Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Application of
Science and Technology (PSRAST)
- A Global Network -
(Link to translations of this text)
- IT IS NOT RIGHT to exploit a technology which may give rise to unexpected substances that may be damaging to Health, before this risk has been carefully investigated.
- IT IS NOT RIGHT to exploit a technology that may have irreparable environmental effects before it has been proven that the products do not cause significant harm to the environment.
- IT IS NOT RIGHT to expose people and the environment to even the smallest hazard considering that present Genetically Engineered products are of little if any value.
- IT IS NOT RIGHT to justify the exploitation of a potentially hazardous technology today because of a scientifically unfounded belief that it might generate useful products in the future.
THEREFORE, we demand a GLOBAL MORATORIUM on the release into the environment of genetically engineered organisms and on the use of Genetically Engineered (GE) foods until sufficient knowledge has been acquired to make it possible to judge if it is justifiable and safe for our Health and the Environment to exploit this technology. This is most urgent as there are reasons to expect potentially serious hazards from the products of Gene Technology.
No so far released products have been properly assessed for safety. Therefore they should be withdrawn with shortest possible delay. Until production and trade will be stopped, we demand mandatory labeling of all foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients.
Published in January 1998
Summary of facts about GE food
[Here you can download the Summary in Adobe Acrobat Reader (.pdf) format (selfextracting zip file) ]
GE= Genetically Engineered.
Difficulty level of link: [EL] = elementary level.   [ML] = medium level.   [AL] = advanced level.
1. Genetic engineering is fundamentally different from breeding [EL]
Genetic engineering mostly means a random insertion of an often completely alien code sequence into the genetic code sequence of the host. Thereby the natural sequence will be interrupted, which never happens in conventional breeding. For a simple illustration, see What is genetic engineering? [EL]
The mere presence of another foreign, active gene in the vicinity of other active genes is likely to be perturbing to host gene function(s). These effects combine to cause disruptions to host and transgene function in a totally unpredictable manner. This in turn is likely to cause biochemical disturbance due to disrupted gene function. Therefore, GE of animals and especially plants, results in a loss, to a lesser or greater degree, of the tight genetic control and balanced functioning which is retained through conventional cross breeding.
2. Artificial insertion of genes yields unpredictable results. [EL]
It is presently impossible to guide the insertion of a new gene. But even if the position of gene can be determined afterwards, the knowledge of DNA is far too incomplete to make it possible to predict the effects of an inserted gene in its new context. (see : "Incomplete knowledge about DNA" [EL]
and also " The new understanding of genes", conclusion [EL]
3. New substances may be generated unpredictably [EL]
because of the artificial insertion of a foreign gene. These may, in the worst case, be toxic, allergenic or otherwise harmful. The knowledge of these risks is very incomplete, see "is there enough knowledge about effects of GE foods to make it possible to estimate their safety?" [ML]
4. No safety assessment methods are fully reliable [EL]
More than 10 percent of serious side effects have not been possible to detect in the case of new medical drugs in spite of rigorous safety assessment. The risk of not detecting a hazardous property of a new GE food is probably considerably greater than in the case of drugs.
5. The present rules for safety assessment are seriously inadequate [EL]
They have explicitly been designed so as to simplify approval procedures. They accept very insensitive safety testing [EL]
Therefore there is a considerable risk that foods harmful to Health may pass undetected.
6. The GE-foods developed so far are of no significant value for mankind [EL]
The products mainly satisfy commercial interests.
7. Knowledge is very incomplete about the ecological effects [EL]
of releasing genetically engineered organisms. It has not been scientifically established that GE organisms may not cause environmental harm. Various potential ecological complications have been anticipated by ecological experts. For example, there are many routes for uncontrolled spread of engineered and potentially hazardous genes, including gene transfer by bacteria and viruses (see Ho 1997 [AL] , Ho et al 1998 [EL]
, and Ho and Tappeser 1997 [AL]
). Environmental complications will probably mostly be impossible to repair as the released genes cannot be recalled.
8. New and potentially dangerous viruses may emerge [EL]
It has been experimentally demonstrated that inserted virus genes may unite with genes from infecting viruses (so called recombination). It has been observed that such new viruses may be more aggressive than the original virus. These observations also indicate that such viruses tend to be less species-specific. .
9. Incomplete knowledge about DNA [EL]
The function of only about 3 percent of DNA is known. It is risky to manipulate complicated systems that are incompletely known. Extensive experience from biology, ecology and medicine shows that interventions in spite of incomplete knowledge may cause unexpected problems and disturbances.
10. The claim that GE will help reduce world hunger is not supported by scientific evidence [EL]
Also, it has been demonstrated that the present hunger situation is not due to lack of food but to poverty [EL].
Still the solution of world hunger has been used as a major justification for exploitation of GE foods.
Physicians and Scientists for Responsible
Application of Science and Technology
"Genetically Engineered Food - Safety Problems"
Published by PSRAST
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