OF GENETIC ENGINEERING
AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT
One of the beautiful basics of Rainbow is
respect. While not practiced
by all, there is a prevailing energy of respect in this impromptu village
in the woods. By simply addressing one another as "brother"
we imply that each of us is sacred. And that each of us is connected.
This is an article about respect. And about food. About the
connections between food, self-respect, and Earth-respect. After all,
everything we are is built from the food and water we take in, which comes
from Earth. Literally, we are Earth, and when she is in trouble, so are
we. We all know that the present industrial culture - the quick-fix, think
in the short term way of living and growing food - presents numerous problems.
Yet many conscious people seem to not be aware of the dangers of genetically
altering our food supply. (And trees, and insects, and animals, and .
. .) Sorry to be negative, but the reality is that this "technology"
is nowhere near as benign as we've been led to believe. It has tremendous
potential for mass devastation. Globally and locally. Within our own bodies.
This is a heavy topic, but something we all need to know about. And creative
activists have a knack for managing to have fun while tackling the world's
harshest problems. I'll tell you later about the 30 foot corn in front
of Food Emporium.
Genetic alteration, a.k.a. GE (genetic engineering),is a process of inserting
genes from a Foreign Species into another species, or deactivating an
"undesirable" gene. The term "GMO" means genetically
modified organism. There are so many reasons why this is unethical, unwise,
and carries multiple hazards for human, animal, and environmental health.
I don't have space to cover everything you need to know. I encourage you
to look at the websites I've listed. Unless you never eat, your friends
and family don't eat, and you don't care much for animals or the natural
world. Then it would be best to pass this article on to someone else.
I am not a scientist. What I want to get across is that you don't need
to be a scientist or farmer to clearly understand why GMOs have, well,
to go. What you do need is basic common sense, and an ability to look
beyond short term "benefits" at the Big Picture.
Let's just dip our toes into simple science. Inside every cell are
strings of DNA, which are like "blueprints" containing all the
needed for the structure and function of an organism. Genes are the
individual messages that make up this blueprint, each gene coding for
particular characteristic. This "dry" description is helpful
understanding, but, as Luke Anderson notes in "Genetic Engineering,
and Our Environment", this is much more intricate and living than
blueprint for a machine. Genes are complex and interconnected.
It's common knowledge among scientists, at least those who look beyond
short term profits, that DNA CANNOT BE PREDICTED!!
That right there should be enough to convince any thinking person to
not only avoid putting this stuff into their bodies, but to devote at
a few hours a month towards ending this nightmare.
Of course, there's much more that can be said. Here's the tip of the iceberg:
Human Health: You may have heard that GE technology has not been adequately
tested for long term health effects. This is true, as FDA approvals are
based mainly on "safety" data from the companies who profit
from GE. But there's more to say than just "not enough tests".
While far from enough, there HAVE been tests. Some of the findings include:
Unfortunate rats were fed GE potatoes, resulting in damage to their immune
systems and internal organs, as well as stomach lesions. The damage was
most likely from the "viral promoter", which is spliced into
nearly all GE foods and crops. The researcher, Dr. Arpad Pusztai, had
his funding, and his position, taken away after he spoke to the media.
/ search - Dr. Pusztai) Regulatory agencies do not require the thorough
tests Dr. Pusztai was conducting. Another study involving human subjects
found that genetically altered DNA transferred to the bacteria in the
gut after just one meal of GE soy. And, the study was designed to be bias
towards negative findings. Dr. Mae Wan Ho, who performed this study, is
calling for a worldwide moratorium on GE foods. (www.i-sis.org
and search - genetic engineering). A food is a living organism, with genes
working together in Nature's choreography. Splicing genes is not only
dangerous, it is frighteningly unpredictable.
Another concern for human health is increased risk of cancer. This had
been clearly proven in the case of rBGH, a GE growth hormone given to
cows. It significantly raised the levels of growth hormones that are linked
to cancer, yet the FDA, with the help of Monsanto's lawyers, still requires
rBGH free milk cartons to state that "no significant difference"
has been found between treated and untreated milk. As far as cancer risks
from other GE foods, that is more difficult to prove, however, a simple
explanation of cancer is cells which mutate until they're out of control.
This doesn't happen during a long weekend. This takes awhile. Just like
it took awhile for lead, DDT, and asbestos to harm enough people in obvious
enough ways. Exactly what triggers cancer can be difficult to pinpoint.
