What are the Dangers?
Imprecise Technology—A genetic engineer moves genes from one organism
to another. A gene can be cut precisely from the DNA of an organism, but
the genetic engineer has no idea where (or even if) the gene will be inserted
in the DNA of another organism. When the new gene is inserted, it may disrupt
the functioning of other genes essential to the life of that organism.
Side Effects—Genetic engineering is like performing heart surgery
with a shovel. Scientists don’t know enough about living systems to perform
DNA surgery without causing mutations and changes in the organism. They
are experimenting with very delicate, yet powerful forces of nature, without
full knowledge of the repercussions.
Widespread Crop Failure—Genetic engineers intend to make money by
patenting genetically engineered seeds. This means that, when a farmer
plants genetically engineered seeds, all the seeds have identical genetic
structure. As a result, if a fungus, a virus, or a pest develops which
can attack this particular crop, there could be widespread crop failure.
Threatens Our Entire Food Supply—Insects, birds and wind can carry
genetically altered seeds into neighboring fields and beyond. Once transgenic
plants pollinate, genetically original plants and wild relatives can be
cross-pollinated. All crops, organic and non-organic, are vulnerable to
contamination from gene drift.
No Long-Term Safety Testing—Genetic engineering changes the fundamental
nature of the food we eat. It uses material from organisms that have never
been part of the human food supply. Without long-term testing no one knows
if these foods are safe.
Toxins—Genetic engineering can cause unexpected mutations in an
organism, which can create new and higher levels of toxins in foods.
Allergic Reactions—Genetic engineering can also produce unforeseen
and unknown allergens in foods.
Decreased Nutritional Value—Transgenic foods may mislead consumers
with counterfeit freshness. A luscious-looking, bright red tomato could
be several weeks old and of little nutritional worth.
Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria—Genetic engineers use antibiotic-resistance
genes to mark genetically engineered crops. This means that the crops contain
genes which confer resistance to antibiotics. These genes may be picked
up by bacteria which may infect us.
Problems Cannot Be Traced—Without labels, our public health agencies
are powerless to trace problems of any kind back to their source. The potential
for tragedy is staggering.
Side Effects can Kill—37 people died, 1500 were partially paralyzed,
and 5000 more were temporarily disabled by a syndrome that was finally
linked to tryptophan made by genetically-engineered bacteria.
DNA is actually not well understood. 97% of human DNA is called “junk”
because no one has any idea of its function. The workings of a single cell
are so complex, no one knows the whole of it. Yet the biotech companies
have already planted millions of acres with genetically engineered crops,
and they intend to engineer every crop in the world.
Increased use of Herbicides—Scientists estimate that plants genetically
engineered to be herbicide-resistant will actually triple the amount of
herbicide use. Farmers, knowing that their crops can tolerate the herbicides,
will use them more liberally.
More Pesticides—GE crops often manufacture their own pesticides
and may be classified as pesticides by the EPA. This strategy will put
more pesticides into our food and fields than ever before.
Ecology may be damaged—The influence of a genetically engineered
organism on the food chain may damage the local ecology. The new organism
may compete successfully with wild relatives, causing unforeseen changes
in the environment.
Gene Pollution Cannot Be Cleaned Up—Once genetically engineered
organisms, bacteria and viruses are released into the environment it is
impossible to contain or recall them. Unlike chemical or nuclear contamination,
negative effects are irreversible.
The concerns above arise from an appreciation of the fundamental role
DNA plays in life, the gaps in our understanding of it, and the vast scale
of application of the little we do know. Qualified scientists share these