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Chapter 6: Rolling the Dice With Allergies

An infant girl in England broke out in cold sores from drinking soymilk, but was tested as “not allergic” to normal soy. Was she allergic to something in GM soy instead? Perhaps it was the increased amount of the allergen—trypsin inhibitor—found in Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybeans? Could this also explain why soy allergies in the UK jumped by 50 percent after Roundup Ready soy was introduced? It’s difficult to say, because although scientists have confirmed that deadly allergies can be transferred into foods via genetic engineering, there are no robust allergy tests done on GM foods. This was brought to the public’s attention only after StarLink had been blamed for severe, potentially fatal allergic reactions. It took the FDA nearly a year to develop a test to see if StarLink was allergenic. The test was so poorly designed and unreliable, even the EPA rejected the results.

Excerpts:

In March 1999, the York Nutritional Laboratory, Europe’s leading specialists on food sensitivity, reported that soy allergies skyrocketed over the previous year, jumping 50 percent. The increase propelled soy into the top ten list of allergens for the first time in the 17 years of testing. York scientists tested 4,500 people for allergic reactions to a wide range of foods. In previous years, soy affected 10 percent of consumers. Now, 15 percent reacted with a range of chronic illnesses, including irritable bowel syndrome, digestion problems, and skin complaints, as well as neurological problems, chronic fatigue syndrome, headaches and lethargy. Researchers confirmed the link with soy by detecting increased levels of antibodies in the blood. Furthermore, the soy tested in the study was likely to contain significant percentages of the genetically modified Roundup Ready variety.

The fact that GM soy had just entered the food supply was not lost to the researchers, who, according to the Daily Express, “said their findings provide real evidence that GM food could have a tangible, harmful impact on the human body.” A spokesman said, “We believe this raises serious new questions about the safety of GM foods.”

The British Medical Association had already “warned that the technology may lead to the emergence of new allergies.” With the York’s research in hand, now British scientists urged their government to impose an immediate ban on GM food until further testing evaluated their safety. Pathologist Michael Antoniou said that the increased allergic responses “points to the fact that far more work is needed to assess their safety. At the moment no allergy tests are carried out before GM foods are marketed.” [39]

At a business lunch with co-workers, 35-year-old Grace Booth dined on three chicken enchiladas, which she later recalled were very good. Within about fifteen minutes, however, something went wrong. She felt hot, itchy. Her lips swelled; she lost her voice and developed severe diarrhea. “I felt my chest getting tight, it was hard to breathe,” recalled Booth. “She didn’t know but she was going into shock,” reported CBS news. “I thought, oh my God, what is happening to me? I felt like I was going to die.” Her co-workers called an ambulance . . . . [40]

Booth didn’t know what had caused her nearly deadly allergic reaction. But this was September 2000 and within a few days she heard the news. A genetically modified corn product called StarLink, a potential allergen not approved for human consumption, was discovered in tacos, tortillas, and other corn products. More than 300 items were eventually recalled from the grocery store shelves in what was to become one of the world’s biggest GM food debacles.

Chapter 7: Muscling the Media

The biotech industry uses its considerable resources to mold public opinion about genetically modified foods. In addition to promoting a one-sided image of the foods as safe and necessary, they stifle coverage about health and environmental damage. For example, a Fox TV station canceled a news series, a publisher canceled a book contract, [41] scientific journals refused papers, and a printer shredded 14,000 magazines, all due to fear of lawsuits by Monsanto. Other stories presented in this chapter describe how the industry manipulated news that was reported.

Excerpt:

A national TV commercial showed a montage of smiling Asian children, caring doctors, rice paddies, and a narrator who says that golden rice can ‘help prevent blindness and infection in millions of children’ suffering from vitamin-A deficiency.” [42] Time magazine went so far as to claim on their cover, “This rice could save a million kids a year.” The biotech company Syngenta claims one month of a delay in marketing Golden Rice, would cause 50,000 children to go blind. [43]

The biotech industry had found its poster child, genetically engineered rice that makes its own beta-carotene—a precursor to vitamin A. In his New York Times Magazine article, “The Great Yellow Hype,” Michael Pollan says that golden rice impales Americans on the horns of a moral dilemma: “if we don’t get over our queasiness about eating genetically modified food, kids in the third world will go blind.”

“Yet the more one learns about biotechnology’s Great Yellow Hope,” Pollan continues, “the more uncertain seems its promise.” [44] A closer look reveals some interesting omissions in the industry’s numbers. According to a Greenpeace report, golden rice provides so little vitamin A, “a two-year-old child would need to eat seven pounds per day.” [45] Likewise, an adult would need to eat nearly twenty pounds to get the daily-recommended dose.