I rely on the basic medical facts that cancer is caused by toxins / mutations,
as well as a weakened immunity. GMOs are unpredictable, and have been
linked to toxic poisoning and immune system damage. Some GE foods contain
bacterial pesticides in every cell. Anyone who doesn't get their information
from the companies who sell this stuff can figure out that GMOs may become
invitations for cancer, and who knows what else.
Also, GMOs can lead to new allergies, or trigger allergic reactions in
people who aren't aware of what they're eating. Are you allergic to petunias?
How would you know? You probably have eaten some petunia genes, because
they're in most soybeans which are not organic. Petunias sound pretty
and benign compared to some "foods" currently being experimented
with (like scorpion cabbage, fish strawberries and tomatoes, tobacco or
rat lettuce, virus raspberries and grapes, chicken potatoes, etc.) Really.
The issue is that these are either substances foreign to the body, or
genetic codes which are foreign, unnatural, and untested for long term
Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybeans have been genetically altered to
"tolerate" massive amounts of the toxic herbicide Roundup. It
kills everything in sight except the soybean. When the soybean reaches
your body, these chemicals have not magically disappeared. One does not
have to be a brain surgeon to realize that weeds will soon develop resistance
to Roundup, which is made by Monsanto as well. What a coincidence. Resistant
weeds are already popping up - see articles at www.thecampaign.org
for more info. A word on soy - it's not just tofu or Soy Milk, but also
soy, corm and canola, some of which are genetically altered, are in many
foods, like veggie burgers, humus, vegan "chicken" salads, etc.
Read labels and communicate with manufacturers.
While we're on the subject of health, it is important to mention that
to be truly respectful of your body and the Earth, you should try your
hardest to avoid foods grown with toxic chemicals, artificial ingredients,
and hydrogenated oils - more similar to plastic than to food. Real bad,
but I don't have room to give more detail. Organic foods are free of chemical
pesticides, and are free of genetically altered ingredients. OR, as free
as possible. Organic corn may have traces of GMOs because corn pollen
drifts for miles. Even wheat, which is not GE (yet!) has been shown to
have traces of GE corn. Another reason to fight genetic engineering. But
in organics, as of now, the contamination is minimal. Unfortunately, organic
is more expensive, because it costs more to grow food with care, and the
government gives subsidies to huge chemical farms. Some people are really
short on cash, and struggle with affording food as it is. Hopefully, you'll
be able to prioritize, even if it means eating less, or substituting some
foods you like for simpler, cheaper options, like grains, beans, and veggies.
You may be surprised that an appetizer of understanding and respect for
self and Earth can make a simple, cheap organic dinner much less "boring"
than most people think!
If it's really not feasible to go totally organic, be aware of the foods
that currently contain GMO's and at least avoid them. Soy, corn, canola,
and to a lesser extent papaya and squash, are the foods currently genetically
messed with. If they're not organic, there's a big chance they're GE.
Remember to read labels and talk to stores / manufacturers. Cotton is
not a food, but for some twisted reason, cottonseed oil is an ingredient
in many processed foods. This has no place in your body, GE or not. As
far as buying cotton, GE is one reason to look for organic, or second
hand, cotton products. It's also sprayed with obscene amounts of chemicals.
- (clothes for a change) for info on why cotton is the planet's most toxic
And don't forget that the hormone rBGH, is something you should stay away
from. It's particularly hazardous for pregnant women and children, but
everyone who is taking doses of this proven-to-be-carcinogenic-whopper-of-a-growth-hormone
via meat and milk is either sadly uninformed, or making really strange
If you choose to eat animal and dairy products, paying more for organic
means not ingesting antibiotics and powerful GE growth hormones unfit
human consumption, and not supporting factory farms which are like animal
Folks who aren't ready to become vegan should be aware that there are
more humane and healthy sources of animal products, as well as the importance
of eating wild, sustainable fish. Peaceful Pastures, in Tennessee, ships
red meat and poultry anywhere in the U.S. www.peacefulpastures.com.
I've also heard good things about Bell & Evans chicken farm in the
Northeast. The sad reality is that even the organic label doesn't carry
much assurance anymore, especially with chickens and eggs. Please, Family,
limit your animal consumption, and try your hardest to find out the conditions
the animals were raised on. There's simply not enough room on the planet
to feed and raise enough animals in humane conditions to support a daily
meat habit for billions of people. Any pizza vendors reading this? I wish
I had more info on how to find ethical cheese in bulk, but hopefully I've
inspired you to research that on your own. Or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
and I'll find out what I can for you. Many cities have farmers' markets,
where the ethics and practices of the farmers carry more weight than the
organic label. At larger stores, you're better off looking for the certification
than guessing. This may be hard to find in some areas. It's important
to talk to the local stores. The more people who do that, the more likely
they will be to offer organic, and, perhaps, to phase out genetically
Returning to GE from that important tangent. . .
