Author discusses health risks of genetically modified foods during lecture
By SHANNON BURKDOLL, The Prairie Star editor
The Prairie Star, December 21 2006 http://www.theprairiestar.com/articles/2006/12/21/ag_news/local_and_regional_news/local01.txt
GREAT FALLS, Mont. - Genetically modified ingredients in foods may cause life-threatening health risks, according to author Jeffery Smith.
Smith discussed different cases where genetically modified crops had affected humans either during consumption, harvest or processing and research conducted on these crops during a lecture featuring his book, Seeds of Deception, on Tuesday, Nov. 28, in Great Falls, Mont. The meeting was the first of a five-day marathon in which Smith was to address the issues in his book while traveling through Montana.
The first case Smith discussed was the bovine growth hormone and its effects on the dairy milk production. A Minnesota dairy was sued by a multinational chemical company because it was labeling its milk as being hormone-free. The chemical company settled the case by forcing the dairy to include a label in its milk that indicated there is no difference between milk from cows given growth hormones as opposed to milk from cows given no growth hormones even though research proved the opposite.
The research, said Smith, found there was more pus, antibiotics, residue growth hormones and IGF-1 present in the milk. "IGF-1 may promote cancer," he noted. "The milk had a 26 percent increase of growth hormones compared to the hormone-free milk, and when pasteurized 120 times more than normal only 19 percent of the hormones were destroyed in the milk. Since they didn't get the results they wanted, they added highly concentrated powdered hormone to the milk, then heated it and then the pasteurization process destroyed 99 percent of the hormones - that is what the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) quoted. That is completely rigged research."
Furthermore, the same multinational chemical company allegedly got two-star television reporters fired in Florida because they were about to release a story showing the research done on the milk containing RBGH hormones was rigged. The reporters sued the company for injustice, but lost because the Florida courts determined it is not illegal to lie on television, said Smith.
"The GM companies determine the safety of the food they produce," he continued. "The FDA doesn't investigate these claims of safety. The FDA was instructed by the White House to promote biotechnology, and as a result there are no regulations on biotech crops."
Smith is mistaken on the process of claiming safety of biotech foods, according to Dr. Mike Phillips, vice president of food and agriculture for Biotechnology Industry Organization in Washington, D.C.
"Biotech crops and foods have to go through safety reviews and environmental reviews that are very strenuous in the United States before they will be put in the marketplace," he said. "The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and FDA have to all concur the biotech foods pose no health effects or they are not allowed in the marketplace."
The first genetically modified food produced was the FlavrSavr tomato, modified with a gene to delay ripening. This tomato was tested for health affects by scientists who found the research rats refused to eat it, and of those that did seven out of 40 died in two weeks and seven of 20 developed stomach lesions.
"Animals when given a choice will typically avoid genetically modified foods," said Smith. "There was a question of safety with the FlavrSavr tomato, but they approved it anyway."
There are health risks to introducing antibiotic resistant genes into crops and foods because these genes could transfer to the gut bacteria of a body and cause problems because it is engineered not to die in the presence of specific antibiotics, leading to the development of super diseases, said Smith. A Nature Biotechnology 2004 study of a group of people fed soymeal in burgers and milkshakes proved the genes do transfer to the body's gut bacteria and survived digestion, Smith noted. "The concern of the scientists was validated," he said.
A United Kingdom scientist found the process of genetically modifying foods poses more safety hazards than the actual genes used in the modification, continued Smith. "It disrupts the natural function of the DNA and creates mutation and deletion of genes, and altered gene expression system-wide," he explained. "The gene could also produce a protein that could be harmful to us if ingested."
Phillips disagrees with Smith again, suggesting there have been studies done based on the genetic makeup of the product and compared to the differences of the conventional product, finding "they are the exact same as the conventional product," he said.
Genetically modifying food crops poses health risks because they could contain properties of known allergens, damage the DNA, increase metabolic activity, alter the gene expression, create a different protein than intended, lead to more herbicide residue than in non-GM crops and transfer promoters, virus-resistant genes or antibiotic resistance into the body's gut bacteria.
"It is difficult to know if they are causing problems because no one is monitoring them and they could cause symptoms similar to other diseases," said Smith.
"That is a ridiculous point of view," countered Phillips. "This is an example of the huge myths being spread about genetically modified foods. We have been manipulating genes since the beginning of agriculture. Biotechnology is another revolution of genetic manipulation to have more food supply to feed the world."
Smith is promoting biotech food awareness as he travels across Montana and the nation. "Awareness is very low," he said, but he has devised a word-of-mouth strategy to increase awareness of the potential health risks of eating genetically modified foods.
"The health conscious shoppers don't avoid GMOs when buying non-organic purchases," said Smith. "We need to help educate them to help them choose non-genetically modified foods."
Smith's awareness plan includes targeting parents, health conscious shoppers and schools, as well as telling his story to talk show hosts such as Oprah Winfrey, getting the marketplace to label the non-GMO foods and discourage consumption of genetically modified foods through his books, CDs, DVDs and videos documenting cases of health risks posed by genetically modified foods.
"The solution is for the entire industry to demand no open-air trials of genetically engineered crops in their commodity groups," he said. "In two days, genetically engineered crops could do to wheat what it did to rice in Japan."
Genetically modified foods are limited to four crops: corn, soybeans, canola and cotton, in five countries carrying two traits. "It is really a question of education," concluded Smith. "You need to choose not to feel like a victim, but choose to feel like a victor. Don't worry but make choices that will feed you emotionally, spiritually and help you reach your goals."
Those interested can learn more about Smith's philosophy at http://www.ResponsibleTechnology.org or http://www.seedsofdeception.com/ . To learn more about the third-party evaluation of biotech foods, go to http://www.bio.org .