A Consumer's Guide to GMO

by Jeffrey Smith

What’s a GMO?
A GMO (genetically modified organism) is the result of a laboratory process of taking genes from one species and inserting them into another in an attempt to obtain a desired trait or characteristic, hence they are also known as transgenic organisms. This process may be called either Genetic Engineering (GE) or Genetic Modification (GM); they are one and the same.

But haven’t growers been grafting trees, breeding animals, and hybridizing seeds for years? Genetic engineering is completely different from traditional breeding and carries unique risks. In traditional breeding it is possible to mate a pig with another pig to get a new variety, but is not possible to mate a pig with a potato or a mouse. Even when species that may seem to be closely related do succeed in breeding, the offspring are usually infertile—a horse, for example, can mate with a donkey, but the offspring (a mule) is sterile.

With genetic engineering, scientists can breach species barriers set up by nature. For example, they have spliced fish genes into tomatoes. The results are plants (or animals) with traits that would be virtually impossible to obtain with natural processes, such as crossbreeding or grafting.

Current field trials include:
• Corn engineered with human genes (Dow)
• Sugarcane engineered with human genes (Hawaii Agriculture Research Center)
• Corn engineered with jellyfish genes (Stanford University)
• Tobacco engineered with lettuce genes (University of Hawaii)
• Rice engineered with human genes (Applied Phytologics)
• Corn engineered with hepatitis virus genes (Prodigene)


Genetically modified foods… are they safe?
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) doesn’t think so. The Academy reported that “Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food,” including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM asked physicians to advise patients to avoid GM foods. Before the FDA decided to allow GMOs into food without labeling, FDA scientists had repeatedly warned that GM foods can create unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. They urged longterm safety studies, but were ignored. Since then, findings include:

• Thousands of sheep, buffalo, and goats in India died after grazing on Bt cotton plants
• Mice eating GM corn for the long term had fewer, and smaller, babies
• More than half the babies of mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks, and were smaller
• Cooked GM soy contains as much as 7-times the amount of a known soy allergen
• Soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% in the UK, soon after GM soy was introduced

The important work of fighting this growing biotechnology is being carried out on many fronts, among them Marlene’s friend, Jeffrey Smith, an eloquent and vocal advocate against GMOs. Smith’s books Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette, as well as his DVD series The GMO Trilogy, helped garner national attention for this cause, as did his recent appearance on Dr. Oz. For more on this important issue, please visit Smith’s Institute for Responsible Technology.

Information on this page permission of the Institute for Responsible Technology.
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