permanent genetic code of pigs - hoping to create a ’super pig’ far
larger than normal. Instead of becoming larger, a pig was born
arthritic, bow-legged, and cross-eyed. Each year tens of thousands
of transgenic animals are being created, many engineered to contain
Carp, catfish, trout and salmon have been engineered with a number
of genes from humans, cattle and rats to increase their growth and
reproduction. If released into the environment the novel mutant fish
could mate with native species, polluting the gene pool of native
species quickly and permanently.
Wishtar Institute of Pennsylvania could not get a permit to test its
biotech-created pseudo-rabies vaccine in the United States. Instead,
unknown to both the US and Argentinean government, it tested its
vaccine in Argentina. The biotech vaccine resulted in ill health in
animals and also infected some of the personnel involved in the
experiment. The Argentinean government closed down the experiment.
This incomplete list of unpredictable, negative impacts of
biotechnology clearly shows that proponents of biotechnology cannot
assure the safety of their products. The potential for large damages
is one reason why in the United States the insurance companies,
which are normally the best gauge of technology risk, have refused
to grant insurance cover for biotech related activities.
Biotechnology is not going to be a new panacea that will confer
untold blessings to humanity. Given its current track record,
biotechnology can potentially be a nightmare.
Genetically Engineered Food
A Serious Health Risk
Foods containing genes derived from animals, fish, insect and
bacteria are soon to appear in the shops. The genetic changes now
being made to our food are completely different to those resulting
from traditional methods of breeding. Yet the sale of these foods is
to be permitted without proper assessment of the risks and without
adequately informing the public even though many scientists say that
genetically modified foods could cause serious damage to health and
What is genetic engineering?
Genes are the blueprints for every part of an organism. Genetic
engineering is the process of modifying this information,
particularly by artificially transferring the genes specific to
one type of organism into another.
Why do it?
Scientists want to transfer desirable qualities form one
organism to another, for example, to make a crop resistant to a
herbicide or to enhance flavour in foods.
Is it necessary?
At first sight it may seem appealing. However, close examination
of the issues gives a different picture. We should by now be
alert to the dangers of interfering with nature. We already have
to feed the world’s population economically without the risks
posed by genetic engineering. Commercial and political motives
are taking precedence with little regard to the possible
What are the dangers?
Those identified so far include:
New toxins and allergens in
Other damaging effects on health
caused by unnatural foods
Increased use of chemicals on
crops resulting in increased contamination of our water
supply and food
The creation of herbicide
The spread of disease across
Loss of bio-diversity in crops
The disturbance of ecological
The artificially induced
characteristics and inevitable imperfections will be passed
to all subsequent generations and to other related and
unrelated organisms. They can never be recalled or
contained. The consequences of this are incalculable.
What is the position now?
Genetically modified foods available, or about to appear, in UK
shops and here include tomatoes, yeast, corn and soya beans
(which is used in many processed foods such as bread, pasta,
confectionery, ice cream, pies, biscuits, margarine, meat
products and vegetarian meat substitutes). Genetically modified
organisms are also used to produce cheeses and grape seed oil.
But this is just the beginning. In a few years it may be almost
impossible to find natural food.
The food industry and government appear to be complacent. They
assume that these new foods are not substantially different to
existing food and pose no special risks. But this assumption is
wrong and dangerous. The radical changes being made by
biotechnologists could not happen in nature, and have already
caused toxic side-effects. Currently a minimal degree of safety
testing is required for some foods, and none at all for others.
In no case is testing required on the long term impact on
Most genetically modified foods will not be labelled. Under
present regulations manufacturers are already introducing
genetically modified ingredients into some processed foods,
without informing consumers. The government is ignoring the
wishes of the public. A survey by the Consumers Association
found that 93% of consumers want clear labelling of all such
We must act before it is too late!
Genetically engineered foods are being introduced without regard
for health, yet many damaging effects will be irreversible.
What is needed!
It is quite clear even from existing research that a ban on
genetically engineered foods and a moratorium on the release of
all genetically modified organisms is essential to protect
health. In the meantime, labelling should be required for all
foods which contain any genetically modified ingredients, even
if it is only one, or where genetically modified organisms have
been used in the production of the food.
Full disclosure labelling will allow consumers to choose what
they eat. It will also help scientists trace the source of
health problems arising from these foods.
What you can do.
Write to your MP and your supermarkets, the press and consumer
groups, expressing your concern and enclosing this article.
Write to The Food Liaison Officer of the Australian & New
Zealand Food Authority, PO Box 7186, ACT 2610.
Sign our petition. Make copies of this sheet for friends,
family, colleagues, students, trade unions, clubs and societies.
Alert everyone to the dangers.
Genetic Engineering poses the greatest danger of any technology
Safety testing will never be adequate because organisms once
introduced can never be recalled from the environment and their
effects will spread without limit. If action is not taken now,
virtually everyone in the world will soon be eating genetically
engineered foods and will be at risk.
For further information and solutions read:
’Genetic Engineering: The
Hazards. Vedic Engineering: The Solutions’ by John Fagan
PhD - an award winning geneticist who returned his
government grants and began new research in Maharishi’s
Vedic Science. To order phone (02) 9977 5066.
Campaign to ban genetically
To support this campaign, or for
bulk orders of this article in leaflet form, please contact:
The Natural Law Party
68 Wood Street, Manly, NSW 2096
Ph: (02) 9977 5066
Fax: (02) 9977 0204