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FEATURE The Frankenfoods Experiments BY JIM HIGHTOWER Have you heard of “The Butterfly Effect?” Both a scientific concept and an ecological reality, its essence is that the flapping of one butterfly’s wings in central Mexico can have consequences tomorrow in New York City, Rome, or Hong Kong. The notion is that our physical world is more intricately balanced than we know. Seemingly inconsequential acts in even the remotest area are connected to results far away in both time and space. Okay, let me step down from the professional pose and put this in terms I understand: we human geniuses don’t know what the ?*$! we’re doing. Corporations spew tons of nasty chemicals called organochlorines into our air and water and suddenly male alligators in Florida are born without penises \(you did know they had CFCs and lo! there’s a big hole in the earth’s ozone layer. At issue here are industrial practices that amount to peeling a grape with an ax the ax does get the peel off, but it makes a horrible mess of the pulp. Now the ax is falling on the very genetic makeup of our food supply, and the Butterfly Effect is beginning to affect butterflies not to mention you and me. The ax wielders are chemical companies that are determined to outsmart Mother Nature by manipulating the DNA structure within the cells of plants. They’ll take a gene from a fish and put it in a tomato, a gene from a mouse and put it in corn cells, a gene from a peanut and put it in potatoes. The combinations are limitless “Here a gene, there a gene / everywhere a gene, gene / Old McDonald had a lab / E-I-E-I-0.” The results are variously known as G.A. \(genetically, -genetiIn the forefront of this Brave New Food World are the big four global giants who refer to themselves with a straight face as “life science” corporations: Monsanto, Novartis, DuPont, and .Hoescht. They plan to remake the world’s food supply all in the interest of humanity, of course to include foods with vaccines in them, foods that can go weeks without spoiling, and foods that have pesticides genetically implanted in them. But what if you’re deathly allergic to a peanuts-in-potato concoction, or what if we don’t want our children consuming foods with unknown vaccines and sex hormones \(yes, sex hormones, too, are being added by the beneficent pesticides are genetically implanted in the foods?! No problem, you think, I don’t have to buy` their G.A., G.M., G.M.O., G.E., or whatever other G.D. term they apply to the Frankenfoods that come out of their laboratory larder. You wish. Do your kids drink Coca-Cola, have you had a McDonald’s french fry, has Kraft salad dressing been on your table, is Land o’ Lakes butter in your fridge, do you use NutraSweet, and get this have you fed your babies with Similac infant formula? Welcome to the Brave New Food World. All of these products have genetically manipulated ingredients in them. In all, more than 30,000 food products on America’s grocery shelves today from milk to sodas, from Big Macs to tofu burgers contain genetically altered ingredients. At least 60 percent of “convenience foods” sold in the U.S. right now contain genetically altered ingredients. Altered seeds now are used to plant 25 percent of America’s corn crop, 30 percent of the soybeans, 40 percent of cotton, and 50 percent of canola. Yes, but, surely they’re safe right? The government has tested each of these to assure that nothing bad can happen from eating this altered assortment of DNA, hasn’t it? Well, Pollyanna, er \(how government scientists expressed concern \(according to internal reengineering and recommended that each product be individually tested before being marketed. Still, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency insist that genetically engineered foods are safe. Actually, they put their assurances in the negative, asserting that the bio-engineered goodies “have not been proven to be unsafe.” Bottom line: There have been no longterm human tests on these products. The government, at the behest of the genetic engineering companies, has simply said that you and your family are the guinea pigs in this grand genetic experiment. Are the products safe? Three ways to check it out: Ask the insurance industry. It declines to provide long-term insurance for the corporations or farmers engaged in these genetic adventures. What if some of these altered genetic genies get out of the bottle and taint other crops or hybridize into something not only unforeseen but destructive who is liable? These “what ifs” already are happening 87,000 bags of organic corn chips sent from the U.S. to Europe were rejected this year because they contained genetically altered corn. It turns out the organic corn from which the chips were made had been contaminated by cross-pollination from some of the surrounding farms raising the altered varieties of corn. All 87,000 bags were destroyed. Ask the butterflies. Half of North America’s beautiful orange and black monarch butterflies breed in the Midwest corn belt, where the monarch caterpillars’ sole food supply is the milkweed plant that frequently grows along the fence rows of the cornfields. Millions of acres of this corn are now of the “Bt” variety genetically engineered by Monsanto, DuPont, and Novartis to contain the Bt toxin throughout each corn plant. The Bt is meant to kill the corn borer that feeds on the crop. The corporations claimed there was zero chance of damage to “non-targeted” insects, birds, or other life. But, oops, a Cornell University research team reported in May that windborne pollen from the altered corn can kill the monarchs. In a controlled study, some milkweed leaves were 8 THE TEXAS OBSERVER SEPTEMBER 17, 1999