Genetically Engineered Foods: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”

This is an extract from the Chapter Authentic Foods in Rainbow Green-Live Cuisine

Genetically engineered foods provide a more significant threat to our delicate worldwide ecosystems than even pesticides and herbicides. I want to quote John Hagelin, an award-winning quantum physicist and candidate who ran for president on the Natural Law Party ticket. He says, “When genetic engineers disregard the genetic boundaries set in place by natural law, they run the risk of destroying our genetic encyclopedia, compromising the richness of our biodiversity, creating a genetic soup. What this means for the future of our ecosystem, no one knows.”

When you do not know what you are doing, and you insist on meddling, you have the potential to create a great deal of damage. There is an old saying: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” The dangers of genetically engineered (GE) foods—also known as GMOs, genetically modified organisms—are multiple. Once a gene is inserted into an organism, it can cause unanticipated side effects. Mutations and side effects can cause genetically engineered food to contain toxins and allergens and also to be reduced in nutritional value. GE foods have potential to cause damage to the ecosystem, harm to wildlife, and alterations to the natural habitat. Our plant and animal species have evolved over millions of years, and introducing genetically engineered species upsets the delicate balance of the ecology. Gene pollution can never be cleaned up.

The use of GE crops increases pesticide pollution of food and water supplies. Approximately 57% of the research done by biotechnology companies is focused on the development of plants that can tolerate larger amounts of herbicides. GE foods may cause unpredictable, permanent changes in the nature of our food. The essential problem is that the genetic structures of our plants and animals have been nourishing the human race for thousands of years. Because genetic engineering is far from an exact science, the new genetic structure of a plant could give rise to unusual proteins that could really cause a problem for humans and our health. Examples of “leaky genes” or genetically engineered plants cross-pollinating with traditional varieties and passing on the genetically engineered trait have been reported in several places. In 2000, the National Institute of Agricultural Botany reported the first genetically modified super-weed in Britain. Pollen from a genetically engineered canola crossed with wild turnips. These turnips inherited the herbicide-resistant genes. In Mexico, cross-pollinating from genetically engineered corn has spread as far as sixty miles away. Reports in Canada that weeds are now able to tolerate herbicides designed for herbicide-resistant genetically modified crops have been showing up since 2000.

GE foods may be missing important elements or have changes in the nutrient ratios. Genetic engineering may accidentally or intentionally remove or inactivate substances in food that the engineers consider undesirable, but the new food or the missing substance may have particular qualities that we do not quite understand. For example, the nutrient chemistry in genetically engineered soy reveals 29% less choline, needed for nervous system development, and 27% more trypsin inhibitor, which inhibits protein digestion, and 200% more lectins, which are associated with greater food sensitivity.

Harmful effects may not be discovered for years, in the sense that we do not have an idea of what can potentially happen as we introduce these new foods into our diet. As I point out in Conscious Eating, in my chapter on the biologically altered brain, there have been significant changes in quality of health as we have introduced refined, fried, fast, and junk food into our Western diet since the 1930s. What makes us possibly think that by further interfering with natural foods through genetic engineering that we are not going to cause more and more serious problems, and further alter the biologically altered brain? There are no long-term studies to prove the safety of genetically altered foods. I do not even want to wait to see these studies, because results will not be available until thirty years after the fact, and by that time, it will be too late.
We need the more than 1,600 species of microorganisms found in a teaspoon of soil in order to have vital force in the soil. If it is not obvious, it should be—we cannot predict the effect of a new microorganism on the ecology and the environment. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”


The practice of combining plant and animal species in engineered foods has the potential to create new and unpredictable levels of toxins. Even the FDA and the EPA now classify as insecticides certain corn and potato strains that are engineered to produce toxins that will kill insects. These plants are no longer even classified as vegetables! Insect-resistant crops make up about one-quarter of the acres of transgenic plants. One of the most serious ecological threats is crops carrying a gene from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). The Bt gene transferred into corn and cotton kills leaf-eating caterpillars. Every cell of these plants contains the Bt gene and produces Bt toxin. Bt is one of the world’s most important biological pesticides. This is a direct threat to organic farmers. In 1999, the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements joined with the Center for Food Safety and Greenpeace in a lawsuit against the EPA, which approved genetically engineered Bt cotton, corn, and potatoes. Monsanto’s Bt cotton harms a wider range of insects, including lacewings and ladybugs, and causes bees to be confused in their ability to distinguish the different smells of flowers. Monarch butterfly caterpillars, according to the journal Nature, were being killed by pollen from Bt corn. What potential damage might Bt toxin crops have on the flora that live in our own intestines?


