About this document: This is an overview especially for investors, with the items arranged according to topic. Because of its size, the document has been divided into three pages.


Problems and Obstacles in Food Biotechnology

We are convinced that, considering the steadily growing and world-wide opposition and the increasing numbers of scientists agreeing about the safety problems with GE foods, it won't take long before a global moratorium will be agreed upon. (PSRAST)


Abbreviations:  GE= Genetically Engineered. DNA = The substance carrying the hereditary information, for a simple explanation, see "What is genetic engineering?"
Text difficulty: [EL] = elementary level.   [ML] = medium level.   [AL] = advanced level.


Investors are advised to start with our brief message to investors (6 Kb).  It contains an enumeration of the main points in this page which is 54 Kb.



 

CONTENTS

(Because the document has grown to over 50 K, we have decided to divide it into three separate pages)
Last updated Oct 3, 1999.

Additions since August 16 are marked with date like this: 
[Added: dd/mm yyyy:] /Text/ [End]
Earlier additions are only marked by month. Please remember to reload/refresh the page in order to see most recent additions.



Summary

Problems and difficulties with food biotechnology are numerous and serious. The issue is covered from many different angles beginning with serious fundamental problems as the risk for lacking impartiality among scientific experts and the serious lack of knowledge about DNA. 

Recently uncovered (formerly concealed) governmental documents confirm our standpoint about the lacking safety of GE foods. It is a myth that consumer resistance is due to ignorance and fears. In stead it is the result of qualified knowledge about the safety problems. 

Increasing popular and political doubts in different parts of the world is reported. An increasing number of major food retailers and producers in various countries going GE free is listed. 

Agricultural problems are presented showing a/o that GE crops are not more profitable than natural ones as formerly claimed. 

Leading insurance firms find that the risks are, as we have been saying, much to incompletely known to be able to predict future consequences and complications of GE foods and crops. Therefore insurers are warned to insure biotech risks. It is but logical that recently Europe's biggest bank, Deutsche Bank in Germany sent a warning to a large number of institutional investors to invest in biotech shares.

Our conclusion is that the exploitation of GE foods today is highly premature. It has no support in sound science and violates basic ethical principles. Use of GE foods will result in the exposure of millions of people to potential health hazards from largely unnecessary and potentially unsafe products. Culturing GE crops means an exposure of nature to potentially serious and irreparable damage. 

We are convinced that, considering the steadily growing and world-wide opposition and the increasing numbers of scientists agreeing about the safety problems with GE foods, it won't take long before a global moratorium will be agreed upon.


PART 1

Safety aspects

Biased experts

This website was created when we realized that the public and decision-makers did not understand the GE food issue. Evaluation of the value and safety of this technology had been left in the hands of scientists in the erroneous belief that the subject is too difficult for the non-scientist to understand. 

However, there are reasons why the judgement of scientific experts chosen to evaluate genetic engineering may not be reliable. A number of factors may predispose to partiality, including the fact that most of the reasearch in this field is supported, sponsored or directly controlled by the biotechnology industry. Another problem is that biotechnology has been made a national issue in some countries, including the USA, resulting in strong political pressures on scientists and regulatory bodies. In addition, scientists in molecular biology and genetics with a narrow and highly specialized laboratory background have had a dominating influence on corporate decisions and governmental policy in this issue. This is unfortunate since many of the most important consequences of gene technology lie far outside their range of competence. See also The Fallibility of Scientific Authorities: [EL] 

We have designed this website in such a way that everybody can understand the key points. If you to take the time to study it you will no longer need to rely only on the subjective opinion of scientific experts.


Very incomplete knowledge about DNA

A common belief is that gene technology is a "Hi-Tech" - technology that has actually mastered key aspects of life processes. This belief is the result of a several years long PR campaign carried out by the Biotech industry with the aim of creating a favorable public attitude. 

But the truth is that science is far from mastery in this field. In fact, what is known about genes and living systems is much too incomplete to make it possible to predict and master the effects of genetic manipulations, see: Does science have enough knowledge about DNA to be able to predict and master the effects of genetic engineering?[ML].


Very incomplete knowledge about health effects of GE products

There are several known ways in which the artificial insertion of a gene may cause unexpected complications of a kind that never occurs in conventional breeding. Some such unexpected effects have been experimentally verified (for more details, see "Is there enough knowledge about effects of GE foods to make it possible to estimate their safety?"  [ML]).

In order to get an idea of the risk for the appearance of harmful substances due to GE, careful safety assessment of every instance of genetic engineering of food would be required. As there is no way of knowing what substances may appear due to genetic engineering, this task is very difficult. Especially difficult is the revelation of substances that are slow-acting. Short and long term toxicological animal tests would be required including long term human tests on humans as animal tests are not fully reliable predictors of harmful effects on humans. For detection of slowly acting harmful effects, the long term tests have to be conducted over a period of a number of years, for a brief presentation see "The approval of Roundup Ready GE-Soy - based on incomplete evidence". As such research has not been required, there is no scientific knowledge at all that makes it possible to estimate how likely it is for harmful substances to be generated in GE foods. But we can definitely say today that there is no scientific basis for maintaining that harmful substances may not appear or are very unlikely.


Very incomplete knowledge about environmental effects of GE organisms

It is difficult and very expensive to make the comprehensive ecological field studies required to get an idea of ecological effects of GE organisms. The "risk analyses" that the industry has been investing into in stead, are based on mere guesswork and do not provide scientifically tenable information as it is impossible to estimate risks without information from experimental cases (see "faulty risk analysis"). There are several potentially serious environmental hazards that justify the need for very careful field studies. Until such studies have been made, there is no scientific basis for maintaining that GE organisms are ecologically safe or represent minor risks (for more, see: "Is there sufficient knowledge about environmental effects to justify release of GE organsims?" and Are there any benefits with genetic engineering of food?


Our Declaration demanding a moratorium on GE products

It is against the background of facts as presented above that PSRAST, in January 1998, made a Declaration demanding a global moratorium on the release into the environment of genetically engineered organisms and on the use of 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.


Our standpoint recently backed by official documents

You may be skeptical to our claims initially, but we guess your doubts will vanish when you find that our standpoint on GE food safety has recently found support in FDA documents. These reveal that FDA has been suppressing the opinion of its own scientists in maintaining that GE food is as safe as conventional food, see FDA records support the lawsuit challenging its policy (June 1999) [EL] . You will also find that the European Union has been aware, at least since 1997, that GE foods are not safe but not officially admitted it, see The scientific committee of the European Commission admits that Genetically engineered foods are not safe [EL]   and Europe readies for GM disaster [EL] . In addition, you will find several documents indicating potentially serious environmental consequences of released GE crops see Environmental issues.


To Part 2

To Part 3


"Genetically Engineered Food - Safety Problems"
Published by PSRAST

Siteguide   Starting points   Website search   Site Map   Start page   

News   Introductory articles   Health hazards   Environmental hazards   

Global issues   Safety issues   Alternatives to GE   FAQ   

About us   What You can do   Membership   E-mail   How to sponsor us