What is Genetic Engineering and GMOs

Genetic engineering (GE) is a laboratory technique used by scientists to change the DNA of living

organisms. The molecular or cell biology of an organism is being altered by means not possible under

natural conditions or processes. Some techniques used to alter molecular structure include, but are not

limited to, cell fusion, gene deletion, gene doubling, the introduction of a foreign gene, and changing a

genes position within the DNA. This gene manipulation creates what is called genetically modified

organisms, or GMOs.

Health Hazards of Genetic Engineering

• Health concerns - Dr. Mae Wan-Ho, a British geneticist, reported on an experiment with mice and GM

(genetically modified) food. Two piles of maize in a barn were infested with mice, one pile GM, the

other non-GM. The GM pile was untouched, while the non-GM pile was completely eaten up. Another

experiment with feeding mice GM and non-GM corn showed marked behavioral differences. The mice

fed GM food "seemed less active while in their cages." The most striking difference was when the mice

were weighed at the end of the experiment. The mice fed GM food were "more distressed" than the other

mice. Many were running round and round the basket, scrabbling desperately in the sawdust, and even

frantically jumping up the sides. A scientist, Arpad Pusztai, from the Rowett Research Institute in

Aberdeen, UK, found GM potatoes damaged the kidney, thymus, spleen and gut of young rats. Finally,

contrary to the claims of proponents, GM crops have not been proven safe.

• Increased pollution of food and water supplies - A majority of GE foods are focused on the

development of plants that can tolerate larger amounts of herbicides. It is estimated this will triple the

amount of herbicides used on crops as a result of the farmers knowing their crops can tolerate the

herbicides, thus using them more liberally. This can also result in current chemicals being rendered

ineffective because of overuse.

• Allergic reactions - Genetic engineering may transfer new and unidentified proteins from one food into

another, triggering allergic reactions in susceptible people.

• New and higher levels of toxins - Many plants naturally produce a variety of compounds that are toxic

to humans or alter food quality. Generally, these toxins are present at levels that do not cause problems,

however genetic engineering may create new and much higher levels of these toxins.

• Deletion of important food elements - Genetic engineers may intentionally remove or inactivate a

substance they consider undesirable in a food but actually may have essential qualities.

• Decreased Nutritional Value - Genetically modified foods may mislead consumers with counterfeit

freshness. A healthy-looking, bright red tomato could be several weeks old and contain little nutritional

value. Scientists also say foreign genes might alter the nutritional value of food in unpredictable ways. A

study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that concentrations of phytosterols (beneficial

compounds thought to protect against heart disease and perhaps certain cancers) was lower in

genetically modified soybeans than in traditional strains.

• Unsafe track record - Recently it has been found that GE (Bt) corn produces a toxin that kills not only

the intended pests but also monarch butterflies. The pollen from the Bt-corn represents a serious risk to

populations of monarchs and possibly other butterflies.

CF104 – Updated 5/03

• Unpredictable, permanent changes in the nature of our food - The genetic structure of plants and

animals has been nourishing the human race for centuries. Now that the structure is being tampered

with, genes from bacteria, viruses and insects, which have never been part of the human diet, are being

spliced into our food.

• Cross-pollination - Foreign genes or toxins from genetically engineered plants can be carried by pollen,

insects, wind or rain and flow into other crops or wild and weedy relatives. This can produce

unpredicted and unknown species which may endanger wildlife and alter essential ecological

relationships between plants and animals.

• Irreversible damage - Unlike chemical or nuclear contamination, gene pollution can never be cleaned

up. New living organisms, bacteria and viruses will be released into the environment to reproduce,

migrate and mutate. They will transfer their new characteristics to other organisms and can never be

recalled or contained. The effects of genetic mistakes are irreversible and irretrievable.

Genetically Engineered Foods

The biotech companies have already planted millions of acres with genetically engineered crops. The FDA

estimates that within the next few years 150 new genetically engineered foods will be approved for sale. It is

estimated that 70% of the “convenience foods” on your grocery shelves contains some genetically

engineered ingredients. The following is a list of the most common GE foods:







− Dairy Products: Many cows are being treated with rBGH (a genetically altered recombinant

bovine growth hormone) to make them produce more milk.

− Animal Products: Because animal feed often contains genetically engineered organisms, those

animal products or by-products will be affected.

Inadequate Testing and Labeling Standards

The FDA declares: “The agency is not aware of any information showing that foods derived by these

new methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way…” Accordingly, the FDA

allows genetically engineered foods to enter the market without requiring any testing. Since

genetically engineered foods are sold unlabeled, there is no way to tell which tomatoes, potatoes, corn,

etc. have been genetically engineered. Without labels, our public health agencies will be unable to

trace problems back to their source. Without long-term studies no one knows if these foods are safe!

The health consequences will be discovered only by trial and error - through consumers.

The only way for you to be sure that you are avoiding GMO’s is to consume organic foods. The

National Organic Standards will not permit genetic engineering in foods labeled organic.

How to Protect Yourself and Your Family

• Eat organic!

• Be informed of the current GE crops and keep up with new “discoveries.” Visit,, and

• Keep your eye out for the Non-GMO seals that ensure that a food product does not contain GMO


• Express Yourself! Call and write your legislators and tell them your views and encourage them to

work towards requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.

CF104 – Updated 2/04 2

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