Genetically Engineered/ Modified Food
Should we be eating the same things that kill bugs?
It is Natural for Consumers to Refuse the Foods that Go Against Their Sensibilities Traditionally humans have not eaten the substances that are lethal to bugs,
but today though genetic engineering humans have created crops that kill pests. Eating those crops goes against human sensibilities. It is therefore reasonable for many consumers to refuse to eat foods made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
We Should Not Breach the Barrier that Separates Species Throughout the 3.5 billion years of natural history there have been iron laws against crossbreeding between unlike plants and other life forms, creating a barrier between species. GMOs by breaching this barrier, violate the basic rules by which nature operates, so their commercialization must be carefully considered and limited.
Problems and Risks of GMOs
Impacts on Human Beings
Until recently, the pesticide bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) was thought to be harmless to human beings. But it has recently been revealed that farmers and others who use Bt have an increased occurrence of atopic dermatitis and immune system abnormalities. Thus it is clear that GMOs present serious risks.
There has been a fear that parts of antibiotic resistant marker genes can jump into gut microorganisms; now an early report suggests that this is true at least in bees. There is a danger that the antibiotics administered to patients will prove ineffectual in attacking those gut microorganisms that have acquired a gene for antibiotic resistance, allowing the cause of the illness to continue.
Despite the claims of producers that insecticide and herbicide use would decline with the use of GMOs, residues have actually increased because farmers, no longer fearing damage to their livelihoods, use the herbicide directly on the crop. Some countries have weakened their residue standards to allow the use of GMOs, so of course those standards have been met. Yet there are still questions about the safety of herbicide resistant crops.
Impacts on the Environment
It was said that there would be no adverse effects on the environment from the use of GMOs, but that is clearly not the case: when monarch butterfly larvae, which are not target insects, eat milkweed leaves with Bt corn pollen, the larvae die. When Bt corn is planted the toxin oozes from the roots, remaining in the surrounding soil for up to 200 days, killing non-target insects and potentially harming people who cultivate the soil.
Inserted genes may be producing unexpected and unknown substances. For example, in 1989 in the Showa Denko Tryptophane incident, 38 people died when they took Tryptophane made by genetically modifying microorganisms, with the final product containing impurities of only about 100ppm. Therefore, testing is clearly necessary to determine if there are unexpected substances formed by genetic modification even at the 100ppm level. But since foods contain an overwhelming number of substances and they change throughout the life of the product, it is almost impossible to precisely detect all of the new substances through current testing technologies.
Substantial Equivalence NOT be Applied to Safety Assessment The concept of substantial equivalence has not been clearly defined--there is no standard defining to what extent substances must be alike to be considered equivalent. It would be a mistake to use this kind of unscientific concept internationally for safety assessment.
Scientific Proof for Real Safety
With regard to GM foods, concerns naturally arise from the altering of genes. These concerns can only truly be eliminated by fully understanding their genetic structure by analyzing and fully sequencing the genes of both traditional plants and those altered by genetic modification. Such a complete understanding of the genetic structure of GM foods is necessary so that it can be scientifically proven that unexpected and potentially harmful substances are not formed.
The necessity of ensuring the traceability of food is illustrated by the knowledge that the safety of individual foods is demonstrated only by their continuous consumption by human beings. To best deal with any health problems that might arise, there must be labeling that states the developer of the relevant GMO and the identification number throughout the stages of production, distribution, and consumption, so that the kind of GM food that was eaten can be determined.
(A number of illustrative photos, etc. are available on the full-color English/Japanese flyer "Questions About GMOs, No.1" from which this text was taken. The flyer can be ordered through the Japan Offspring Fund, as can the video "Questions about Genetically Engineered Foods").
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