Biotechnology - Genetically Engineered Foods

Most of the following information was taken from HAWAII GEAN (Hawaii Genetic Engineering Action Network). You can visit their site at

What's in your food?

Over 70% of all processed supermarket foods contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Biotech companies have changed our food supply over the last 7 years basically without our permission.

What makes Genetic Engineering Different?

Genetic engineering (GE) is radically different from conventional or selective breeding methods.  This new technology allows scientists to cross species barriers and splice human genes into a tomato, or pig genes into a carrot. Genetic Engineering is the process that produces a transgenic, genetically modified, or genetically engineered organism using recombinant DNA technology. 

Traditional breeding is a 10,000 year old technique that allows farmers to work within the parameters of evolution by slowly selecting the best plants each growing season. This produces a stable breed of plants equipped and adapted to survive in a specific area or climate. 

Genetic engineering allows scientists to cross species barriers. They can splice fish genes into a strawberry or human genes into corn. Genetic engineering produces highly unstable living organisms that have the ability to reproduce and mutate and cross with other species. What this means is that five generations down the line, a GMO may have characteristics very different than the parent GMO.

Unlike past technologies, biotechnology produces living organisms, which, by definition, reproduce and evolve, guaranteeing eventual unpredictable & unintended consequences. Unlike an oil spill, genetic pollution may never be able to be cleaned up. Scientists around the world agree that GMOs are imprecise, unstable, and unpredictable.

Are GMO's good for my health?

While the harmful effects of GMO's may not appear for years, the U.S. government does not require any long term testing. The safety of these products are being tested on us, the consumer, without our permission. Ultimately they have not been proven safe and we do not know the consequences of including them into our diets.

In 1989 there was an outbreak of a new disease in the US, contracted by over 5,000 people and traced back to a batch of L-tryptophan food supplement produced with GM bacteria. Even though it contained less than 0.1 per cent of a highly toxic compound, 37 people died and 1,500 were left with permanent disabilities. More may have died, but the American Centre for Disease Control stopped counting in 1991. The US government declared that it was not GM that was at fault but a failure in the purification process. However, the company concerned, Showa Denko, admitted that the low-level purification process had been used without ill effect in non-GM batches. Scientists at Showa Denko blame the GM process for producing traces of a potent new toxin. This new toxin had never been found in non-GM versions of the product.

Another problem is that every time a GMO is produced, new proteins, or potential allergens are also produced. GMOs frequently contain allergens, for example those allergic to fish may go into anaphylactic shock when fish genes are placed in potato products. oops…

Soy beans were engineered with Brazil nut genes. Many people are allergic to brazil nuts. The soy was taken off the market.

When creating genetically engineered organisms, scientists frequently attach an antibiotic resistant marker to the gene that they insert into the GMO to identify which products have been successfully genetically modified. This antibiotic resistant gene will be in every single cell of a genetically modified organism. These have the potential to increase the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

"In May, 2000, Professor Hans-Hinrich Katz, a leading German zoologist, released research that shows that genes used to modify crops can jump to other species and cause bacteria to mutate. Katz found that the gene used to modify oilseed rape had transferred to bacteria living in the guts of honey bees."

Are GMOs good for the environment?

Genetic pollution can never be cleaned up.  GMOs  can contaminate non-GMO plants very easily through pollen drift when wind, bees, and rain can carry pollen for miles.  Hurricanes and tornadoes, although rare, do occur and have the potential to carry GMOs much farther than usual pollen drift distances.

Also genetic diversity which is imperative to the survival of a species may be altered.  Within a species there are a number of traits expressed in different plants. For example, in corn, plants are varying heights.  In an extremely windy year, tall plants might be damaged or blown completely down while short plants would survive. If all the plants were engineered to be tall, there would be no crop to harvest at all.

Barbara Kingsolver's article explains in depth the importance of genetic diversity. You can read it at

Herbicide resistant GE oilseed rape has spread to several wild varieties (Nature1996)

Roundup Ready soybeans, designed by the large seed corporation, Monsanto to withstand large doses of pesticide are sprayed with 2-5 times more herbicide than regular soybeans.

Salmon fish farms are employing "trojan genes," or genes that make a species grow to full size four to six times as quickly as wild varieties. The problem is that during storms, farmed salmon inevitably escape into the wild. Due to their gargantuan size, when these GM fish escape into the wild, they have a mating advantage over non-GM fish. However, due to their genetic tweaking, their offspring are far less likely to live to reproductive age. Through this process, the entire species is wiped out in about 40 generations. This has the potential to cause irreparable damage to fish populations, forever.

Seed companies market GMOs as good for the environment because require less farmland because they produce higher yields. However this is not true. Most GMOs have a substantial yield drag, meaning they produce less then their conventional counterparts.

Do GMO's produce higher yields/benefit farmers?

