GENTECH archive



From: "Jim Riddle" <
Subject: Guest editorial
Date: Thu, May 4, 2000, 4:34 PM

To whom it may concern - I will be in Ottawa, CN, at the Codex meeting May
5-11, and can be reached at 613-238-1616.

ORGANIC INDEPENDENTS                 Organicworks!
James A. Riddle and Joyce E. Ford
Rt. 3 Box 162-C, Winona, Minnesota, USA, 55987-9514
Ph/Fax:  507-454-8310
Des Moines Register
Guest Editorial
May 4, 2000

My name is Jim Riddle. I am a native of Colfax, Iowa. I now live near
Winona, MN. I have been an organic inspector for 14 years, and was
founding president of the Independent Organic Inspectors Association. I
have trained hundreds of organic inspectors worldwide. I am a member of
the U.S. delegation to the Codex Commission on Food Labeling, and chair
the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's Organic Advisory Task Force.

I am writing today because I am very concerned about recent remarks made
by Iowa Gov. Vilsak in support of genetic engineering. In this article, I
will enumerate some of the environmental, economic, and societal concerns
associated with the GE crops that have been released.

Science is now showing that GE crops have unanticipated ecological

 ** Research at Cornell and Iowa State Universities has confirmed that Bt
corn pollen kills Monarch butterflies and other lepidoptera. This impact
on non-target species was not predicted prior to the release of Bt corn.
 ** Research in Europe shows that GE crops damage beneficial insects,
including lacewings and ladybugs. Beneficial insects that prey on aphids
which have consumed Bt toxins have lower survival and reproduction rates
than those which feed on healthy aphids. This impact was not researched or
anticipated prior to release.
 ** Toxins from genetically engineered Bt crops accumulate in the soil,
killing organisms and altering soil ecology, according to research at New
York University. The GE Bt toxin was found to exude from the roots of
living Bt corn plants. After 234 days, the toxin had not degraded. The
research abstract concludes "there may be a risk that non-target insects
and organisms in higher trophic levels could be affected by the toxin."
This is a huge, and previously unanticipated, issue.
 ** Genetically engineered Bt toxin is significantly different from the
topically applied Bt sprays which have been used by organic growers for 50
years. Natural Bt must be digested by an insect and react with enzymes and
digestive acids in order to be toxic. Left on plants, it degrades under UV
light in a matter of days. GE Bt is an active toxin found in every cell of
the altered plant. It is not dependent on digestive enzymes and acids to
become actively toxic, and it does not degrade in UV light.
 ** As confirmed by the EPA's recently published restrictions on Bt corn,
it is inevitable that insecticidal GE crops will result in pesticide
resistant pests, because the GE toxins are present in every cell of every
plant at all times. Any biologist or entomologist knows that this is a
recipe for resistance. As insects develop resistance, organic growers will
likely lose access to a previously effective, selective, least-toxic, and
natural pesticide.
 ** Research in Canada shows that herbicide resistant canola
cross-pollinates with wild and domestic relatives, creating "superweeds"
which are resistant to herbicides.
 ** And despite what the biotech industry would like us to believe,
farmers are spending more on pesticides than ever before.

GE crops are bad for the U.S. economy:

 ** US corn exports to Europe dropped by 96% in 1999 because we cannot
provide non-GE corn.
 ** US soybean sales to Europe dropped from $2.1 billion in 1996 to $1.1
billion in 1999.
 ** Genetic engineering is part of a failed farm policy which is driving
farmers off the land. The USDA predicts corn prices below $2/bu through at
least 2001 and soybean prices below $5/bu through 2004.
 ** Major buyers in Europe, Japan, Canada, and Mexico don't want GE crops.
 ** Domestic buyers, including Frito-Lay, Gerber, Heinz, Seagrams, Whole
Foods, Wild Oats, North America's largest potato processor, and the entire
sugar industry want non-GE crops.

GE crops are having a negative impact on family farmers:

