Why Do MA Organic Growers Oppose Genetic Engineering?

Science Blog PhotoIn genetic engineering (GE), technicians extract genes from one form of life and insert them into another (they can put fish genes into a strawberry).  In doing so, GE can create totally new organisms which will pass these genetic changes on to their offspring.  Why do organic growers in Massachusetts oppose that?

 Because it is a threat to family farms

Monopoly control of seeds – Farming is dependent on the use of seeds.  Many seed suppliers, means healthy competition and fair prices.  Recognizing the huge profits associated with biotechnology, agrochemical companies have been acquiring seed companies since the early 1900s.  Today, 75% of the global vegetable seed market is controlled by 5 corporations, 3 of which are also among the world’s largest agrochemical firms.

Loss of economic dependence – An ecosystem is rich when a variety of organisms thrive in mutual interdependence.  The same is true for farms – diversity in farm size, markets and crop mix makes for overall stability and strength.  With the gaining momentum of FE seeds, fewer and fewer varieties will be available, and what is sold, will be patented and licensed.  This turns family farms into franchises, relying on agricultural biotech firms for inputs and management systems.

Presumption of guilt – As GMOs come to dominate US crop production, buyers in Europe and Japan are refusing shipments from America unless they can be guaranteed GE-free.  Farmers who don’t use GE seed are being forced to bear the expense of segregating and testing their crops in order to prove that they are free of this controversial technology.

Contamination of organic crops – there is no way to protect some organic crops from pollination by a GE crop, even several miles away.  The use of GE by some is a serious threat to organic farmers whose markets require contaminant-free food.

 Because it is a danger to human health

Toxicity – Genetic engineering is not an exact science A GMO is the result of many thousands of random insertions of genes into target cells, which are screened to see if they exhibit the desired characteristic.  But genes work in combination, and new combinations can have novel characteristics – including toxicity to humans – which cannot be predicted FDA scientists warned of this problem in 1992 and recommended long-term toxicological tests.  The FDA ignored their scientists, however, and refused to require such testing.

Allergic reactions – Children are most at risk for allergic reactions.  Allergies are usually triggered by a specific protein in food  GE foods can cause allergic reactions in two ways:

  • Genes from one food can be inserted in another, causing the new food to produce the old protein – but allergic individuals will not know to avoid the new food.
  • Novel proteins can be created by the new combinations of genes present in GE foods, no one knows what allergic reactions these may induce, because they have never been seen in nature before.

Antibiotic resistance – Genetic engineers insert genes for antibiotic resistance into their creations so they can find whether the new genetic material has been successfully transferred.  Medical professionals, however, have become increasingly concerned that this practice will lead to the transfer of antibiotic resistance to disease organisms in the environment and a resulting loss of effectiveness of key antibiotics in controlling major threats to public health.

They are not safe – The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) cites animal studies showing organ damage, gastrointestinal and immunve system disorders, accelerated aging, and infertility from GMO consumption.  They urge doctors to prescribe non-GMO diets for all patients  After GMO’s were introduced in 1996, human food allergies skyrocketed, and disorders such as autism, reproductive disorders, and digestive problems began to rise.

Article Source: Northeast Organic Farming Association, Massachusetts

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