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3-Food: Publication by Arpad Pusztai on GE food health risks



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TITLE:  Genetically Modified Foods: Are They a Risk to Human/Animal Health?
SOURCE: Arpad Pusztai, UK
        http://www.actionbioscience.org/biotech/pusztai.html
DATE:   June 2001

------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------


Genetically Modified Foods: Are They a Risk to Human/Animal Health?
By Arpad Pusztai, Ph.D.

Dr. Pusztai, born in Hungary, received his degree in Chemistry in Budapest 
and his B.Sc. in Physiology and Ph.D. in Biochemistry at the University of 
London. ...


GM crops and food are being grown and consumed by the public, even though: 
there is little scientific study about their health risks safety test 
technology is inadequate to asses potential harm they can carry 
unpredictable toxins they may increase the risk of allergenic reactions


Scarcity of safety tests

How can the public make informed decisions about GM foods when there is so 
little information about its safety? The lack of data is due to a number of 
reasons, including:

It's more difficult to evaluate the safety of crop-derived foods than 
individual chemical, drug, or food additives. Crop foods are more complex 
and their composition varies according to differences in growth and 
agronomic conditions. Publications on GM food toxicity are scarce. An 
article in Science magazine said it all: "Health Risks of Genetically 
Modified Foods: Many Opinions but Few Data".1 In fact, no peer-reviewed 
publications of clinical studies on the human health effects of GM food 
exist. Even animal studies are few and far between. The preferred approach 
of the industry has been to use compositional comparisons between GM and 
non-GM crops. When they are not significantly different the two are 
regarded as "substantially equivalent", and therefore the GM food crop is 
regarded as safe as its conventional counterpart. This ensures that GM 
crops can be patented without animal testing. However, substantial 
equivalence is an unscientific concept that has never been properly defined 
and there are no legally binding rules on how to establish it.2


GM foods may cause bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics.

They can also produce allergies. When food-crops are genetically modified, 
("genetically modified" food is a misnomer!) one or more genes are 
incorporated into the crop's genome using a vector containing several other 
genes, including as a minimum, viral promoters, transcription terminators, 
antibiotic resistance marker genes and reporter genes. Data on the safety 
of these are scarce even though they can affect the safety of the GM crop. 
For example:

DNA does not always fully break down in the alimentary tract.3,4 Gut 
bacteria can take up genes and GM plasmids5 and this opens up the 
possibility of the spread of antibiotic resistance. Insertion of genes into 
the genome can also result in unintended effects, which need to be reduced/
eliminated by selection, since some of the ways the inserted genes express 
themselves in the host or the way they affect the functioning of the crop's 
own genes are unpredictable. This may lead to the development of unknown 
toxic/allergenic components, which we cannot analyze for and seriously 
limiting the selection criteria. Current testing methods need radical 
improvements.

Currently, toxicity in food is tested by chemical analysis of macro/micro 
nutrients and known toxins. To rely solely on this method is at best 
inadequate and, at worst, dangerous. Better diagnostic methods are needed, 
such as mRNA fingerprinting, proteomics and secondary metabolite 
profiling.6 However, consuming even minor constituents with high biological 
activity may have major effects on the gut and body's metabolism, which can 
only be revealed from animal studies. Thus novel toxicological/nutritional 
methods are urgently needed to screen for harmful consequences on human/
animal health and to pinpoint these before allowing a GM crop into the food 
chain.7

[to read the whole publication, check http://www.actionbioscience.org/
biotech/pusztai.html]

 

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