The Threats From Genetically Modified Foods
Genetically modified foods and crops pose serious threats to human and animal health, but Big Ag doesn’t want you to know that.
Eighteen years after the first genetically modified food, the Flavr Savr tomato, came to market, the controversy about genetically modified foods rages. The call to label GM foods continues to build, yet the federal government has not responded. GM foods now illegal in many developed countries have been part of the American diet for nearly two decades. As GMOs have come to dominate major agribusiness sectors, a handful of chemical/biotech companies now control not only genetically modified seeds but virtually our entire seed supply (see the Seed Industry Structure chart).
(You may see genetically modified plants and animals referred to as GMOs, for “genetically modified organisms,” or GE, for “genetically engineered.” The terms are essentially interchangeable. We use GMO as a noun and GM as an adjective. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS)
“Genetic modification” refers to the manipulation of DNA by humans to change the essential makeup of plants and animals. The technology inserts genetic material from one species into another to give a crop or animal a new quality, such as the ability to produce a pesticide. These DNA transfers could never occur in nature and are not as precise as proponents make them sound.
Some genetically modified crops have been engineered to include genetic material from BT (Bacillus thuringiensis), a natural bacterium found in soil. Inserting the Bt genes makes the plant itself produce bacterial toxins, thereby killing the insects that could destroy it. The first GM crop carrying Bt genes, potatoes, were approved in the United States in 1995. Today there are Bt versions of corn, potatoes and cotton.
Roundup-Ready crops — soybeans, corn, canola, sugar beets, cotton, alfalfa and Kentucky bluegrass — have been manipulated to be resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s broadleaf weedkiller Roundup.
These two GM traits — herbicide resistance and pesticide production — are now pervasive in American agriculture. The Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service says that, in 2010, as much as 86 percent of corn, up to 90 percent of all soybeans and nearly 93 percent of cotton were GM varieties.