The products of genetic engineering are being forced on consumers unknowingly and without an opportunity to voice concerns and objections. Daily the US threatens WTO action against countries, the likes of Britain and France to Japan and Sri Lanka, those countries which have sought to limit or prohibit imports of genetically engineered products. Growing Biotech influences at the highest levels of the US government has served to suppress open public debate. And decisions that affect all of our lives-and impact essential areas of our food and health-are being made in increasingly and ever more unaccountable corporate back rooms instead of in an open, democratic public setting. Continued, within – a primer on the breadth of the devastation that is enacted upon the world by Bio-Genetic Engineering.
Why Oppose Genetic Engineering: A Biodevastation Primer
Since 1996, companies like Monsanto, Aventis and DuPont have been trying to saturate our food supply with untested and dangerous genetically engineered products. Today, half the US soybean crop, a quarter of the field corn and similar quantities of canola and cotton are genetically engineered.
These foods, made by artificially inserting genes from bacteria, viruses and other unrelated organisms into living cells, cause serious health and environmental problems. Studies show that genetically engineered foods can cause unexpected allergic responses, compromise immune systems, and can inhibit vital organ growth in laboratory animals.
Most engineered crops are tolerant to high doses of chemical herbicides, potentially increasing herbicide residues in our food. In the past year, many name brand corn products have been contaminated with an engineered corn variety that is not approved for human consumption and is likely to cause severe allergies.
Rather than helping to “feed the world,” genetically engineered agriculture is further denying people the ability to feed themselves.
Nobody knows the long-term effects of genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) on ecosystems, plants and soils. These organisms contain new combinations of genetic traits that can never be recalled from the environment.
Other crops and related wild plants are being contaminated through genetic drift and cross-pollination, leading to “superweeds” and contamination of the wild relatives of crop plants.
Canadian farmers have discovered varieties of canola that have become resistant to three different chemical herbicides.
Genetically engineered Bt pesticidal crops cause soil contamination, kill monarch butterfly larvae (caterpillars), and damage beneficial insects such as ladybugs and honeybees.
New, mutant plant viruses can be created due to new combinations of viral DNA. Efforts to genetically engineer fish, trees and insects suggest even more horrific environmental consequences if the spread of this technology is not halted.
Genetic engineering has led to-and is driven by-vastly increased corporate control of the world’s seed supply: 3 chemical companies (Monsanto, Novartis and DuPont) now sell nearly 20% of the world’s seeds.
Sustainable organic agriculture is gravely threatened due to the reality of cross-pollination that occurs and stems from GE crops.
Companies are forcing farmers to accept all liability for problems resulting from these crops, and are suing farmers who are suspected of replanting saved seeds.
To prevent seed saving, the corporate “Gene Giants” have patented over 30 inventions designed to make seeds sterile (“Terminator” plants) or require the use of a proprietary chemical for a plant to grow.
Contrary to industry claims, genetically engineered crops do not have higher yields, reduce pesticide use, or benefit most farmers in any demonstrable way.
Medicine and Human Genetics
Genetic engineering and cloning solely advances medical research driven by profit, and in no way is ever driven by the potential for betterment of the human condition, unless that as well yields high profit scenarios.
A narrow emphasis on genetics in medical research has made it harder for scientists to study the environmental causes of disease.
Genetically engineered medicines are not trouble-free, for example a suppressed British study shows that GE “human” insulin often has more side effects than animal-derived varieties.
The mapping of the human genome is not leading to cures, but to more sophisticated diagnostics for still-incurable conditions, leading to discrimination in employment and insurance.
Animals are being turned into drug factories (“bioreactors”) and engineered to “harvest” organs for transplant, an extremely dubious and risky prospect.
A revival of once-discredited eugenic thinking has emerged from new developments in genetic engineering, cloning and human reproductive technology.
There is no comprehensive regulation of genetic engineering in the United States, nor any required independent testing for product safety.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration), USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) are all heavily infiltrated with corporate interests (the “revolving door”) and do not incorporate precautionary measures.
In the Bush administration, the Attorney General and the Secretaries of Defense, Agriculture, and Health & Human Services all have close political ties to Monsanto, and Monsanto’s former chief lobbyist has been appointed Assistant EPA Administrator.
The FDA assumes that genetically engineered foods are “substantially equivalent” to non-genetically engineered varieties, a claim that has no scientific validity, and has refused to require any labeling of GE products.
Patents and Biopiracy
The biotechnology industry is using the WTO to compel all countries to accept the patenting of seeds and of living organisms.
Biotech companies are pirating genetic resources and knowledge from people worldwide for this industry’s proprietary benefit, including such important traditional natural products as neem, ayahuasca, and countless medicinal plants.
The U.S. National Parks Service made a back-room deal with a San Diego biotechnology company called Diversa, granting the right to patent microorganisms from Yellowstone National Park.
Over a thousand human DNA sequences have been patented by private companies, and the US National Institutes of Health had to renounce patents on genes from 3 indigenous nations, under tremendous international pressure.
Biotechnology vs. Democracy
The products of genetic engineering are being forced on consumers unknowingly and without an opportunity to voice concerns and objections.
The US has threatened WTO action against countries, from Britain and France to Japan and Sri Lanka, which have sought to limit or prohibit imports of genetically engineered products.
Biotech influence at the highest levels of the US government has served to suppress open public debate.
Decisions that affect all of our lives-and impact essential areas of food and health-are being made in unaccountable corporate back rooms instead of in an open, democratic public setting.
Biodevastation the Gathering: A Brief History:
In 1998, the Gateway Green Alliance of St. Louis organized the First Grassroots Gathering on Biodevastation: Genetic Engineering, bringing together some 300 activists and scientists from Ireland, England, Mexico, Canada the European Parliament, India and all over the United States, as well as a large contingent of farmer and consumer activists from Japan. The weekend culminated in a demonstration of over 200 people at Monsanto world headquarters. In March of 1999, Vandana Shiva’s Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology organized a second international grassroots gathering, named Biodevastation 2.
Two months later, Biodevastation 3 brought a similar gathering to Seattle for a protest and public teach-in at the annual convention of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). Biodevastation 2000 was the largest-yet public gathering of biotech critics in the US, bringing some 4000 people to Boston’s Copley Square to protest the 2000 BIO convention. The preceding conference at Boston’s Northeastern University featured speakers from India, England, South Africa, Canada, Uruguay, and all over the United States, including keynotes by Vandana Shiva, Ralph Nader and Barry Commoner. The rally and parade featured Vermont’s world famous Bread and Puppet Theater, and the British political folk group Seize the Day. Beyond Biodevastation/Biojustice 2001 in San Diego represents the most diverse and wide-ranging organizing effort in this series to date.
Biodevastation 2001 Demands
Â· End the commercialization of genetically engineered products and hold corporations fully liable for the negative consequences of what has already been released.
Â· Abolish the ownership of all forms of life, including the patenting of seeds, plants, animals, genes and cell lines. Criminalize biopiracy and protect the rights of people around the world to sustain and strengthen traditional land-based livelihoods.
Â· Strengthen public regulation over potentially dangerous technologies, recognizing the inherent uncertainty of genetic manipulation and placing the burden of proof on its proponents to demonstrate that its proposed products are safe.
Â· End corporate control over food and health, as enforced by institutions such as the WTO, IMF and World Bank, and reclaim public accountability and democratic control over the decisions that affect our lives.
Author: Internal Staff
News Service: Biodev 2001