"Roundup ready" soybeans (genetically engineered to be immune to Roundup herbicide) produce 5-10% less yield than conventional soybeans and growers are using 1.5 lbs. per acre more herbicide ( Dr. Charles Benbrook, of the Northwest Science and Environmental Policy Center May 2, 2001)

Greenpeace reports "An analysis of over 8200 university field trials has shown that farmers who grow gentically modified soybeans use 2-5 times more herbicides than farmers who grow natural soy varieties."  (Greenpeace Bulletin Genetic Engineering:  The Secret Ingredient)

Biotech companies have sucessfully sued over 300 farmers  for unintentionally growing GMO crops on their land.
Farmers are receiving lower prices for GMO crops than non-GMO crops

According to the USDA, between 1996 to 2001, U.S. corn & canola farmers lost 99.4% of their export market because they contained GMOs

Why are GMOs shunned abroad yet sold at home?

Consumers in Europe, Japan, and China have told their leaders they don't want GMOs. These countries have strict labeling laws and many have moratoriums on GMOs. Famine stricken Zambia and Zimbabwe are refusing GMO food-aid.  Most other governments have required mandatory labeling of GMOs and have only allowed a few GM products to be released after rigorous safety testing.
Meanwhile, in the U.S. while over 85% of U.S. consumers polled want labeling of GMO products, our government refuses to require labeling or long term testing and considers GMOs "substantially equivalent" to conventional food. However, they do consider GMOs unique enough to grant utility patents to biotech corporations and universities.

What are the risks?

"History has shown that the destructive consequences of new technologies may not become apparent for many years.  When Du Pont started to produce CFCs in 1931, for instance, they were believed to be harmless. It was not until 1975 that their potential to destroy the ozone layer was fist recognised (sic) and it took a further ten years for this to receive scientific acknowledgement."  (Green Peace, Genetic Engineering Briefing Pack Jan 2000)

This time, we don't have to wait that long.  In the U.S., GMOs only have been on the market for 6 years, yet research is already surfacing illustrating the damage they can cause. 

Scientists cannot predict the magnitude of damage that GMOs may cause, but they do know that GMOs create:

• New food allergies and toxins

• Pesticide-resistant pests & herbicide-resistant weeds

• Antibiotic resistant diseases

• Genetic contamination of our entire food supply

• Decreased biodiversity

• Increased herbicide use
Is the Government Ensuring Our Safety?

While polls consistently show that over 80% of Americans want GMO products to be labeled, the FDA does not require labeling of genetically modified foods. This is based on the landmark decision by the Bush administration in 1992 that GM products are "substantially equivalent" to non-GM products despite the fact that genetic engineering often changes the nutritional and allergenic properties of a product. This decision is not based in science and runs counter to Europe, Japan, China, and many leaders of the scientific community. 

To put this in perspective, the FDA maintains strict labeling laws for other food modifications. For example, juice must be labeled if it is from concentrate, milk cartons must indicate if they contain skim milk, rice packages must indicate if they have been vitamin enriched. 

Why, then does the FDA not require labeling for genetically engineered food? The Guardian reports that the Bush administration's ties to Monsanto are even greater than the Clinton Administration's.  "The secretaries of defense, health and agriculture, the attorney general and the chairman of the House agriculture committee all have links with the firm [Monsanto] or the wider industry."

Who benefits from GMOs?

Biotechnology companies promised that GMOs would benefit consumers, farmers, the environment, and the hungry by increasing the nutritional content of a crop, increasing crop yields, and reducing pesticide and herbicide use, so far they have done exactly the opposite. The only ones that are benefiting from GMOs are the large seed companies that sell GMOs and large agribusiness. 

Biotech corporations control all aspects of farming (seeds, fertilizers and pesticides) through GMO technology. Corporations own the patents on GMOs and prevent farmers from saving seeds. 

Do we need GMOs to feed the world?

Hunger is largely a problem of food and resource distribution. Experts estimate we are producing 1.5 times the food needed to feed the world today. Even if GMOs were being designed to increase nutrition and yield, it would still be impossible to physically get this food to the starving of the world.

However, most GMOs are not being designed to increase nutrition or yield, which would indicate that the seed companies are trying to help world hunger. Rather, most GMOs have a yield lag of 5-10% and many GMOs have reduced nutritional content.  Contrary to bio-tech PR, studies consistently show that GMOs yield less than conventional crops. Most GMOs are actually designed to benefit the seed companies. In reality, the majority of the large seed companies that produce GMOs are the same chemical companies that produce the majority of the world's pesticides and herbicides. Many GMOs are designed to be herbicide resistant plants that help the seed/chemical companies sell greater quantities of herbicides. 

International food-aid puts local farmers out of business by underselling their crops, making countries permanently dependent upon foreign handouts.