“This whole project is actually based on what can only be characterized as intentional deception,” writes Benedikt Haerlin, former international coordinator of Greenpeace’s genetic engineering campaign. “We recalculated their figures again and again. We just could not believe serious scientists and companies would do this.” [46]

Even the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, which funded development of golden rice, said “the public-relations uses of golden rice have gone too far” and are misleading the public and media. He adds, “We do not consider golden rice the solution to the Vitamin A deficiency problem.” [47]

There are other considerations as well. No published study has confirmed that the human body could actually convert the beta-carotene in golden rice. Also other nutrients such as fat and protein, often lacking in the diets on malnourished children, are needed in order to absorb Vitamin A. And it is not clear whether the genes from the daffodil, which are used to create golden rice, will transfer known allergens from the flower. [48]

The biotech proponents also admit that to persuade people to eat yellow rice may require an educational campaign. But if they are going to spend the time to educate, Pollan asks, why not instead teach “people how to grow green vegetables [that are rich in vitamin A and other nutrients] on the margins of their rice fields, and maybe even give them the seeds to do so? Or what about handing out vitamin-A supplements to children so severely malnourished their bodies can’t metabolize beta-carotene?”

Distributing supplements is precisely what the Vitamin Angel Alliance is doing. They give children who are at risk a high potency tablet, strong enough so that only two are required per year to prevent blindness. At a cost of only $.05 per tablet, only $25,000 is needed to prevent 500,000 children from going blind per year. [49] Contrast this with golden rice, which has cost more than $100 million dollars so far, and is not yet ready.

Michael Khoo of Greenpeace says golden rice “isn’t about solving childhood blindness, it’s about solving biotech’s public relations problem.” If the industry were truly dedicated to the problems of malnutrition and starvation, a tiny fraction of their advertising budget could have been diverted to make an enormous difference already. Khoo says, “It is shameful that the biotech industry is using starving children to promote a dubious product.” [50]

Grains of Delusion, a research report jointly released by humanitarian organizations in Thailand, Cambodia, India, Philippines, Indonesia and Bangladesh, concluded that, “the main agenda for golden rice is not malnutrition but garnering greater support and acceptance for genetic engineering amongst the public, the scientific community and funding agencies. Given this reality, the promise of golden rice should be taken with a pinch of salt.” [51]

Chapter 8: Changing Your Diet

This chapter describes all the sources of GM foods and explains how to remove them from your diet. It also provides additional motivation to make a change, describing how food can dramatically influence mood and behavior.

Chapter 9: What You Can Do
This chapter offers some practical ways to stay informed and to make a real change. One of these is to get this book into the hands of those who can make a difference.

Excerpt:

Books have power. Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle exposed the unsanitary conditions of the meat packing industry. After Teddy Roosevelt read the book on a long train trip, he pushed a bill through congress creating meat inspection. At a press conference, President Kennedy acknowledged the importance of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, which exposed the dangers of pesticides. Kennedy then had his scientific advisor look into the issue. The book was eventually “credited with beginning the American environmental movement, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the 1972 ban on DDT.” [52]

Officials around the world who are in charge of GM food policy need to be made aware of the foods’ dangers and of how their approval was based on politics, not science. They have been subjected to relentless promotion by the biotech industry and bullying by the U.S. government to accept GM foods and crops. The revelations in this book might change that.

Epilogue
This section ties in recent events with a summary of some of the salient points from the book.

Excerpt:

There are the numerous ways in which industry researchers apparently doctored their studies to avoid finding problems with GM foods. For example, Aventis heated StarLink corn four times longer than standard before testing for intact protein; Monsanto fed mature animals diets with only one tenth of their protein derived from GM soy; researchers injected cows with one forty-seventh the amount of rbGH before testing the level of hormone in the milk and pasteurized milk 120 times longer than normal to see if the hormone was destroyed; and Monsanto used stronger acid and more than 1,250 times the amount of a digestive enzyme recommended by international standards to prove how quickly their protein degraded.

Cows that got sick were dropped from Monsanto’s rbGH studies, while cows that got pregnant before treatment were counted as support that the drug didn’t interfere with fertility; differences in composition between Roundup Ready soy and natural soy were omitted from a published paper; antibody reactions by rats fed rbGH were ignored by the FDA; and deaths from rats fed the FlavrSavr tomato remain unexplained.

Overturning a myth is not easy and cannot be accomplished by only a few individuals. Please join with those of us who are dedicated to getting the truth out.

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