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You bet your ass I'm afraid of genetically altered foods.

Anyone who dismisses the possibility of problems with genetically altered food is an idiot. There's really no other way to put it. Case in point:

British scientist Dr. Arpad Pusztai spliced DNA from the snowdrop plant and the Cauliflower Mosaic Virus into potatoes, and subsequently fed them to lab rats. The rats who were fed these potatoes suffered a significant reduction in the weight of many organs, impairment of immunological responsiveness, and had signs suggestive of viral infection.

The Cauliflower Mosaic Virus cannot enter mammalian cells because its protein coat is specific to plant cells. And yet here it is, fucking around with the livelihood of lab rats, now that it's been spliced into a potato. I think I might want to know about something like that the next time I pick up a sack of spuds at the local supermarket.

Or how about this: Monarch butterflies will eat only one thing: milkweed. In a study done by Cornell University, 44% of monarch butterfly larvae who feasted on milkweed that had been dusted with pollen for genetically altered corn DIED within four days. ALL of the larvae who ate milkweed dusted with normal corn pollen survived. 100% versus 56%. Gee, there might just be something going on here. And that's just the bottom of the food chain.

And then there's the subject of allergic reactions. If you're allergic to certain proteins in peanuts or soy, and you're eating, say, an aspargus spear, or an ear of corn that's been spliced with peanut or soy DNA, you can suffer an allergic reaction. I think people who are in the die-if-I-eat-peanuts category MIGHT want a heads-up when they're buying non-peanut-related foods.

And then there's one last thing, and that is that genetically altered products have already caused one health disaster. A genetically altered L-tryptophan supplement is linked to 37 deaths, 1500 permanent disabilities, and 5000 cases of Eosinophilia Myalgia Syndrome in Japan in 1989.# Just for the record, supplements are not regulated as drugs in most countries.

I'm not saying that genetically altered food can't be safe, and can't help solve hunger problems in the world. I'm just saying that we might want to err on the side of caution before fucking up the world worse than we already have.

The killer bees were just the beginning....


‡ - Leake, C. and Fraser, L. "Scientist in Frankenstein food alert is proved right". UK Mail, Sunday, Jan. 31, 1999
† - Losey, John, et al. "Transgenic pollen harms monarch larvae". Nature 399: 214, May 20, 1999.
# - L.A. Love, et al. "Pathological and immunological effects of ingesting l-tryptophan and 1,1'-ethylidenebis", Journal of Clinical Investigation, Vol 91, March 1993, pp. 804-811.