Using bacteria to make genetically engineered tryptophan is another example of how toxins are created beyond our understanding. In 1989, there was an outbreak of a disease called eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS). A company selling tryptophan that was produced by genetically engineered bacteria was found to be the source of the problem. The tryptophan itself did not seem to be causing the EMS but rather the contaminants, which made up only .01% of the marketed product by weight. When the bacteria were genetically altered to produce these larger quantities of tryptophan, the increased concentration of tryptophan reached such high levels that unexpected chemical reactions produced new kinds of toxins which led to the EMS. However, this toxic tryptophan would have passed as a “substantial” equivalent and also passed the test for known toxin. The point is that we cannot test for toxins we do not even know about. The result of this genetically engineered tryptophan fiasco is that 37 people died, 1,500 people were partially paralyzed, and 5,000 were temporarily disabled.


These crops, because of the way they are commercially grown, are less nutritious. Some studies have found a reduction in IQ of up to ten points in the generation of children brought up on these “green revolution” foods. Genetically engineered crops—because they are so strongly tied to a monoculture approach, chemical fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides—will probably cause an increase in all of the health and mental health problems associated with the “green revolution,” and possibly on a grander and more serious scale, because the gene pool will have been disrupted. One clear example is the significantly increased use of Round-Up, the Monsanto herbicide that is sold along with the Round-Up Ready crops of soy, corn, and canola. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, at least seventy-four plant species are endangered by Round-Up, and it kills fish at concentrations of 10 parts per million, impedes the growth of earthworms, and is toxic to soil microbes that help plants take up nutrients from the soil. The active ingredient in Round- Up is glycophosphate. In the 1990s, glycophosphate was listed as the third most common cause of all forms of pesticide-related illness in California. Studies have also linked exposure to glycophosphate with an increased risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the third-fastest-growing cancer in the U.S. Already, the Round-Up Ready crops are needing higher doses of Round-Up to control the pests that commonly attack them. In the late ’90s, the FDA tripled the amount of Round-Up active ingredient allowed to remain on crops, since the residue levels were exceeding the allowable legal limit set previously.


Nevertheless, because of economic incentives, the scourge of genetically engineered foods has increased. By the year 2000, two-thirds of the foods sold in U.S. supermarkets included genetically modified substances. In 1996 and 1997, there were nineteen genetically engineered products on the market. Now there are more than thirty. These include three varieties of soybeans, eleven varieties of corn (this does not include blue corn), four varieties of canola, papaya, two varieties of potatoes, five varieties of tomatoes, two varieties of yellow crookedneck squash, five varieties of cotton, and dairy products. Since 95% of the soymeal and approximately 90% of the corn grown in the U.S. are used as livestock feed, almost all non-organic meat, poultry, dairy, or egg products sold in the U.S. contain genetically engineered substances.


The possible dangers of eating genetically engineered foods and/or foods that contain genetically modified substances were highlighted by the research of Dr. Arpad Pasztai, a senior scientist at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland. He fed genetically engineered potatoes to rats. The rats developed smaller hearts, livers, and brains, and had weaker immune systems. Some rats showed significant brain shrinkage after only ten days of eating genetically modified potatoes. I consider this the most significant piece of data on the health dangers of GMOs and an ominous warning.


Part of the argument against genetically engineered food and for going organic is the importance of preserving heirloom seeds, which contain the original seed genetics. Heirloom seeds work on a deeper energetic soul level as well. Heirloom seeds contain the entire history of a people and of a land. These seeds nourish our souls and strengthen our connection to the land. They are bred for nourishing people, not for making money.


So why does the corporate world push a technology that breeds ill health, is a danger to the world ecology, does not feed the world’s poor and hungry, and is actually less economically productive per acre? Robert T. Frailey, Co- President of Monsanto’s agricultural sector, puts it bluntly, “It’s really a consolidation of the entire food chain.” GE foods are created not because of health or productivity factors, but because they are patentable and give international corporations an opportunity to try to control the food chain and the world population that depends on it for sustenance.