 ** GE seeds cost more, yet may yield less. 40 research plots in 1999
showed that Roundup Ready soybeans yielded 4% less than non-GE varieties.
 ** The November 1, 1999, issue of Chemical and Engineering News reported
that DuPont and Monsanto together own 73% of the seed corn companies in
the U.S. Novartis, Dow, and Cargill own most of the rest. In the face of
this concentration, farmers have few planting choices, and most of the
best genetics are bundled with GE traits.
 ** For corn farmers, the share of a farmer's gross income spent on seed
and chemicals has risen from 9.5% in 1975 to 16.9% in 1997. For soybean
farmers, the share spent on seed and chemicals has risen from 10.8% to
 ** Over 30 patents have already been issued for Terminator and Traitor
technology, which is designed to make farmers chemically dependent and
prevent them from saving their own seeds. This is the most transparently
greedy and ecologically dangerous technology of all.
 ** Farmers who plant GE crops must sign licensing agreements allowing
biotech companies unlimited access to their farms. The farmers don't buy
the seed - they only lease the right to grow it.
 ** Farmers who save their own seeds are subject to investigation,
harassment, and litigation by biotech companies. This is well documented.
 ** Farmers whose crops have been subjected to genetic drift have even
been investigated and accused of saving GE seeds without having signed
licensing agreements.
 ** Farmers are being exposed to unprecedented economic and environmental
risks, with no protection from biotech companies. Biotech companies carry
no insurance, because the insurance companies claim that genetic
engineering is an "unquantifiable risk."
 ** Farmers who plant GE crops may be liable for contamination of
neighboring non-GE and organic crops due to genetic drift.
 ** Genetic pollution is another unanticipated consequence of GE
technology, especially for wind and insect pollinated crops such as corn,
canola, potatoes, and squash. Genetic drift is a huge issue for organic
growers, since genetic engineering is prohibited by all organic standards
in the world, and consumers expect organic foods to be free of GE
 ** The development of GE-free labels is not the answer. Segregation and
certification of non-GE crops  places the burden on farmers and consumers
who want to avoid genetic engineering, rather than on the corporations who
profit from the technology. On the other hand, a state wide moratorium
presents a huge economic opportunity for Iowa farmers and processors.

Genetically engineered foods are being rejected by consumers:

 ** The British and Portuguese Medical Associations are calling for a
global moratorium on the planting of GE crops.
 ** Research in Great Britain has shown that rats developed tumors when
fed GE potatoes.
 ** Research also shows that incidences of soy food allergies have
increased corresponding with the sale of Roundup Ready soybeans.
 ** GE crops contain antibiotic resistance marker genes, bacteria genes,
and virus genes. None of these have ever before been part of the ecosystem
or the human diet.
 ** Germany has banned all planting, growing, and selling of GE corn
produced by Novartis, based on research published in Freiburg, Germany,
that showed the GE corn can cancel out the effect of antibiotic treatments
for illnesses because the corn has been modified to resist certain
 ** GE crops have been rushed to market without proper testing, and with
no labeling. The regulatory process has been shrouded in secrecy and
conflict of interest. Under orders from Vice President Dan Quayle, the
Food and Drug Administration ruled in 1992 that GE crops are
"substantially equivalent" to regular crops and foods, and do not have to
be safety tested or labeled, even though they contain unique, altered
genes, and can be patented.
 ** The FDA's own researchers found that genetic engineering could have
unpredictable consequences, and urged caution, yet their objections were
overruled. To this day, there is still no sound science which proves GE
crops are safe for the environment or human health.
 ** A January 1999 Time magazine poll revealed that 81% of respondents
want genetically engineered foods to be labeled. A January 2000 MSNBC poll
showed identical results.
 ** The Mexican Senate just unanimously passed mandatory labeling
 ** The European Union, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan already require
genetically engineered foods to be labeled, a right recently confirmed by
the United Nations BioSafety Protocol agreement.

Genetic engineering raises a host of unanswered questions:

 ** What are the long term impacts of increased Bt toxins on soil ecology?
 ** How can genetically engineered toxins be removed from the environment
once they have been introduced?
 ** What are the impacts of one spliced gene on a target organism's
genone? What are the impacts on the ecosystem into which the transgenic
organism is released?
 ** What are the impacts on livestock which consume GE proteins?
 ** Why do cows, when given the choice between GE corn fodder and non-GE
fodder, consistently choose the non-GE feed?
 ** Why do farmers complain about burning lungs after breathing Bt corn
 ** Could there be a relationship between GE crops and frog mutations?
 ** Organic farming, which takes care of the earth, is the fastest growing
sector of agriculture, with tremendous domestic and international consumer
demand. How much money does Iowa State spend on organic agriculture
research in comparison to the budget for GE research?
 ** How much information do Extension Educators provide on organic
production practices?
 ** Is there a "revolving door" between the biotech industry and Iowa
State University?
 ** Are Iowa State researchers encouraged to conduct "public interest"
research, or are they funded to conduct "corporate interest" research?
 ** Is research suppressed if the findings contradict the claims and
agendas of biotech companies?
 ** What is Iowa State's liability exposure in supporting and promoting
genetic engineering?
 ** Just because something can be done, does that mean it should be done?
We can kill bugs with DDT, or kill plants with agent orange, but that
doesn't mean it's smart.
 ** Shouldn't sound science be used to establish a product's safety before
it is released into the environment and placed in the food chain?


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