Genetically engineered foods: is this a problem you can afford to ignore?

For most of us, genetically engineered foods are just one thing too many to worry about. If we haven’t researched the topic specifically we might even believe that there is nothing new in these foods and they may be perfectly safe.

Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth. Jeffrey Smith, who researched the topic and wrote two books about it, is spending his time crisscrossing the planet speaking to groups of health-conscious individuals to raise awareness of the issue. As he puts it, one Al Gore documentary or one Oprah Winfrey show could kill this burgeoning industry.

When the technology to remove genes from bacteria and place them in plants was first developed, companies like Monsanto saw a unique opportunity for windfall profits. For the first time in history seeds could be patented and sold for profit, and there was the idea that these new crops would give the US a huge competitive edge leading to booming international sales.

There was pressure to gain rapid FDA (Food & Drug Administration) approval with as little research requirement as possible. Actually, the FDA surpassed even the most optimistic industry expectations when it gave these foods blanket approval, ruling that no research was required because there was no reason to believe that foods derived from these processes presented any new risks.

The FDA director at the time was Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto lawyer who, soon after issuing this ruling, left the FDA to join Monsanto as a vice president. Documents released later revealed that the ruling was issued over the objections of a majority of FDA scientists.

So far there have been only a few studies performed on genetically engineered foods, but what’s alarming is that none confirmed the safety of these foods. In some of the studies rats fed genetically engineered foods died prematurely; in others they developed growth problems, immune disorders and so on.

In one study, rats fed a vegetable engineered to produce its own pesticide became ill. However, when they were given a non-engineered version of the same vegetable that was laced with the pesticide, they did fine. This tells us that it wasn’t the pesticide that made the rats ill but that the process of genetic engineering had caused some other unknown health-damaging change in the composition of the food.

Studies like these led the European Union to ban imports of genetically engineered crops, causing an all-time drop in US agricultural exports – exactly the opposite of what had been predicted by the pro-engineering forces who were convinced that the demand would be high for these “modern” foods!

Today, here at home, we have four major genetically engineered crops: corn, soy, canola, and cotton. You can be sure that products containing these foods or oils are genetically engineered unless labels specify organic or non-GMO. Then there are several minor engineered crops, including some vegetables and potatoes, but these are not yet dominating the market.

Though four crops may not seem like a lot, keep in mind that corn and soy are in virtually all processed and packaged foods, and although cotton is not thought of as a food crop it does enter our food supply because cotton seeds are used to make vegetable oil and shortening.

So far, all engineered foods in the US have had two bacterial genes inserted in the plants’ genetic makeup. One of the genes makes the plants resistant to herbicide, and the other one causes them to produce their own pesticide.

One problem that is beginning to emerge results from the fact that plants and bacteria are known to share newly acquired genetic material. This is a well-known evolutionary mechanism. For example, the way in which antibiotic resistance in bacteria spreads is that, every time a strain of bacteria that acquired the antibiotic resistance gene comes in contact with other bacteria that lack it, they “willingly” share it.

In this case, when herbicide-resistant crops were first introduced, everything worked as planned: weeds died when sprayed, whereas food crops survived. Then, because of gene sharing, new strains of herbicide-resistant weeds started to emerge, presenting an entirely new problem.

One study even showed that intestinal bacteria in people are able to acquire the pesticide-producing gene and go on making pesticides when people no longer eat genetically engineered foods. If we continue along this road we might all turn into our own pesticide factories.

To learn more about this topic, read about the research, and find out what you can do to stop this madness, visit Jeffrey Smith’s websites and

Comments are closed.