As is clear in the "Cathedral of Nature", we have more than
health to be concerned about. Another dip into common sense science: All
life is interconnected. Since DNA can't be fully predicted, and there
haven't been satisfactory long term safety tests, it's important to understand
that once genetically altered species are out in nature they cannot be
recalled like a faulty car seat. Evolution has been going on for billions
of years. Genetic alteration, which is seconds old compared to the life
of Earth, is monkey-wrenching the entire evolutionary process. The monarch
butterfly has become a poster child for anti-GMO campaigns, because it
provides an excellent example of the interconnectedness of life. Corn
pollen can drift for miles. Monarch caterpillars have been dying after
eating plants dusted with GE corn pollen. The ones who survive grow much
smaller and have
smaller appetites. But don't worry, GE corn is safe. The companies who
make it say so.
Genetically altered INSECTS (to provide vaccinations without consent),
TREES (to exhale pesticides, tolerate massive spraying, and produce
more "efficient" materials so this wasteful society can keep
consuming without thinking), FISH and ANIMALS (!!) are currently
being experimented with! Please see websites for more comprehensive info
The FDA may be close, very close, to approving the release of GE SALMON.
www.stopgefish.org and www.gefish.org
Besides the obvious ethical abomination, there have not been adequate
tests for the health of people who eat these fish, some of who have been
born with deformed heads. GE salmon are engineered to grow faster, have
a mating advantage, and not follow their natural migratory paths. Perdue
scientists calculated that if 60 transgenic fish were released into a
population of 60,000 wild fish, the natural salmon would become extinct
within 40 generations. Part of this ripple effect would be serious disruption
to river life, and to bears, who've depended upon salmon's annual migrations
for thousands of years.
"The scariest thing is a world without nature", says Howard
Brandstein, Director of NYC's Sixth St Community Center, and SOS Food
activist. "Whether that could actually happen is a question, but
try to imagine a world with nothing but GE salmon and no natural salmon,
and then extend that to other species, or to all species." That sounds
far fetched. About as far fetched as the thought of strawberries with
fish genes, or cloned sheep, would have sounded 50 years ago. I agree
with Howard that we need to take this seriously NOW, while we still have
nature to preserve!
And then there's the spiritual way of looking at it. To put it simply,
these companies are playing God and trying to own, to patent, Life itself.
Many of us at Rainbow feel a strong connection to Earth. Perhaps the reasons
go deeper than the aesthetics of trees, flowers, and mountains. Perhaps
a long time ago we were all part of the same being. A pond-scum-like-early-evolutionary-mush.
And our DNA does have memory. Perhaps when we eat (whole foods, not Twinkies),
our bodies have a "cellular family reunion" with the cells of
the food. It doesn't just go from spoon to stomach to toilet. There's
countless chemical reactions in between, as the food becomes, literally,
part of us. So in addition to monkey wrenching our health, our genetic
makeup (and that of future generations), GMOs may affect our very spirituality.
We, or our children, may gradually loose the connection we have to Earth,
our food, and each other.
That one's a bit harder to "prove", but I have a feeling there's
enough folks at Rainbow who can understand that point. But if it didn't
particularly resonate with you, there's more than enough common sense
reasons to avoid eating GMOs.
Educating others about this issue is critical. Especially owners of
restaurants and stores, and food manufacturers. And there's not a lot
of time. I don't mean to sound "doomsday" like, but this technology
is progressing astoundingly rapidly, and once it's out in nature, it can't
be taken back. There's no "do over". And the GE salmon may be
on the market any day. There's also some creepy connections between the
companies who profit from genetic alteration and the agencies we "trust"
to uphold the safety of our food and the welfare of the environment. You
may encounter arguments about the benefits of GMOs, such as the idea that
they will help end world hunger. Many scientists who engineer this stuff
do have good intentions. The problem is, their projections are short sighted.
Almost anyone who is in favor of this not fully understood technology
has gotten their information, directly or indirectly, from the companies
that profit from this. Many delegates from African countries have actually
spoken up against using their poverty stricken image as an advertising
campaign for GMOs. Messing with genes destroys bio-diversity, which is
vital to poor farmers. And it doesn't address the root causes of hunger:
industry, poverty and obnoxiously inflated debt repayments.
The initial promises of GE technology seemed encouraging for the poor
and for farmers, but the results have been nearly devastating. Farmers
have actually traveled from the US and Canada to Great Britain, telling
farmers "don't let out nightmare become yours". Farmers have
been sued because GE pollen drifted onto their fields. Please see websites
for more info.
THE GOOD NEWS (Finally!): Many people will be receptive to learning
about the food they eat and the world they live in. True self respect
incorporates awareness of what we put into our bodies. And this is an
issue where we, the little people, also known as "consumers",
have tremendous power, if we focus and organize. IF WE REFUSE TO BUY
THIS STUFF, AND IF WE CONVINCE STORES AND RESTAURANTS TO PHASE OUT GMOs,
we can make a BIG DIFFERENCE!!!! Already, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's,
and Wild Oats have agreed to phase out genetically altered ingredients
from their brands. Due to Consumer Pressure.
I do some volunteer work with SOS Food, a group of wonderfully dedicated
people in NYC trying to raise awareness of this critical issue. Our most
memorable event was at the Union Square Food Emporium. With the help of
a 30 foot blow up corn parked in front of their store for 3 days, we were
trying to convince Food Emporium to phase out all GE foods. Dressed up
as fish strawberries and other interesting "foods", we gave
out info to curious pedestrians, and got signatures on petitions and postcards.
See below for Food Emporium's contact info. www.sosfood.org
Similar campaigns are going on across the country. www.organicconsumers.org
/ www.nerage.org In NYC, we're targeting Food Emporium first because their
parent company in Europe has banned GMOs. And it seems like we have a
chance of convincing them how important this is, from a public relations,
as well as ethical, standpoint. After all, supermarket CEO's eat too.
Congressional representatives also eat, and some of them are receptive
to this issue. Legislation may come up soon about mandatory labeling of
GE foods, and it is important to communicate to those folks in Washington.
We don't have to love them or trust them, but the truth is, lobbying and
letter writing campaigns do work. Labeling is not enough - this should
be banned altogether, but labeling is a step in the right direction.
One more thing - there's got to be some rainbow kitchen folks reading
this. I know you guys work really hard on a barely existent budget, and
not saying you're terrible if you don't offer 100% organic. But PLEASE
in mind which foods are GMO, and try, if you can, to offer more organic
foods. If you order from any suppliers in bulk, whether for Rainbow or
other events, communicating this to them can send a strong message. The
logistics of forests without refrigerators keep Gatherings mostly vegan,
for pizza and grilled cheese makers, or for parking lot vendors, please
please understand how important it is to offer hormone-free (and torture-free)
food. If your budget is real tight, it may be a good idea to post a sign
informing people that you're up on the food health connection, you want
to look out for the Family and serve good food, but it's expensive. Inform
people why this is important for everyone, and ask for whatever you can
afford donations, specifically to cover the higher costs of organic soy,
corn, canola, and ethical animal products.
The encouraging thing here is that it seems to take something drastic
to really wake people up. This may be part of our evolution at this intense
time. Not to splice genes of who knows what together in the quest to own
life, but to raise awareness, to let our survival instinct reunite us,
dialogue about this, to make huge changes for the common good.
There's so much more to be said on this issue, and so much that can be
done as well. GE wheat may be next, and farmers are already voicing opposition.
The Bush administration is pressuring Europe to accept GE foods. There's
many websites all over the world to organize against this, and changes
are happening. If you'd like to learn more, or sign on line petitions,
Sites specifically about GE FISH: www.GEFISH.ORG
(Download forms for restaurants / stores to sign pledging they won't sell
GE fish - money talks)
Have a few minutes a week to do some
phone calls / letter writing?
Food Emporium / A&P CEO Christian Haub (201) 573-9700
A&P Christian Haub, CEO
2 Paragon Dr. Montvale, NJ 07645
Humus - a food purchased by many conscious
eaters, and those companies may be particularly receptive to what we have
to say. Most humus contains canola, corn, or soy oil. - Wakim's Foods
(215) 785-3420 218R Rt 13 Bristol, PA 19007
Abraham's : (732) 229-5799
**If you would like to be part of a nationwide
campaign to communicate with a few food companies a week, please e-mail
email@example.com and you'll receive weekly brief e-mails with company
contact info. It was a similar campaign which convinced Whole Foods to
phase out GE.**
Sources: Anderson, Luke. Genetic Engineering, Food,
and Our Environment.
Chelsea Green Publishing Co., White River Junction, VT. 1999 and 2000
The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods. Revised and Expanded
Take Action Packet. 2001
Mothers for Natural Law of the Natural Law Party. Safe Food News -
Genetically Engineered Foods - Are They Safe
Living Earth - Publication of the Soil Association, England
Organic Consumers Association
- By Ellen Osuna