This article, which just came out in the March issue of Tone magazine in
Ottawa Canada, summarized sume of the main issues with genetically
engineered foods. At the end, there are instructions on how to contact
Codex representives to request mandatory labelling.
Gene Altered Foods Flood World Market
UN Codex Committee Decides in Ottawa
(from Tone Magazine, Ottawa, Canada, March 1997)
by R Wolfson, PhD
>From April 14-18, 1997, the UN Codex Committee on Food Labelling (CCFL)
meets in Ottawa. Under the strong influence of the food industry, this
Committee makes regulations concerning what foods are allowed on the
international market, and the labelling of these foods.
This meeting in Ottawa is critical to the entire world's food supply.
Regulations are being considered that would allow thousands of genetically
engineered (GE) products to flood the world market. The biotech industry
is lobbying Codex to pass internationally binding legislation allowing
these experimental foods in every country, without labelling or extensive
testing, and mixed in with other foods.
What is on the market now?
How would you feel knowing you were eating tomatoes that contain fish
genes, or canola oil containing human genes? Well, you may already be
eating these foods and not know it. GE foods already on the market include
tomatoes with fish genes, potatoes and corn with toxin genes, and canola
oil and soy beans that allow more pesticide use. In addition, hundreds of
processed foods, including baby foods, cereals, fruit drinks, cheese, and
soy products contain GE ingredients.
The biotech industry, working with the government, has quietly introduced
these GE foods, unlabelled and mixed in with other foods, so as not to
alarm the public.
Is there any rational reason for being alarmed?
One major problem with genetic engineering is unpredicted side-effects.
Because the genetic code is so complex, when we insert even one foreign
gene in an organism, it impossible to predict or test for all effects. New
toxins, allergies, and diseases, are a few of the results already seen.
For instance, one of the largest seed companies inserted a gene from a
brazil nut into a soybean to create a soybean with a more complete protein.
However, this soybean also caused an unexpected and severe allergic
reaction in certain individuals, which could have even been fatal.
Luckily, the producer stumbled onto this problem and the soybean was not
Many have heard of the case in 1989 when 37 North Americans died and
thousands were permanently disabled from a mysterious disease (called
eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome or EMS), caused by the unexpected toxic
side-effects of a GE food supplement, GE tryptophan. Many hundreds are
still in a chronic phase of this painful, debilitating condition. (See EMS
home page http://www.nemsn.org/ems/html/)
Scientists have also raised concerns that virus genes being put in our
foods could mutate into super-viruses, while the spread of antibiotic
resistance genes already in many GE foods may result in epidemics.
Why Genetic Engineering?
Many GE foods are engineered to make weed control or insect control easier
for farmers. For instance, GE canola, soybeans, and corn, are more
resistant to herbicides. This allows farmers to spray with more herbicide
to kill weeds, without damaging crops. However, another result is
increased use of pesticides that are acutely toxic to humans.
Other GE products, such as GE potatoes, corn, and cotton contain their own
toxin (called Bt) to kill insects that try to eat the plant. Yes, the
toxin is in the part of the plant that we eat! Because animals who ate
these foods did not get sick within a few weeks, researchers concluded that
the foods are safe for humans. However, many doctors and scientists are
concerned about possible long-term toxic side-effects for humans, which
have not been tested for.
The biotech industry has been quite successful in lobbying government
regulators to allow GE foods on the market without extensive testing. The
principle of "substantial equivalence" is used to quickly approve GE foods
if they appear to identical to their non-GE counterpart in a few
characteristics, such as nutrition, flavour, and texture. Short-term
financial gain by these large, multi-national biotech companies is taking
precedence over the unknown long-term side-effects of these foods. Because
genetic mistakes will be passed on to all future generations, decisions at
this Codex meeting could place the entire human race at risk.
The herbicide-resistant crops ar expected to result in a 3-fold increase in
herbicide use. When these GE plants cross-pollinate with wild species in
the fields, herbicide resistant superweeds can result (and are already
being seen), which spread wildly, force out other species, and create
ecological havoc. The use of insect resistant crops containing BT toxin
can result in superbugs that resist pesticides and also damage organic
What We Can Do:
If you would like to see mandatory labelling of all genetically engineered
foods and their derivatives, you can send a letter, fax, or email to your
Codex representative expressing your request.
Finding your codex representative
In Canada, concerns can be sent to the Head of the Canadian Delegatation:
Mr. Gerry Reasbeck, e-mail: email@example.com
In USA, concerns can be directed to Ms. Rhonda Bond and/or Mr. Patrick
Clerkin, Office of the U.S. Coordinator for the Codex Alimentarius,
A copy of concerns can be sent to Mr. Thomas J. Billy, A/U.S. Coordinator
for the Codex Alimentarius, U.S. Dept of Agriculture, Room 331-E,
Administration,14th and Independence Avenue, S.W. Washington, D.C.
20250-3700 Tel: 202-770-7025 Fax: 202-690-4437.
For all other countries, you can look up the your Codex representative on
the Codex website:
Under this topic, choose the subheading: - List of Codex Contact Points
You will find the name, address, phone, and fax number for your Codex
In your letter to your Codex representative, you can simply state that you
want mandatory labeling of all genetic engineering foods, in order to
protect consumer health, and so consumers can choose for themselves whether
they wish to consume these products.
Richard Wolfson, PhD
Campaign to Ban Genetically Engineered Food
Natural Law Party
500 Wilbrod Street
Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
Tel. 613-565-8517 Fax. 613-565-6546
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