The acreage planted to GE crops is increasing rapidly. It is
estimated that 35% of the U.S. corn and soybean crops grown in 1998 were
derived from genetically engineered (GE) seed. This 35% is mixed in the
market stream with non-GE crops by the lack of any requirement for
segregation or labeling. Tests done by Dr. John Fagan at his Genetic I.D.
lab in late 1997 on several corn and soy products found only one that did
not contain GE material. That one- was a certified organic soymilk. Corn
chips, baby formula, soft drinks, veggie meat substitutes can now
unfortunately be assumed to be adulterated with GE material.
The Demeter Association, takes the position that genetic engineering
applied to agriculture is not only unacceptable, but hazardous. Pur main
concerns are as follows:
1) Genetically engineered plant genesI can.cross with wild and domestic
relatives, thus over time having the capability to change the genetic
makeup of at least some of the world's vegetation. This will likely lead to
a loss of native genes, thus diminishing the gene pool. Some plants will
contain new genetic material that will result in undesired traits.
2) Insects targeted by plant species engineered to contain built-in
insecticide will adapt to the pesticide. This will affect the economic
viability of organic and Biodynamic operations. The pesticide most often
engineered into plants is Bt (bacillus thuringiensis), a bacterium which
affects only the larval state of certain insects and as such has been a
mainstay of organic pest control for many years. The eco will have to
adjust to plants, insects, and bacteria with new traits. Beneficial insects
meanwhile will suffer decline when their paths cross with the new
3) A plant so engineered will contain insecticide over its entire lifespan,
and even beyond as it falls to the ground to decay. This is a radically
different situation from external applications of an insecticide such as Bt
which may only be effective for several hours. These engineered
plant/pesticide combos will therefore be in our food. We do not know the
consequences of this.
4) Gene manipulation requires the use of a Marker to determine if the
method was successful. The marker that appears to be most often used is an
antibiotic resistant gene. Thus the environment will be exposed to more
antibiotic resistance. The result could be resistant bacteria and human
bacterial illnesses which antibiotics will not touch.
The purpose of much genetic engineering of seed-stocks is to develop plants
tolerant to herbicides. Clearly this means that more chemicals will be used
on farms, more chemical pollution will migrate into our water supplies,
more chemical residues will accumulate in plants, which we then
6) GE plants will contain DNA from undisclosed and non-food sources. Most
such crops contain randomly spliced foreign genetic material from viruses,
bacteria or other organisms which have never been a part of the human diet.
The consequences are unclear.
7) Biotech companies can now breed sterility into their seeds, thanks to a
USDA patent. Potentially the world's farmers Must pUrchase each year's seed
from biotech companies--; instead of saving their own. Regional
self-sufficiency will be history. Nature's cycle of seed to seed will be
lost. Biotech companies will have enormous control over our food supply.
8) Adequate testing is not being done. Biotech companies are rushing their
products to market at lightning speed. In the process negative results from
limited testing are not brought to the public. We are all unconsenting test
9) A widely used common seed supply can spell disaster when
a pest penetrates the plant's weakness. The more narrow the crop diversity,
the more susceptible is the world to crop failure and hunger.
10) There are no long term benefits to humanity in spite of much publicity
to the contrary. For example:
a) Cows injected with bovine growth hormone live shorter, more disease
ridden lives. Humans who drink the milk are suspected to be in more danger
of breast and prostate cancer.
b) There are already many stories of crop failure from use of GE seed.
These include cotton farmers in the southern U.S., potato growers in
Eastern Europe, soybean growers in the U.S. midwest. In addition there are
reports from Canada of GE oilseed rape (Camara) and from the UK of corn
crosspollinating with nearby non-GE crops of the same species. In the UK an
organic farmer apparently lost certification following an incident of
cross-pollination. The UK food safety minister is being urged to consider
statutory GE-free buffer zones around organic farms.
c) An immediate danger is the Roundup tolerant soybean of Monsanto. These
soybeans may show a high concentration of Roundup herbicide.
11) The effects of releasing GE crops into the environment are
12) Biotech companies promoting this technology apparently have no interest
in what might happen to us or to the environment.
For these many reasons, the Demeter Association has made genetically
manipulated materials off-limits for certification. Most other certifiers
have also taken a stand against GE. This is one very important area where
the organic certifier community stands for protection of the consumer.
Individual farmers cannot require the use of non-GE ingredients when their
raw products go to the manufacturer. Certifiers can require this. U.S.
consumers have not demanded labeling of GE foods. Only organic certifiers
have taken a stand.
Some certifiers take more of a stand than others. Our guidelines state in
part: "Demeter will not permit the use of transgenic plant or animal
products or any derivative in food, feed, or fiber production." But does
this apply to processing aids? PAs are ingredients used in food
manufacturing which are removed from the final food product. Grain ethanol
is one example. Some certifiers allow non-organic sourcing of PAs. Since
non-organic more and more means that genetic engineering is present, as in
corn used to make ethanol, can this be justified? Use of non-organic PAs,
if derived from GE material, or if GE material is used in their
manufacture, supports a technology that Demeter does not want to support.
This is a hard thing to monitor since manufacturers of secondary
ingredients and PAs do not seem very concerned about genetic engineering.
And it is a hard stand for Demeter to take if other certifiers do not
support the same standard.
Consumers need to step up to the plate .... in this
case the dinner plate. More wakefulness and more involvement of consumers
to demand full disclosure in labeling would at least give us a choice in
how we use our food dollars.
[Fishberry is taken from a sketch done for Demeter by John McKenzie. A GE
berry with fish genes to prevent freezing during cold weather may one day
be at your produce stand.]
Other GE News
Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Application of Science and
Technology (PSRAST), a global network, has issued the following statement:
"We think that the increasingly powerful influence of industrial interests
on science and on approval procedures represents an important threat to the
future of the world. This is aggravated by a high degree of specialization
along with too little of interdisciplinary and holistic thinking and
awareness among most scientific experts. This causes an inability to judge
the consequences of a new technology in a comprehensive and realistic way.
"In the case of GE foods, there has been a serious neglect of important
facts in the expert recommendations underlying approval by international
and national regulatory bodies including FAO, FDA, and the EU commission.
The result has been a concession to industrial interests at the expense of
consumer and ecological safety....
"The PSAGEF campaign for a moratorium (on genetic engineering) will
continue. Our focus will remain on the GE foods issue, as it appears to be
the most immediate and potentially serious threat."
BD NOW!, the International Biodynamic Agriculture Discussion Forum,
dedicated to restoring the earth while producing healthy high-value food
that promotes human development.
To Subscribe to BD NOW, the BD list server, send a msg to
In the body of the message include (do not include the "<>:s!):
subscribe bdnow <Your First and Last Name>
If you have any questions, contact the list master at firstname.lastname@example.org
(to remove yourself from the list, send 'unsubscribe bdnow' to
To Unsubscribe: Email email@example.com with the command
To Subscribe to Digest: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the command
All messages to sanet-mg are archived at: