A vegan perspective on Genetic EngineeringGenetically engineered food presents a serious threat to the survival of all species on the planet, and the very living planetary organism called the Earth. Paradoxically, the crisis that genetically engineered food is presenting to the world represents a tremendous impetus for us world citizens to take control of our lives and protect the environment in a way that goes beyond government interference in the healing of the planet. To truly understand the situation that we face, we need to have some basic facts about genetically engineered food.
The first point is that genetically engineered food is actually less productive than commercial or organic food. Various research projects around the world have found that genetically engineered food is somewhere between four and eleven percent less productive per acre of cotton, soy, or sugar beet.
The second point to understand is that approximately 80 percent of the genetically engineered food has one advantage, which is that it allows the farmers using it to apply more herbicide than ever before.
The third point that must be understood is that there are significant health hazards to genetically engineered food. For example, in the State of California, Roundup is the third highest herbicide in terms of illness that it causes in the State. It has been associated with a new lymphoma that is on the rise, which is called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which primarily affects younger people, and is the third fastest growing cancer in the United States.
The most serious research findings, in their implication for humans, are those of Dr. Arpad Pusztai in Scotland. He fed genetically engineered potatoes to rats, and found that these rats, in only ten days, began to develop smaller hearts, spleen and thymus (which affect the immune system), and smaller brains and liver pathology. The meaning of this research, when you realize that 95 percent of the soy and 90 percent of the corn that is genetically engineered is fed to the farm animals that are then eaten by people. Pervasiveness of the GE soy, corn, and canola oil, with all their food variations, such as corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, corn starch, soy protein, soy sauce, and so forth, found in so many products, means that anyone who is not eating organic vegan food is, in a sense, having GE foods as a major component of their diet. So this means that anyone who is eating dairy, pigs, chickens, cows or any commercial food has placed themselves in the same experimental position as Dr. Pusztai’s rats. From my point of view, this is totally unacceptable. It is a speeded up version of what I explained in Conscious Eating of how the biologically altered brain has been created.
In Conscious Eating, I lay out a theory that since the 1930’s, when we began processed foods, white flour, white sugar, canned foods, fast foods, junk foods, there has been a slow deterioration in the quality of health. This has been documented, even as early as the 1930’s, in fourteen different indigenous cultures. And now, we see the culmination of it in the epidemic of hyperactivity, learning disorders, and earlier and earlier drug abuse in children. This biologically altered brain that developed over years, now almost seems trivial as compared to the fact that in ten days on GE potatoes, we are looking at animals with smaller brains, weakened immune systems, and smaller hearts. This one experiment is the crux of the seriousness of genetically engineered food, and its impact on the human condition.
Genetically engineered soy has also been found to have a different chemistry. It has 29 percent less choline, which is needed for the nervous system, and 27 percent more trypsin inhibitor, which inhibits our ability to assimilate protein, and 200 percent more lectins, which act as antigens, and increase allergies. The interesting point is that soy allergies have increased by 50 percent, and now are ranked as one of the top ten allergens that we have.
The third thing that we are already seeing with the Roundup Ready GE crops is a genetic transmission to the local plants. Just like we saw happen with the Green Revolution, where they used a lot of pesticides and herbicides, the “weeds” are becoming super resistant to Roundup. Farmers in the system have to keep spraying more and more on crops, which means there is more toxicity in all the commercial food that had Roundup on it.
We are also finding a problem with antibiotic resistant markers. In corn, for example, there is up to eight different antibiotics that are degraded within 30 minutes in the gut, as a result of this. Another very serious health aspect of this whole genetic engineering is the idea of genetic vectors that are designed to cross species barriers. These genetic vectors often use human viruses and bacteria to cross species. Unfortunately, as early as 1995, pigs that had human genes in them became arthritic and blind and developed spinal deformities. These pigs, carrying different genes and human viruses, have been put back into the food chain.
