A new 25-page background paper from the environmental group Food & Water Watch is long on information supporting its views on the science and politics surrounding genetically engineered food.   

But the extensively footnoted paper devotes just three paragraphs under a “Safe to eat?” section. The Food & Water Watch writers say GE foods, like non-GE foods, can pose risks to consumers from potential allergens and toxins.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  is charged with regulating GE, according to Food & Water Watch, but allows the industry to self-regulate.

“In seeking approval, a company participates in a voluntary consultation process with the FDA, and the agency classifies the GE substance either as “generally recognized as safe (GRAS) or a a food additive.”

FDA has not approved any transgenic animals, but a GE-salmon and a GE-pig are currently being considered.

Food & Water Watch says GE crops are beginning to dominate in several areas, and questions about the safety of eating them persist. The paper reports on studies that concluded rats have suffered from liver and kidney problems after being put on a diet of GE corn.

Most of the report is spent making Food & Water Watch’s case against the rapid growth of GE crops, which were first introduced in 1996.  It argues that most GE crops merely kill weeds or resist insects, but have not been “high-yielding” or “drought resistant” as promised.

“The next wave of the “Green Revolution” promises increased technology to ensure food security and mitigate the effects of climate change, but it has not delivered,” the report says.  “The only people who are experiencing security are the few, massive corporations that are controlling the food system at every step and seeing large profit margins.”

The U.S. is the world leader in GE crop production with 88 percent of its corn and 94 percent of its soybeans now biotech, according to F&WW.  It says the U.S. has 165 of the world’s 365 million acres of GE crops.

The report includes summaries for “notable GE crops,” including alfalfa, corn, papaya, potatoes, rice, safflower, sugar beets, tomatoes and wheat.  It predicts that genetically engineered animals will be “the next frontier.”

Lest anyone think F&WW is losing any of its fire by addressing “the biotechnology industry,”  the report also contains a section “Debunking Monsanto’s Myths.”  It even takes exception to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation partnering with biotech industry to develop more nutritious crops for people in the Third World.

Several policy changes are called for in the paper, including a moratorium on U.S. approvals of GE animals, labeling of GE foods, and changing the regulatory structure for GE foods.

F&WW said the report is intended as a scientific and political backgrounder on GE food.  Wenonah Hauter,  F&WW executive director, said the report is in response to “glitzy advertising campaigns” from  biotechnology industry.

“Before consumers accept genetically engineered food, they need to consider the risks and potential consequences involved with radically manipulating the genetic makeup of plants and animals,” Hauter said.

One other political factoid in the report: Lobbying and campaign spending by the biotech industry during the past decade totaled $547 million.

  • DJ

    I can’t eat genetically modified foods, because they give me severe stomach pains, among other nasty symptoms. Since they are not labeled to warn me, I avoid them as much as possible. I eat foods that are not likely to contain the adulterated GMOs. Needless to say, my diet is very limited, but much healthier.

  • Steve

    “Political factoids” eh, Editor Flynn?? With such poor reporting, once again readers are urged to go to the material cited — and see for themselves what is really there…
    Fact is, GMOs have politically by-passed valid health and environmental scrutiny and are a longggg way from having a clean bill of health.
    At the very least they should be labeled. Consumers have a right to know.

  • doc raymond

    You pair up your best cow with your best bull and you get the best calf possible on your farm. Ranchers have been breeding for bigger and healthier and tastier for decades. Not much different than cloning, but cloning is much faster.
    People who knock GE etc should go to bed hungry a few nights in a row, and then decide if they support trying to help the one billion who are going to be hungry EVERY night.

  • Michael Bulger

    doc raymond,
    After those few hungry nights, maybe they will decide that the quickest way to helping hungry people around the world is not to address the nonexistent supply deficiency in the American meat market. Perhaps those truly spurred to help the malnourished of the globe will devote their energies to supporting foreign local agricultural systems and food security, economic equitability, governments with integrity, and sufficient infrastructure to deliver food to those in need.
    If we pour a bucket of water into the ocean, the water level does not jump up on the other side of the world. The same principle could be applied to the food supply. (Not to mention that there is plenty of ocean water… and meat. Some would argue there is too much.)

  • Steve

    doc R. –Breeding your best cow with a champion bull is one thing — but cloning quite another…
    Cloning often involves thousands of tries with horrible results — including miscarriages, spontaneous abortions, mutated offspring, and all kinds of animal suffering — all anyone sees is the final positive — and even they have defects that manifest in untoward ways as time goes on…
    Meanwhile, hyped GMOs are a sure way to feed the biotech corporations’ bottom line — but the world, not so much. The UN says people feeding themselves via agroecological farming is the surest way to go to Really feed the world….

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