Because GMOs are owned by corporations, farmers who grow GMO crops are forbidden to save seed, so that seed companies can make money year after year. Purchasing seed every year is not a viable financial option for the several billion farmers who get seeds for free by saving their own from the previous year's harvest.

"We . . .strongly object that the image of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant multinational corporations to push a technology that is neither safe, environmentally friendly, nor economically beneficial to us. We do not believe that such companies or gene technologies will help our farmers to produce the food that is needed in the 21st century. On the contrary, we think it will destroy the diversity, the local knowledge and the sustainable agricultural systems that our farmers have developed for millennia and that it will thus undermine our capacity to feed ourselves."  Statement by delegates from 24 African nations to the United Nations (1998)

This information can be read at

GMOs are intended to make money for agribusiness, not to feed the world.

Golden rice does not provide the vitamin A
promised by biotech.

What are pharmcrops?

Pharmcrops or biopharmaceuticals are plants or animals gentically altered to grow drugs or industrial chemicals within themselves. These crops have the potential to irreversibly pollute our food supply through pollen drift and seed flow.
"Just one mistake by a biotech company and we'll be eating other people's prescription drugs in our corn flakes", warned Larry Bohlen, director of health and environment programs at Friends of the Earth, in a press release.

Fears of unapproved GM products accidentally entering the human food supply are not unfounded. In late 2000, traces of Starlink, a variety of GM corn not approved for human consumption, were found in supermarket products in the US. 
No less than 143 million tons of corn were contaminated with Starlink, according to its creator, the Europe-based Aventis corporation. Seed companies, farmers, processors and food makers spent over $1 billion and six months trying to get rid of this unwanted GM corn. 

Critics also point out that GM crops can pollinate wild relatives and non-GM fields, with unforeseeable consequences. The presence of GM corn has already been documented in rural communities in Mexico, even though genetically modified crops are prohibited there.

Here is some information that is simple to use. You can tell if fruit was genetically modified, organically grown or produced with chemical fertilizers, fungicides, or herbicides by reading the little stickers on the produce. For conventionally grown fruit (grown with chemical inputs), the PLU code on the sticker consists of four numbers. Organically grown fruit has a five-numeral PLU prefaced by the number 9. Genetically engineered (GM) fruit has a five-numeral PLU prefaced by the number 8. For example, a conventionally grown banana would be: 4011, an organic banana would be: 94011, a genetically engineered (GE or GMO) banana would be: 84011 The adhesive used to attach the stickers is considered food-grade, but the stickers themselves aren't edible. information scource:

When you look at these facts it seems ridiculous that we would want GMO's in our food chain. It seems an accident waiting to happen and not a sound choice to make if you are wanting to create vibrant health or are thinking about future generations. Nature in her wisdom has orchestrated a far healthier plan for us than those proposed and being put upon us by the irresponsible, profit motivated CEO's and administrators of BIG business. It is your choice, who will you trust?

The following was taken from Jeffrey M. Smith's web site:

His book "Seeds of Deception" is highly recommended to find out more about GMOs. Also you can sign up for their newsletter called "Spilling the Beans" to keep informed of any new genetically modified foods.

Currently Commercialized Genetically Modified (GM) Crops in the U.S.
Soy (80%), cotton (70%), canola (60%), corn (38%), Hawaiian papaya (more than 50%), zucchini and yellow squash (small amount), and tobacco (Quest® brand).

Other Sources of GMOs Dairy products from cows injected with rbGH. Food additives, enzymes, flavorings, and processing agents, including the sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet®) and rennet used to make hard cheeses. Meat, eggs, and dairy products from animals that have eaten GM feed. Honey and bee pollen that may have GM sources of pollen.

Some of the Ingredients That May Be Genetically Modified
Vegetable oil (soy, corn, cottonseed, or canola), margarines, soy flour, soy protein, soy lecithin, textured vegetable protein, cornmeal, corn syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin, fructose, citric acid, and lactic acid.

Some of the Foods That May Contain GM Ingredients
Infant formula, salad dressing, bread, cereal, hamburgers and hotdogs, margarine, mayonnaise, cereals, crackers, cookies, chocolate, candy, fried food, chips, veggie burgers, meat substitutes, ice cream, frozen yogurt, tofu, tamari, soy sauce, soy cheese, tomato sauce, protein powder, baking powder, alcohol, vanilla, powdered sugar, peanut butter, enriched flour and pasta.

Non-food items cosmetics, soaps, detergents, shampoo, and bubble bath.

More info about Bio-technology and GMOs can be found at and

There is also a wonderfully creative flash animation that has been produced to inform the public about the perils of large corporations taking over family farming of animals and replacing them with large scale factory farms. It addresses the problems of increased animal cruelty, the creation of antibiotic resistant germs, the by-products of massive pollution and the destruction of our communities due to the demise of independent farms. It is well worth checking out and sharing with others. You can view it at