(Beyond Pesticides, May 26, 2009) On May 19, 2009, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) released a position paper on genetically engineered (GE) foods stating that, “Genetically engineered foods pose a serious health risk,” and calling for a moratorium on GE foods. Citing several animal studies, the AAEM concludes “there is more than a casual association between genetically engineered foods and adverse health effects” and that “GE foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health.” The AAEM’s position paper on genetically engineered foods can be found on its website.
“Multiple animal studies have shown that GE foods cause damage to various organ systems in the body,” said Amy Dean, M.D., public relations chair and board member of AAEM. “With this mounting evidence, it is imperative to have a moratorium on GE foods for the safety of our patients’ and the public’s health.”
The AAEM calls for:
— A moratorium on GE food, implementation of immediate long term safety testing and labeling of GE food.
— Physicians to educate their patients, the medical community and the public to avoid GE foods.
— Physicians to consider the role of GE foods in their patients’ disease processes.
— More independent long term scientific studies to begin gathering data to investigate the role of GE foods on human health.
“Physicians are probably seeing the effects in their patients, but need to know how to ask the right questions,” said Jennifer Armstrong, M.D., president of AAEM. “The most common foods in North America which are consumed that are genetically modified are corn, soy, canola, and cottonseed oil.”
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine was founded in 1965, and is an international association of physicians and other professionals interested in the clinical aspects of humans and their environment. The Academy is interested in expanding the knowledge of interactions between human individuals and their environment, as these may be demonstrated to be reflected in their total health. The AAEM provides research and education in the recognition, treatment and prevention of illnesses induced by exposures to biological and chemical agents encountered in air, food and water.
Aside from harm to human health through consumption, farming genetically engineered crops leads to increased pesticide use, and is harmful to famers’ bottom lines. According to a report by the by the Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth International, GE seeds cost from two to over four times as much as conventional, non-GM seeds, and the price disparity is increasing. From 80% to over 90% of the soybean, corn and cotton seeds planted in the U.S. are GE varieties. Thanks to GE trait fee increases, average U.S. seed prices for these crops have risen by over 50% in just the past two to three years. Exploitation of the food crisis has been extremely profitable for Monsanto, by far the dominant player in GE seeds. Goldman Sachs recently projected that Monsanto’s net income (after taxes) would triple from $984 million to $2.96 billion from 2007 to 2010.
Despite more than a decade of hype, the biotechnology industry has not introduced a single GE crop with increased yield, enhanced nutrition, drought-tolerance or salt-tolerance, according to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Despite 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialization, genetic engineering has failed to significantly increase U.S. crop yields. Additionally, the biotechnology industry’s own figures show that 85% of all GE crop acreage worldwide in 2008 was planted with herbicide-tolerant crops. Roundup Ready crops, which are genetically engineered to be resistant to Monsanto’s best selling herbicide Roundup (active ingredient glyphosate) have been a boon to Monsanto’s profits, but not without environmental costs.
Environmental and public health groups believe that, at a very minimum, labeling as a means of identifying products that contain GE ingredients are critical and complete regulatory review of all GE crops, which is currently not the case. Organic agriculture does not permit GE crops or the use of synthetic herbicides, and focuses on building the soil—minimizing its effect on climate change. For more information, see Beyond Pesticides’ GE program page.