Genetically Modified Food

From monoculture to biodiversity

by David Muirhead 2 September 2002
Dear David, I was interested to read your thoughts on GM foods. I confess almost total ignorance on this very emotive subject. But I also nurture scepticism as to the actual importance/relevance in environmental terms of GM foods. Unlike you I am relatively unconcerned re risks to human health as a direct consequence of ingestion of GM foods-after all, we have been able to over-populate Earth largely because of remarkably similar developments in monoculture food production. This is where I see the real problem: GM crops only serve to widen the gulf between current food production practices and sustainability, by perpetuating the myth that monoculture of any kind on a broad scale can ever be truly sustainable.

GE food is different

GE food is differentby Kate Clinch-Jones 24 August 2002

Thank you for the opportunity to comment. After 5 years of following the debate on GE foods, I find that they "worry the life out of me" - so does embryonic stem cell research, but that's another story!

GE foods were originally approved as safe by the US Food and Drug Administration, as a result of a political directive, which overrode the warnings of FDA experts that they posed special risks and needed further testing. This approval was made on the basis of an unproved theory of substantial equivalence, that is, a GE food is fundamentally the same as a conventional food, so thorough assessment need not be made. It also relied on solely data provided by proponent companies. Interestingly enough, in some of ANZFA's assessments, where they are arguing that a given GE food is substantially equivalent, they are simultaneously quoting compositional analyses which show the GE food has statistically significant differences in the levels of some amino acids and/or fatty acids. This makes the substantial equivalence idea patently shaky. it also begs the (unexplored) questions: what are the different proteins accounting for the discrepancies? Are they allergenic? Or toxic? What about the fatty acids? If protein levels are different, what about vitamins and other micronutrients?

Fundamental issues

by John Coulter 15 August 2002

Dear David,

I think there are several far more fundamental issues that surround both matters than the strictly medical concerns over allergies. Perhaps you could send this out to your list. I would be very interested in the responses?

These issues are to do with the 'ownership' of genes and genetic information, who owns these things and for what purpose. And lurking behind these is the unfortunate observation that very few pollies understand anything about genes. They are still back in pre-Darwinian times when it was believed that humans were a separate creation. Thus they will legislate to protect human genes and genetic information but allow all other genes to be the subject of commercial ownership and exploitation. This is the basis of the problem.

GM Foods and the Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson

By David Shearman 9 August 2002

John Anderson has joined the public debate over stem cell research. In The Australian, August 2, he was reported to repudiate Professor Trounson who had called ethicists and Catholics hypocrites for opposing the use of excess IVF embryos as a source of stem cells. John Anderson insisted that legislators not scientists were the right people to set boundaries on research. He said that the embryonic research legislation agreed by Mr.Howard and the State Premiers "worries the life out of me". He indicated that it was absurd that Australians were becoming more concerned about genetically modified foods "that go into our stomachs and toilet rather than into our own genes" This statement merits further discussion

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