GENTECH archive 8.96-97
Dr.Fagan's STATEMENT ON GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS
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- Date: Tue, 29 Oct 1996 12:47:58 +0200
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- Organization: Naturgesetz-Partei
PERSONAL STATEMENT ON GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS
by Dr. John Fagan
As a molecular biologist I have participated in the development of
genetic engineering. Yet, over the years I have watched with dismay as
the biotechnology industry has veered into increasingly irresponsible
applications of this technology. They have done this in the name of
progress, but the underlying drive for economic profit jeopardizes
health and the environment.
I feel responsible as a scientist and as a human being to do what I can
to rectify this situation.
The use of genetic engineering to manipulate the genetic blueprints of
the plants and animals from which we derive our foods is a serious
misuse of this technology. Genetic engineering is an inherently
unnatural and artificial method for modifying the characteristics of
living things, and not simply an extension of traditional breeding
practices, as proponents often maintain. This process-essentially
genetic surgery-unavoidably disrupts the natural sequence of unfoldment
of the genetic information that governs an organism's functioning.
Moreover, this process is unavoidably unpredictable in its outcome. As a
result, genetic manipulations can accidentally introduce into foods
dangerous new allergens and toxins, and can reduce the nutritional value
of the food.
Already genetic engineering has accidentally created allergenic soy
beans, while genetic manipulations intended to enhance the ability of
bacteria to produce a food additive have caused those bacteria to also
produce toxins that killed and permanently disabled U.S. citizens.
Furthermore, genetic manipulations of crop plants frequently confer
commercially interesting characteristics, such as herbicide resistance,
at the expense of food qualities that we consumers value, such as
nutrition and flavor.
Currently, government regulations on the safety testing of genetically
engineered foods are weak in many countries and non-existent in others.
Thus, these foods are not tested adequately before they are placed on
the market. This places consumers at risk. Also, laws do not require
most genetically engineered foods to be labeled as such. This denies
people the right to choose whether or not they wish to eat these
experimental foods. This violates very fundamental human rights.
This is not a small problem. At present, the genes of virtually every
grain, vegetable, fruit, and legume have been manipulated in the
laboratory, and many of these foods have already entered the
marketplace. If current momentum is maintained, genetically engineered
forms of essentially every food that we eat will be lurking unlabeled in
our grocery stores in just a few years. The risks will be widespread,
and unavoidable-unless we take action, and do so now.
Genetically engineered foods must at least be labeled as such. Safety
testing must be made much more rigorous, and these foods should be
banned until scientifically shown to be safe for everyone.
Not only does the commercialization of genetically engineered foods pose
significant health risks and violate the fundamental rights of every
human being to knowingly choose the foods that they eat, but the use of
genetically engineered crops and livestock in agriculture can seriously
damage the environment. Through cross pollination and other mechanisms,
manipulated genes and genetically engineered organisms can enter the
ecosystem, disrupting its natural dynamics and threatening the
environment, the food chain, and global biodiversity.
The hazards of genetic pollution, alone, are sufficient grounds to
justify a world-wide ban on most applications of genetic engineering in
food production. This course of action is further justified by the fact
that agricultural genetic engineering perpetuates and extends the
treadmill of chemical agriculture that is depleting our soil,
diminishing the nutritional value of our food, and tainting it with
toxic and carcinogenic substances.
The over-emphasis on genetic engineering and other high-tech approaches
in agriculture is especially regrettable because it is unnecessary. Far
safer, sustainable agricultural methods are available that can feed all
of humanity. Excessive reliance on high-tech methods has stunted the
implementation of sustainable farming approaches that are based on
understanding deeper levels of natural law. These approaches are capable
of efficiently and cost-effectively providing nutritious food without
disrupting the environment and squandering precious, non-renewable
In addition to the consumers' right to know, there is another
fundamental ethical issue related to the commercialization of genetic
engineering-the patenting of life. One of the cornerstones of the
biotechnology industry is the ability to patent the genetic blueprints
of plants, animals, and human beings. These blueprints have existed
since time immemorial, yet in the name of economic expediency,
governments around the world are allowing multinational corporations to
claim ownership of these genes. According to the law of this land, many
genes that are part of your body and mine are already owned by these
companies, as are the genes of many foods. This is simply not in accord
with natural law.
The rapid and indiscriminate introduction of genetically engineered
foods into our food supply is ill-advised. We need to act now to protect
the health and safety of our children and future generations; to
preserve the welfare of the environment; and to guard basic human
rights. We need more rigorous safety testing of genetically engineered
foods, and a ban on these foods until scientifically shown to be safe.
At minimum, any genetically engineered food that enters the market place
should be labeled as such so that consumers can choose whether or not to
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