Health and ecological problems are a major piece of my concern with GE foods. An additional health problem that I want to point out is the rBGH in milk. Over 25 percent of the milk that is produced has rBGH in it, and it increases the amount of growth factor insulin, and what researchers have found is that increased amounts of this IGF increases breast cancer by a factor of seven and prostate cancer by a factor of four. And in this milk, it is two to ten times greater. So, things are going on here that need our attention. One of the greatest dangers to the ecology, is a local spread and contamination of organic crops. In Mexico, genetically engineered plants have been found 60 miles away from the original site, which gives you an idea of the seriousness of how quickly this can spread.
So, how can it be that we have a situation where genetically engineered food is less efficient, creates a situation where more pesticides and herbicides are needed, has significant health problems that have been associated with it within a few years of its use. In essence, GE food threatens human health, and the health of the total planetary ecology. How can it be that governments, and the three leading countries that we are talking about are the United States that has produced 72 percent of the genetically engineered food, Canada, one percent, and Argentina, 17 percent, how can it be that these countries would be allowing this to go on without any protection of the public. In fact, different than almost any other nation in the world, the U.S. has, in a sense, made it impossible to trace what is genetically engineered food or not, even so difficult that epidemiologists in this country cannot even do studies on it, because we cannot trace what is genetically engineered or not.
A simple quote from Robert T. Frailey, as co-president of Monsanto’s agricultural sector, makes it very clear. This is a quote from John Robbins’s book, The Food Revolution. Mr. Frailey says, “The genetic engineering is not just a consolidation of seed companies. It is really a consolidation of the entire food chain.” In other words, with the use of patents, with the use of terminator seeds, which are seeds that do not reproduce, so people have to buy the crops again, there is a raw and naked corporate plan against the wishes of the vast public throughout the world to attempt to control the food chain, and therefore, obviously, the economy and the people who are eating in the food chain.
Because in the United States, the food situation with genetically engineered food is so pervasive, the only way that we can deal with this complex problem becomes very simple. Simply go organic and vegan. We vote with our mouths, and in this way, by consumer demand, we begin to make change against the powers that be. Europe is leading the way in this. Many of the major food chains in Europe have gone genetically modified free. As a result, the U.S. exports of genetically engineered food, which in 1996 were 3 billion tons, dropped in the year 2000, to 177,000 tons. It was a huge drop-off, and has had a devastating effect on the economy of genetically engineered food. There is fierce resistance throughout the world, against genetically engineered food. And, the simplest way to do it is vote with your mouth — go organic and vegan.
Philosophically, something very deep is happening, which I feel very grateful for. It is happening all over the world. It, in a sense, is a revolt against the global “economism” that is more concerned about profit for the few versus a quality of life for the many on this planet. The difference, from a “seed” point of view, is that heirloom seeds contain the entire history of a people and of a land. Heirloom seeds nourish our souls and strengthen our connection with the land. They are bred for nourishing people, and not making money. This is a paradigm conflict that I am highlighting. The paradigm of seeds for life says, “We are a living community, to which we belong, and are inspired to live in harmony with.” Going organic honors the living community, preserves the integrity, stability and continuity of the living community. It decreases soil erosion, decreases global warming, water pollution, increases soil health, and increases the nutrients in the food from somewhere between 60 to 390 percent. This is in contrast to what I term ‘better living through chemistry’, as practiced by the global economist corporations, where they see the natural world as a collection of resources for us to exploit for profit, where the natural world is seen as something to dominate, rather than living in harmony with. The multinational corporations have given us a gift by trying to force genetically engineered food on us. To take advantage of this gift, we need to go beyond even organic. What is needed, is to make a covenant with the living planet, in which we see and feel with our hearts, the divine in all of creation. It is a covenant in which we commit ourselves, in our lifestyles, in the food we choose, in the way we treat each other, and in the way we care for each other, for the healing of the total planetary ecology.